JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
TUESDAY, 16 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper cuts will cut jobs in South Australia; Morrison Government’s failure to listen to what is happening in local communities and economies.
LEON BYNER, HOST: I asked Jim Chalmers, first of all, where are we going with this? And what do we need to do? This is what he had to say
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning, Leon. Thanks for having me on your show.
BYNER: Now, about 10,800 workers and 3,500 businesses across Adelaide are expected to come off the payment of JobKeeper, as it ends on the 28th of March. What is it you think we need to do?
CHALMERS: Well, first of all, Leon, that number is just the federal electorate of Adelaide.
CHALMERS: The issue is actually much broader and much more troubling, when you consider that across South Australia we're talking about almost 52,000 workers, and almost 7000 businesses, many of them small and family businesses who face a very uncertain future when the government cuts JobKeeper at the end of this month. What we've said all along, is that JobKeeper has been doing a good job in the economy, and needs to be tailored to what's actually going on in local economies around Australia. And what those numbers give you a sense of, is just how many thousands of people are at risk of losing their jobs when JobKeeper ends. Cuts to JobKeeper equal cuts to jobs. The Treasurer has been talking about the light at the end of the tunnel; for a lot of South Australians, a lot of people living in your part of the world, Josh Frydenberg's light at the end of the tunnel is a locomotive when those JobKeeper cuts are made.
BYNER: I'll tell you what the interesting stat that I've picked up on, is that more than 95% of businesses that actually get JobKeeper are sole traders, or small businesses that have fewer than six people on the payroll.
CHALMERS: That's right and they're such a crucial part of the economy. A lot of small businesses, a lot of family run businesses, have been supported through a difficult period by JobKeeper. It's why we proposed it in the first place. JobKeeper is not perfect, you know, the government's been paying some executive bonuses in Sydney and Melbourne, there's been all kinds of rorts that the government has been unable to clamp down on. But on the main, it's done an important job in the economy. And the risk here is by pulling the rug out from under those small businesses too soon, it risks the recovery. The economy is recovering. Some businesses are able to stand on their two feet, that's a terrific thing, we want to see more of that. But the risk here for those 52,000 South Australian workers is that the government's been in a rush to pull JobKeeper out, they haven't got the vaccines away quickly enough. Remember, they said that they could cut JobKeeper in March because the vaccine would be rolling out substantially by now - and they're not. So there are some issues here, and we just want the government to actually understand and listen to local small businesses, to listen to local workers, and to do the right thing. Because when they cut JobKeeper at the end of the month, there will be job losses. We don't know how many, the Treasury says something like 100,000 others have said up to 250,000. We hope that doesn't happen. It remains to be seen. We don't want to see those kinds of job losses, but there is a case for a temporary and targeted extension of JobKeeper. Not forever, but until some of this uncertainty abates.
BYNER: Well, it's interesting, because there's an analysis that suggests that Norwood, Kent Town and Rose Park have the second largest number of businesses on JobKeeper. And then of course, you've got Aberfoyle Park, Happy Valley and Flagstaff Hill. So these are very spread out suburbs, with very small businesses, so you're plea is - let me get this right - that we should continue it, in a much more targeted fashion, until we know these businesses are going to be okay?
CHALMERS: That's right, Leon. I mean, fewer businesses will need JobKeeper as the economy recovers and so the price tag comes down. But that doesn't mean we should cut it prematurely. I spend a lot of time in Adelaide, Leon. I've got family there. I've got my in-laws there. I'm there frequently. I know a lot of those suburbs you just mentioned, and I know some of the small businesses there. And it's really clear that there are good businesses here, who just need a hand getting through a very difficult period. They might employ a handful of people, like you said, but some bigger businesses as well. And all we're saying is, don't pull the rug out from under those businesses too soon. There are tens of thousands of people at risk here. And so, particularly when the government hasn't been able to get the vaccine away quickly enough, to give people that confidence then be a bit flexible about it.
BYNER: Yeah, the other thing is, the cinemas are also saying that, look, we just need a bit of a hand up for about three months. And this is something that they really need right now, they're going to have the product down the track a bit, but right now they're in big trouble.
CHALMERS: That's right, Leon. We've spoken to the cinemas. We've spoken to the travel agents. There are a lot of industries which are very severely impacted by one or two of these things: the closure of the international border is still having an impact. I spent the bulk of last week in Cairns, Launceston, Hobart, some of our tourism hotspots. And it's very clear that they're still doing it tough. But also businesses which rely on, or which have to maintain a lot of distancing. Cinemas, it's not hard to understand why it's difficult for them right now, but other businesses too. So, we need to be cognisant of that.
My fear is, the government's out of touch with what's going on in local communities and local economies. They're so busy patting themselves on the back for the recovery, which was always going to come after such a deep and damaging recession. We need to get that recovery right. That means not cutting JobKeeper too soon. It means not cutting wages, and super, or having a budget which is riddled with rorts, but actually focusing on jobs and opportunity in places like Adelaide, and right around Australia.
BYNER: That's Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasurer, making clear his pitch, and the way he looks at the issue of JobKeeper.