SKY Afternoon Agenda 11/10/21

11 October 2021

SUBJECTS: NSW COVID restrictions easing; Josh Frydenberg’s JobKeeper report into his own program a stunning admission he wasted billions on companies which didn’t need it; The Coalition’s economy-wrecking, job-destroying, opportunity-thieving approach to energy policy; IBAC.



SUBJECTS: NSW COVID restrictions easing; Josh Frydenberg’s JobKeeper report into his own program a stunning admission he wasted billions on companies which didn’t need it; The Coalition’s economy-wrecking, job-destroying, opportunity-thieving approach to energy policy; IBAC.


KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's go live to the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers who joins me now for his reaction to that and the other issues of the day. You must be encouraged Jim, to see the sort of optimism we're getting from our reporters on the ground in Sydney and people I guess with that latent demand, they want to get back out there and get back to some normal lives?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Hi Kieran, it will be interesting to see how many people back up for the gym early tomorrow morning after the night that looks like is developing in Sydney tonight.

The people of Sydney and New South Wales have been through such an incredibly difficult time. You can understand their excitement, you can understand their relief, particularly of the small business people of New South Wales who've had to cling on and get through the most difficult period imaginable. We want them to do well, we want them to reopen safely and confidently and responsibly.

We want to make sure that we aren't complacent though about this reopening. We need to make sure that we've got the tracing and quarantine arrangements, that the hospitals can cope with what people think will be a spike in numbers, we want to make sure we can vaccinate groups who are at risk of being left behind, all of those sorts of things, so that this reopening is something that's enduring, that can last, that we don't have to bounce back and forth because the systems can't cope. So we're very happy for the people of New South Wales, we understand how exciting today must be for them, but we can't be complacent. We need to make sure the systems are in place so we can open up properly.

GILBERT: The Deloitte Business Outlook is very optimistic, saying a marvellous recovery is exactly what we had last time, we can do it again, according to Chris Richardson's analysis. Forecasting growth next calendar year of 4.5%, that's quite the turnaround, do you agree with that optimism?

CHALMERS: I think when the economy's gone backwards, as it has last quarter and as it did last year, inevitably there will be some kind of bounce back and that number would look bigger than usual. We want the economy to recover really strongly, we want that recovery to be sustainable and broad and inclusive, and we want it to be the right kind of recovery.

There was a lot of optimism in that Deloitte report, but there was also some elements that are troubling, I think particularly when it comes to stagnant wages. We've had stagnant wages for much of the last eight years. I think we can do better than just go back to all of that job insecurity and wage stagnation which has characterised the eight long years of this government. And the Deloitte report points to wages growth being slower for longer, which is very concerning.

The Reserve Bank expects the economy to recover as well but they think the recovery this time, from this dip in 2021, will be slower than the recovery from the dip in 2020, the recession in 2020. So we want things to go well, we want there to be a strong recovery, but we need to be cautious about that. We can't be complacent about it. And we need the right kind of recovery, where ordinary working families get a slice of the action.

GILBERT: On the JobKeeper analysis, Chris Richardson again with me today on this program said it's the best policy he's seen under pressure. And then the Treasury report released today said that there was $27 billion paid to businesses whose turnover didn't fall as much as anticipated, some whose turnover grew. And in the report it says any clawback was not decided upon, reflecting a desire to avoid any disincentives for businesses to adapt and recover. Do you accept that explanation from Treasury?

CHALMERS: I think that JobKeeper was a really good idea, really badly mismanaged by Josh Frydenberg. We celebrate every job which was saved by JobKeeper. It's why we proposed wage subsidies in the first place.

This report today is actually a stunning admission of failure from Josh Frydenberg that billions of dollars were wasted on businesses which didn't need help, at the same time as other small businesses which did need his support were needlessly excluded. So it's a pretty remarkable thing to release, he's released a report into his own policy which shines a light on the record-setting waste that has happened on his watch. We know from Freedom of Information and other sources...

GILBERT: It says that clawback would have hampered the recovery, do you accept that?

CHALMERS: I don't think it's an argument about the clawback, I think it's an argument about the implementation of the policy in the first place. He was warned last year that businesses were receiving JobKeeper that didn't need it. We've been talking about it for some time. We think it's a good idea that we have JobKeeper but the money needs to go where it's needed, and he has wasted more money on this program than any Treasurer has wasted on any program in history. If he hadn't wasted those billions of dollars on businesses that didn't need it, he could have used JobKeeper to support small businesses and workers which still needed his help. So a good idea, badly mangled, and the report today I think shines a light on that.

GILBERT: The climate change issue, the Prime Minister says he will unite the government on this and he looks likely to go to Glasgow. The BCAA, in the last few days, releasing its call for reductions of 46% to 50% by 2030, following the New South Wales Coalition Government. It seems hard to imagine that Labor wouldn't go somewhere in that ballpark as well given the BCAA is there, we're not talking about some green group?

CHALMERS: We're taking a very responsible and reasonable position, which is that only the government can update the government's targets, or the country's targets, in the lead up to Glasgow. We've asked for them to be more ambitious than they have been. And the BCA, I think, should encourage them. What the BCA report shows, a very welcome intervention in the debate, is that this scare campaign that this LNP Government's been running for the last eight years is completely ridiculous.

Getting climate change policy right is all about more jobs and more opportunities for more of our people, including in the regions. That's what the BCA report shows. The Prime Minister, if he makes announcements about this in the coming days and weeks, we all know it will just be another political fix, just something that he's doing to try and satisfy and plicate his backbench at the same time as Josh Frydenberg tries to hold on to his marginal seat of Kooyong.

As always with the Prime Minister, it's a quick fix rather than something which he has his head around. His heart's not in climate change policy, he doesn't understand the jobs and opportunities which will flow from cleaner and cheaper energy. The BCA has highlighted the opportunities which are going begging with this government's economy-wrecking, job-destroying, opportunity-thieving approach to energy policy.

GILBERT: I said finally, but just one more. I should ask you about this IBAC development today. Anthony Byrne is quite a senior MP and the allegations, admissions, of branch staking and so on, how worried are you about that in the Victorian branch?

CHALMERS: I haven't caught up with it yet Kieran, I've been focused on all the other issues we've been talking about - the JobKeeper report, the Deloitte report, climate change, and the reopening of the New South Wales economy. I haven't seen what Anthony has said today so I'll leave that commentary for others.

GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, I appreciate your time. Thanks. Talk to you soon.

CHALMERS: Thanks very much, Kieran.