ABC Radio Darwin 29/09/21

29 September 2021

SUBJECTS: Morrison Government quick to cut support but slow to roll out the vaccine; Scott Morrison picking fights with states and territories and punishing Australians for his mistakes; Federal election.




SUBJECTS: Morrison Government quick to cut support but slow to roll out the vaccine; Scott Morrison picking fights with states and territories and punishing Australians for his mistakes; Federal election.


ADAM STEER, HOST: Labor's Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers is the latest pollie to make his way to the Top End. Jim Chalmers, welcome to ABC Radio Darwin.

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks for having me on your show.

STEER: Is it OK kind of put stuff in other people's bins?

CHALMERS: You're allowed to do it just before the truck arrives but not just after the truck’s been. You're not allowed to put stuff in the bin if it's empty but when it's just about to be emptied, that's OK.

STEER: The federal government this morning has announced that its emergency COVID-19 Disaster Payments will come to an end once vaccination targets are reached elsewhere in the country. Now here in the Northern Territory, no one’s really qualified for those federal payments because we've never been in lockdown for long enough, but what's your reaction to the Government announcing this this morning?

CHALMERS: I think the reason that people will be unhappy about this is because this is a Government that shows a lot of urgency when it comes to cutting payments, but not a lot of urgency when it comes to the vaccine, or purpose-built quarantine, or all of the other things that is the job of the federal government. If the Government was as quick to roll out vaccines and to build purpose-built quarantine as they have been to try and cut economic support, then we wouldn't be in this mess, where the national economy is bleeding billions of dollars a week as a consequence of those twin failures from the Morison Government.

STEER: The federal Treasurer, isn't he right in saying, look we are aiming for 80% vaccination targets, once we reach that 80% vaccination, then we should be withdrawing those emergency payments. Why isn't that fair?

CHALMERS: Well, a couple of things about that. We want as many people as possible to get vaccinated because that is the ticket to opening up safely and responsibly. We also need to make sure that the hospitals can cope. We need to make sure that tracking, and tracing, and quarantine is good enough. We need to plan for the kids. All of those sorts of things. But we want the place to open up confidently and safely as soon as it's responsible to do that. And the states and territories have more or less signed up to that plan.

The issue here is that the economic support should match the economic conditions, and people are hurting now and will be hurting for the foreseeable future. And so we need to make sure that the Government isn't in a rush to pull the rug out from under workers and small businesses at the same time as they've been too slow in some of the other areas.

The other issue here, and it's very clear from the way that the Morison Government is marketing this cut to economic support, is that they're itching for a fight with the states. They're trying to pick a fight with the states over economic support. And what we would prefer to see, and I think what Australians would prefer to see, certainly Territorians would prefer to see, is a federal government that is prepared to work with the states to get vaccine rates up, to open up safely and responsibly, instead of picking these needless barneys from day to day for political reasons. That's the problem here.

STEER: The states and territories are not on board with what the federal government wants though, in terms of opening up borders and easing those restrictions?

CHALMERS: I think that they do want to open up safely and responsibly, they do have their different nuanced views about what that looks like. And different Premiers have expressed their concerns about the hospitals, about tracking and tracing, the vaccines, all the rest of it. I think that's normal and expected, but I think what Australians expect from us - state leaders and national leaders - is to try and find a way to work together. And this announcement today from Josh Frydenberg about cutting support for workers and small businesses who are still doing it tough is partly about picking a fight with those states on the eve of a federal election. And I don't think people support that approach.

STEER: It's eight to eight on ABC Radio Darwin. Jim Chalmers is the federal Shadow Treasurer. Why are you in Darwin at the moment?

CHALMERS: I'm spending time with the magnificent Luke Gosling, the Member for Solomon, who's a very close mate of mine and a very big contributor to our Labor team at the national level. We’ve been spending time with Territory businesses. We're very interested in where the jobs and opportunities of the future will come from. So we spent time with Speed 3D, which is a very exciting 3D printing operation here in Darwin. We spent time with companies who do a lot of defence maintenance here in Darwin. I'm having breakfast as soon as I leave here with the Chamber of Commerce. I had a dinner last night with some industry leaders as well.

What we're trying to work out, is how do we make sure that as the national economy recovers that the Territory economy is a big part of that story. How do we make sure that the economy here - which has been doing relatively well because of what Territorians have done for each other to limit the spread of the virus and the good leadership on the Gunner Government - how do we turn that into something enduring, so the economy here is stronger after than it was before. 

STEER: So it's basically pre-spruiking for a federal election, what announcements can we expect from federal Labor between now and the election for North Australia?

CHALMERS: We've made it really clear that Northern Australia is a big priority for us. There'll be announcements clearly, I'm not going to make any on the program today. Luke Gosling is a champion for this community and he is always in our ear about the best kind of investments that we can make in the Top End - whether it's in training, whether it's in infrastructure, or some of the other necessary investments.

Clearly, we've also got to get the migration settings right here. There is a shortage of people in some industries, which is very important. A whole range of things. But we will make Darwin, and Palmerston, and the Top End, and Northern Australia a big priority. We think that if the national economy's to recover strongly, regional economies need to be a big part of that story. And that's why I'm here.

STEER: Are you worried about Luke Gosling's seat of Solomon and will it be crucial for Labor if it is to take government?

CHALMERS: Absolutely crucial, if we don't win here we won't win government. I'm confident that Luke Gosling...

STEER: A bellwether seat, as you say?

CHALMERS: Well, it has traditionally been a seat that's gone either way. We've got the best possible representative here in Luke, who's doing a hell of a lot of work and is representative of the territory. So I'm confident in that respect, but we don't take any seats for granted. We know what happens, we know that elections can be unpredictable, and so we're putting the work in  - not just on the eve of the election as you keep implying in your questions, but throughout the whole term, and the Northern Territory is a big priority for us.

STEER: Okay, just a couple minutes left, I've got a few questions to get through. The Australian's reporting this morning that you used a meeting of senior Labor MPs to propose going to an election with a tax hike on family trusts. Is this true?

CHALMERS: Oh look, we have a lot of discussions internally about the best policies to take to the election. I think we've been really clear for some time now that we are going through and running a ruler over some of the commitments we made in previous elections. Some of those we won't take to the next election, some of those we haven't come to a view on.

STEER: But on the story?

CHALMERS: We haven't come to a view on that.

STEER: Ok. Do you think enough people know who Anthony Albanese is to win an election?

CHALMERS: I think Anthony Albanese is a big asset for us as we try and win this election, because he is an authentic Australian who cares deeply about making the economy and our society stronger after COVID than it was before. He's got a lot of experience. He's got a big heart for this country. And I think people will support him.

STEER: Let’s go to the NAIF. It's been criticised by Labor since it was founded. How will the Labor Government manage it, would you manage it differently, would you blow it?

CHALMERS: We won't blow it up, we'll make it work. One of the problems here is they had this big announcement, where for a long time now they were spending more money on board fees and meetings then they were on actual investment. For years, the investments didn't flow.

STEER: They are now, we've got, building a brand new university in the city.

CHALMERS: There’s been a couple of announcements made, but it's been years since this thing was announced. There's a pattern of behaviour here, big announcements, big dollar announcements, and no follow through. We'd make sure that it actually delivers.

STEER: Jim Chalmers, good to talk to you this morning. Thank you.

CHALMERS: Thanks, Adam.

STEER: Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasurer of Australia.