By Tanya Plibersek

08 October 2020


SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; older workers and women left behind; Government failure on housing policy.

ALAN JONES, HOST: We're joined by Tanya Plibersek the former deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition and now Shadow Education Minister; Amanda Stoker the Liberal Senator from Queensland. Both women splendidly credentialed. Ladies, thank you for your time. Could I just ask you about these eye-watering figures. When Kevin Rudd legislated in 2007 for a debt ceiling of $75 billion all hell broke loose on the other side. Then in response to the global financial crisis, the debt ceiling went to $300 billion by 2013. The Coalition took office and in 2014, the legislation was scrapped and replaced with an administrative mechanism to revise the ceiling as needed. Now the ceiling is $1.1 trillion. Can I come to you Amanda first, this is eye-watering stuff, isn't it?
AMANDA STOKER, SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND: Look it is a lot of money. We shouldn't shirk that but at least the spending here is temporary and it's targeted. We've learned the lessons of Labor's mistakes to the GFC where the spending they engaged in for a crisis that was 45 times less bigger than what we currently face was baked in for 10 years and in processes like halls nobody wanted, pink batts processes that were making people lose their lives, cash for clunkers, cheques to dead people and dogs. I mean we've learned all the lessons of that period...
JONES: Amanda...
STOKER: And we are keeping all of the spending short-term, so that it's all about economic recovery and jobs. 
JONES: Okay now Amanda, can I just ask you this? Are you seriously suggesting that it was a sensible thing to say to a casual employee who was on 250 bucks a week that that employee would automatically get 750 bucks under the JobKeeper program? Come on.
STOKER: The JobKeeper program was in a sense ‘one size fits all’ so that it could be rolled out really quickly because we knew that people were hurting-
JONES: Amanda, in England they said we'll pay you 75 per cent of your final average salary. That person would have been getting 75 per cent of 200 bucks which would be, work it out a hundred and forty dollars. Tanya, comment from you Tanya Plibersek.
STOKER: And the complexity of that meant they didn't get it for weeks. 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Well Alan as you know, the debt had doubled under the Liberals well before coronavirus hit Australia's shores. And as for saying that this is temporary debt, a child born today will be paying this debt off when they turn 60. The estimate is the debt will be paid off in 2080. So this is not temporary debt. But Alan we do need to invest in creating jobs right now, you and I have spoken every week about how worried we are about the fact that there's a million people unemployed now, they'll be another 160,000 unemployed by Christmas. It's how we spend the money.
We need to be building things that last. So tonight Anthony Albanese talked about investing in rail rolling stock, in defence industries, in an electricity transmission grid. We know that the grid is gold-plated, we want to bring down prices of electricity and we have to do that by investing...
JONES: Just on this...
PLIBERSEK: And of course on child care as well, child care that makes it possible for working women to go to work.
JONES: I think that's a new world. Look, so I ask again about unemployment. $5 billion is available in the budget to employers, any business, if they take on an apprentice or trainee or what the Government calls young jobless up to the age of 35. Now, I just may mention that Albanese has picked this up tonight. There is a stack of legislation to about age discrimination, Amanda is this age discrimination? There are many people unemployed now who are saying, well hang on if I go for a job and I'm 40, they might say well, hang on if I put a 32 year old half the wage will be paid. I'm out of the equation. Amanda?
STOKER: Alan nothing really could be further from the truth. The facts tell us that the people who have overwhelmingly borne the brunt of unemployment in COVID are young people. 
JONES: That's true. 
STOKER: This is a measure that's designed to correct that and get them back into the workforce. We know that young people don't have as much experience. They don't have as much wisdom yet. They don't have what they need to be attractive hiring propositions. And so we're trying to re-balance the ledger to give them a chance. 
JONES: Yeah, Amanda that is true but a 28 year old unemployed, to me anyway, is no different from a 45 year old unemployed. You're wanting those people to have a job. And so if there are two prospective employees going for one job, under this provision if the employer takes on the 28 year old, the 42 year old, you'll have to pay full freight, for the 28 year old he'll get a 50 per cent subsidy. What do you make of that Tanya Plibersek? 
PLIBERSEK: Well Alan it's true that young people have suffered a lot during this recession. But so have women, particularly women over the age of 45. We know that they have lost more hours of work and they've been right at the front lines of the jobs that have been lost in industries, like hospitality and tourism. So we want to see older workers looked after as well. And don't forget, those older workers are going to see their JobKeeper cut if they go on to unemployment benefits. They're going to be back down to $40 a day. If you're a mum with a few kids and you’re even 36 or 37 you’re just over that cap. You don't get a job. You don't get JobKeeper, that's going to that's going to go, and you're back on unemployment benefits of $40 a day. It's just unfair. It's just cruel, and a lot of these cuts happen before Christmas.
JONES: It's a tough one to solve this too. Amanda, it's supposed to be jobs, jobs, jobs what I have never understood, if an employer gives someone a job today they're taxed, it's called payroll tax. How does that make sense? If it's about jobs, jobs, jobs. Now I know this is a state issue, but surely something's got to be done by way of tax reform to stop that anomaly, hasn't it?
STOKER: Look, I think Australians shouldn't forget that the introduction of the GST was supposed to spell the end of Payroll Tax- 
JONES: Yes. Yes. Yes 
STOKER: - and the states have overwhelmingly reneged on that deal and they should be held to account for that. In Queensland we've got an election soon, that's an opportunity to do so. But this election is all about jobs. To take up the point that was just being discussed between you and Tanya, while there have been in the budget bunch of measures that are designed to help young people through the difficulty of getting from unemployment to a job in this COVID crisis, we shouldn't forget that that is in a sense of rebalancing of the playing field in circumstances where we already had a whole lot of programs in place that were designed to help older people overcome, what is a real difficulty for them in getting from unemployment to work. So there was already a lot of measures in place to help them but this budget is all about making sure that we are equipping Australian businesses with everything they need to be profitable, to be stainable not because of some you know, big allegiance to corporate Australia, but because that's where regular Australian's get their jobs.
JONES: Okay, I think that makes a lot of sense but can I take this point? This is the old chestnut forgive me, can I trot it out again? Business. Now there are businesses out there who build houses, now if we want people to get into housing and we want greater opportunity, it's like buying bananas. If there are a few bananas the price of bananas goes up. Now there's a shortage of supply in housing. There are stack of reputable people who want to build housing. Housing is full of multipliers. Why shouldn't we be putting housing and I'll ask you first Tanya, front and centre here, to on the one hand because of greater supply help people get into housing at a cheaper price and on the other hand generate jobs for skilled people and the multipliers down the track, whitegoods and all the rest of it. 
PLIBERSEK: We absolutely should Alan and I'm really pleased that Anthony Albanese tonight announced that we would support repairs on a 100,000 public housing homes, right across Australia because the tradies could be in there tomorrow. They'd be at Bunnings tomorrow and then be in the house by the afternoon fixing up the leaking roofs, the mould, the old kitchens, the old bathrooms on those places that need upgrading but we should go further. We should be building housing, building housing at the social housing end and also affordable housing. I was a Housing Minister during the global financial crisis. We built 21,600 public housing homes. I started the national rental affordability scheme, that's 50,000 homes. But we also helped first home buyers into a home of their own. It is the great Australian dream and it should be possible for someone on an ordinary income to afford a home of their own. We now see that it's increasingly out of reach for too many young Australian families. It's not fair and we need to change it.
JONES: Amanda just coming to you that's an awful bind for whoever's in the Federal Government because of course, this is all a product of State Governments planning and bureaucracy and that tied up in red tape. How does the Federal Government, with its commitment to trying to build up housing supply, housing stocks, getting jobs. How does it overcome State Governments bureaucratic blindfold towards all of this?
STOKER: Alan you're right that the states have to come to the party and are not doing their not doing their bit, but it is also true to say that the Federal Government has done a lot in this space. The first home deposit scheme has seen another commitment in the budget. It was fully subscribed in its first round and I have no doubt this will be too. This will be to the Homemakers scheme sees more opportunities and more take up a rise of 60 per cent, 67 per cent I think in the approvals since it came into being. 
JONES: Can I just make a point there- 
STOKER: - Can I draw a distinction Alan, it's an important distinction I want to make here. When the Coalition invest in housing it's all about empowering individuals to choose their builder, their contractors, their tradesmen, there home. When Labor wants to do this they want to take taxpayers money to build public housing that stays a public problem and that encourages nobody to have a home of their own. 
PLIBERSEK: Hang on a minute Alan, Amanda just said that public housing is a public problem! In what way?
STOKER: Public housing is a public expense- 
PLIBERSEK: I'm shocked. 
STOKER: Public housing remains a responsibility of the public for the long-term.
JONES: Yeah Amanda, I'm not talking about that. I'm actually talking about giving the opportunity for business - we're all talking about business here - to simply build more houses. I could name you the Triguboffs and the Lang Walkers and the John Woods in New South Wales alone who are ready to build thousands of houses, which would increase the supply, cheapen the price to the buyer and provide tradesmen with jobs, provide whitegoods businesses with opportunities to sell products, and the State Governments will stand in the way of this happening. How do you solve that? 
STOCKER: Alan, what they're tearing their hair out about is the land releases in State Government responsibility and the charges that are inflicted by State Governments and Local Governments for development, none of those are Federal responsibilities.
PLIBERSEK: When I was the Housing Minister we worked very closely with those developers and we worked closely with Local Government and State Government. We saw massive land releases and changes to local government planning, because we worked with them. 
JONES: I wish all that green and red tape could get out of the way, good to talk to you. I know we've been of a truncated tonight because of the budget speech by Albo. We'll talk to you next week though. Tanya won't be with us next week. Thank you for the courtesy of letting me know, Amanda will see you next week.