29 May 2020


FRIDAY, 29 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper, Universities, Deferred home loans, State border closures.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let’s go to my political panel. Joining me live, Liberal MP Andrew Wallace and from the Labor Party, Peta Murphy. Thanks both for your time today. I might start with you now Andrew. The RBA are now saying, look we can’t just end, fall off this cliff in September with JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Do you agree the government needs something in place before then?

ANDREW WALLACE, MEMBER FOR FISHER: Look Tom, I think that the Treasurer and the Government has been very clear on this. The $60 billion that we have saved, is not $60 billion we want to go out, and rush out to spend. Only the Labor Party would think that saving $60 billion was a bad idea. But, you know, the Government is looking at a number of targeted programs, and I know the Treasurer has today been talking about ‘targeted programs’ in relation to the tourism and construction sector, and as an old carpenter myself, I can tell you that a lot of builders in Queensland and around the country are talking to me about how difficult they are doing it, as are tourism operators. So, you know, the government is looking at additional targeted and proportionate measures that we can do to assist them, and we’ll continue to do that.
HOST: There you go Peta, open to it? The key word ‘targeted’. Does Labor agree?

PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: I just want to start by saying that it’s quite extraordinary to describe the $60 billion budget blunder, the biggest one in the history of Australia, as a ‘save’ – particularly, in circumstances where there are people and businesses out there who are struggling so hard, and have been excluded from the JobKeeper scheme. It is really concerning if any of the supports that are out there at the moment ‘just stop’ in September and people fall off a cliff – it just can’t be the case. There are industries and people that have been excluded that need to be covered, and absolutely the government needs to make sure there is just not a ‘hard stop’ that leaves people in a dire situation.

CONNELL: The latest university to cut jobs, Andrew Wallace, has been Central Queensland. It has been a deliberate strategy from the government to exclude universities from JobKeeper. So, it’s fair to say, given there is extra money there available if the government wants, that whatever happens to universities now…it’s a deliberate strategy from the government, isn’t it?
WALLACE: No, I don’t accept that at all Tom, you know Universities are…
CONNELL: What part of it?

WALLACE: Well, I don’t accept that it’s a ‘deliberate strategy’ to put universities under some form of pressure if that was your intimation. I don’t accept that at all.
CONNELL: Well, here’s the premise. They’ve been excluded from JobKeeper, so far so good, right? That’s accurate?

WALLACE: Well Tom, what we’ve done is we’ve assisted universities in many means. We’ve guaranteed around about, I think it’s $18 billion worth of their income, and we’ve also provided or enabled them to run ‘short-courses’ which are cheap short courses which are, you know, subsidised by the Commonwealth. We don’t want to see, the Commonwealth, we don’t want to see universities go through any financial difficulties, anymore than they absolutely have to. We understand that universities, just as the VET sector, is so very important. And the Prime Minister announced some significant changes in relation to the VET sector.
CONNELL: But just on the Universities aspect. JobKeeper, there were several changes to it, even to make sure they were excluded. That was a deliberate policy design, and it didn’t change after the $60 billion was found. I mean, you can argue for policies, and say that ‘this is the policy of the government’ that’s fair enough but you’ve just got to own the policy as well don’t you? Whatever happens to Uni’s now is because the government thought that was the best idea.
WALLACE: Well Tom, we are looking at different industries in different ways. We’ve provided significant assistance to the tourism sector, and we’ll continue to do so, and we’re looking at providing targeted assistance now to the construction sector. So, as we have done with the tertiary sector. So, it’s not true to say that, if you’re intimation is that somehow the university sector has been left out on a limb, I don’t accept the premise of that at all.

CONNELL: Well no, what I’m saying is that JobKeeper doesn’t apply to them, and that was a deliberate strategy – and we’re now seeing job losses. They’re all facts.
WALLACE: But, look Tom it…JobKeeper is not the ‘be-all-and-end-all’… it is one of the tools in our locker to…
CONNELL: It is pretty important when you’re going to keep on staff though, isn’t it?
WALLACE: …it’s not doubt an absolutely important tool in our program. $70 billion worth. It’s still even after…
CONNELL: But if JobKeeper was applied to universities, they would have kept more of their jobs that are going…do you disagree with that?
WALLACE: Ah look, I don’t know that you can maintain that position…every university is different. I’ve been in close contact with my university in my electorate, the University of Sunshine Coast, and there’s no doubt that the university sector, like the VET sector, like the construction sector, like the tourism sector, are doing it tough. You know businesses even with JobKeeper are still doing it tough.
CONNELL: Sorry to leave you out of the conversation there Peta. I wanted to ask you about the other warning we had from APRA yesterday, to do with these deferred home loans. Obviously, it’s related to JobKeeper. This is a pretty devilish problem isn’t it? Because every year we know people fall in arrears on loans, we’re going to have a different cohort. You can’t save them all I suppose…what’s the best approach here for these people, whether it be small business or home owners?
MURPHY: I want to answer that Tom, but can I just say really briefly, that it’s just extraordinary to suggest that the government has done anything other than abandon Universities. You can’t point to not cutting the funding that exists as somehow supporting them. I mean Monash University Peninsula Campus in my electorate, you know, the Vice-Chancellor has written to me asking for support for Universities. You’ve got Queensland Universities absolutely cutting jobs that we’ve seen. We’ve got my university in Frankston where business enrolments have gone down by almost 50 per cent and every dollar lost in income to University is $2 lost to the economy of that local area through support for other businesses and it’s dire. And you know, this government has abandoned Universities, there’s no two ways about it and it needs to change.
WALLCE: And that’s why we’ve guaranteed funding of $18 billion Peta, so it’s just not true to say that…
MURPHY: That’s just continued funding, that’s not supporting Universities to get through this time. All that’s saying is well, you can have the funding that you’ve got. They’re not getting JobKeeper and we’re seeing the result and it’s just devastating.
CONNELL: Well we’ve aired that one, I’ll just get you to comment on the loan situation Peta Murphy, whether there is a solution to this? The money is not endless.
MURPHY: Yeah well, the money’s not endless but again, there are so many people out there who have had to defer, get loans to pay their rent or defer their rent. There are people who have deferred their mortgages, they’ve deferred their loans. You know, if we get to situation where at the same time, small businesses, have to pay their rent, payback their loans and JobKeeper stops, then again that’s going to be devastating. You know, the government has to work with the banks and the finance industry to make sure that people and businesses aren’t put in that position.
WALLACE: Tom, if I can jump in there…
CONNELL: Right, just very briefly from each of you. You’ll save it for next time perhaps Andrew Wallace. Thirty seconds each, I know you wanted to talk about the borders Andrew Wallace, Pauline Hanson taking this High Court action, strength to her arm?
WALLACE: Look whether that actually ends up being successful I have my doubts from a legal perspective. The High Court has ruled on these constitutional issues in relation to Section 92 but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the Queensland Premier needs to open the borders to assist tourism and all sorts of industries that rely on tourism. Now, I’m in an electorate which relies very heavily upon tourism and I can tell you that businesses up and down the length and breadth of my electorate are screaming out for the borders to be opened.
CONNELL: Okay, Peta to you in Victoria, everyone else is talking about opening up and Daniel Andrews is talking about fines on the spot, inspection of work places, is his emphasis here wrong?
MURPHY: We’ve got to do what the medical experts tell us to do and we have had more positive cases overnight in Victoria and the last thing we want is a second wave. It’s hard, there’s no doubt about it. All of these measures are hard, and they’re hard for everyone to comply with, but we don’t want to see ourselves in a dastardly public health scenario.
WALLACE: And no-one would disagree with that Peta but then the medical evidence coming from Paul Kelly, the deputy chief Medical Officer, is that there is absolutely no medical reason why the Queensland border shouldn’t be opened. 
MURPHY: Well, you know there goes cooperation between National Cabinet I guess.
CONNELL: There’s a bit of competing advice, there was Janet Young and her view anyway, we’ll see perhaps. Maybe the border will be open next time we talk, we will see. Andrew Wallace, Peta Murphy, thank you.
WALLACE: Thanks Peta. Thanks Tom.
MURPHY: Thank you very much.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.