Interview on Channel 9, Today with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: COVID-19, JobSeeker, JobKeeper, Unemployment, Victoria outbreak
18 September 2020

Karl Stefanovic: Well, rules around JobSeeker will be tightened for more than a million Australians as the Prime Minister looks to get more people back to work, it comes after an unexpected drop in the nation's unemployment figures.

Joining me now is Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, and, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Richard Marles. Good morning, gents. Thanks for your time today. Simon, were you surprised by the figures yesterday?

Richard Marles: Good morning Karl.

Simon Birmingham: Morning Karl. Well, Karl, we know it's going to be a tough road back. We were pleased to see more than 100,000, in fact around 110,000 Australians back in jobs - new jobs recreated in the economy in the month of August. This is a sign that in those states and territories that have been able to reopen, jobs have been created again, people are able to get back to work, and we're getting some degree of normalisation. Now, it won't all be plain sailing we acknowledge that, but it is important that we drive and encourage that wherever we can, and that's why our plan for the budget handed down next month is all about jobs; jobs driven by infrastructure, by skills, by taxes, by making sure that all systems of the economy we make as efficient and as effective as possible to create even more of those jobs.

Karl Stefanovic: Pretty hard to get back to work in Victoria?

Simon Birmingham: It is. And so, when you talk about the mutual obligation step up that's occurring, which is still nowhere near what it was pre-COVID for the rest of the country, but those changes also don't apply to Victoria. We recognise it's a horses for courses situation, so there's no extra obligation on JobSeekers in Victoria. But around the rest of the country, we are moving it slowly, steadily, back to where it was - not jumping right back there but just increasing that expectation for people to be out there looking for work because we are seeing jobs being created. Not just the 110,000 in August, but more than 450,000 since the recovery began - a real sign that people and businesses are seizing the opportunities. And we just want to make sure that continues so that we can get everybody we can back into employment.

Karl Stefanovic: Richard, JobSeeker is about to get harder to get. Do you agree with it?

Richard Marles: Well, I think we need to be practical about what people are facing when they- with the job challenges that are out there. I mean, in Australia right now there are 13 people unemployed for every job that is available - in regional Australia, here in Geelong that's much worse, it's 23 people to every job that's available. So, I think there's got to be some sense of practicality about how mutual obligation works for people who are looking for jobs. As you said, if you work in aviation planes aren't flying at the moment, so there aren't jobs out there and that doesn't matter whether you're in Victoria or any other part of the country. So, commonsense needs to apply here in terms of how this works.

Karl Stefanovic: Those figures were pretty tough to look at for Queenslanders, isn't it? And especially in that tourism sector, Richard. More needs to be done there?

Richard Marles: Yeah, I think that's right. I mean, I think there is a long way to go before we are out of this. And Simon talks about a jobs plan at the budget, well that'd be good news because we've seen precious little in the way of a jobs plan from this Government so far. And ultimately, what we need to be hearing from the Government about is what is their plan to reconstruct this economy out of COVID, in a way which generates permanent long term jobs, because that's-

Karl Stefanovic: There are reports- Simon, there are reports this morning those tax cuts that will be brought forward. There's also lots of talk that it's just looking after the big end of town. Is that true?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we're looking certainly at the timing of the tax cuts - tax cuts that were endorsed by the Australian people at the last election, legislated by our Government. We're considering timing issues there, but we're also investing in skills, we're also investing in bringing forward infrastructure, we're also making sure that we eliminate red tape. We address every area of increasing activity to create more jobs that we possibly can, and driving down taxes is one way of making sure that you do increase expenditure, increase incentive to invest, increase incentive to create new jobs across the economy. And so, that's why we're looking at all of those different measures, we'll detail that in the budget. But we have already brought forward large tracks of investment in infrastructure, we've already outlined significant new investment in skills, we've already outlined a range of different things in addition to the billions of dollars spent on JobKeeper to make sure that, for all those Australians who we can, we've kept them tied to their employer. And it's one of the reasons why Australia continues, tough as it is, to come through this mess better than most of the world.

Karl Stefanovic: Richard, we had Skroo Turner on before. He was saying that he expects the borders will reopen in the next few weeks, he hasn't got any intel on it. You'd expect that- or you'd anticipate that'd be the case, would you?

Richard Marles: Well look, the borders are a mess; that's the bottom line here. The national borders are a mess. If you're an Australian overseas right now you're faced with a bill of thousands, north of 10,000 in some cases, to just get home, and that is unquestionably the responsibility of the Federal Government. And the Federal Government seems unable to be able to actually manage a situation which is fair for those stranded Australians who are overseas. And when it comes to our internal borders, I mean, the Prime Minister has completely vacated the field here, it is genuinely astonishing – John Howard wouldn't have done that. We've got a complete lack of leadership when it comes from our Federal Government about both the management of our internal borders, but also the management of our national borders.

Karl Stefanovic: Just before we go one final one to you, Simon, before we go. Surely you've heard from old mate in China by now, have you?

Simon Birmingham: No, Karl, regrettably not. As I've said to you many times before, we think the best way to work through tough issues is to maturely sit down and talk to counter parts, we stand willing to do that and look- and that's exactly what, on the topic that Richard was just talking about, that's what the Prime Minister will be doing with state and territory premiers today.

Karl Stefanovic: Good on you.

Simon Birmingham: … How do we make sure we increase the capacity of Australians to get back to Australia, but do it safely without compromising or creating a potential Victorian threat again.

Karl Stefanovic: Simon, Richard, thank you for your time. Have a great weekend and we'll see you next week. Appreciate it.

Richard Marles: Pleasure Karl.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.

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