Peter Khalil: I think I can speak for my electorate of Wills, the people of Wills, and probably for most Australians to say that things have been very tough for all of us. Our daily lives have been turned upside down and many of us have felt fear—been scared about our health or how to make ends meet. The road we’re on is going to be a long one and an uncertain one, but I think today we can also say that Australians have shown remarkable resilience, perseverance and spirit. In a sense the crisis has shown our nation’s strengths to each other and to the world. We have proved that with collective effort and great sacrifice we can flatten the curve and save lives.
But of course there’s still a lot more we need to do to come out stronger on the other side. While the coalition government, with Labor’s support, has delivered historic economic stimulus packages to assist people, those very same packages have some flaws. Despite our urgings and our arguments, they have left many Australians out of the payments. Indeed, there’s been a lack of urgency coupled with that—the government not acting fast enough to save jobs. Labor called for a wage subsidy weeks before the government finally announced JobKeeper. While welcomed, of course, it was still too late for too many people and for too many small businesses that have hit the wall. I have spoken to many of these small businesses and small business owners in my community. Some are still waiting for their payments. Some are also hitting the wall and having to let people go because they couldn’t wait that long period of time, that month or six weeks, for the JobKeeper payments to come through, particularly given the uncertainty about whether they’ll get it or not.
I’ve heard so many other people talk to me about falling between the cracks with respect to the packages. I think the government has made some very unambiguous decisions—potentially we could say ideological decisions—on who they have decided to leave out. A million casual workers. Countless local businesses have struggled because they haven’t had the cash flow to be able to wait for JobKeeper to kick in. Workers from the arts and the entertainment sector; those with a disability and carers; charities and the local government sector and people on temporary visas. The crisis has shown that the coalition cannot be trusted to do it right, to not leave millions of the most vulnerable behind or to implement the policy fairly; certainly not without the necessary scrutiny.
There is an opportunity to strengthen Australia as a compassionate country, a nation that looks after everyone no matter what their status or job description. I have already seen in my own community of Wills what people have done for their neighbours, for strangers, for the most vulnerable. During our separation we have really stuck together on that basis. My office has seen a surge of calls, emails and letters from people needing help . We have done our best—with a lot of volunteers, I might add—to help those people through this most difficult period. It’s something that’s been an important part of being a good local MP.