Jul 21, 2020







SUBJECTS: Government’s announcement of changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker; coronavirus outbreaks in Victoria; cancellation of Parliament sitting.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: So, joining you now is Anthony Albanese, the Federal Labor Leader. Mr Albanese, good morning. Great to have you on board.




TRIOLI: Does it seem fair to reduce these rates, have a tiered system, and keep them in place until March? Is that what you would want to see?


ALBANESE: Well, we certainly didn’t want to see snap back, which is what the Government said would happen. That would have snapped the economy, frankly. We have expressed our concern in the past that some 875,000 people have been given more money now through JobKeeper than they were earning before the crisis. And that has added billions of dollars to the deficit. That never made any sense. And we pointed that out from the beginning. But we’ll look at the detail of what’s put forward today. We’ve been constructive. And we’ll look for solutions rather than arguments.


TRIOLI: We’ll get to the point that you made just then, the qualification that you made about the increase in payments to those who ended up earning more, in just a moment. But a few more points on this. Are you happy that the payments are until March? Does that timeframe seem about right to you?


ALBANESE: Well, we will wait and see what the economy looks like in March. Of course, prior to this crisis, the economy was very soft. We had already doubled the debt. Productivity was going backwards. And wages were stagnant. And the economy was really struggling. We’ll wait and see. My concern is that today, there really should be more than an argument just about JobKeeper and JobSeeker. We need to hear about infrastructure investment. We need to hear some more detail about skills. We need the Government to respond to our offer, constructive offer, to sit down and work through a framework for energy policy that would drive investment that would support manufacturing in this country. We don’t have an energy policy. And we need to do a bit more than just try to alleviate the impact of the recession. We need to put in place mechanisms that grow the economy and grow it stronger, so we can move out of the debt deficit and recession that we’re currently going through.


TRIOLI: Given that this Government, and indeed any government in this situation right now, is looking down the barrel of probably one of the most substantial deficits that we’ve seen in decades and one that will last for probably a decade.


ALBANESE: Well, it’s likely to be four times the previous record.


TRIOLI: Which follows logically. I mean, any government would have to spend their way out of this. But given that, how much, reasonably, can we expect from a Government in terms of the stimulating spending that you’re talking about there?


ALBANESE: Well, we can expect for there to not be waste. And there has been waste in this package with those 875,000 people paid more than they were.


TRIOLI: Let me just get to that. You raised that point here and I said we’d return to it. So, to jump in there, just to put the alternative point of view, the Government wanted to move quickly to get money out to people just to put a bottom underneath this. Any government, I think, would probably do that without having to muck around and model it and waste time in making sure that you didn’t have that kind of overspend and waste. It’s the overspend and waste that happened during the GFC spending of the Labor Government as well, isn’t it?


ALBANESE: They didn’t move quickly, Virginia. They opposed wage subsidies for a considerable period of time. And then it was only when those massive queues were outside the Centrelink office that they change their position. And it’s not beyond the wit of Government that has access to the Australian Taxation Office after all, that keeps a record of how much people are earning, that people couldn’t earn more than they were before the crisis. That seems to me to be a pretty simple measure that could have been put in place.


TRIOLI: Now, a Treasury review has apparently found that the payments, these payments that have been made, could act as a disincentive to work and therefore must be scaled back as we’re apparently going to see tomorrow, Anthony Albanese. What’s your view of that? Does that seem fair to you?


ALBANESE: Look, what’s not fair is if we return to old arguments about people not wanting to work. The fact is that there aren’t enough jobs out there. And there’s 13 people for every job that’s made available. I have a friend of mine who this morning contacted me, and she unfortunately missed out on a job where they were over 1,500 applications for this job. She was shortlisted and went through a whole process. And that’s a familiar tale out there. Common sense tells you that. So, I think some of the Government’s rhetoric on this is quite contradictory. They know that the jobs aren’t there. That’s why you need to extend JobKeeper and keep that relationship between employers and employees at this difficult time.


TRIOLI: If we are to expect such major changes to this highly expensive scheme and for to go in place until March, shouldn’t Parliament be sitting to oversee all this?


ALBANESE: Absolutely.


TRIOLI: Well, you won’t be.


ALBANESE: That’s right. And we should be. And we argued that Parliament should be sitting more. The Government cancelled Parliament for six months remember, Virginia, earlier this year. And we kept the pressure on for them to meet. The Prime Minister made the decision to write to the Speaker. And that was, to be fair, on the basis of the advice from the Chief Medical Officer. But we were in talks with the Government, with the Speaker and the President of the Senate, about arrangements. We managed to sit earlier this year in March and again just a little while ago in May. And we were able to sit with revised arrangements. In my view, we were putting forward arrangements which would have seen some of the key Victorian members being able to attend but with pairing arrangements for a number of members as well, were able to say that they were happy to come to Canberra and isolate for a couple of weeks. We want to make sure that Parliament does sit at the end of August.


TRIOLI: Or at the very least do it online? I mean, the entire of Australia has managed to go online. Businesses that believed they simply could never get their work done via all the technologies now are doing just that. I should think that our parliamentarians might be able to do the same.


ALBANESE: Well, those provisions were made, indeed, by a resolution of the Parliament to allow for more flexibility. The Government has chosen not to do that. They’ve cancelled the fortnight sitting that was coming up. We are due to sit at the end of August. And I would have thought that has to happen because there’s got to be proper scrutiny. We asked for Senate estimates to have additional hearings and the Government has rejected that. But we’ll have the COVID-19 committee that’s chaired by Senator Katy Gallagher. It will be meeting additionally. And that will provide some scrutiny of the package that will be announced this afternoon. That’s a good thing. But we do need the full Parliament to sit


TRIOLI: Just one quick question before I let you go, Anthony Albanese. Are you concerned for the future of a key Labor Leader, that being the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, given where the judicial inquiry into the failures of the hotel quarantine system could go?


ALBANESE: No. I think Daniel Andrews has done an absolutely outstanding job. And he’s done so, might it be said, with the Liberal Party and the Opposition in Victoria behaving in an immature and destructive way. And I think that stands in stark contrast to what we’ve tried to do. We’ve copped some criticism for it. But you can’t say ‘We’re all in this together’, and then behave in a way that the Victorian Opposition has, which hasn’t been constructive and hasn’t been in the interest of Victorians. Daniel Andrews if a friend of mine, just to declare an interest, he has at all times had one concern and one concern only, which is keeping Victorians safe. And that is absolutely the right priority.


TRIOLI: Good to talk to you this morning, Anthony Albanese. Thank you for your time.


ALBANESE: Thanks, Virginia.