ABC News Radio 11/01/21

11 January 2021

SUBJECTS: Income Tax Cuts; JobKeeper; Brisbane Lockdown. 

SUBJECTS: Income Tax Cuts; JobKeeper; Brisbane Lockdown. 
THOMAS ORITI, HOST: Jim Chalmers is a Federal Labor MP as well as the Shadow Treasurer and he joins us live now. Jim Chalmers, good morning and thanks for your time.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: G'day Tom, thanks very much.
ORITI: Do you think the Government's tax cuts and concessions were a good idea and do you accept that they did help the economy during the pandemic?
CHALMERS: Yes I do Tom and that's one of the reasons why we spent the bulk of last year and indeed before that, saying that the working families of middle Australia needed tax relief, especially when shops and small businesses were doing it so tough even before COVID-19 but especially during COVID-19. So we called for additional tax relief and we were pleased when the Government put that in place. It has been helping to support the economy through a difficult time but there are other areas we feel the Government hasn't been doing enough.  For example, there is almost a million Australians excluded from their hiring credit program; workers over 35 have been more or less left behind and left in the lurch. So when it comes to this tax relief it's a good thing if it's circulating in our shops and small businesses and in our economy. That's a good thing; that's why we called for it. But we need to make sure that right across the board people are being supported because a lot of people are still doing it tough and still at risk of being left behind.
ORITI: The federal government is talking about tax concessions in the year ahead though, do you think that'll provide some relief?
CHALMERS: It remains to be seen. I don't think the Government should put all their eggs in one basket; that's the point that we've made repeatedly as we've made our constructive contributions throughout the course of last year and we'll continue to throughout the course of this year. The tax relief is helping, the wage subsidy JobKeeper program that we called for and the Government eventually came around to is also helping, those are good things. That's what we want to see from the Government, supporting the economy, but there are some gaps. There are some risks that with all this uncertainty around the virus that the Government is too quick to want to withdraw some of the support, and in the design of some of the programs that the Treasurer was talking about this morning as replacing JobKeeper when it runs out in March, we think that too many people have been left out. There are almost a million workers over 35 for example, more or less stranded when JobKeeper runs out in a couple of months time.
ORITI: Fair enough to say though that these concessions couldn't last forever. I mean, how would Labor have approached that problem?
CHALMERS: Nobody thinks that JobKeeper subsidies should have lasted forever. We've never said that that should be a permanent feature of the budget. What we have said is it should be responsive to what's going on in the economy. We're seeing here in my home state of Queensland at the moment, we've seen in recent weeks and months in New South Wales, obviously what's happened in Victoria, there's still a lot of uncertainty around and so we want to make sure that's responsive to what's going on in the economy. There are still a lot of small businesses who are hurting, there is still a lot of people are at risk of being left behind and so what we need to see here is a Government which is responsive to people's needs and governs in people's interest, rather than spraying a billion around on advertising, sports rorts and all the rest of it. Money is being wasted, left, right and centre when there are people who still need and deserve a government which acts in their interest.
ORITI: Okay let's look at a state level. I know that you can't speak for your colleagues at the state level in Queensland but the pandemic is clearly not over. Your electorate is located in fact in greater Brisbane, it's in lockdown. Are businesses in your region feeling the impact at the moment?
CHALMERS: Certainly Tom a couple of those suburbs which have been mostly at risk in this lockdown including Algester and Calamvale are in my electorate. So it has been a very concerning time not just for local businesses but local families as well, who have on the whole done the right thing the last few days and I commend them for that. We'll hear a bit more I think in 20 minutes or so from Premier Palaszczuk about what the future of the lockdown is and whether or not there's been any more cases overnight. But I think, on the whole, people have been very understanding when there are hotspots like there has been in my neck of the woods you need to get on top of them, you need to take the medical advice and act decisively. That's what Premier Palaszczuk has done and I really commend her for that. 
ORITI: There have been no cases in Queensland for the last two days. We know about this concern involving the highly contagious new UK strain I understand that, but I mean, is there a sense that Queensland jumped the gun a bit on going into this complete snap lockdown?
CHALMERS: I don't think so Tom. I think it's a sign that we take these sorts of developments very seriously. That's in the main what I think people want the state government to do and the national government as well, so that we can get on top of things. Our enemy here is complacency. If we get complacent about the virus, particularly when it shows up, this particular strain which has showed up, if we're complacent about it, then that's a recipe for disaster in our local communities and our local businesses. So we need to get on top of things, that means acting decisively on medical advice and that's what's happened here. I think people are largely supportive of that here in my part of the world and around southeast Queensland.
ORITI: As you say we're expecting a bit of a development perhaps in about 20 minutes time which we will bring you live here at ABC News Radio. Are you confident the lockdown will be lifted tonight as planned?
CHALMERS: I don't want to pre-empt what the Premier will say shortly but what I am supremely confident of is that Annastasia has taken the medical advice seriously she's acted decisively to protect Queenslanders and their economy throughout the course of the last 12 months or so. People are very supportive of the actions she's taken because she's always taken the right decisions for the right reasons. I'm sure she'll continue to do that, whatever the developments are.
ORITI: Okay, Jim Chalmers thank you very much for your time.
CHALMERS: Thanks so much Tom.