Update from the Member for Canberra
As we spend the Easter break at home, I wanted to touch base, share some information about the COVID-19 (coronavirus) response and remind you that my office is here to help during this difficult time.
Canberrans should by now have received a leaflet in the mail from your ACT Federal Labor team. It outlines support available to you to get through this pandemic.
COVID-19 information distributed across Canberra this week.
Please get in contact at [email protected] or 6277 4168 if you need assistance.
The Parliament sat on Wednesday this week to pass the $130 billion JobKeeper package. Designed to keep workers connected with their jobs and employers, the Government will direct $1500 per fortnight to workers via their employers. Labor has lobbied for a wage subsidy to protect jobs to be provided since the COVID-19 crisis began. The Government also accepted our suggestion to increase the Partner Income Test for those on JobSeeker – up from $48,000 to $79,000. It is going to be a tough time for everyone, but we know these changes will significantly broaden the safety net and further stimulate our ailing economy.
Unfortunately, gaps remain in the package and many people will not be able to access the support they need. Labor moved amendments to extend the package to more casual workers, temporary visa holders (including recently arrived refugees), NDIS providers, charities, local governments, universities, and the arts and entertainment sector but the Government did not agree. We have also asked the Government to extend access to the JobSeeker payment to those who currently can’t access the social security system. These are all areas that urgently need attention, and the Government can address them with the stroke of a pen.
I’ve also been contacted by students who are unable to access any form of support. Both domestic and international students are affected and while universities are providing some support, the Government must do more. I’ve called on the Government to lift the Parental Means Test for domestic students under 22. Again, Minister Ruston can make these changes without Parliamentary approval, but she has not done so.
For people with disability, their families, carers and support providers unfortunately the Government’s response to this crisis has lacked urgency and leadership. As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS I had the opportunity to question the NDIA and NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission on the issues that people with disability and support providers have been raising with me, including what is being done to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers and people with disability. This briefing showed that these issues are far from resolved and so I joined with Labor Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten to call on the Government to take action. We are yet to get a response but a new advisory board was announced soon after this. We will keep up the pressure on the Government on this critical issue.
I am also hearing from local childcare providers that the rescue package announced for childcare is not delivering the certainty promised for centres. Don’t get me wrong – I have written about the fact that I believe childcare should be free. But there won’t be any ‘free’ childcare if all the providers go bust!
Along with Frances Crimmins, CEO of the YWCA Canberra, a significant provider of childcare in Canberra, I called on the Government to save the childcare sector from collapse over two weeks ago. The Government responded by effectively halving the revenue of childcare centres. With many childcare workers in Australia on work visas, centres are also unable to utilise the JobKeeper program to keep these staff on. We need our childcare centres operating now so they can care for the children of essential workers, and then able to return to full capacity when the pandemic is over. Childcare services are essential for our families and our economy and as it stands, the childcare sector won’t make it through this crisis.
Talking to the media about the childcare crisis with Frances Crimmins.
As Labor’s Shadow Minister for the Public Service, Katy Gallagher has led calls for the Australian Public Service Commission to ensure that our public servants can work from home. Afterall, the Chief Medical Officer has said that 90% of the population needs to stay at home to stop the spread. If you are a public servant, thank you for the work you are doing to keep our nation going. Thank you to all the people working on the frontline of this pandemic and keeping things running: our health care workers; supermarket workers; truck drivers; Australia Post and couriers; public transport workers; teachers and early childhood educators; cleaners and aged care workers – and certainly others I’ve not mentioned here!
Something I’m really looking forward to is watching the Melbourne Comedy Festival Care Package special on ABC tonight at 8:30pm. We could all use a laugh right now which is an important reminder of the vital role that artists play in our life and community. But our artists and performers are falling through the gaps of the Government’s support package. Labor has been calling on the Government to deliver a specific support package to the sector. On Thursday they did announce a $27 million package but it clearly does not provide the level of support required, nor is it commensurate with the contribution the arts and entertainment sector makes to the economy – over $100 billion on some estimates.
As you can see, even though my team and I are working from home there is a lot going on. I post daily about helpful COVID-19 info and other work I am doing on my Facebook.
Working from home.
Please follow me if you are interested. I’m also keen to hear about the great ways our community is staying connected despite social distancing requirements and social media is a fantastic platform for this.
Continue to enjoy the long weekend and I hope that you can find joy in something this Easter despite not seeing loved ones and many of the usual celebrations being off the agenda this year. But we are in this together, and by staying home and following social distancing we are giving everyone around us the best chance of staying safe and getting through this.
Happy Easter, and all the best through this challenging time.
Member for Canberra
Picking up takeaway during social distancing.