JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
MIX 104.9 DARWIN
WEDNESDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Morrison Government slow to roll out vaccines but quick to cut support; Economic support should match the economic reality in communities; NT tourism operators ‘begging’ for support; Visit with Luke Gosling; Federal election; NRL Grand Final.
KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Good morning to you!
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: (inaudible)
WOOLF: Oh hang on! I better make sure I've got your correct microphone on! Let's try that again!
CHALMERS: Thanks for having me on your show Katie - for the second time.
WOOLF: Good to see you, thanks so much for your time this morning. Now firstly, I might go to this announcement obviously that the federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is talking about this morning. Essentially, the Morison Government's going to force state and territory leaders to abandon those lockdowns, declaring that $1.45 billion in ongoing emergency Commonwealth support for affected workers and businesses will be turned off two weeks after those inoculation levels reach 80%. Jim, what do you reckon, is this the right way to go here or are we going to leave some Aussie workers high and dry?
CHALMERS: I think a lot of people are still doing it tough and they still need a bit of help. What we've said all along, is we understand that these payments can't go on forever but they need to be tailored to what actually is going on in the economy. And people are still doing it tough. What this means today, is that Morrison and Frydenberg are punishing Australians for their own mistakes, for their failures to get vaccines and quarantine right.
I think a lot of people will wonder, if only that this government had as much urgency when it came to rolling out vaccines, and quarantine, and all the rest of it, as they've had cutting people's payments, then we wouldn't be in this mess where the national economy is bleeding a couple of billion dollars a week in lost activity.
WOOLF: There is definitely a real differing approach when it comes to borders though across Australia And in some states, obviously, people seem to be fairly happy for people to travel in and out. Others, like us, do lock down as soon as we get a case in some instances. So do we need a little bit more conformity when it comes to the borders and when it comes to managing those borders so that we as a nation can get back to operating as normal?
CHALMERS: I think there are differences, obviously, but those differences are typically based on the health advice the different states and territories are receiving. And so it’s important that they continue to listen to that advice. I think the whole country wants to open up safely and confidently when it's responsible to do that. And it's responsible to do that once we have vaccination where we need it to be, the hospitals able to cope, the tracking and tracing, the plan for the kids, the plan to manufacture our own mRNA vaccines - all of those sorts of things are really key.
And what we're seeing today is the Government's showing a lot of urgency when it comes to cutting people's payments, but not enough urgency with all of those other things that need to happen at the federal level. And I think they're picking a fight with the states needlessly because they're trying to distract from those failures at the federal level.
WOOLF: I guess the tough part is for us here in the Territory, we have largely been incredibly lucky and it has been managed quite well, when you talk about not having that COVID coming into the Territory. But some of our different locations around the territory are really doing it tough as a result of those border restrictions, with obviously New South Wales and Victoria. A little bit earlier in the week we spoke to Danial Rochford who is the head of Tourism Central Australia and he really spoke about the concerns that they've got, and the fact that they are currently on their knees I think he'd say. I know you wouldn't have heard that through the week, so I might just play a little bit of that audio so it gives you a bit of a better idea of how they are feeling at this point.
KATIE WOOLF, HOST: Danial, how many businesses are you talking about here that have either gone into hibernation or have been forced to shut up shop?
Danial Rochford, Tourism Central Australia: We're working very closely with 30 businesses at the moment, we're just working through what the statistics look like, but certainly we're seeing significant number of businesses facing a massive hardship. The latest round of the tourism survival funds - this is as of last week - has seen around about 20 to 30 operators apply for that direct funding support of between $5,000 and $30,000. Those 30 operators are the ones that were particularly worried about and we're working with them almost on a daily basis. The funding support that was announced recently was welcomed but that only was a short term fix. We really need to get support to get us to the other side and we've been calling for funding for months now. I'm not calling for it, we're begging for it. It's got to that extent, Katie, where our industry is on its knees.
WOOLF: Jim, I know that for me hearing that earlier in the week, it was tough to hear from Danial Rochford, and hear how tough some of those operators in Central Australia are going. And I know that obviously the Territory Government and the Federal Government at different times have had different initiatives to try and help some of our tourism operators, but it's a similar situation as I understand in the likes of Cairns.
WOOLF:What do we need to do here for some of these tourism businesses to try to keep them going? Because presumably, when we rebound, we going to very much need them to be operational.
CHALMERS: Yeah, there's a few points about that. Firstly, the fact the Northern Territory's performed really well during this COVID crisis is a tribute to people who've done the right thing by each other to limit the spread of the virus. And it's a tribute to the Gunner Government doing all that they can as well. But what we've seen right around Australia - Cairns is a good example, here is a good example, and in Central Australia - is that even if you're not in a locked-down community you cop the consequences of lockdowns elsewhere. Tourism is obviously a very important part of our national economy and parts of the tourism industry are doing it really tough, as Danial points out.
What we've said all along, is that the Government shouldn't have been in such a rush to withdraw JobKeeper from industries like tourism. We've had this situation where we had a really good idea in JobKeeper, which was badly implemented - something like $13 billion wasted on businesses whose profits were going up and they didn't need help, at the same time as Josh Frydenberg was leaving tourism in Central Australia and elsewhere swinging in the breeze , as Danial said. So ideally, JobKeeper wouldn't have been withdrawn. Ideally, you could make room for that by not wasting it on businesses that didn't need it, so you could give it to businesses that did. And your last point I think is bang on, and Danial’s point as well. What we don't want to see are these industries hollowed out. We don't want to see skills and people leave these industries because they're not being supported, so that when the recovery comes and people recognise how absolutely beautiful this place is - and they want to come here - we want to make sure that the workers are here to be able to service the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
WOOLF:Yeah, it's so very true. And I know Central Australia, it's on everyone's bucket list, particularly when you talk about places like Uluru, they're down to three flights a week at the moment, which when you then talk about those operators trying to be able to survive, it's unbelievable. I know, obviously, you are the Shadow Treasurer, but you know, if there's one thing I could say today, if you're able to take that on board and keep the likes of Danial Rochford and those businesses in mind, when you are talking about these types of things, I know that they'd certainly appreciate it. They do really want to see some kind of help for them in Central Australia and also for our other tourism operators right around the place. There's always plenty to discuss, no doubt about it, but what are you doing in Darwin at the moment?
CHALMERS: I've been here with the magnificent local Member here, Luke Gosling, who is I think a regular on the show.
WOOLF:He is on here pretty often.
CHALMERS: And I've been going from employer to employer, industry to industry, trying to understand the pressures on people like those ones we've been discussing, but also some of the big opportunities on the horizon - defence maintenance, defence procurement, the whole marine scene, all the rest of it. I've met with the Chamber of Commerce, I've met with a 3D printing company, I've met with a company doing defence maintenance. And in between that I've been in the car with Gosling. I don't know if you know, but he likes to sing along to the radio a lot. He listens to you guys and likes to sing along to the music.
WOOLF: That would be a real treat for you!
CHALMERS: That's been a real feature of this visit.
CHALMERS: And he's probably listening now.
WOOLF:Like I said, there's always plenty happening around the place. I'm anticipating that we're going to see plenty of federal politicians in Darwin in coming months, when do you reckon this election is going to get called?
CHALMERS: First of all, so they should. I mean, to the extent that we're able to - some people are in locked-down communities, we understand that - but we should be understanding that regional economies like in the Top End, they need to be a bigger part of the story when we're talking about the national economy. We want you guys to have a big, prominent voice in the national conversation about this recovery. That's why I'm here. That's why Luke Gosling's doing such a good job.
We don't know when the election will be. It might be the end of November, it might be in March, it might be in May, but we do know what it's about - and it's about whether or not we can make our society and our economy stronger and better after COVID then it was before. That’s our mission. That's what Labor under Anthony Albanese is all about. It's what Luke Gosling is about. And what we're here talking to businesses about is how we can help them and partner with them to make that a reality.
WOOLF: Well, Jim Chalmers we are going to have to get ready to wrap up, before I let you go though you're a Queensland boy aren't you. Is this NRL Grand Final going to happen, what's going to happen over the weekend?
CHALMERS: We've got everything crossed! It's a big, big deal for Suncorp - for Lang Park, the greatest stadium on the planet - to have the rugby league grand final. It’s a really big deal and we hope that it can happen. There was only one case today but we've all got our fingers crossed. We want it to be delivered successfully because it's a real reward for the footy fans of Southeast Queensland in particular that they get a grand final.
WOOLF:Yeah, it's going be spectacular - if it does happen. I've got to tell you though, as a girl who was born in Mount Isa, not real keen on cheering for Penrith or the bunnies!
CHALMERS: I feel exactly the same way. I don't know who to back. Albo's obviously a big bunnies person and a lot of people in the caucus are. I've got a soft spot for the Western Sydney side. I haven't quite decided who to back in the grand final yet, but it is hard as a Broncos fan. We came last last year and second last this year, so we're on the way up. But it's going to be tough to watch.
WOOLF: Yeah, hopefully things get better for the Broncos. We will no doubt talk to you again in the near future. Thanks so very much for your time this morning.
CHALMERS: Thanks for the chat, Katie.
WOOLF: Thank you. That is the Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers.