DOORSTOP INTERVIEW WITH SBS NEWS
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 3 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Recession; Tax cuts; The Morrison Government’s absence of a jobs plan.
BRETT MASON, JOURNALIST: The Treasurer, we heard yesterday, is looking to fast track income tax cuts, but not for big business. What’s Labor’s reaction?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: They haven't made an announcement yet on income tax cuts. If they do that then obviously we will engage with that, we'll discuss it at our end, we'll come to a position, and we'll announce it. But even bringing forward income tax cuts wouldn't be a substitute for a comprehensive jobs plan. This was the darkest day in the Australian economy for almost a century. Australians already know that things are bad. They need to know what the Government's going to do about it. It needs to be more comprehensive than just talking about tax cuts.
MASON: On that, Labor very early on called for this income support to begin with, and things like social housing investment and fast tracking construction, but when we look at what we know so far, the budget really needs to go much, much further to avoid this being a long and deep recession. What are some of the things that the Government could be doing now even before the budget?
CHALMERS: Absolutely the priority needs to be jobs; protecting jobs in the teeth of the recession and creating jobs in the recovery. The absence of a jobs plan is a real problem there. The Government wants to pull back on JobKeeper too early, but they don't know what's going to replace JobKeeper. They don't have a plan for jobs going forward. We think that a plan should include getting JobKeeper right, building social housing, and investing in the care economy. There's obviously going to need to be local jobs programs in the hardest hit areas. We need to get energy policy right. We need to train people for technological developments. All of these things would be sensible parts of a comprehensive jobs plan. We haven't got a comprehensive jobs plan from the Government.
MASON: The Treasurer made the comparison to the GFC, where there was a lot more scope for monetary policy. We don't have that luxury this time around. It's really up to the Treasurer. The Treasurer has his hands on the levers. Is he pulling them hard enough and fast enough?
CHALMERS: No. I think the Treasurer is in a rush to pull back on support while unemployment is still rising and that doesn't make a lot of sense. The Reserve Bank is actually leaning heavily into this recession. They've announced this week some additional support to try and get some cheaper lending into the system to try and get people spending and investing. That's really important but they can't do it on their own. The Treasurer is pulling support out of the economy, winding back JobKeeper and JobSeeker, freezing the pension, and cutting super. All of these things won't create jobs. They will actually be part of the problem and not part of the solution.
MASON: Finally, for folks at home, we’ve seen household savings at their highest level since 1974. That means consumers are obviously worried about their financial security. What can consumers do to help? Is there anything they can do to help? Money needs to go into the economy, but people seem worried about losing their safety net?
CHALMERS: Australians are petrified by what's going on in some ways with good reason. They're unwilling or they're unable to spend in the economy. We do need to get consumption going again. Consumption was a problem even before COVID-19 but it's a massive problem now. People will make their own decisions about their own household budgets, but the sooner we can get money circulating through the economy in a way that saves jobs, creates jobs and boosts local economies, the better.
MASON: Thank you very much.
CHALMERS: Thanks for that.