2 September 2020

Senator Chisholm proposes that we discuss the government's failure on jobs and economic recovery. I'm not sure this government has actually failed given these unprecedented times. Certainly there have been mistakes and missteps, but I don't believe we can lay the blame for this recession solely at the feet of this government. No country affected by COVID-19 has escaped recession, but Australia has done comparatively well, outperforming most other developed countries in the last quarter. Nonetheless, we are in recession, and state and federal governments must work together rather than attack each other, which is a very commonplace activity, particularly in recent weeks.

The path back to growth starts with reopening domestic borders and keeping them open, and many speakers have already said exactly the same thing. I accept that the lockdowns were necessary in the early stages. In fact, they were critical in the early stages to ensure the pandemic was not going to spread to the extent that it did in other countries. But, as cases decline, state governments need to unlock their economies. They need to let businesses operate and let them serve customers, hire staff and scale up their operations. To get back to growth, we need to mobilise our population. We need to get people out of their homes and doing the ordinary—going for coffee, taking holidays, visiting local shops and regaining the confidence to spend the money they have been frightened into hoarding. Once that happens, we will have a clearer view of the economy. We will be able to see which industries are in trouble and where support may be appropriate. So I call on all states to open up so we can rebuild the economy and our collective resilience.

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