Television Interview with Peter Stefanovic – Sky News – Tuesday 21 July 2020


SUBJECTS: JobKeeper and JobSeeker; billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money wasted; unemployment in the regions; coronavirus in Sydney.  
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Returning to our top story now and joining me live is Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Jason Clare. Jason, good morning to you. So the Government announcing this morning that JobKeeper and JobSeeker will remain as they are right up until September, then there’s going to be a six month extension at a slightly reduced rate. We don’t know what that rate is yet, but what’s your reaction to that so far?
JASON CLARE: They had to do this. We’ve been calling on the Government to do this and there’s a reason for that. The economy is in worse shape today than it was back in March when the Government first announced JobKeeper. We’re in recession now, unemployment is going up, not down, and I think the Government’s finally realised that if they just pulled JobKeeper out at the end of September, it would just make the economic crisis that we’re in now even worse. So I’m glad they’ve done it, but frankly they had no choice.

STEFANOVIC: Is there anything about today’s announcement, from what you can gather so far, that you take issue with?
CLARE: Well, I’m glad the Government finally admitted that people have been paid more than they ordinarily would have under JobKeeper. I think it’s almost a million people who were paid more than their normal salaries under JobKeeper. We’ve been saying for months now that you’ve got an unfair situation where you’ve got some people, I’ll give you an example: a single mum with three kids working three or four shifts at a place where she’s been a casual for 11 months and gets nothing because she hasn’t been a casual for 12 months, and then you’ve got a kid at Hoyts who does one shift and gets paid 10 times their normal income.
We find out today that you’ve got almost a million people who’ve been paid more than their normal salary and that means that billions and billions of taxpayers’ money has been wasted here, and it all means more debt, more deficit. Can you imagine, Pete, if this was a Labor Government? There’d be people screaming from the rooftops saying that there’d been a massive waste of taxpayers’ money. This should have been fixed back in March or April. It could have been fixed when Parliament was sitting a month ago. But now we still have to wait until at least the end of August and maybe October before this fix happens and all of this waste of taxpayers’ money stops.
STEFANOVIC: Doesn’t the Government deserve some credit, though, because they wanted to get money out the door quickly? Because you know, back in March, there were so many unknowns so shouldn’t it be given a little leeway when it comes to that?
CLARE: But it could have been fixed a couple of months ago. Remember, the Government saw those big queues out of Centerlink, realised that JobSeeker wasn’t enough, so they brought Parliament back and put in JobKeeper after we called for a wage subsidy. But it was pretty obvious pretty quickly that this was a mistake, a flaw in the model. Parliament’s sat a number of times since March, and at any time over the last few months they could have amended the JobKeeper program to stop this waste of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. We asked questions in Parliament about it. The Government has refused point blank. So when information becomes available on days like today that shows that billions of dollars has been wasted, I think it’s incumbent on the Opposition to say we told you so. 

STEFANOVIC: There’s a couple of figures that have been reported this morning, and we’ll find out in a few hours’ time whether they’re accurate or not, but I want to get a reaction to that. So JobKeeper, Simon Benson reporting that it’ll be about $1200 a fortnight so it’s come down from $1500, David Crowe in the Sydney Morning Herald mentions that JobSeeker will be at least above $700 a fortnight. Now, if that turns out to be accurate, what are your thoughts on those figures? Is it enough?
CLARE: Look, Pete, we’ve got to wait and see what the details are. We’ve consistently argued that this has got to be phased out, not cut out. And that on JobSeeker, it’s just impossible to return to 40 bucks a day. You’ve got more than two million people, I think, that are relying on this payment on any given day. You’ve got 13 Aussies for one job that’s out there. I’ve got a couple of mates who have lost their job throughout the pandemic. One applied for a job the other day and there were more than 260 people applying for the job. It’s just not real to be saying that everyone out there is bludging and doesn’t want to go back to work. There’s no jobs out there. People want to go back to work. The people who need to go back to work are the politicians. We need to get back to Canberra, fix the mistakes in this scheme and make sure that we’re supporting Aussies through the rest of this pandemic.
STEFANOVIC: Is there a line, though? Because the Government is aware that it doesn’t want to provide too much money when it comes to JobSeeker because that in itself can be a disincentive to work. Do you agree that there is a line there?
CLARE: Well Pete, I invite you to have a look at the Treasury report on this. The Government’s been saying for the last few weeks that everyone’s a dole bludger and they don’t want to go back to work. The Treasury report, as it’s quoted in the Australian today, says there’s disincentives there for JobKeeper for the sort of person I just described that’s getting paid 10 times or five times their normal salary that doesn’t want to go back to work. It’s not JobSeeker. If you’ve got 13 people out there unemployed for every job advertised in the paper, it’s not because people are bludging, it’s because there’s no jobs. We’re in a recession. You’ve got higher unemployment than any time in the last 20 years, we’re likely now to have the biggest deficit since World War Two and we need a plan from this Government to create more jobs and get us out of this economic mess.
STEFANOVIC: And do you have concerns for regional areas? I mean, I put this to a few people actually, this morning, that in a regional areas jobs are going to be tough in the New Year. What is, well jobs are tough now actually, by the way, too, but what is the figure that you think is a reasonable amount when it comes to job seeker? What is the minimum that you would have thought?
CLARE: We haven’t put a number on it. We’ve just said that it’s got to be enough to keep people out of poverty and your point on the regions is well made. I remember back during the GFC, and places like Cairns were the hardest hit in the country and they’re being smashed again. Because they rely on international tourism and when there’s no tourists, there’s no jobs. Back then, Kevin Rudd asked me, working with Lindsay Fox and Bill Kelty, to go around the country to the 20 hardest hit parts of the country and come up with jobs plans to help get those economies back on the feet. A lot of them were in regional parts of Australia, and we put in Local Employment Coordinators to help to create more jobs in those local communities. That’s the sort of thing the Government should be doing here – helping local communities to get back on the feet and create more local jobs. Otherwise, unemployment is going to be higher for longer and the recession is going to be deeper for longer.
STEFANOVIC: Just finally Jason, as a Sydney-sider you must be alarmed at the level, well the number of coronavirus cases that seem to be increasing. You know, is there a sense of foreboding in your community that, you know, localised shutdowns are inevitability? Or do you think, you know, New South Wales health is kind of on top of things at the moment?
CLARE: I think definitely people are a lot more scared this week than they were last week. A couple of weeks ago, coronavirus almost looked like a bad dream, like it was something that was of the past, it wasn’t going to come back and cause us to change our lives or lock us down again. That’s changed in my community over the last week or so. People are worried. I know just talking to my mum and dad, they’ve got the mask, they wear it whenever they’ve got to leave the house. And what’s happened at the Crossroads shows us that one sick person going to a hotel can cause 20, 40 people to get the virus very quickly. So we’ve got to be very careful. This ain’t over yet. You’ve got to keep your distance, got to make sure that you wash your hands. Otherwise, what’s happened in Melbourne can quite easily happen here in Sydney.
STEFANOVIC: I know. It only takes one case, you’re right about that. Jason Clare, always good to get your thoughts. Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you soon.
CLARE: Thanks, Pete.