May 13, 2020







SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; JobSeeker/Newstart payments; Australia’s industrial relations system; reform agenda coming out of COVID-19; childcare; stamp duty and land tax.


LEON COMPTON, HOST: Anthony Albanese, good morning to you.




COMPTON: Your questions, please, if you have got one for the Federal Labor Leader. 1300 222 936 is the number. Please give us a call. Anthony Albanese, Josh Frydenberg, and we hope he is well, he is no doubt very, very busy and under a lot of stress at the moment, but what was he doing in Parliament yesterday with a cough that bad?


ALBANESE: Well, that is an explanation that I guess he has to give. The good news is that he has tested negative for coronavirus. And that is good. I am very pleased for him and I certainly wish him well in terms of a healthy recovery. I hope he does take the time to be sensible and if he needs to have a little bit of a break, it was quite a coughing fit yesterday, then he should do so.


COMPTON: I want to play you a bit of Peter Gutwein laying out a clear picture of how the Tasmanian Budget looks at the moment and through to the end of next financial year. This was him talking at his update yesterday.


GRAB OF PETER GUTWEIN: After only a few months, we have a very different looking Tasmania. When we went into this, we were leading the country on most economic indicators. We had a very robust, strongly growing economy. And in fact, we were the envy of the nation when you looked at a number of our economic stats. This Friday I will be releasing Treasury’s economic and fiscal update. It will include the financial position of Tasmania but also provide a forecast both for the remainder of this financial year but also the coming financial year. The deficit this financial year will be significantly north of half a billion dollars. In terms of unemployment, we expect that by the end of the June quarter, more than 27,000 Tasmanians will have lost their job and our unemployment will be around 12 per cent.


COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, he went on to talk about net state debt from the end of next year being somewhere around or over, well over, the $2 billion mark. How can the Federal Government look at the Federation and support states like Tasmania in paying this debt down into the future?


ALBANESE: Well, what they can do is have a plan. And the difficulty about yesterday’s statement from Josh Frydenberg was that there wasn’t a plan. They didn’t have a plan before the crisis. We had debt, of course, that was already doubled. We had consumer demand falling and business investment falling. Interest rates being slashed to try and keep some activity in the economy. And yesterday, I thought it was pretty disappointing that on what should have been the Federal Budget day, there was effectively no detail, just a broad statement. They do need to have a plan in areas like housing and construction are due to really fall off the cliff in terms of activity in a few months’ time across the country that will have a major impact. There needs to be something better than snap-back as well, the idea that JobKeeper will just disappear, one day it’ll all be there and the next day it goes, that we will wind back Jobseeker payments back to where they were. That to me is a real concern. And that’s why on Monday I presented Labor’s plan with some concrete initiatives, the need to get reform going in areas like productivity, stimulating the economy through housing construction, particularly housing for essential workers, have a conservation plan that would create jobs while looking after the environment and to deal with these issues. It is going to be a transition out of this economic downturn, and that’s why I was always concerned about the talk of just snap-back. And it appears from what I just heard that at least the Tasmanian Premier gave more detail than we got in the national Parliament yesterday.


COMPTON: What you’ve talked about in, and we’ll talk more about your speech on Monday, beyond the Coronavirus in a moment, you’ve talked about policy. What about reform? What reform would you embrace if you were the Prime Minister at the moment to look at managing issues of intergenerational inequity in paying this debt down into future years? You talked about the Federation and the opportunities to look at reform there. What specifically would you look at as PM to work to reform our tax and transfer system?


ALBANESE: Well, one area is industrial relations reform but one that takes the spirit of unions working with business like they have during this crisis. Clearly as well, there is a need to identify the comparative advantages. One of the things I did when I was Regional Development Minister was work in Tasmania over issues like how we can target the industries that have significant export potential, like the salmon industry, provide some support, provide some practical measures. One of the things we did in northern Tasmania was to support some capital investment in freezing of products that would then be exported, like salmon. So, what it did was it substantially increased the value of those exports, not just the volume because it made it fresher et cetera. And working with business to do that. And I think there will be a need for specific industry policies. In Tasmania, of course, that would be targeted at areas like agriculture. The tourism sector will take some time to recover. And I think there’s a need for specific support for the tourism sector.


COMPTON: What we’re talking about here, again, is policy. Let’s talk about reform. How would you reform the industrial relations system in Australia to remove or reduce the capacity of employers to choose casuals over permanents? You say it needs to happen. How would you make employers take that choice?


ALBANESE: Well, one thing that you would do, for example, is introduce a test of same work, same pay. One of the problems that is there and is leading to labour hire companies, you can have two people working next to each other, essentially doing the same task, one of them on an award being paid with provisions including annual leave and superannuation and sick leave and the person next to them doing essentially the same task not having those sorts of provisions. There needs to be a move away from the incentive that is there to make those short-term decisions. Which then places pressure on the business that isn’t using those provisions in order to compete to go down that road as well. I’ve sat down with the Business Council of Australia, including just last Monday, and talked about a reform agenda. They are up for constructive discussions. And so is the ACTU. Indeed, we had the heads of both those bodies on ABC Radio National just this morning discussing areas of common interests. Because there is a common interest in businesses being successful. If they’re not successful, they can’t employ people.


COMPTON: To get back to the issue of casuals over permanents, you talk about the risks that come with the increasing casualisation of the workforce. How would you push employers to choose permanents over casuals?


ALBANESE: Well, at the moment, there are a range of incentives built in. That’s what I’m saying in terms of, be it labour hire, not having a permanent workforce. And there’s a need to do it cooperatively. It’s not a matter of just mandating it, and if you do, you will get pushback. But the business community is up for this discussion, a cooperative arrangement whereby at the moment what they have said to me is that, well before this crisis, is that enterprise bargaining simply isn’t working. It was working for many years, but at the moment, it’s just not working for business because productivity went before this crisis went backwards, two quarters in a row. And we know that wages are stagnant, they are not rising. And people feel insecure in their work. And I really think that during this period, it’s been identified. And I’ll give you one practical example as well, which is another business I spoke to last week, that employs 30,000 Australians, of the things that has happened with working from home has a massive potential benefit for workers to not have to spend an hour going to and from work every day, to boost productivity for the business. And as well as, of course, deal with less traffic and all of those issues as well. And I think during this period, the idea, as well, that we will just snap-back, and people will not take advantage, or we won’t take this opportunity to think through the nature of the ways that we work. Now, largely they are, of course, white-collar jobs. But that is where, largely, the growth has been in recent times. And what that means is that someone could live in one of the beautiful towns that are there in Tasmania, not just Hobart or Launceston and be working for a company that is based in Melbourne or based wherever. Location is becoming less important for a whole range of tasks. And the practical way in which people are having experienced that, I think that has changed people’s views. It has changed the views of many people in major corporations.


COMPTON: On Mornings around Tasmania, we’re hoping to talk to someone from KPMG about how it’s changed their view and what they’re consulting to clients in the days ahead. Anthony Albanese, the Federal Labor Leader, is our guest this morning. Anthony Albanese, before news at nine o’clock we spoke with Ros Cornish. She’s the head of one of the biggest, if not the biggest, childcare provider in Tasmania, about the Federal Government’s support, in fact, full subsidy for childcare that ends on the 30th of June, so in a month and a half’s time.


GRAB OF ROS CORNISH: The issue for us, of course, if we’re not getting income post- the 30th of June when the relief package ends, we need income, so we need the income from somewhere, whether it be from parent fees, or the Government subsidies. We will not survive unless we get income.


COMPTON: So, they’ve got 30 to 50 per cent of their normal student or child load there at the moment. She would broadly like to see that scheme continue. Would you continue it, if you were the Leader?


ALBANESE: Well, there’s certainly a need for a transition. This is why I’m concerned about this idea of snap-back. The idea that childcare is free on the 30th of June, and then on the first of July, it just snaps back and that there won’t be a shock to the system with childcare providers collapsing is one of the issues that we have raised. We will be raising it in Parliament this week again, because the providers are telling us that they’re really concerned. One of the issues that was put to me prior to the Government making the specific details of the announcement that they made available, they we’re calling for the government payments to continue to be made, whether the child was turning up childcare or not. That would have been less costly, frankly, than the scheme that the Government came up with because it wouldn’t have been additional government expenditure but would have provided childcare centres with that ongoing payment. And that could have been spread out over a longer period of time.


COMPTON: On Mornings around Tasmania. Anthony Albanese is our guest this morning, the Federal Labor Leader. A lot of people at the moment on unemployment benefit, was known as Newstart, now it’s called Jobseeker. And it’s been added to by an extra $550 a fortnight. Anthony Albanese, what would you reduce that to in September when the scheme is due to end?


ALBANESE: Well, we don’t have Treasury and Finance at our disposal in terms of that level of costings. What we would say is that before, and we were saying this before the crisis, that $40 a day wasn’t enough to live on, and that it needed to be increased. The Government acknowledged that when there were so many extra people going on Jobseeker, they put their hand up and said that’s not enough that’s why we have to increase it.


COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, we asked this question of every candidate in every electorate in Tasmania in the lead-up to the last Federal election. All the Labor candidates said ‘Oh, yes, Newstart needs to increase’. But you never gave a figure. Now here we are and asking about what it should be reduced to and you still don’t have a figure, isn’t it reasonable to expect you to have a figure that it should be reduced to if it’s reduced at all, so that people know where you stand?


ALBANESE: The next election, Leon, is two years away, more than two years away.


COMPTON: But this is about the expiry of Jobseeker. And that’s due to expire, I think, in September, on a six-month timetable. What should it be reduced to?


ALBANESE: That’s exactly right. And it would continue on. We wouldn’t have Jobseeker reduced once and then another position at the next election. And I’m just being honest, I’m not going to make up figures on the run. We will get proper costings for any policy that we put forward, and we’ll announce them before the next election. But what we’re saying is, to the Government that has Treasury and has Finance, thousands of people working away in offices doing these costings, we’re not going to be irresponsible about the economic costs of commitments. And every commitment we make, we will meet. And that’s why you got to be fair dinkum about it and make sure you get that detail right.


COMPTON: Would you embrace reform and land tax to replace stamp duties in states like Tasmania?


ALBANESE: Look, I think it’s certainly worth looking at. And I know that various state governments are looking at it. I know that one of the things that has happened in Tasmania over this period is that because, Rebecca White has told me, is that there has been cooperation during the coronavirus crisis. And I think that if the Government and Opposition sit down there and work out a fairer way, because there’s no doubt that one of the things that stamp duty does is distort the market. It will tend to, particularly when we have the ageing of the population, it’s a disincentive for people to transition towards smaller houses once the kids leave home. And that distortion of the market that occurs in a range of ways isn’t productive and means that you don’t get the most efficient use of the housing that is there.


COMPTON: So, you could consider supporting a reform by the Federal Government in concert with the states to look at ways the Feds could help get rid of stamp duty, replace it with land tax?


ALBANESE: Yes, and look, it’s been debated, of course, a number of times. And at the time of going back to Paul Keating’s major tax reform, so that was one of the state taxes that was supposed to be reduced or gotten rid of, and indeed, when the Howard Government introduced the GST, that again was one of the tax measures that was on the table to be removed. So, people have known that it is a distortion in the market for a long period of time. If reform can occur, then the Federal Government should be doing what it can to create efficiency in the economy.


COMPTON: Anthony Albanese, good to talk to you this morning.


ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Leon.