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Speech: Covid-19 Economic Response Bill

I'm speaking from my home in lockdown, as greater Sydney has entered its sixth week of lockdown. Millions of people are under stay-at-home orders as the virus circulates in our community Tragically, people are dying because vaccinations haven't been provided even to essential workers who have to leave home and are expected to stoically put their health and that of their families at risk. It was heartbreaking to hear today of the death of 27-year-old Aude Alaskar, who collapsed in his Warwick Farm unit. My deepest condolences go to his wife, family and friends, and to those of others who have passed due to COVID-19. It has also been weeks of anguish for people who have been unable to see their loved ones and are under immense financial and health stress.

All of this could have been avoided if the Morrison government had just done their job. Our vaccination rates are very low compared to other OECD countries, thanks to the completely botched-up rollout by the Prime Minister and his government. We simply cannot expect to return to any semblance of normal life any time soon, unless we change course immediately and drastically.

I do really want to thank people, especially people in South-West and Western Sydney, who have turned up in droves to get tested and vaccinated. We have seen some of the highest numbers of tests ever conducted, and the rates of first doses of vaccinations are going up. This is despite the lack of testing facilities and the misinformation about vaccines spread and cultivated by politicians.

This government has time and again failed to acknowledge the depth of the economic hardship that comes with COVID lockdowns. We know that millions of people, especially those left behind by this government, have had to endure this pandemic in poverty. They are being pushed further into poverty with these repeated lockdowns. Yet we have another bandaid bill in front of us. This is pretty appalling and shameful for a country as rich as Australia, where billionaires and the wealthiest are accumulating wealth because the Liberals and, disappointingly, Labor are handing them more and more while everyone else has less and less.

It's now four times that the government have attempted to replace JobKeeper with something else, which has always been inferior. Instead of simply reintroducing JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement, here we are again with the government trying to come up with yet another version of payments, trying to do the bare minimum it can get away with. We will not let it get away with this.

Millions of casual workers in the higher education sector, artists, small businesses, construction workers and people in insecure work are suffering. We need JobKeeper 2.0 where millions of casuals and others on temporary visas are not left behind. People doing it tough need economic certainty and economic security. We need much faster vaccinations so people can move forward with their lives. Raise the rate and bring JobSeeker back above the poverty line so people can live with some sort of security in these incredibly difficult times. The government has completely failed on the vaccine rollout and is now failing in its responsibility to provide relief for the immense economic hardship that people are facing, especially in my home state of New South Wales and particularly in Greater Sydney, where we are still in hard lockdown and life has come to a standstill.

We support this bill, but it isn't enough. Surely you two, even with your new Liberal hats permanently on, can see the deep inequalities that have been starkly exposed and heightened by the pandemic. Indeed some of the measures initiated by the Morrison government last year, such as free child care, moratoriums on evictions and rent rises and raising the rate of income support above the poverty line, were tacit acknowledgment of the failures of a system built on profit-making privatisation. We know what needs to be done: income support that includes all workers, raising the rate of JobSeeker above the poverty line, expanding the public service sector across the board and making essential services like health and education universal and free. We need to head towards a society which has the wellbeing and welfare of all people at heart.

HANSARD LINK

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