JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 2 JUNE 2021
SUBJECTS: National Accounts; Morrison Government’s failures on vaccines and quarantine; JobKeeper; Josh Frydenberg abandoning Victorians.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much for coming today. These National Accounts figures are welcome, they're solid, and they're expected. After the deepest and most-damaging recession in our lifetime, it's entirely normal for the economy to rebound. To the extent that it has rebounded again in this quarter, we welcome that. It's a solid outcome, but it's an entirely expected outcome as well.
It's also slower growth than we've had in the two quarters previously and it's not all positive news in the detail of the numbers today.
Wages growth remains stagnant off the back of record low wages growth for some time now. And as we know from the Budget, the Government expects real wages to actually go backwards over the next four years.
Our business investment is still much lower than we would like it to be.
Victoria's economy is still well below where it was at this time last year, and that's even before the impact of the most recent lockdown in that state.
There are patchy outcomes for particular industries as well - accommodation and food, admin and support, arts and recreation - all of these important parts of our economy are still smaller now than they were before COVID-19.
This recovery is built on the sacrifices that Australians have made for each other.
The biggest risk to the recovery is the Morison Government's failures on vaccinations and quarantine. Australians built the foundations of this recovery and we don't want to see them jeopardised by the failures from this Government when it comes to their two key tasks - getting vaccinations right and getting quarantine right as well. This is one of the points made by the OECD earlier this week - the biggest risk to the recovery is not rolling out the vaccinations effectively. We also need to make sure that the Government properly takes responsibility for purpose-built quarantine facilities.
Failing to do those two things effectively is the biggest risk to the economic recovery. We can't have a first-rate economic recovery in this country with a third-rate vaccine rollout. We can't have a first-rate economic recovery if as the OECD says we remain in the bottom third of nations when it comes to getting the vaccinations into people's arms.
It's important to remember that these numbers today predate the 56,000 jobs which were lost when Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg kept JobKeeper in March. These numbers today predate the lockdowns that we're seeing in Victoria at the moment.
The Morison Government's failures on vaccines and quarantine are strangling the small businesses of Victoria.
What we're seeing in Victoria today is the consequence of a Prime Minister who fails to take responsibility for quarantine and cannot get the vaccinations away. What we're seeing in Victoria today is a consequence of the Morison Government's inability to do the right thing when it comes to vaccines and quarantine.
We know from the Treasury Secretary that these failures are costing the Victorian economy something like $100 million every day. And we know now from the Acting Premier in Victoria that the lockdown is being extended.
We don't want to see Victoria locked down for any longer than is necessary. These lockdowns are made necessary by a case which began in South Australia in hotel quarantine. As Jane Halton has pointed out again today, the absence of purpose built quarantine facilities, means that these lockdowns that we're seeing in Victoria are a consequence of the Prime Minister's failure to take responsibility for that important task.
Growth in the economy should be stronger than what we see today, but we won't get that stronger growth without fewer lockdowns, and we won't get fewer lockdowns without sorting out vaccinations and quarantine.
The Budget handed down only a couple of weeks ago makes an assumption that there will be three lockdowns each quarter for the rest of the year. The Treasurer's own Budget assumptions are an admission of failure, that quarantine debacles and vaccination debacles are costing the Victorian and the national economy dearly and we don't want to see that.
Australians built the foundations of this recovery, we don't want to see it put at risk. It’s not a recovery if ordinary working people go backwards, if people who work hard can't get ahead, and if too many Australians are left behind.
What we're seeing in Victoria is a consequence of the Morison Government's failures. It's long past time for them to take responsibility for those failures and to do the right thing by Victorians.
We have a Treasurer who likes to parade his Victorian credentials when there's a photo to be taken at The G or something else in it for him, but when Victorians desperately need this Treasurer he goes missing. The Victorian Government, on behalf of the Victorian people, has made an entirely reasonable request given that this lockdown is a consequence of Federal Government failures, for the Federal Government to step in and assist Victorians to get through a difficult period.
We call on the Federal Government to take those requests seriously, to extend JobKeeper or if they have a better idea, let's hear it. The Victorian community, small businesses and workers in Victoria, are being strangled by Morison Government incompetence. It's time now for the Federal Government to step in and to let Victorians know what they are going to do to help them get through a very difficult period. Thanks very much.