26 August 2020


SUBJECTS: JobKeeper extension legislation; Clive Palmer and WA borders; superannuation.

TOM CONNELL, HOST: For more on this and Labor's decision to on that legislation I'm joined by Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones. Thanks for your time.


CONNELL: Let’s clear up where you stand on this then. It's going to be voted for but you're leaving some wiggle room to later say what, the amount is too low?

JONES: Look, the wriggle rooms in the legislation Tom, the legislation creates the framework, but the rate is delegated to the Treasurer to determine. What we're saying to the Treasurer, what we're saying to the government is quite simply this; when you made a decision six weeks ago to taper the rates in September, in January and then in March, you were not doing that in the knowledge of what's going on in Victoria and you made some assumptions that frankly haven't stacked up. So you got to revisit some of these things. For example, the assumption that international tourism that international air flights are going to kick up again on 1 January, it’s frankly wrong. It was probably known back then that that was wildly optimistic. It's not going to happen and has an enormous impact on some of our biggest export markets, international tourism and international education that's going to have a flow through to those sectors and others.

CONNELL: Let me just jump in there, sorry. Is there an avenue for maybe more assistance carved out for Victoria, given that’s a part they couldn't see coming, perhaps for tourism businesses as well, but to start paring back in other industries, which are not hurting as much?

JONES: We support tapering and greater focusing of the support. We haven't cavilled with that throughout the whole process. The money should be going to where it's needed. We've raised issues about some people getting more and some people missing out and we don't think that's fair. So absolutely on board for a discussion around tapering. We will work constructively with the government around that. We are simply saying if the tapering was put in place on the basis that things are going to be snapping back in January and March next year, and that's clearly not going to be the case, then you've got to revisit those assumption and revisit the rates.

CONNELL: All right, so and what about what states can do, I mean, WA is saying our approach on borders is justified after this court decision. The court also said there's very low risk of opening up to other low COVID states. Zero community transmission in South Australia. Surely there's no health advice that says put up a border between South Australia and WA right now.

JONES: When I've spoken to my colleagues and businesses over in WA they say the economy is almost going as well as it was prior to, or certainly going a lot better than it is in a lot of other states. Let me put it that way and a lot of the reason for that is that there is confidence within the business community, more confidence among consumers that they've got the health crisis under control and I can only assume that Mark McGowan has taken the judgement and we don't want to put that at risk. We don't want to put that at risk and our economy is recovering. We don't want to put that at risk.

CONNELL: Have you spoken to tourism businesses and asked if they'd like borders open to communities where there's zero community transmission?

JONES: Every business that I've spoken to said in their perfect world they’d like to see everything spring back to where it was pre-COVID. But in the next sentence, they also say our biggest fear is a second wave and a second way of getting out of control because nothing will kill consumer confidence, nothing will kill business investment quicker than that happening. It's a balancing judgement. I think Mark McGowan, in fact, I think our state premiers are doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. He's had a good win in the Federal Court. Frankly, the federal government backing Clive Palmer was an atrocious piece of judgement. Mark McGowan has been vindicated. You'd be hard-pressed to find a federal MP, a Liberal Party MP wanting to stand up publicly and say Clive Palmer was right and we support Clive Palmer. I think they’re all very relieved that Clive Palmer did not win the court case.

CONNELL: Very low risk of opening borders up to other states and territories that have a hold on COVID-19, that’s the point here. No one is debating open the borders to Victoria, they're saying what about South Australia, Tasmania, ACT, perhaps Queensland as well.

JONES: Yeah, look, I think at the end of the day Tom, we've got to take our advice from the health officials on the ground. Because you and I were having a discussion a couple of months ago where there were Coalition MPs in Queensland saying open the borders up in Queensland, three weeks later you had more community spreading of the disease in Queensland and those Coalition MPs went very, very quiet all of a sudden. So it might look like we got things under control and then it springs up, it's the pernicious nature of this disease. I think Mark McGowan is doing a good job and frankly, if you look at his standing in WA, people are backing the tough decisions that he's having to make. It's not a perfect world, but I think he's getting the balance right as the majority of our other premieres as well.

CONNELL: And just finally on superannuation and this increase. It's impossible to say how much, but increasing super will affect wages to some degree, won't it?

JONES: Look my point on this Tom, is let's look at what we know about next year. The superannuation, very modest increase 0.5% about $4.80 for somebody on $50,000 a year. Very, very modest increase indeed. It’s been on the cards for over a decade now, legislated, baked in for over for around about a decade now, so everyone's known about it. Very small increase. Anything we do in superannuation next year is going to have a negligible impact on wages because those wage increases are already baked in. Fair Work Australia has already put in place a wage increase, very small wage increase for all of those people on award based wages. Anything we do with superannuation for those award based wages is going to amount to a pay cut, it will have no impact on their wages, that's already baked in.

CONNELL: Could it be on the award though? It could, couldn’t it?

JONES: The majority of people in that sector Tom are award reliant and about 25% of the workforce is award reliant. That is they are paid the rate within the award, not a cent more. They’ll get a modest increase, that's 25% about another 20% are government employees. So already up to half the workforce, you then go to people who are already on enterprise agreements. So you're probably getting close to 80% of the work force whose wage increases for next year are already determined today. So anything we do with super might sound good from 30,000 feet but when you look at what's happening in workplaces, will have zero impact.

CONNELL: Sorry we're out of time look, obviously, there's talks about what happens in future years as well and future decisions as the result of super, but we'll pick that up another day.