Take Note of Answers - JobKeeper Payment, Pensions and Benefits

Part of me feels a little sorry for the opposition at the moment. I know it's their job to come into this place and hold the government to account. It's their job to be a critic, effectively, of what's happening, but they are really clutching at straws at the moment. They are struggling a little to be a critic through this crisis. 

You can tell they're struggling a little bit. You can tell their desperation by the fact that they're complaining about things not that we have done but that we might do. Most of Senator Brown's contribution was not about what the government has done, about the decisions it's made that help and assist Australians who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its associated economic downturn. Most of the criticisms that were put by Senator Brown were about things we might do in a few months time if and when conditions improve—and hopefully they'll improve—and we no longer need this assistance. It's a pretty weak argument to put: 'They might do something bad to you in the future so be very, very worried.'

I think Australians actually know that the best way to judge somebody, the best way to judge a horse in a race, a business that you frequent or a government that you're looking to assess and judge, is on their form, on their record. It is on what they have done, not on what they might do; not what you might fear they will do but the record of what they've actually done. What the government has actually done has been to respond quickly and generously to the conditions that some Australians have found themselves in through no fault of their own.

It is true, as Senator Brown has highlighted, that millions of Australians have been put out of work, millions of Australians have seen their incomes reduced, and thousands of Australian businesses have seen their futures thrown into great uncertainty or, in the worst cases, had their businesses close because of this coronavirus. Every step of the way, the government have been there to increase assistance and support to those who are suffering. We can't make everybody whole. We, of course, cannot replace or completely make up for the loss and suffering that some have suffered through these past few months but we have done everything a government can do to help and assist those in need. It has required, of course, tough decisions at times to balance things up.

We've recently made tough decisions around the childcare sector. Our initial support was tailored towards what we thought would be a significant reduction in childcare numbers, a significant reduction in the utilisation of childcare services but in fact that did not occur. The uptake of childcare places, I think, was north of 70 per cent or so, even through coronavirus; therefore, the government has changed tack and adjusted the assistance to the circumstances which have eventuated in that sector and it's been welcomed by the sector.

The only real criticism the opposition has of the government is, 'Wow, things haven't always turned out as planned.' Not as many people are on JobKeeper as was predicted. It's not costing as much as first thought but more people are on jobseeker than were predicted, and we have had to change our policies on child care but that is a function. Things change quickly as a function of a crisis like this. A crisis like this, a global pandemic, is not going to be predictable. A global pandemic like this will have fast-changing aspects to it that no-one could predict. A few months ago there was so much uncertainty about how this pandemic would eventuate, how bad the health impacts would be, how many people would be infected, et cetera. All of the government's policies have been designed to respond to those changing circumstances. All of them, we have stated, will be temporary. We can't keep spending over $10 billion a month on JobKeeper. We can't keep providing the same level of assistance forever and put it on the credit card. All of them have been designed in a responsible way and that's what we will continue to do for the Australian people. The Australian people can trust us to stand with them, as we have in the last few months, and alleviate suffering where we can and do so in a responsible and commonsense way.

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