Sky News AM Agenda 02/06/21

02 June 2021

SUBJECTS: National Accounts; Morrison Government’s failures on vaccines and quarantine; Josh Frydenberg abandoning Victorians in need.






SUBJECTS: National Accounts; Morrison Government’s failures on vaccines and quarantine; Josh Frydenberg abandoning Victorians in need.


LAURA JAYES, HOST: GDP figures will be released for the March Quarter at 1130 this morning which will provide a fresh insight into the cost of the snap lockdowns we've seen over the past couple of months, the most recent in Victoria with this outbreak. Yesterday, Labor, targeted the Treasurer in question time accusing him of abandoning his State.


Chalmers: Victorians wouldn't be locked down today if it wasn't for the Morison Government's failures

on vaccines and quarantine. Why has this Treasurer refused to provide any additional support to small businesses hardest hit by these failures. What kind of Victorian abandons Victorians in their hour of need?

Frydenberg: This Treasurer, this Prime Minister, this Government, has provided more support to Victoria than any previous Government, Mr Speaker.


Well, the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joins me live now here at the desk in Canberra. Good to see you. You really had it in for Josh Frydenberg yesterday. You've got to admit that the Government has provided a lot of support to Victoria?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I don't think Victorians necessarily would agree with that right now, they're dealing with a lockdown which is more or less a consequence of the Morrison Government's failures on quarantine and vaccinations. All of these cases that we're seeing in hotels can be sheeted home in one way or another to the Government's failure to take responsibility for quarantine and build some of these purpose-built facilities that people, including Jane Halton and others, have been calling for.


This Treasurer likes to parade his Victorian credentials when there's something in it for him, but when they actually need him to do something to step in and support workers and small businesses he goes missing. But at the end of the day it's not about him, it's not about me, it's about millions of Victorians who are being strangled by the Government's incompetence on those two key areas.


JAYES: Do you accept that JobKeeper can't last forever. We might have these spikes for years to come. Every time this happens does the Government need to bring back payments? Does it needs to be the Federal Government's responsibility?


CHALMERS: Literally nobody is saying that JobKeeper should be a permanent feature of the Budget, but what we have said over and over again, I've said to you sitting here on other occasions, that JobKeeper or other kinds of economic support needs to be responsive to what's actually happening in the economy. These lockdowns are very costly, the Treasury Secretary said something like $100 million a day for these lockdowns. The Treasury also assumes something like three, week-long lockdowns, every quarter for the rest of the year. And so what we've said is, if there's a lockdown like this which is doing such damage, the Government shouldn't be so quick to dismiss providing the support that people need.


JAYES: So what would you do?


CHALMERS: JobKeeper is an option, obviously. We've said for some time that because of the way that there are tests for JobKeeper there's a way to maintain some kind of JobKeeper payment in a more targeted, temporary way. That's one option. ACOSS and others have put ideas on the table in good faith around disaster style payments for casual workers.


JAYES: Why can't that be the Andrews Government?


CHALMERS: The Andrews Government has kicked in, they've kicked in $250 million this week. And they've kicked in on other occasions too, as have the feds.


JAYES: But that's not enough?


CHALMERS: What we're saying is, it's clearly not enough for workers and small businesses who are being strangled by these failures on vaccines and quarantine.


JAYES: Well, let's get to the vaccines and quarantine. Jane Halton is an authority on this, she delivered a report to Government, this is what she had to say this morning.


Halton: The virus continues to change. That means our systems need to continue to adapt and certainly as it's been reported some of the breaches we have seen recently, are a direct reflection of an absence of best practice in some of these systems. So, to say that I'm disappointed about that, I think is the minimum I would say.


JAYES: There you have it. ‘Disappointed’. That's probably the toughest language from Jane Halton throughout this pandemic, what do you think of that?


CHALMERS: I can understand Jane Halton's frustration, she gave this Government a report, months ago, warning about some of these things which have unfortunately eventuated.


It's been clear to Jane Halton, and to all of the rest of us for some time, that hotels are not sufficient to quarantine people. They're built for tourism. We now know, even in WA, in South Australia for this outbreak in Victoria and elsewhere, that hotels are not as good as purpose-built facilities. And that's what Jane Halton's been saying for some time. She's been more or less ignored. The consequences of that are these kinds of lockdowns that we're seeing in Victoria right now.


JAYES: I guess the problem is, if you start federally-run quarantine systems, you've still gotta pick a State for them to be in. So, are the State's really gonna play ball with that? Essentially, the States are really in control about how many people come in, where the facility is, and the medical resources around it?


CHALMERS: First of all, quarantine is a national responsibility, as you know.


JAYES: Sure, but the practicalities of it?


CHALMERS: Obviously, at some point, there will need to be cooperation with the States to deliver. The Queensland Government has gone to the feds with a proposal. The Victorian Government has gone to the feds with a proposal. The Government has been trying to wash its hands of this, unsuccessfully.


Everybody knows that this is a Commonwealth responsibility. Everybody knows that Scott Morrison doesn't like taking responsibility for things, and we're seeing the consequences of all that now. Work with the States, get some of these facilities purpose-built. If not in Toowoomba, then where? If not in Victoria, then where? It's the responsibility of the feds to do something.


JAYES: One final question. GDP figures out today at 1130, a couple of hours time. What are you expecting, a bucking of the worst predictions? You expect these figures to be pretty good or will these lockdowns play a part?


CHALMERS: Literally everyone who's expressed a view on these numbers in advance, and we'll see them at 1130, thinks that they will be strong numbers, relatively strong numbers. Not as strong as the last two quarters, but it's entirely expected as we come out of that deep and damaging recession that we'll get some solid quarterly figures and that's what people are expecting today.


But I think what people are also expecting, is that this is the foundation that Australians have built together in the recovery from this recession; the biggest risk to the recovery is Scott Morrison's failures on vaccines and quarantine and some of the other issues we've talked about today.


JAYES: Is there a hint of a rare bit of credit there for the Government?


CHALMERS: We've said repeatedly, we want the economy to grow strongly coming out of the recession. We want good jobs to be created, and we want to deal with underemployment as well. We want to deal with job insecurity. When we get pleasing figures we say so. We are within our rights to point out there's still almost two million people unemployed or underemployed. There's still a lot of weakness in the economy. And all of it is at risk, all of this recovery is at risk, if the Prime Minister continues to botch vaccines and quarantine.


JAYES: OK Jim Chalmers, thank you.


CHALMERS: Thanks, Laura.