Senator Pauline HANSON: Economic Recovery Package (JobMaker Hiring Credit) Amendment Bill (Queensland—Leader of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation): The JobMaker scheme has not been properly thought through. It has too many flaws to successfully entice businesses into hiring extra employees and help rebuild the employment sector post-COVID-19. This pandemic induced recession is an extraordinary once-in-100-year event that has brought Australia and much of the world to its financial knees, and it needs something special to turn it around. JobMaker falls short.
The Senate might recall that on 24 February I was the first member of the Senate to question why the Morrison government allowed Australian universities to put profits before the health and security of this nation. Why I asked that series of questions was that a handful of universities here in Australia were circumventing international border closures unnecessarily and further spreading cases of the virus. It was a precursor to the troubles we would face as a nation due to the virus—in particular, the crumbling of the workforce. It was always going to require significant support from the government to help trigger businesses to rebuild Australia’s employment sector.
JobKeeper may have helped keep the heads of individuals above water, but it hasn’t helped in any way to help businesses restore employment numbers. JobMaker, which is the next stopgap measure, also won’t fix it. JobMaker offers little genuine financial incentive to business owners who are struggling to stay afloat. Just like many government programs, it was announced with much fanfare, but when it is truly analysed it doesn’t really do much to help. The government seem to prioritise getting positive publicity rather than actually solving the problem they claim to be solving. The money that has been thrown at JobKeeper and now proposed for JobMaker has wasted money that might be good for the short term, but in the long term, it must be paid back with interest, with nothing long term to show for it.
The $4 billion initially earmarked for JobMaker would be better spent on building infrastructure that would not only create jobs during construction but generate ongoing income for future generations. The modernised Bradfield Scheme, which I have highlighted for two decades, is the type of infrastructure project that could make a massive positive difference to the economy. It will pay for itself and then also generate much-needed ongoing income for Australia. It could irrigate such large parts of Central Queensland that it could become a food bowl not only for Australia but for the rest of the world. It’s a shame the Queensland Labor government doesn’t take this project seriously. It needs the federal government to make it a priority project in the national interest to get it off the ground.
Another infrastructure scheme worth analysing is Project Iron Boomerang, which would see the construction of steel smelters near the coalfields of Central Queensland and near the iron ore mines of Western Australia, with the two areas connected by rail. Coal and iron ore could be easily freighted between the two. It would mean we could process our iron ore to produce all Australian steel requirements here rather than exporting raw materials to China and then importing steel at great cost. We could then export to other countries. It would generate $72 billion in income per year, plus $21 billion in tax revenues annually, and create an estimated 75,000 jobs.
These two projects would help pay off Australia’s debt and help the economy to recover. It’s disappointing that projects like these two and others are not given serious consideration, yet debt-creating handout schemes are jumped at with enthusiastic fervour. The government would much rather throw borrowed money at welfare schemes that might put smiles on people’s faces but will have minimal long-term benefit. It fails to mention that all that money will also need to be paid back courtesy of the very people who receive the handouts: the taxpayers.
Rather than providing support that is genuinely helpful, the financial offerings under JobMaker are relatively small and largely dependent on the courage of the business owners themselves to take a leap of faith to hire new workers. This is a big ask at a time when we’re still in a significant recession and those businesses are struggling to survive. I have mentioned previously that the $4 billion to set up the JobMaker hiring credit scheme could instead go towards helping the states to raise the payroll tax threshold, which would support businesses and business growth across the board.
JobMaker also comes with administrative headaches for businesses, which are required to report quarterly to government to affirm their ongoing eligibility for the credits. A lot can change in business in three months. To be eligible, they need to prove an increase in total employee numbers. It makes it a worry for employers who fear the unexpected loss of a staff member or two could see them lose their entitlement to that support. The reality hanging over their heads would create more unwanted uncertainty in a year that has already been plagued with considerable uncertainty. On top of that, the wage credits are paid to the businesses quarterly, potentially adding to the administrative challenges and reducing the attractiveness of the scheme.
JobMaker supports two sectors of the workforce: those aged 16 to 29 and those aged 30 to 35. Jobseekers of other ages are therefore overlooked and disadvantaged, including those who might be a little older but who have considerable expertise and still much to offer. As I pointed out when the scheme was first announced, it is discriminatory towards school leavers and older workers, even possibly breaching age-discrimination laws. While federal laws like the Fair Work Act 2009 outlaw age discrimination, some state laws allow special exemptions that aim to lift those sectors of society that are disadvantaged. So the murkiness of JobMaker gets even murkier.
It was hoped that JobMaker would encourage the creation of 450,000 new jobs, but Treasury itself has downgraded that expectation to more like 45,000. Experts from the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, COSBOA, believe the dollars on offer through the scheme are not high enough for businesses to offset the costs and risks of hiring more employees. At $200 for a new worker aged 16 to 29 and $100 for someone aged 30 to 35, the employer who takes up these incentives still needs to find the bulk of the new employee’s weekly wages. To commit to finding that extra money upfront each week is daunting for many business owners, many of whom are in survival mode due to more than six months of hardship. As I said earlier, the credits are paid quarterly, so they are forced to pay full wages upfront and wait months for the credits to be reimbursed—a further disincentive. Many businesses are still finding their feet and they remain uncertain of what the future will bring. They will obviously baulk at the idea of taking on the costs that come with additional employees. Committing to hiring additional staff members means the business owner is also committing to finding hundreds more dollars in income to make up the full wages. If business growth were that easy, he or she would have hired without the need for a wage subsidy.
JobMaker would be more likely to interest employers if their business had entered a growth phase, but many small and medium businesses today are in a survival phase. It is my concern that JobMaker would encourage the loss of full-time jobs and reduce job security. JobMaker encourages the subsequent casualisation of any new roles. The $200 payment requires a new employee to work a minimum of 20 hours, so it makes sense that an employer might think to employ two workers, each working 20 hours, to qualify for two payments. This would better subsidise an employer than employing someone in a full-time equivalent position. This reduces the demands on the employer, but, unfortunately, the workers miss out on full-time work and the employment sector generally suffers.
Governments of both colours have always believed wrongly that small-business owners live the high life. The reality is that most small-business owners work the longest hours of all their staff, often doing paperwork late into the night. They are the first to be in the office in the mornings, and they are the last to get paid after invoices and overheads are taken care of. As we know, there are many businesses across this country crying out for workers. But, because of the decisions made by this government to make welfare so lucrative, there are not many people willing to take up these jobs. JobSeeker has made it easy for Australians to live comfortably without needing to work. JobMaker has been devised by the government to rectify that problem but is unlikely to be successful for the reasons outlined. JobMaker is not a strong enough system to help prise JobSeeker recipients off their couches and back to work. It is throwing bad money after bad money. One Nation will not support it.
The government needs to move away from the damaging handout mentality that is stagnating job growth and building debt. It needs to start thinking about measures that will fire up economic activity and make Australia the powerhouse economy that it can be. The government needs to shift focus to investing in infrastructure projects that will benefit Australians and Australia as a whole for the decades to come.
As I’ve stated in my speech, we won’t be supporting this. I’ve spoken with a lot of small businesses along the way. A lot of businesses are thriving. They’re doing extremely well with COVID. They’ve come out the other end. The trouble is that they don’t want the $100 or $200 that’s given to them. What they want is people to work. The signs are out there. When they’re taking on 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds for work because they can’t get anyone else to work then we have a real problem in this country. I know a lot of people are happy, and, under COVID, we needed to pay people who have lost their jobs and the jobseekers. I understand that. But extending this program out to March next year is not getting these people out of the way of life of sitting and getting paid by the government. That is not getting them to go and apply for these jobs.
My question to Michaelia Cash today was about what the government are going to do about these people who are offered jobs. We have 20,000 people in Cairns and the Hervey Bay in Queensland on JobSeeker, yet the farmers are crying out for about 15,000 workers, and they can’t get anyone. No-one applies for their jobs. If you go to Maranoa or the Darling Downs, there are another 7,000 on JobSeeker, and the farmers can’t get workers to pick the fruit. The farmers are ploughing their crops into the ground because no-one will pick the fruit. Is this how low this country has come—people don’t want to get out to work because it’s too hard? The handouts don’t send out a lot of money. It’s not a lot of money by the time you pay the rent, but the fact is that people here are quite happy to live this lifestyle. They don’t have to get up, get in the car, go to work and travel an hour to work like most other Australians have to do. They’re quite happy to receive that money and live this lifestyle because they don’t have to be told what to do or work for that money. There is a handout mentality in the third and fourth generations of this nation—a handout mentality of people not working. They feel it’s an entitlement; it’s not. It was set up as a helping hand.
When we bring workers from overseas to pick the fruit in this country, we have a real problem. Both sides of parliament keep giving handouts to buy votes. Once you give the handouts, you can’t take them back. People think they’re entitled to them. Where has the country that I grew up in gone? People have to provide roofs over their own heads, not rely on the government to provide them. It is there for those that need that helping hand. But when we have a generation on welfare payments, we have a real problem. This here is not helping the situation. Businesses don’t want handouts. Businesses want Australian workers.
Source: Transcript and Image Parliament of Australia Website