PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Victorian restrictions easing; Hiring credits; the Morrison Government’s jobs claims; Australia Post; Treasurer role in ASIC scandal.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: First of all I'd just like to let the people of Victoria know how much we appreciate and admire what they've been able to achieve together in the last few months. It's been a very difficult time for Victorians. At the core of what they've achieved is something remarkably selfless, which is to make sacrifices so that other Australians can be kept safe. We send our admiration and appreciation to the people of Victoria who have done something really quite incredible in the last few months. I thought Magda Szubanski absolutely nailed it when she channelled Jeff Fenech and said, ‘we love youse all’. We send that strength and solidarity to Victorian friends who have done something really special.
It's really important to acknowledge today, in the aftermath of the budget, and with Senate Estimates, that the Government has been sprung once again over-promising and under-delivering on jobs. One of the defining features of this Government is they put out the press release with all the big numbers claiming all of these jobs will be created by their policies, but we now know that that's a sham once again. The Government's been caught red-handed inflating the number of jobs that they expect will be created in their budget, with their trillion dollars of debt. We have a budget the racks up a trillion dollars in debt, spends $100 billion, and still means that unemployment will be too high for too long. The Government puts out a press release saying that its hiring credit will create 450,000 jobs. We now know it's more like 45,000 jobs. The Government's been sprung giving false hope to 400,000 young workers in this country that they told would get a job from this policy.
We now know as well, that in the manufacturing policy and the technology roadmap, the jobs claims which underpin the Prime Minister and the Treasurer's announcements are also a sham. Treasury's had no role in it. They're not numbers included in the budget; they're numbers that have just been plucked out of the air. The Government's got form in this regard, making the big claim and not following through. We've seen that again this week when it comes to jobs. It's given false hope to so many Australians doing it tough, who might have just been recently unemployed, or unemployed for some time. The Government tells them that there'll be hundreds of thousands of jobs created. We now know that that's a sham.
JOURNALIST: Given Victorian businesses can now start to recover, does that change your views at all on JobKeeper JobSeeker winding back in March?
CHALMERS: No, the economy is still considerably weak and not just in Victoria. The last job numbers that we saw had jobs lost in every single state and territory in the same fortnight that JobKeeper was being withdrawn prematurely. We've also seen in the Senate in the last 24 hours that the Government expects to be spending an enormous amount of money paying out the entitlements of workers whose businesses have fallen over. There's still a lot of concern in the economy and not just in Victoria. The premature withdrawal of JobKeeper is making a difficult situation worse. The Government by withdrawing JobKeeper too early is making themselves part of the problem, not part of the solution.
JOURNALIST: So when should it be pushed out too?
CHALMERS: It's premature to have done it at the end of September when the economy is still weak and unemployment is still rising. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever for the Government to say we've got a million unemployed and another 160,000 will join the unemployment queues between now and Christmas at the same time as they're pulling hundreds of millions of dollars each fortnight out of the Australian economy. That will make things worse, not better.
JOURNALIST: There are reports today that Australia Post boss Christine Holgate spent tens of thousands of dollars to stay at the Hyatt in Melbourne. Should she resign?
CHALMERS: Clearly there are issues there with the way that money is being spent at Australia Post. I don't want to pre-empt other comments that others might make, and there's also the inquiry, but clearly there are serious issues there. I think the Australian taxpayer has got every reason to be filthy about the revelations out of Australia Post at the same time as Australia Post has been withdrawing services from our neighbourhoods. I also want to make this point; the Prime Minister shows all the confected outrage about Australia Post, he gets really hot and bothered about these tens of thousands of dollars which have been spent inappropriately, and that's fair enough. But at the same time, sitting behind him in the Parliament are Ministers who paid a Liberal donor $30 million for a $3 million parcel of land. Where's the outrage about that? At the same time, we've got Angus Taylor; scandal after scandal after rort after rort. Where's the outrage about that? At the same time we've got the Treasurer who sat on information for five weeks that the head of ASIC had overclaimed his expenses by more than $100,000. Where's the Prime Minister's outrage about the Treasurer who sat on that information for five weeks? The Treasurer has very serious questions to answer about why he sat on that information, what he knew, and when he knew it. He should come clean on all of this because it's very strange that he was told about this formally on the 15th of September, then tried to pretend the day before the grand final last week that he only just heard about it on the 22nd of October. That was wrong. He's now fessed up that that was wrong in the Parliament. We need to know why he did that.
JOURNALIST: Should James Shipton resign?
CHALMERS: Again, there's a process there but clearly what has gone down there has been incredibly disappointing and incredibly inappropriate. There are legitimate issues around the chair of ASIC, but I think that there's a bigger issue here, which is the Treasurer's own conduct to sit on this information for five weeks, to keep it secret from the Australian taxpayer for five weeks, and then to try and pretend that he only just heard about it.
JOURNALIST: Should taxpayers be charged for public servants to stay in luxury hotels, especially given the state of the economy?
CHALMERS: I'm not going to go through the accommodation arrangements of public servants. Clearly we want to make sure that we're getting value for money for the arrangements that are struck with senior public servants. I think that there's a broader issue here. This Morrison Government is a dumpster fire of ministerial scandal. We have a Prime Minister who shows confected outrage about Australia Post but is almost entirely silent about all of the other scandals which seem to engulf a big portion of his cabinet. If the standard that he has applied to Ms Holgate at Australia Post was to apply to his own Ministers then we would get more of the outrage about some of the stuff that they've been up to.
Thanks very much.