E&OE TRANSCRIPT | SUBJECTS: Morrison Government still has no plan for jobs; JobKeeper coming to an end in weeks; Christian Porter.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Today the Government has announced that it will uncap the JobMaker program. Given this Government has cut 140,000 apprenticeships and trainees since coming to office, this Government is now playing catch up footy, and there is a long way to go. Scott Morrison and the Coalition cut billions of dollars from the VET sector. And COVID-19 has exposed the fact that we just don’t make things in Australia today, in anything like the way we used to before the Coalition came to office. And you can look at the cuts to apprenticeships, the cuts to VET funding, as a big reason why. Today, we have no more answers as to what will happen when JobKeeper comes to an end in just a few weeks’ time. And if the Government really has no plans to extend JobKeeper in any way, then come the end of March, we’re going to see thousands of businesses go bust, but tens of thousands of Australians lose their job. And we shouldn’t forget that if you’re over 35, this is a government for whom it’s all too hard. After today’s announcement, it is still completely clear that this government has no plans for you.
JOURNALIST: There is speculation that the Government will announce ongoing support for certain sectors like tourism or aviation, beyond the scheduled end of JobKeeper. What would that support need to cover?
MARLES: We’ve been saying for a long time now that in the transition with JobKeeper, there needs to be a sense of the reality that is being faced by businesses on the ground. And there are a whole lot of businesses in areas like tourism, businesses which relate to aviation, businesses in parts of states like Victoria, where there’s nothing like business as usual in place now, and there won’t be by the end of March. So the Government needs to have a plan, which takes into account the reality of what businesses are actually facing on the ground. But the point here is that if there is plans for that to occur- we’re only two and a half weeks away from when JobKeeper is scheduled to come to an end. Businesses are already planning for that. People are already having interviews about the fact that they will not be able to keep staff on. So it’s really not good enough that the government is leaving until this moment in time, if they are actually going to have plans to act in relation to JobKeeper. But if they don’t do anything, what we will certainly see is thousands of businesses go bust and tens of thousands of Australians who lose their job.
JOURNALIST: Would you support certain industries getting special, targeted support? And if so, which industries are most deserving?
MARLES: Well, as I say there are plenty of sectors right now in Australia- I have mentioned a couple, tourism being an obvious one- where we’re not back to business as usual. I mean, the international border necessarily is closed, and that has an impact on large sectors of our economy and that means that for a whole lot of businesses, which are good, viable businesses, there is still no way of producing a business model at this moment in time. And JobKeeper and the way in which we transition from it needs to take into account the reality of that situation. But it’s for the Government to provide the answers here. And this is not a matter for the next election, in May of next year, this is a matter for two and a half weeks from now. And the Government really does need to give a sense of certainty about what its intentions are in relation to JobKeeper come the end of March.
JOURNALIST: So does Labor believe that that support should run until these businesses become business as usual? Or is there a certain amount of time that you believe that the support should be?
MARLES: What we don’t support is thousands of people, tens of thousands of people losing their jobs come the end of March. What needs to happen is the transition from JobKeeper needs to take into account the reality of the economic environment which businesses are facing. It is for the government to articulate what its plan is. But right now, the final date being at the end of this month, and there being nothing other than that, will see the result of thousands of businesses going bust and tens of thousands of Australians losing their jobs. And that is, quite frankly unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Just another topic; Christian Porter’s position, do you believe that it is tenable?
MARLES: I think this has been a tremendously difficult issue for the whole country. Going forward, it seems to me that there does need to be some form of inquiry, which means that we don’t have this question lingering over the first law officer of the nation. So it is in that sense that Christian Porter is not just any person, he’s our nation’s Attorney General. And it’s very important that matters are not left where they are at the moment. I think the other point to make is that when complainants come forward, it’s really important that allegations are taken seriously. And in this set of circumstances, it’s really not clear that the allegations that have been made by this complainant have had an opportunity to be properly investigated. So again I think some kind of inquiry would provide an answer to both of those questions.
JOURNALIST: And do you believe Christian Porter would need to step aside ahead of that independent inquiry?
MARLES: Ultimately, they’re questions for the Prime Minister. And it’s a matter for the Prime Minister to satisfy himself that the Attorney General continuing to operate can be done appropriately, consistent with whatever processes are underway. And that is ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister. But I think the fundamental point is that there remain questions at large, and we can’t go forward, leaving the matter as it stands right now. Some form of inquiry, which has to be, it seems to me, in the hands of the Prime Minister to initiate something to make sure that the country can move forward, without those questions lingering over our nation’s first law officer.