JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
GOLD FM BENDIGO
MONDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Economic support for regional Victoria; Morrison-Frydenberg Government slow to roll out vaccines but quick to cut support; Economic support should match the economic reality in communities.
MARK ROBINSON, HOST: Jim Chalmers, good morning and welcome to the show.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks for having me on the show, guys.
ROBINSON: No problem at all I'm probably going to give you the easiest free hit that you've ever had in your life but -
CHALMERS: I like the sound of that!
ROBINSON: Do you think Josh and the boys could be doing a better job for support for people during the pandemic?
CHALMERS: Of course, Josh Frydenberg likes to call himself a Victorian, but I think when Victorian small businesses and workers really need him he goes missing. I think that's true in Bendigo and right through central Victoria and Ballarat as well. What we've got here is a government that's in a rush to pull out support from workers and small businesses in local communities. If only they were in that big a rush to roll out the vaccine and get the purpose built quarantine right, then maybe wouldn't be in this mess, where the economy nationally is losing billions of dollars a week because of all that.
STEVE KENDALL, HOST: You mentioned there the quarantine, I haven't heard much about that recently is that still going ahead in Victoria?
CHALMERS: It is supposed to. The issue here or the problem with it is that we're well into the second year, almost at the end of the second year, of the pandemic and it's been clear for some time that hotels just don't really cut it when it counts to limiting the spread of the virus. They're built for tourism, not built for medical purposes and so we need that purpose built quarantine. The Victorian Government's done a good job getting a plan on the table we need to see that built. It's a much patchier story around the rest of the country. The Queensland State Government's got some plans but the Feds haven't really played their part and done their bit. That's one of the reasons why we're so far behind where we should be. A lot of these cases that we get are actually leaked from hotel quarantine and so they could have been avoided.
ROBINSON: I'd say most of us, 99 per cent of us, obviously understand we have to do the right and get vaccinated and all the rest of it but it's really when you look at some countries overseas and Steve has a British background and I have lived overseas for number years and you look at the way that life is going ahead, it's like we're just dragging the chain a bit.
CHALMERS: In some ways but it’s important we listen to health advice, we can only open up when it's safe and responsible to do that. So we need to make sure that hospitals can cope and we get a plan for the kids and we get tracking and tracing right. All those things that you're familiar with, but a really key part of that as well is making sure that we support our small businesses through this. I've been talking a lot with Lisa Chesters who represents your part of the world and Catherine King as well and it was their idea that I come on the program and talk about this. The problem we've got is right now for a lot of small businesses and workers the economy hasn't come good yet, yet the economic support is being pulled away by the Morrison government and we don't want to see that. We want to see the support match what's actually going on in the economy and there's nothing magic about that 70 or 80 per cent vaccine rate that says all of a sudden, businesses and workers are 100 per cent fine. So we need to be more aware of that we need to be responsive to that I'm not sure the government is.
KENDALL: I've always thought that in opposition is pretty hard job because you haven't got the sort of resources, perhaps to do this but how would you do it differently if you were in government at the moment?
CHALMERS: The main difference is that we try and tailor the economic support to what's going on in the economy and so we've recognise that some parts of Australia are going relatively well but some parts of Australia are really struggling. I don't need to tell Victorians about that and it's the same around parts of Sydney, and other parts of Australia as well. So what we'd try to do is not be in a rush to pull support out. We'd recognise that people are still doing it tough and so would leave it there for a bit longer not forever. Nobody says that we should be spraying money around forever out of the Commonwealth Budget and it doesn't come cheap. It's important that we support people because what we don't want to see is we get to the other side of this crisis and we start to open up and we've lost a lot of the small businesses in Bendigo, Ballarat, Maryborough and Castlemaine and all these great places. Often the strength of these towns is the small business community. So we want to make sure that too many small businesses don't hit the fence so they can continue to keep employing local people, that's our goal. So we think the economic support should reflect that.
KENDALL: Are you pushing for this in parliament presumably?
CHALMERS: Yes for sure. We've tried all kinds of different ways to get the government to see sense here. When it looked like the economy was recovering at the beginning of this year and the government was giving themselves a big pat on the back we said you can't have a first rate economic recovery with a third rate vaccine rollout. Unfortunately, that's what turned out to be the case and so what we said in parliament but also right around Australia is don't be in a rush to pull out the support while we're still lagging in some of these key things that we need to sort out before we can open up confidently, safely and responsibly. So that's been our point really for much of this year. We'd rather the government got it right and we wouldn't need to make these points but unfortunately we still do. I think the latest evidence of that is the news that Josh Frydenberg, this kind of pretend Victorian, is going to pull the rug out from under too many Victorian small businesses before they're ready.
ROBINSON: Jim finally, allowing for the help that's been given from the Feds, is the economy, do you think resilient enough that it will bounce back when finally things start to come down a bit?
CHALMERS: I think so and we want it to bounce back strongly. We want there to be good jobs and good opportunities for people right around Australia. We want it to be the right kind of recovery, we all want that. Both sides of the parliament want that. The difference is we think in the interim, we shouldn't be leaving people in the lurch. We want to make sure that our economy can be stronger after COVID-19 than it was before. I think that's something that Anthony Albanese is really known for that sense of optimism that we can be better after than we were before. We can do better than to go back to some of the issues we had in the economy around weak growth, stagnant wages, insecure work and all those sorts of things which were a big problem before COVID-19. We can do better than that. That's what we want to see.
ROBINSON: Jim great to chat thanks very much for your time, much appreciated.
CHALMERS: Appreciate your time. Thanks very much.