Sky News – return to school, Jobkeeper bungle, reopening borders

Monday, 25 May 2020

SUBJECTS: return to school; Jobkeeper bungle; reopening borders.

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us live now is Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Amanda Rishworth, and Liberal MP Julian Simmonds. Thank you both for your time. Let’s start with the big news of the day and that’s the return to school in New South Wales and Queensland. Big morning for students but there’s still concerns many parents will have to keep their kids home if they’re feeling unwell. Amanda Rishworth do you think the guidelines are clear enough for the return to school about how to stay safe?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I do think there’s clear guidelines out there, of course we need to make sure our schools have the resources. They need to have hand sanitiser, they need to make sure they’ve got enough soap, and that parents and school communities feel supported. So I think the guidelines are out there. Of course students will have to stay home if they’re feeling sick, that’s an important message to get across as well, just as we in the workforce are encouraged to stay home if we’re feeling sick. I do think this is a good day but we need to make sure schools have the resources and the support. I think we also need to recognise that students may have fallen behind with the online learning, and that enough resources are given to schools to help those children catch up.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds do you think this puts the pressure on other States to catch up and re-open their schools?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: I certainly do because I think it’s a great thing that students are back. Congratulations to students, administrators and teachers in our schools for putting in place the requirements to get students back. The Principal that you heard from a little earlier on on Sky in the press conference with the Queensland Premier is from my own electorate, and as he said he’s only got three students away today. So parents are relishing the opportunity to get some normality back for their families, to take the opportunity to either get back to work themselves or increase their productivity working from home. This is an important economic step to get kids back to school, to restart our economy, and it just shows the importance of taking the next economic step and that is for the Queensland Premier and other Premiers to reopen their borders to interstate travel, given that the health advice is there is no impediment to do that.

NIELSEN: Moving onto Jobkeeper, this has to be the biggest accounting error in Australian history, $60 billion off. It does open the question about whether we should be expanding Jobkeeper to those who missed out originally, when the Government’s line was that they didn’t have a money tree, now they do have an extra $60 billion of debt they were willing to go into originally. Amanda Rishworth do you think this means they should look at including those employees, like those who work for foreign owned companies?

RISHWORTH: Well firstly I would say this a huge credibility issue for the Government, and I would say that they shouldn’t be playing this down. This is embarrassing and how can you trust the Government on anything else when they can’t even get this right?

But when it comes to those workers who missed out, I think the Government needs to seriously look at fixing this. We know just in the space of early childhood education, 33 per cent of early educators who have been working hard to keep the economy going, to ensure care is provided to children, are not eligible for Jobkeeper. Some of them because they have been working for 11 months and have missed out as a result.

So I do think the Government needs to seriously look at it, it was the Assistant Treasurer himself who said that maybe if we were talking about 3 million workers instead of 6 million it would be a different conversation. Well let’s have that conversation, let’s get the Government to seriously look at these workers. It is unfair for them and it is bad for the economy, they are losing their jobs right now and the Government needs to seriously look at this problem.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds what do you make of that argument? The Government was willing to go into $130 billion of debt before, why not now?

SIMMONDS: Annelise only the Labor Party would be chipping the Government for not borrowing an extra $60 billion that then has to be paid back by Australians. This is already the most comprehensive employee support program this nation has ever seen. Full time workers, part time workers, long term casuals, the not for profit sector, are all supported by this program, on top of Jobkeeper support as well. The purpose is not to see this program enlarged and enlarged and enlarged, the purpose is not to keep people on government support, the purpose is to get the economy firing. Let’s hear Labor Federal Members like Amanda talk so critically about Labor Premiers who aren’t restarting their economies, who aren’t reopening their borders in contravention of the health advice that said it’s okay to do so, to get our economy firing and get people back to work.

RISHWORTH: Julian what you’re ignoring is the fact that there are many genuine workers that desperately need this support. Dnata workers are just one example, full time Australian workers that are struggling to pay their mortgage right now –

SIMMONDS: But this is a demand driven program Amanda.

RISHWORTH: These are actual workers –

SIMMONDS: So let’s get them back to work, get planes flying back over interstate borders. This is something that Premiers could do right now.

RISHWORTH: I think you’re in fairytale land if you think we’re about to open our international borders.

SIMMONDS: I didn’t say international borders, I said interstate borders.

RISHWORTH: So no support for those workers, no support to keep them connected to the workplace. It was the Government that said this program was oversubscribed, and if there were less workers there could be a conversation about it. Now we’ve got the Government spinning out of control –

SIMMONDS: It’s a demand driven program –

RISHWORTH: They got it wrong –

SIMMONDS: Every dollar is borrowed.

RISHWORTH: Well why are you providing support to some workers and not others? It’s poorly targeted, we have situations where a student living at home that was getting a few hours a week is getting $750, but at the same time an early childhood educator that may have only been employed for 11 months doesn’t get support.

SIMMONDS: This is the broadest program our nation has ever seen Amanda.

NIELSEN: Amanda on that point that Julian Simmonds made, the Queensland border has become increasingly contentious. Do you think we should be putting pressure on Queensland to reopen their border and get tourism flowing and get those jobs going in the State?

RISHWORTH: Well this is all about politics because I haven’t heard one mention of criticism of Steven Marshall, the Premier in South Australia –

SIMMONDS: You won’t criticise a Labor Premier, that’s your problem. You won’t criticise a Labor Premier and you need to stand up for our economy.

RISHWORTH: Hang on Julian, stop for a minute. I haven’t heard the Prime Minister putting any pressure on Steven Marshall, a Liberal Premier who has been just as steadfast in his comments about keeping the South Australian borders closed. He’s been very clear about it –


NIELSEN: – more keen to go to Queensland, sorry Amanda, surely people will want to go north where it’s warm.

RISHWORTH: I will not accept that, we have a wonderful tourism offering here in South Australia. But look we’ve got to let State Premiers work this through and work out what is best for –

SIMMONDS: Queensland is a tourism State, these businesses will die –

RISHWORTH: That would be on your watch because you won’t support the tourism industry. But Premiers have to do it at their own pace, whether that’s a Liberal Premier or whether that’s a Labor Premier, they have to do it at their own pace and make sure they’re comfortable with the health advice in their local jurisdiction.

SIMMONDS: I’d like to see a Labor Federal MP stand up for tourism workers in Queensland, where a Labor Premier has health advice that it’s safe to open the border. Let’s do it, let’s get people back into jobs .

RISHWORTH: This shows that the National Cabinet process has disintegrated when you’ve got the Prime Minister sending people out, and himself, completely criticising one Premier because there’s a State election coming up, not criticising Steven Marshall a Liberal Premier. It’s all politics.

NIELSEN: Everyone came in fired up today, Amanda Rishworth and Julian Simmonds thank you for your time. Very heated debate, we look forward to it again next fortnight.


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