The following is a Q&A with federal MP Justine Elliot (Labor), who represents the electorate of Richmond (Tweed Heads, Byron and Ballina LGAs).
What is Labor’s position on a basic universal income (BUI) at this time? Does Labor support this?
‘Labor is calling on the Government to bring forward support for workers and business as job-seekers surge and more businesses close their doors.
‘The temporary Coronavirus Supplement – paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight – will effectively double the JobSeeker Payment amount (the former Newstart Allowance).
‘People are losing their jobs now but the Supplement won’t reach job-seekers until 27 April and won’t be back-paid in the intervening time.
‘The Second Economic Support Payment won’t be paid until 10 July. Pensioners and families will have to wait 16 weeks for the payment.
‘It is important that the Government does everything possible to reduce and avoid the need for people to seek emergency relief in the first place.
‘Labor is calling on the government to bring forward the Coronavirus Supplement which currently commences on 27 April and the Second Economic Support Payment, which will not be available until 10 July.
‘People who have lost their job or been stood down need help and support now – not months in the future.
‘Labor has also been calling on the Prime Minister to urgently introduce a wage subsidy to keep Australians in jobs and out of the unemployment lines,” Justine said.
Does Labor support closing parliament in the time of an unprecedented crisis? Parliament stayed open during other pandemics such as the Spanish Flu epidemic, for example.
‘Labor does not support suspending parliament until August. In a time of crisis such as this people expect our politicians to lead and be leaders.
‘Australians need leadership and clear, consistent information from the Government.
‘Suspending parliament is the wrong decision from the Morrison Liberal-National government and Labor is calling on the Government to reconsider this decision.
‘Labor will work with the Government to do everything we can to protect Australian lives and jobs and the sooner we get back to parliament to fix these challenges then the fewer Australians are going to be thrown out of the workforce.
‘Parliament should continue to function as much as possible even in restricted forms,” Justine said.
One component of the stimulus package by the Coalition appears to be encouraging/agreeing to the federal reserve creating $90B (called quantitative easing), then handing it to the banks to then presumably hand on as loans. Does Labor support this, given stimulating the economy (and sustaining livelihoods) can be quickly achieved by depositing funds directly into taxpayer’s bank accounts via the ATO? As we have the second highest household debt to GDP globally, wouldn’t a direct stimulus be more effective? Does Labor concede this ‘new’ money will be most likely be lent to fossil fuel companies and the like (as journalist Michael West suggests)?
‘The Prime Minister must introduce a wage subsidy to keep Australians in jobs and out of the unemployment lines’.
‘Labor, unions and business have all been calling on the Prime Minister to do the same. Australians want to stay in their jobs. We’ve seen so many people queuing around the country to access Centrelink payments – we urgently need wage subsidies in place.
‘Countries all across the world have been setting up wage subsidies to keep people in jobs and out of unemployment queues during this crisis. If the Morrison Liberal-National government doesn’t act now, we could see millions of jobs lost in the coming months.
‘Labor will continue to fight for greater support for workers, businesses, families and communities in need.
‘We have been supportive of the Government’s economic response and continue to work responsibly and constructively with the Government to help improve the response to this crisis.
‘However, we will continue to fight for more urgent and more substantial support where it is needed’.