Page 101 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 8 February 2022

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As a Green, I add that we do not want our economic prosperity to be forever linked to increasing consumption—there is a whole exciting and sustainable world of green economics out there for us to explore—but for the purposes of this debate and the immediate economic situation, those retail sales figures do have a positive hue. Moving forward through this pandemic, the government needs to continue to support businesses and stay attuned to their needs, especially as the situation continues to change and evolve. It is the case, I think, that there are some sectors that may need particular help, whereas other parts of the business landscape are doing well or perhaps even better during the pandemic.

We want to target support where it is most needed. We have all heard, for example, of situations where businesses that were doing fine—in fact, businesses such as Harvey Norman were doing remarkably well—received pandemic payments from the federal government and just added it to their already increasing profits. It is clear that some sectors have done very well out of the pandemic—their particular lines of business have been services in great demand during this period—but it is also true that there are those who find it very difficult. That is where we need to think very carefully about our targeting and where the support is needed. I do not think sweeping statements that business is hurting get us very far in trying to think about the right policy response and the right level of support in the complicated and unprecedented period of time that we find ourselves in. On that note, we in the government have been working hard to identify and work with the sectors which have particular needs in the pandemic. An example in my own portfolio is the club sector, where I am having specific and regular meetings with the representative associations to discuss the particular issues that are impacting on that sector and thinking about where particular responses might be needed.

I will conclude my remarks today by simply noting that the Greens will be supporting Minister Cheyne’s amendment to this motion, which adds a fuller picture of the economic landscape and describes more accurately the government’s response to the challenges faced by business.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health and Minister for Mental Health) (4.11): There is a gendered aspect to the economic impacts of the past two years, and it continues trends that we have been seeing in the ACT for 30 years. Women are disproportionately represented in low-paid industries with high rates of casualisation—retail, hospitality, tourism and the arts, and care work. It has been a continuation of what happened to ACT women in the labour force during the 1991-92 recession, the 2002 dot-com bubble burst and the 2009 GFC.

What we saw in the 1991-92 recession was a shift for women from full-time to part-time work, which means that the real indicator of labour force impact on women became underemployment, not unemployment. Unemployment has not been higher than underemployment for women in the ACT for more than four consecutive months since September 1992. Finding enough hours of paid work has become a bigger problem than finding work at all. The difference between underemployment and unemployment for ACT women has been even higher during the pandemic than it was in any of the previous economic downturns that I have mentioned. ABS labour force

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