ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Australia beyond coronavirus; JobSeeker/Newstart payments.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: We are joined now by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in Canberra. Albo, good to see you. How are you?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Where have you been?
ALBANESE: Mate, where have you been? I’ve been waiting for the around. I’ve been waiting for the around. I’ve been waiting for the invite.
STEFANOVIC: I’ve been on paternity leave.
ALBANESE: Congratulations. Congratulations on Harper’s arrival. Great news.
STEFANOVIC: You want the Government to extend JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments. Where is the money going to come from?
ALBANESE: We need to recognise we can’t just have a snap back. And what the Government is talking about, or some in their backbenches, is cutting off that support. What business is saying is that that will lead to more unemployment. What that does is cost the Budget money. And today, of course, should be Budget day. It’s forgivable for the Government to delay the Budget but it’s not forgivable to delay a plan for coming out of this coronavirus pandemic.
STEFANOVIC: So how then do you start to balance the books if you want to extend JobKeeper and extend those increases to JobSeeker? How are you going to find the money for that?
ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t said to extend it. What we have said, though, is it will need a tapering off. The idea that you will have a six-month program and then it just ends, any support there. The idea that you immediately then snap back the payments to half of what they are now, the Government increased Newstart because they said when they doubled it that it wasn’t fair dinkum, that people just couldn’t survive on $40 a day. If that was the logic two months ago, that logic remains today. So, we’re not saying it must remain where it is. But the idea that you’ll go back to $40 a day is untenable. It’s bad economics. It’s bad for job seekers to actually be able to be too worried about surviving from day to day to be in a position to seek employment.
STEFANOVIC: So how long will it go for? You must have looked at it go for? You must have looked at it and you must as an alternative government prospective think there will be a certain amount of time to keep this.
ALBANESE: What we say is the plan is there for six months now but there will need to be some form of tapering off.
STEFANOVIC: What does that look like?
ALBANESE: What it will look like is going down over a period of time for that decision to be made closer to the point. But the idea that it will just all dissolve or indeed be brought forward, which is what the Government is talking about, is counterproductive. The Government needs a plan to grow the economy once this pandemic has been dealt with. At the moment, it simply doesn’t. And even before the bushfires and the pandemic, of course, the debt had already doubled. We had productivity going backwards and the Reserve Bank was slashing interest rates to try and get the economy going. It didn’t have an economic plan before. It needs an economic plan after this crisis.
STEFANOVIC: The issue is that Labor has never really been committed to reducing that deficit. It’s been a long, long time, maybe 30 years, since you had a surplus.
ALBANESE: Karl, the current Government has doubled the debt whilst they’ve been in office for seven years. And they’ve done that at a time whereby they had record money coming in for our mineral resources, for our exports. They did that when there wasn’t a Global Financial Crisis, the global economy was humming along. They doubled the debt. The fact is that the Government’s rhetoric when it comes to debt has been destroyed by its own actions during this crisis.
STEFANOVIC: But you supported every move?
ALBANESE: Of course we did. Because it’s necessary when there’s a crisis to stimulate the economy, like it was necessary to stimulate the economy during the Global Financial Crisis. It’s about time that the Government acknowledged that we kept the economy out of recession and kept people in jobs and that’s what the Government’s actions have been here. The difference is that we’ve supported the Government in measures like wage subsidies, indeed, we called for them, in contrast to the destructive actions they took in the Global Financial Crisis where they pretended it wasn’t happening and since then they’ve pretended it didn’t happen.
STEFANOVIC: You’re saying that your way back from all that debt is by keeping those payments going and that leads to more debt?
ALBANESE: I am not saying that at all, Karl. One of the things I spoke about yesterday in my speech, for example, is why is it that some people in JobKeeper are getting many times more their ordinary wages? Some of the problem with the debt burden is because of the bad design flaws that were there in the JobKeeper scheme. We pointed that out at the time it was introduced. We didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. So, we were conductive. We pointed out problems that we saw were there, and indeed encouraged the Government to fix some of those problems. And some of the time they listened to us, some of the times they didn’t. But I don’t think it’s a good idea that some people going, working half a dozen hours a week are suddenly earning more money, a lot more money, than they did before, $1,500 a fortnight, when previously they might have only been earning three of four hundred.
STEFANOVIC: Good to talk to you, Albo. Good to have the band back together.
ALBANESE: Thanks, Karl