Sky News Afternoon Agenda 29/06/20

29 June 2020

SUBJECTS: Secret report into JobKeeper; JobSeeker; Virus outbreak; Tax reform.

MONDAY, 29 JUNE 2020
SUBJECTS: Secret report into JobKeeper; JobSeeker; Virus outbreak; Tax reform.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Joining me now is the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Jim Chalmers, thanks very much for your time. JobKeeper set up as it is, isn't due to expire until the end of September anyway. Isn't it better that the Government gets it right, the recalibration of JobKeeper and JobSeeker, and not try and rush it out immediately?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The Government's got a secret plan for JobKeeper payments but they just don't want anybody to know about it until after the Eden-Monaro by-election. The Treasurer received the report on Friday. Originally, it was due to be released in June, as was the budget update. Instead, they've pushed both of those things beyond the by-election on Saturday. For every day and every delay, jobs are being lost. Businesses are putting workers off as a consequence of the uncertainty that the Prime Minister is creating by not clarifying the future of JobKeeper.
GILBERT: But given, as a I said, that it's not scheduled to be renewed until September anyway, isn't it better that they make sure it is targeted as best they can by giving themselves at least until July 23, and that economic statement?
CHALMERS: The important point, Kieran, is that they said to Australian businesses and Australian workers when they put this JobKeeper program in place, we'll clarify its future in June, and we'll update the budget in June. Then they worked out that they have the Eden-Monaro by-election in the first weekend of July, so they want to keep the report secret until after that. The very concerning thing about that is that businesses are laying off workers because there's no clarity, there's no certainty, there's just a lot of anxiety about the future of JobKeeper. If Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg truly cared about jobs during this first recession in three decades, they wouldn't be leaving people in the dark about the future of this really important payment.

GILBERT: The Grattan Institute released a report today saying that Government fiscal support to business will have to continue. All the noises we're hearing from the Government is that they will continue support for those industries that need it.
CHALMERS: We haven't heard the plan from the Government for what happens after September. As I said, they've got a secret plan and they don't want to let the Australian people into their confidence before Saturday's by-election. We need to know what that plan is. As it stands right now, the tap gets almost completely turned off on that last weekend in September and that creates a very concerning economic cliff. They've been telling us now for some time that the economy is going to be weak for some time at the same time as they're rushing to pull out all of this support. If they've got an alternative plan, let's hear it. Labor will be responsible and constructive when we hear that plan. There's no reason to keep delaying it apart from this political strategy that they have, which is costing jobs every day that it's delayed being released.
GILBERT: When you say it's costing jobs though, they're still going to provide the update two months before it scheduled to stop. If businesses are laying off people now knowing that the Government's still going to provide a review, and still pay JobKeeper until the end of September, doesn't that show that the situation is dire for those businesses and really nothing would be preventing that from happening now with this pandemic?

CHALMERS: Those same businesses, Kieran, were led to believe that there'd be some clarity about JobKeeper more than a month ago, when the Government first put the program in place. It has now been delayed beyond the by-election as I've said a couple of times now. That's creating uncertainty and we hear that feedback from business. Many of them found it difficult even to hang on for the delays in implementing the JobKeeper program in the first place. It was implemented too slowly and too narrowly and now risks being withdrawn too quickly and too bluntly. It's hard for businesses to hang on. The Government needs to understand that. Unfortunately, their highest priority is the politics of a by-election and not the good economic policy which would be to give people some clarity by releasing the report. Having received it last Friday, there's no excuse not to do so.
GILBERT: Now with JobSeeker, the old Newstart or the dole, where do you want that level? Obviously, the Government won't go back to what it was, but where do you think it should be?
CHALMERS: That's not yet obvious to me, Kieran. On Sunday, as I always do, I was drinking my coffee and watching your program. I read the papers a couple of hours earlier where they said that JobSeeker was going up by $75 a week. By the time your program aired at 8 o'clock, you'd had a text message from a Government Minister saying it was all wrong. There's a lot of confusion about that. There's certainly no clarity for almost two million people who are on JobSeeker now about what the future of that payment is. We've been very clear for some time now; it can't go back to the old Newstart rate. $40 a day is insufficient for people to support themselves and to look for work. One of the reasons we've been unable to nominate a figure is because the Government hasn't yet updated the budget like they promised they would. We want to be responsible about it. We want to make sure that any decisions about JobSeeker are calibrated to the economic conditions but also the state of the budget. That's another reason why it's so concerning that the budget update's been pushed back to the end of July when it was originally promised to take place during a parliamentary sitting week in June.
GILBERT: A couple of other matters now. In Victoria, obviously, we've got this troubling outbreak. How worried are you about the economic implications of that? And would you hope that Daniel Andrews does shut down those hotspots now?
CHALMERS: It's tremendously concerning, Kieran. The spike in new cases in the last day or two has been really worrying. I think it justifies the very careful and very cautious approach that the Premiers have been taking to all of this. No doubt Premier Andrews, who has done a terrific job throughout this crisis, will be considering some of those drastic measures that you just mentioned and that you were discussing with Andrew a moment ago. It's a very serious thing. To some extent we expected there would be outbreaks in specific places going forward. But when it happens like this, it's very concerning. One of the worst things that can happen for the economy is if we do get a substantial second wave. We've seen that in other countries. We've seen what it's done to their societies, and to their economies, and we need to avoid that at all costs.
GILBERT: Finally, on the GST, there is a lot of talk about the need for reform to make our tax system more efficient. Is there any circumstance under which Labor would be open to broadening the base of that consumption tax?
CHALMERS: We're not in the cart for increasing the GST, Kieran. I know the Prime Minister has been an advocate for that in the past, when he was the Treasurer. Our concern is that it impacts disproportionately on the people who can least afford to pay it. We know that some of the States are gearing up for another crack at this. We know that they'll get a sympathetic ear in the Morison Government. That's not something that we want to see happen. If the States propose other kinds of measures in their State tax arrangements, whether it be the New South Wales Treasurer or the Victorian Treasurer or others, outside or beyond a change to the GST we'll have a relatively open mind to that, but we're not up for a GST hike.
GILBERT: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joining me live from Brisbane. Thanks.
CHALMERS: Thank you, Kieran.