Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:28): Those that sit on the other side of this chamber must be the only people in Australia, it seems, that think Australia has not dodged an economic bomb. The economic management of Australia over the last two years through the pandemic has been quite extraordinary. In fact, almost any other country in the world would swap places with us. Not only has the virus been kept largely under control and not only do we now have a vaccine rollout that is in the top echelons of the world; we have kept people at work.
While we’re talking about wages and the cost of living, I can tell you that, if you haven’t got a job, they’re pretty intense—that’s for sure. So the government spent $89 billion on JobKeeper, keeping people in touch, keeping them in work, keeping them in their employment stream. I’ve had no end of contact, like virtually every other member in this place, of businesses coming to me and saying: ‘JobKeeper saved our bacon. It was the thing that kept us in business.’
Since the cessation of JobKeeper, we’ve rolled into the COVID subsidy and wage system that has kicked into place where we’ve had hot spots declared. Once again, it’s kept Australians employed. It’s kept them at work. It delivers the check that deals with the costs of living that they deal with on a daily basis. In fact, it’s been our No. 1 priority—making sure that our business sector stays strong and keeping people in a job. That is what we have done. We’ve even lowered the jobless rate from the beginning to this point in the pandemic. It’s 5.2 per cent at the moment. It was 5.6 per cent last month and that was a bit of a kick up, but considering the lockdowns that we’ve had in New South Wales and Victoria that is hardly surprising. All the indicators are now that they are opening up their economies and that they will be bouncing back immediately. In fact, the jobless rate even now is still a full half a point lower than when we came into government in 2013, courtesy of the previous administration.
Now the indicators are that the jobs market is running hot. There are 300,000 jobs available in Australia at the moment. The ABS data shows that in the September quarter there was a 2.2 per cent lift in growth. The economy grew by 2.2 per cent in the September quarter, and that was in a pandemic. That was in a time when two of our major states were largely locked down. So it’s been quite an astonishing performance. The pandemic has been the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Private wage sectors are up 2.4 per cent for the year. While there was not much growth there, things are absolutely happening now. I report that the RBA see unemployment as low as four per cent by the end of 2023. In fact, we already have shortages right across our economy. It’s not just in the skills sector but right across our economy. In my own electorate, we have shortages of doctors, nurses, mechanics, shearers, ag workers, aged-care workers and people to make coffee. We have shortages in the tourism industry. We have shortages of cleaners. We have shortages at just about every level. As sure as night follows day, something outrageous will have to happen in the economy for wages growth not to follow those shortages. We will see growth over the next 12 months. That is already being foreshadowed. That is kicking away in that area already, with the RBA predicting 2.5 per cent growth in 2022 and three per cent growth in wages in 2023. We would not want that to explode to 10 per cent or 15 per cent, would we? We were there in the 1970s and the 1980s, and it wasn’t a good place to be.
The jobs market is full of opportunity, and we are doing everything we can to join up those people that are unemployed with those jobs that exist. There are already 347,000 people in training apprenticeships across Australia. In my own electorate, we have over 3,000 in apprenticeship training.
Today consumer confidence is up yet again, nearly 30 per cent higher than pre COVID. Business confidence is high, and why wouldn’t it be? After all, across Australia, the government is expending over $10 billion in— (Time expired)