E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: The end of Jobkeeper in March; the rate of Jobseeker.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the- what do you think the Government should do post-March with Jobkeeper? We have seen figures -lower today – that have been released – that not as many people relying on it. But some people still do.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, the figures that less people are relying on it are not surprising. Hopefully we are going through a recovery and we are getting back to some semblance of a new normal. But there’s a whole lot of sectors where they’re nowhere near normal. If you’re talking about tourism, anything in relation to aviation- a place like Cairns, I mean, they’re a long way from having any kind of normality. The point we’ve been making is that Jobkeeper has been critically important. The Government were not going to do Jobkeeper to begin with, it was because of Labor’s advocacy that there was a wage subsidy put in place. But as there is now a transition, from Jobkeeper, it has got to be done with some sense of realism about what’s actually happening in the economy. And if there are parts of the economy, where there is no way you could describe it as being back to normal, then to remove Jobkeeper, as planned at the end of March, is going to see a whole lot of businesses go off the cliff, and a whole lot of people lose their jobs.
JOURNALIST: And things aren’t pretty normal at the moment in Victoria with the lockdown. Do you think that there should be an option for targeted assistance to states if they have more rolling shutdowns throughout the year?
MARLES: Again, I think this is a- the government needs to, in its transition, be very clear about ensuring that it is calibrated to what’s really going on out there. And I mentioned tourism- a place like Cairns- but as you rightly say, I mean, people in Victoria have had a difficult few days, but it’s been a difficult six months in Victoria. And so you know, there’s a lot of businesses there and central Melbourne CBD, for example, that are nowhere near back to normal. And there’s got to be some consideration of that, in terms of how the transition from Jobkeeper is managed, or else we are going to see a lot of businesses go off the cliff, and a lot of people lose their job.
JOURNALIST: The end of March is six weeks away, which isn’t very long-
MARLES: It is not long.
JOURNALIST: Do people need more certainty?
MARLES: People need more certainty. The Government needs to make clear what its plans are. At the moment, the scheduled end of Jobkeeper and the scheduled end of Jobseeker are six weeks away. And you know, there’s a whole lot of businesses around the country right now, which are faced with deep uncertainty about what their future is because they know that if Jobkeeper is going to come to an end on that day, then their business is in terrible trouble, businesses in tourism, businesses in the CBD of Melbourne and I’ve seen both of those in the last few weeks. So there needs to be an answer for them. But there needs to be certainty now. It’s not good enough to do this the night before. And it’s really important that there is a measure in place for all of those businesses.
JOURNALIST: Speaking of Jobseeker, there’s a bit of discussion at the moment that the Government is going to increase the floor- Inaudible – basically, it’s going to be up from $40 a day, will you back such a change?
MARLES: Well, we’ve been making the point for a long time now, well before COVID hit, $40 a day is far too little for anyone to live on, and that there needed to be an increase in JobSeeker- or Newstart as it was then. And we’ve been making the point that when Jobseeker comes an end, we can’t go back to business as usual and $40 a day for Newstart. If what we’re seeing is the Government considering that, that’s great. But we actually need to have a plan from the government. We need certainty for those people because it is only six weeks away. And $40 a day is simply too little to live on.
JOURNALIST: In your mind, what is the fair rate for Jobseeker?
MARLES: Well, we need to hear from the government about what their plans are. Our point has been that it’s got to be more than $40 a day. But ultimately- ultimately this isn’t a matter for the next election, it is actually a matter for the government right now. It’s a matter for what the Government’s going to do in the next six weeks. So we really need to be hearing from the government now about what his plans are.
JOURNALIST: Would you support any increase to Jobseeker?
MARLES: We’ve been calling for an increase and we want to see what the Government is actually planning to do and it needs to give some certainty in respect of this.