Speech: JobKeeper Payments Amendment Bill

Speech: JobKeeper Payments Amendment Bill  Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (19:01): I'm pleased to speak in this consideration in detail. Firstly, I want to say that I am proud to have been one of the many people calling on the government to extend the JobKeeper payment. My area of Gilmore, on the New South Wales South Coast, has been hit by drought, by bushfires, by three disaster-declared floods and by the pandemic. There can never be a better time to have the JobKeeper, but we need amendments to it.

From the dive shop in Huskisson to the local cafe in Jamberoo and the homewares shop in Mogo, local business owners have told me how grateful they were to be able to keep their staff on. That's why as the September deadline for the end of JobKeeper loomed I joined with many people to call on the government to extend the payment, just like we called for a wage subsidy in the first place those many months ago. It took a while to get here, but here we are with this legislation to extend the payment to next year—what a relief. But, sadly, there is a sting in the tail for our community. While the payment has, thankfully, been extended, new rules apply and a reduced rate is available. Many businesses are going to miss out. And the government has still not fixed many of the flaws that Labor identified way back when the wage subsidy was first announced.

 I want to talk about the reduced turnover. This turnover requirement, it is important to note, is not included in the legislation. It is set by the Treasurer and can be changed at any time. Under the new rules businesses will need to show an actual reduced income in the September and December quarters compared to the same quarter last year. The fact sheets on the Treasury website are a little vague on this. They say 'generally the corresponding quarters in 2019'. You might be wondering why this is so important, but, when you look back at the bushfires, it is extremely important. In December last year local businesses in my electorate were experiencing what was, until the pandemic, of course, the hardest hit to their income many had ever experienced, because during December and January much of my electorate was impacted by bushfire. Our tourism-resilient economy had to turn away their lifeblood the tourists. The South Coast was a no-go zone for months. A business owner in the Conjola area was one of the first to raise this with me. I went to see her and she took me on a walk through the local bushland, the severely burnt bushland, which was the drawcard of her business. It was black and bare, hauntingly beautiful but unrecognisable from what it had been. Then she showed me the flood line from February when the waters rose and pushed their recovery back even more. It was heartbreaking to see, and when you walk around in these areas with people who experienced it all you really get a sense of the injustice of it all. Perhaps the Treasurer should try it, and then maybe I wouldn't need to be here explaining this. I support the amendments.