SUNDAY, 26 JULY 2020
SUBJECT: Unemployment; Industrial relations; JobKeeper; COVID Safe app.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: This is the deepest recession of our lifetime, a lot of Australians are losing their jobs or they're worried about losing their job. Josh Frydenberg thinks the solution to this jobs crisis is to double-down on trickledown economics, harsher industrial relations and even more job insecurity. He tells us that he draws his inspiration on industrial relations from Margaret Thatcher. That should send a shudder down the spine of every Australian worker.
The answer to this jobs crisis is not harsher industrial relations, or even more job insecurity. The conclusions that Josh Frydenberg is drawing from this recession are bizarre and potentially catastrophic conclusions for him to draw from this first recession in almost three decades. The answer to extreme job insecurity isn't extreme deregulation. The answer to all of the uncertainty, and all of the anxiety that people feel at work at the moment is not to make Australians even less secure at work.
This bizarre mini-Maggie approach to the economy will make a difficult situation even worse. If the Government continues down this Thatcherite path, we will have a lost generation of Australian workers even more insecure at work, finding it harder to make ends meet.
Australian can't afford to discard a generation of workers. That's why the Government, instead of pursuing this bizarre mini-Maggie obsession, needs to come forward with a genuine and comprehensive jobs plan that recognises that a million Australians are already unemployed and 240,000 additional Australians are expected to lose their job by Christmas time.
In the budget update, the Government told people that things are grim in the economy, but Australians already know that. They need a plan. They need to know what the Government is actually going to do about this jobs crisis. Going down the Thatcherite path will make things worse, not better. The answer to this jobs crisis is not even more job insecurity and harsher industrial relations.
JOURNALIST: Jim, what would you say that keeping these measures in place now, extending the emergency industrial relations rules, what would you say? Obviously with JobKeeper being wound back [INAUDIBLE] should we not keep those in place a little bit longer to soften that blow?
CHALMERS: The answer to extreme job insecurity isn't harsher industrial relations. When the Government came to the table and said that they wanted to change industrial relations temporarily because of the downturn in the economy, we said that we were concerned that that would be the thin end of the wedge. We were constructive and responsible, we engaged with the Government, we engaged with the union movement and with workers more broadly. We said we were concerned that with the temporary arrangements, that the Government would try and make them permanent. That seems to be where we're headed now. The Government hasn't put any proposal on the table for us to engage with. We engage with every proposal in a constructive and responsible way but it would be a bizarre and dangerous conclusion to draw from this jobs crisis that the answer is even more permanent job insecurity for Australian workers.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to business and industry groups who say that repealing these provisions too soon would cause employers to have to sack people?
CHALMERS: Clearly we are always consulting with the business community, with the union movement, and with the community sector more broadly to make sure that we can make a constructive contribution to the policy response to this first recession in three decades. We will continue to listen. We will continue to consult. We've made it very clear for some time now that we don't want to see in response to rising unemployment, rampant underemployment, and serious job insecurity, Australians even more insecure at work. That would be the wrong conclusion to draw from what we've seen here.
JOURNALIST: Jim, if you were Treasurer now, what would you be doing? Would you be keeping JobKeeper going and [INAUDIBLE] these provisions? What would be your advice, I guess?
CHALMERS: We've said for some time that the Prime Minister's original instinct to pull all of the JobKeeper support out of the economy at the end of September would have been catastrophic for workers and for businesses. To the extent that that's not happening now is a good thing. We'll work through the detail of what has been proposed here in terms of the extension of JobKeeper. We'll do that responsibly and constructively as we have all along. Extending JobKeeper and extending JobSeeker is no substitute for a comprehensive plan for jobs and the recovery in the economy. What we need to see from the Government is not just a recognition that things are grim, but a plan for what they're going to actually do about it when some of this otherwise welcome support trails away.
I've just got a request to cover off on the COVID Safe app, so I might just cover that briefly before we finish up.
It's very clear that the app isn't working. There hasn't been a contact found yet which wasn't already identified by manual methods. For the app to be effective, it has to actually work. We are concerned that the Government, having made all kinds of claims about the app, now needs to concede that it's not working as intended. Indeed all of the people who have been traced to date have been traced using manual methods. There could never be a more important time for contact tracing to be effective. For contact tracing to be effective, we need the app to work. The Government needs to explain why it hasn't been.
Thanks very much.