These are unprecedented times.
Those of us who serve in this place have a vague knowledge that we may one day be called on to make hard decisions such as these, but that doesn’t make this moment feel any less grave.
I thought the days of total mobilisation of our population on a scale we saw during the Second World War was something for the history books.
But Coronavirus is the greatest threat the world has faced since the War and it requires a total war response.
Over 1.4 Million people have contracted coronavirus worldwide and over 82,000 people including almost 50 Australians.
5,956 Australians have contracted the coronavirus and 2,547 have recovered.
294 are in hospital. 92 in intensive care and 36 are on respirators.
Over 310,000 Australians have been tested for coronavirus – one of the highest rates in the world.
The coronavirus is not just a health issue though its potential to test our health system is unprecedented.
And I thank the front-line health workers in our hospitals clinics, pharmacies and other health workers.
And I acknowledge the work of the Health minister and the Chief Medical Officer in meeting this challenge.
The coronavirus will change our country in ways we have not yet fully understood or imagined.
Coronavirus is already changing the way we live, the way we work, the way we commute or don’t commute, the way we consume, the way we educate our children, the way we gather in community and the way we relate to each other.
I particularly want to acknowledge the churches and the not for profit service providers that are helping our community get through with a great sense of cheerfulness.
And I particularly want to acknowledge the schools and make a special note of year 12s many of whom will feel that they are missing out on a year they were looking forward to – the culmination of their education a chance to lead and bittersweet experience of doing things for the last time.
I want to say to those students, hard as it is to believe right now, there are opportunities in this that you never would have thought of. You have a chance to be creative and to lead in ways that no one else before you has done.
In the years ahead, you will tell the stories of this time, and you will see how it strengthened and shaped you.
In fact, I hope we all will.
The way we live now – despite all its challenges – is a return to home and hearth – to place and suburb and community.
The privations of the present make us grateful for the things we have – our family, the beauty of our neighbourhood and the acts of kindness of our neighbours and those people doing essential work in our local shops and government services making our lives easier.
But we cannot ignore the darker side of what coronavirus is doing to our society.
The change in live is putting a great strain on the mental health of many Australians as they understandably but wrongly question their sense of self worth.
Can I say to Australians who are struggling: You matter. your life matters we will get through this together and prevail just as earlier generations of Australian have prevailed.
That’s why the governments mental health packages with more support for BeyondBlue’s coronavirus hotline as well as more funding for Lifeline and kids helpline are vital.
As is the important extra funding to keep people safe from domestic violence.
I will never forget seeing the Centrelink queue at Hornsby stretching more than a block and a half filled with many Australians who had god jobs who would never in their lives have imagined themselves standing in a Centrelink queue.
Australians for whom their very identity is tied up in the work they do when that work is no longer available.
That is why I applaud the Governments Jobseeker package and coronavirus supplement for those who have lost their job.
The coronavirus is an unprecedented economic challenge.
And that challenge calls for an unprecedent response.
Mr Speaker I did not come to this place to increase the size of government.
Nor did I come here to see more Australians come to depend on Centerlink.
We are making decisions to spend $320 Billion of which today’s Bills represent $130 Billion because we have pressed the pause button on business and industry.
If ever we needed reminding that the true engine room of our society is not government, but small and medium businesses, community groups and not-for-profits, these past few weeks have been that reminder.
Normally our job is to get out of their way and let them do their work.
At the moment, we are having to get in their way, and it isn’t easy to get used to.
Nonetheless, we are right to do this.
I want to congratulate the treasurer for the ingenious concept at the heart of this Bill – the job keeper payment.
Anyone who has ever employed people knows how hard it is to find and retain good people.
And anyone who has ever done a job they loved knows the great privilege they feel in working for an organisation that values them.
And in times of crisis people are just pleased to have jobs and workers to keep their businesses going.
This Bill maintains that relationship between employer and employee by having the government make payments to business and not for profits affected by a downturn as a result of coronavirus to support those organisations in keeping their employees.
This payment of $1500 per fortnight per eligible employee has been warmly welcome as a lifesaver across my electorate and across the country.
Finally I want to say a big thank you to the people of Berowra. It is easy to forget how good people can be. Thanks to the countless people in my electorate who are inspiring me every day as they carry on with selflessness and resolve that you can’t help but admire.