TUESDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper cuts; The Morrison Government’s lack of a comprehensive economic plan; Impact of declining population growth; Western Sydney Airport land acquisition scandal.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: This month it was confirmed that Australia's in the deepest, most damaging recession we've seen for almost a century. This week the pension was cut. Next week, JobKeeper and JobSeeker will be cut. The Commonwealth budget is in two weeks today.
When we're in the teeth of the worst recession in almost a century, it makes absolutely no sense for the Morrison Government to be withdrawing support from the economy without a jobs plan to replace it. When Australians desperately need a jobs plan, all they're getting from Scott Morrison is cuts to JobKeeper, cuts to JobSeeker, a freeze to the pension, less super, and less job security.
What we need to see in the budget two weeks from today is a comprehensive plan for jobs, not just another marketing exercise. We need a genuine jobs plan and not just a return to all of the Government's old ideological obsessions. We need a budget and a Government which is more interested in chasing jobs than chasing headlines.
The budget also needs to accurately reflect the fact that we won't have the population growth that we need in the near-term to support economic growth in the way that it has been in recent years. In recent years, the Government's been almost entirely reliant on population growth to fuel what little economic growth we have seen in the Australian economy. The budget needs to reflect the fact that obviously migration is down, but we also know that the fertility rate and the birth rate is down as well. This means that there is an even greater need for a jobs plan and an economic policy which doesn't rely as heavily in the near-term on population growth.
During this Morrison Recession people feel less confident about the future and that has implications for whether or not they want to start a family or have more kids. We're seeing that in the broader community and we need to see in the budget that migration and the birth rate has fallen, we need to see that accurately reflected. We need to see that spur a proper jobs plan and a proper economic plan from the Government.
Instead of a jobs plan, we've been getting cuts to key supports in the economy; we've been getting lots of announcements with very little follow through; and we've had a Prime Minister who is more interested in pointing the finger at state premiers and shifting the blame than he is in actually coming up with that jobs plan that Australians desperately need.
Australians are sick of the finger-pointing and blame-shifting that they're seeing from the Prime Minister. They want to support the premiers to do the right thing based on the medical advice. Australians understand that the worst possible outcome for the economy is subsequent outbreaks of this diabolical virus. We need to see sensible decisions being made on the basis of sensible medical advice. That's what the premiers on the whole have been doing in recent months.
The Prime Minister is desperate to distract from the fact that his failures on aged care have cost lives and that his failures on the economy have cost jobs. He now wants to distract from the fact that they've been sprung paying something like 10 times the value of a property in New South Wales by paying $30 million to a Liberal donor for a property which is worth something more like $3 million. This dodgy airport rorts deal stinks from head to toe. We need to hear what the Government says to explain what's going on here. We know from the Audit Office that the Government has spent $30 million on a $3 million property and that money has gone to a Liberal donor. There are lots of questions for the Government to answer today.
JOURNALIST: Jim, how concerned are you, though, about the forecast drop in the fertility rate in Australia in the next few years?
CHALMERS: It's very concerning because our economy relies heavily on population growth. Even before COVID-19 our economic growth was incredibly reliant on population growth. In the absence of open international borders and with this decline in the birth rate, that will obviously have implications for the economy and for the budget. We need to see those implications properly and accurately reflected in the budget in two weeks' time.
We need to ensure that we've got a healthy, growing population. Having more kids or starting a family is the ultimate expression of confidence in the future. A lot of Australian families and couples are worried about the kind of world that they'd be bringing kids into. That's an understandable thing, but we desperately need the birth rate to be up there. We desperately need population growth. Our economy is heavily reliant on those things but it shouldn't be reliant on those things alone. We desperately need from this Government, now in its eighth year, not just a plan to rely on the population growth which isn't there in the near-term, but an actual plan for jobs to grow the economy in the right way, which is inclusive and sustainable, which provides more opportunities for more people, and gives Australian couples the confidence that they need to have more kids or start a family.
JOURNALIST: Just on trying to grow that population rate, do you think that it is time that the Government considers a baby bonus?
CHALMERS: The baby bonus has been tried in the past . It had its fair share of issues, I think it's fair to say. I think the most important thing we can do to give Australian couples the confidence that they need to start a family or to have more kids, is to make sure that the type of society, country, jobs market, and economy that those kids are born into is one that provides opportunities for those kids. I talk to a lot of parents and prospective parents in this community and around Australia. There's a lot of anxiety about what kind of world they'd be bringing kids into. That's understandable. What we need to see from the Morrison Government and what people have a right to expect from a future Albanese Government is the right economic planning, the right planning for jobs, the right investments in our communities and our society to make this country the sort of country that people want to bring more kids into. Thanks very much.