Doorstop Interview – Bankstown – Tuesday 26 May 2020

TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2020

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper bungle.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND TERRITORIES: Welcome to Bankstown. Thanks for coming along today I’m here with the Mayor of Canterbury Bankstown Khal Asfour and a lot of the council workers who work here at the Council. In the last few days the big story has been the JobKeeper stuff up. This has been humiliating for the government. The Government raves on in Parliament about what great economic managers they are. Well, I think that this stuff up has finally kicked that idea to the curb. This is the biggest budget stuff up in the history of Australia. These forecasts were more off track than the Leyland Brothers. To add insult to injury, the government are now trying to tell everybody that this is all good news. What this reveals is just how sneaky this government is. They put this news out on a Friday afternoon, when they thought most people would be worried about the weekend, rather than what’s happening in national politics. You don’t announce great news on a Friday afternoon. But that’s what this sneaky government did. 

But the real damage that’s been done here is not to the government’s reputation, it’s to a lot of Australian workers. For a lot of Australians, this has meant they’ve lost their job. It has meant they’ve had to join the unemployment queue. It’s meant they’ve had to drain their own superannuation. Remember, these forecasts were the reason that the government gave as to why they weren’t able to extend the scheme to a lot of other Australian workers, like casual workers. It was the reason that a lot of other people had to join the unemployment queue. You’ve got the Prime Minister today talking about trying to get the economy out of the ICU. There’s a lot more Australians in that unemployment ICU because the government stuffed this scheme up. 

One group of workers that were affected by this stuff up were workers who work for local governments. If you’re a swimming instructor, you teach kids how to swim, then it doesn’t matter whether you work for a council or you work for a private pool, the job is the same, but you’re treated differently under JobKeeper. Under JobKeeper if you work for a private pool, you can get access to the JobKeeper program. If you work for a council you can’t. That’s meant that lots of council workers around the country have lost their job. In the Prime Minister’s own electorate, Southern Shire Council has had to put off 260 workers. We’ve seen examples of that in other councils across the country. 

Here in Bankstown I’m proud to say that Canterbury Bankstown Council hasn’t put anybody off. That’s a credit to you, Mr. Mayor and the team here, for helping to protect these jobs when the people who work at this council were abandoned by this Liberal government. That doesn’t mean that the council hasn’t been hit hard, it doesn’t mean that this hasn’t come at a cost. This Council’s budget has been slammed by Coronavirus. It’s ripped $20 million out of the budget. It’s meant that a lot of important projects for this community have had to be deferred. So, Mr. Mayor, can I ask you to outline the impact that Coronavirus has had and the fact that JobKeeper hasn’t been made available to these workers, and the impact that it’s had here locally.

MAYOR KHAL ASFOUR: Thank you, Jason. It is absolutely right what Jason has said. We employ over 1500 staff here at Canterbury Bankstown, we’re the largest council in the state of New South Wales. We are not covered by JobKeeper, our staff aren’t covered by JobKeeper. At Canterbury Bankstown Council we did the right thing. We have not stood down one person. Everyone’s got their job, including the casuals. As a result, we’re not covered by JobKeeper, we’ve had to defer $15 million worth of projects and had a $20 million hit to our bottom line. We’ve got playgrounds that can’t be built. We’ve got roads that can’t be resurface. We’ve got town centres that can’t be upgraded, because we’ve done the right thing and we’ve kept our people employed. These projects are missing out – job shovel-ready projects. I’m calling on the Prime Minister to extend the JobKeeper allowance now that this bungle has been exposed, to extend it to local governments across the country. We need it here in Canterbury Bankstown so we can get on with the job of providing services and community facilities for our residents, similar to all councils across the country. Do the right thing. You’ve made the bungle, fix it up and let local government and other industries that are not covered by JobKeeper be covered, so we can get Australia moving again.

CLARE: Alright happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister is delivering what he describes as the “JobMaker scheme” today in Canberra. What do you make of what we’ve heard of that scheme, how is that going to help local governments across Australia recover from COVID-19?

CLARE: Well we had JobSeeker, then JobKeeper, now JobMaker. What about JobFaker? The fact is unemployment is higher today because of this Prime Minister’s stuff ups. I only wish they spent half the time focused on getting these programs right, than they do on trying to get the slogans right. That’s the problem with this government. They’re more focused on the slogan than they are on the programs. Australian’s know this. Ultimately, they deliver on results, they’re more interested in what’s in the can than what’s on the label. I don’t think this government understands that. They are all sizzle, no steak. 

The fact is, unemployment is higher today, because of this Government’s stuff ups on the JobKeeper program. The Prime Minister is talking about apprentices today. The fact is, there are fewer apprentices today in Australia, because this government ripped $3 billion out of trades and training. The Prime Minister likes slogans. Here’s the scoreboard. When they came to office, there were 412,000 apprentices in Australia. Today, there are 272,000 apprentices, that’s 140,000 fewer apprentices today. 

The fact is, there are more people in that unemployment ICU because of this Prime Minister’s stuff ups. While we’re talking about slogans, what ever happened to ‘Snap Back’, remember that? The Prime Minister promised weeks ago the economy would ‘Snap Back’ once these restrictions were lifted. What happened to ‘Snap Back’? Now we’re being told that unemployment is going to remain high for a long, long time to come. What ever happened to ‘Snap Back’, this is ‘Snap Back’ at snail’s pace. This isn’t ‘Snap Back’. This is snail back.

JOURNALIST: On skilled migration, the Prime Minister is warning today about the downward spiral of protectionism. Are you concerned about potential changes to migration that could see fewer skilled workers coming to Australia to do the jobs Australians can’t or won’t do?

CLARE: Well, I think the work of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating opening up the Australian economy teaches us that we get success as a country, we create jobs, we create new businesses through trade, through open markets, through lowering trade barriers not increasing them. That’s the record of the Hawke and the Keating Government. Migration is part of that. We’ve also got to make sure that, I’ve said this a million times, before you bring in a worker from overseas to do a job, you’ve got to make sure that there isn’t an Aussie that can do that job first. You’ve got to test the local market. I think it should be the norm that an employer before they bring in a worker from overseas to do a job, they put an ad in the paper to see if there’s an Aussie that can do the job. The real problem here is the government has ripped three billion bucks out of trades and training. That means there are fewer apprentices today, there are fewer tradies today with the skills they need to do these jobs, which is forcing employers to have to bring people in from overseas. So, Prime Minister stop the slogans, give us solutions. Invest in trades and training. Rebuild the number of apprentices that you ripped down, and that’ll mean we’ll need fewer workers to do the jobs from overseas and more Aussies will get those jobs.

JOURNALIST: Finally, how confident are you that JobKeeper will be extended. The Treasurer and Prime Minister have said repeatedly it is something they’re not open to doing. Do you think that they might change their mind, or do you think that it’s a bit of a lost cause?

CLARE: Well this Government’s pigheaded. They’re never prepared to ever admit that they’ve made a mistake.  It’s pretty obvious they’ve made a massive blunder. They’ve stuffed up the budgeting, stuffed up the forecast, but they’ve also stuffed up the structure of the scheme. 

We’ve got a situation at the moment where you’ve got university students who might do one or two shifts at the local pub a week, who are now being paid three or four times their normal income a week under JobKeeper. At the same time, you’ve got single mums with three kids, who might be a casual worker for 11 months who miss out altogether. There’s an opportunity for the Government here to admit they stuffed this. Fix the scheme, pay people no more than what they would ordinarily earn and use that money to help more Aussies, like council workers, like casual workers, like University workers, like the workers who work at Qantas catering. 

There’s plenty of people here in my electorate that make the food that goes on the aeroplane. Think about this for a second. If you’re a flight attendant on a Qantas plane, you get access to this JobKeeper payment, but if you make the food that Qantas attendants hand to the passengers, you don’t. It’s a good scheme that’s been stuffed up by a bad government and I’d urged them to swallow their pride admit they’ve stuffed this up and fix the scheme so that we can get more Aussies back to work.

Thanks very much.