27 October 2020


SUBJECTS: JobMaker; Victoria; National Integrity Commission; Faslodex. 
MATTHEW DORAN, HOST: Well joining us for our Tuesday panel, two Victorian members of parliament, Nationals MP for the seat of Mallee Anne Webster and Labor MP for Dunkley Peta Murphy. Welcome to the pair of you. 


DORAN: Anne Webster, I want to start with you, just on the issue of the JobMaker hiring credits. So this is a $4 billion program, workers or businesses would be subsidised to the tune of $200 for taking on new workers aged between 16 and 29, its $100 if they’re aged between 30 and 35. Given that evidence that was before Senate Estimates yesterday that it’s not actually going to be boosting employment by the tune of 450,000 jobs, is it actually value for money? 

ANNE WEBSTER, MEMBER FOR MALLEE:Thanks Matt for having me. The money is actually going to invest in 450,000 jobs and it will mean that people who are currently on JobSeeker, parenting payment or Youth Allowance will also have a job who wouldn’t have a job. Then as the Treasury estimates evidence gave it will, the conservative element is 45,000 new, but it could well be more than that and we’re going to just have to see how it pans out as time goes on. 

DORAN: Do you think given the situation that we’re in at the moment, that unprecedented is a word that has been bandied around probably far too much during this pandemic, but any sort of, is your argument that any sort of policy that can help boost employment is good, regardless of the cost? 

WEBSTER: Well I think that we have people like Geoff Borland, Australian economist, labour economist who is saying that this is actually a well crafted program and will see new jobs so I think we’ve got to see how it, how we more forward. I mean clearly the investment by the federal government, with taxpayer’s dollars going into the future are investing in business and in creating jobs that’s what’s going to get us out of this recession. 

DORAN: Peta Murphy, we heard from your colleague, the shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, in that package just before saying that this was more about spin than substance. Are we splitting hairs here when we're talking about job creation in the order of 45,000 and actually supporting jobs to the tune of 450,000? 

MURPHY: No, what we're talking about is a government that makes an announcement and says 450,000 jobs and we find out that it's, in fact, 10 per cent of that – 45,000 additional jobs. And at this time, more than any other time, what we need politicians and governments to be is honest. It shouldn't be about the big splashy announcement. It should be actually about delivering for Australian people. And that's what my community wants, they just want the government to be straight. 

You know, you don't have to make a massive announcement to get attention. What you actually have to do is deliver. And young people now more than ever are concerned about how they're going to get a job, let alone a decent job. And to think that there was a program that would establish 450,000 new jobs to find out that Treasury says 45,000, you can imagine how they're feeling today.  

DORAN: I guess it is a demand driven system, so would you be willing to, I guess, concede that, you know, there could be more than 45,000 jobs created, if indeed there is the take up of it? 

MURPHY: I'm willing to concede that I want there to be more than 45,000 jobs created. But why would we trust what the Treasurer says when he chooses to tell the public there'll be 450,000 jobs and doesn't describe it accurately? You know, that's what is missing from this government, is honesty and accuracy from those who are in charge. And that's what people deserve from government.  

DORAN: Let's pick up on that issue of trust, because both of you are members for Victorian seats. And, of course, we've seen the announcement yesterday and further announcements this morning about the lifting of restrictions, coronavirus restrictions in Victoria by the premier, Daniel Andrews. He's asked the Victorian public to trust him in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. First to you Anne Webster. What's the feeling like in your patch, considering this announcement and these easing of restrictions are starting to come through?  
WEBSTER: Victoria, generally, all Victorians, I'm sure, have just been waiting for these announcements. But in my particular electorate, which I might remind your viewers is north west Victoria, we border both New South Wales and South Australia and we're over a third of the state, geographically speaking. So, my regional electorate has been waiting for borders to come down. We have been restricted; we've had health care restricted significantly. I mean, even in Mildura right now, we have 500 people waiting for procedures and surgeries because the health care service providers which are in Adelaide are not allowed to come across. 

This is a result of, obviously, from the first hotel quarantine and the restrictions that were maintained in regional Victoria that do not give confidence to our South Australian and New South Wales counterparts. So it's, it's a grave concern to me that those borders are still up.  

DORAN: We've seen a second day of zero cases in Victoria. Is there any sense Anne Webster that Daniel Andrews should be congratulated for that effort? 

WEBSTER: Well, my feeling is that Daniel Andrews, first of all, needs to take responsibility for the failures in the hotel quarantine system. He also needs to take responsibility for the failures in the tracing system. We've heard premiers in the other states tell us in the last couple of days they still don't necessarily trust that the tracing system in Victoria is, can be trusted. And I think that that is seriously concerning.  

DORAN: Peta Murphy, given what Anne Webster has highlighted there, we've heard of some of these failures along the line throughout Victoria's response to coronavirus. Are you convinced that this is the end of it, the lifting of these restrictions is the, the way out? Or could we be about to slip into another period of further downturn? 

MURPHY: Well, just before I answer that, I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank my community and all of the communities across Victoria, including Anne’s because individuals, families, businesses, everyone have made sacrifices in order to stop this second wave. And if we look at the way Victoria has suppressed this second wave in comparison to places around the world, which have had a second wave, it has been extraordinarily successful. In July, we had the same number of positive cases in a day as the UK. We are now, as you say, two days of doughnut's, as is popular to say now in Victoria compared to the UK where there's 20,000 cases daily. So it's been extraordinary.  

We are cautiously hopeful that as the restrictions are lifted, we won't see another spread. But that is going to rely on people continuing to do what they've been doing and abide by the new social distancing restrictions and do all they can to protect themselves and the community. And I, for one, have absolute faith in my community that they will continue to do that.  

DORAN: We have got a few issues that we want to get through. So I just want to quickly touch on the other one that's doing the rounds here in Parliament House Anne Webster, and that is the allegations that the federal government has been dragging its feet on the establishment of a National Integrity Commission. The whole estimates period has been throwing up allegations of probity issues when it comes to how government departments are working. You've got the ANAO doing seemingly a lot of the heavy lifting here. Some of your Nationals colleagues in the past have been quite outspoken about the need for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission. Has the government been too slow to act?  

WEBSTER: Well, I think we need to remember that this year has been extraordinary, you said it before Matt, it's been unprecedented and the government has been working incredibly hard to work with the entire nation and states to get through this COVID-19 and plan for the future. 
It's not that we can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I understand that. But we also need to remember that there are at least 11 Commonwealth integrity agencies already, whether we're talking about IPEA the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, which Peta and I know about, whether we're talking about the Commonwealth Ombudsman, whether we're talking about the Australian Federal Police, you know, we have at least 11 now. I was talking with Mr Porter this week, the Attorney-General, and I know that he wants to make sure that this integrity commission is something that is well prepared, that is thorough, that stakeholders have been well and truly consulted, and that takes time. And it would also take time fairly inappropriately while we've been going through COVID and much of the nation has been locked down or restricted. 

DORAN: And Peta Murphy, Labor's views on the Integrity Commission or lack thereof, are pretty well known. So I'll leave that to one side. But I know that you want to raise something else today. You've been out with the shadow health minister, Chris Bowen, talking about concerns the government's dragging its heels in another area and actually listing drugs on the PBS that have been recommended, such as a vital breast cancer drug. Can you explain briefly to the audience what your concerns are? 

MURPHY: Look, my concern is that the Minister for Health has made a big deal about saying that every drug that’s approved by PBAC, the expert committee for approving drugs to be listed on the PBS so that they can be affordable to everyone, anytime PBAC approved them he said he would list them, no ifs, no buts. But what’s come out during estimates is that the budget actually doesn’t contain any money for that guarantee at all but does contain cuts to the PBS. And we know that there are drugs that have been approved from PBAC for 12, 18 months that haven’t been listed and I particularly am concerned about a drug called Faslodex that was approved in July by PBAC and is for women who are suffering from terminal breast cancer and are towards the end where other drugs have stopped working and it’s known to extend women’s, and the small number of men who have metastatic breast cancer’s lives.  

And three months is a very long time in the life of someone with terminal cancer and it hasn’t been listed on the PBS. And from talking to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia, and I’ve heard from other women who are in that situation that this is just something that the Minister needs to do whatever he can now to get it listed and fulfil his promise. Because it’s the difference between $1,600 a month and as cheap as $6.60 a month. And I can tell you that when people are eking out life dealing with terminal cancer, the last thing as a society we should think that they have to worry about it is how to afford a treatment which can give them precious days, weeks, months and years with their family and friends. And I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. 

DORAN: Well Peta Murphy, it is something that we’ll have to keep across to see if there are any developments there. So much to talk about in such little time, we do have to let both you and Anne Webster go to get to Question Time. Thank you for joining us on Capital Hill. 

MURPHY: Thank you very much. Thanks Anne. 

WEBSTER: Thanks so much. 

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.