Thursday, 18 July 2019
SUBJECTS: Youth unemployment, George Calombaris, franking credits
TOM CONNELL: Thanks for your time, youth unemployment on the rise which you’ve noted. What are you putting this down to specifically?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR YOUTH: Youth unemployment has been stubbornly high, and we’ve seen a jump in the last year from the June to June figure of 0.8 per cent. So we’ve really got to take this as a serious issue and say how are we going to tackle it? I’ve been quite critical of the Government’s PaTH program which seems to be their only response, which is an unpaid internship which recent reports have suggested is not leading to jobs and is certainly not reaching its targets. So I would like to see the Government take this issue really seriously. It’s not just the unemployment figure, 17 per cent of underemployment for young people is also a real issue. Because if we don’t tackle this we’re going to continue to see issues around mental health and homelessness when it comes to young people.
CONNELL: So the PaTH program hasn’t hit the targets it was supposed to but it’s still provided I think in the order of 2,000 or 3,000 permanent jobs. I mean it’s not a bad thing is it, can’t it just be one part of a range of measures that might help in future years, it’s only relatively early on in its life as a policy.
RISHWORTH: Well let’s look at how much the Government has spent, its spent or plans to spend over $800 million on this program. They had a target of 30,000 per year of individuals to undertake it, and tens of thousands of businesses. We just haven’t seen that. A couple of thousand placements into jobs just isn’t good enough. And really when you look at the potential for exploitation where people are receiving $4 an hour, it’s really not a solution. The Government just keeps pointing to this program as the only solution, at the same time during the life of this Government we’ve seen 150,000 less apprenticeships. We really need a much more comprehensive approach to addressing youth unemployment than what this Government is currently offering.
CONNELL: The other thing is once people are on the Newstart payment and their ability to get off and find another job, a lot of groups are saying it’s pretty hard given the size of it. Labor took a policy to review it, you didn’t win the election, are you just going to take a firm stance now and put a figure on increasing this?
RISHWORTH: We’re not in Government Tom, it’s the Government’s responsibility to have a serious look at this. Of course what we wanted to do was make sure we got the increase right, we were working towards that increase. We were very clear as a political party that Newstart was too low and we wanted a process to get there. We didn’t win the election, so it is incumbent on the Government to seriously look at this. When you do have business groups and…
CONNELL: But we know the Government is not doing that. If Labor wants to carry the argument you can put a figure on it, then you know what it costs and then you can argue its affordability. Otherwise it’s argument without being able to be pinned down.
RISHWORTH: I’m not going to let the Government off this issue. I mean when you’ve got business groups as well as social services groups, a whole range of groups calling for some action on this, I’m not going to let the Government just say no we aren’t going to do anything about this. It’s time the Government acted and actually took this issue seriously, but I think it’s also time the Government stopped demonising people on Newstart. We often hear a lot of rhetoric coming from the Government and it would be a good start for them to recognise there’s actually many people trying to get jobs that just can’t.
CONNELL: Why can say ACOSS do work here and put a number on this and justify it, but the Federal Opposition seemingly can’t?
RISHWORTH: We had a plan to work through a comprehensive process, to look at a range of different factors that would impact it, and actually come up with a figure…
CONNELL: Why can’t you do that in Opposition, what are you actually missing?
RISHWORTH: We are not the Government, the Government can do that.
CONNELL: With Newstart you know what people are getting at the moment, you can figure out what people need to survive, you can put estimates in there and then come up with a figure. I just don’t understand why you can’t put a number on the increase, why it’s not possible for Labor but ACOSS can do it.
RISHWORTH: We’ve been very clear that we want to see an increase. There was a process if we went into Government, all of our policies are being reviewed. But Labor was very clear that the Newstart Allowance was too low, that we didn’t think it was appropriate and we did want to see a process in place. We’re not in government, so it’s time the Government acted. They’ve got to take some responsibility for the fact that they need to do something about this and stop shirking that responsibility.
CONNELL: Can I ask you about the latest revelations around George Calombaris? His restaurant empire found to have underpaid its workers to the tune of nearly $8 million. The fine he’s going to cop, a contrition payment as it’s being described, $200,000. Should this behaviour be criminalised to really stop it?
RISHWORTH: I think we need to make sure there is enough deterrence in the system. $8 million is a significant amount and it’s obviously systemic. When it comes to underpaying workers, both in wages and often in superannuation as well, I get a lot of people coming to my office frustrated that they’ve been going to their employer desperately trying to get their superannuation paid. This is not a small issue.
CONNELL: To that end is a fine – I think this fine is in the order of 2 per cent of the overall takings – is that inadequate?
RISHWORTH: We do need to make sure there are deterrents in the system, what that looks like I’m happy to have a conversation about. But I do think there needs to be enough deterrence so this type of behaviour..
CONNELL: Should it be criminalised?
RISHWORTH: Well at the moment we focus on industrial law when it comes to resolving wages and conditions, and we have the Fair Work Commission doing its job. But I think we do need to seriously look at the deterrents and make sure businesses don’t just see this as a cost of doing business. But I would make the point the Government is often quick to call out workers or union officials that do the wrong thing, but as of yet we haven’t heard them call out this example of what is a serious breach of faith with one’s employees.
CONNELL: Just finally you’ve got some of your colleagues being outspoken about the franked dividend cash refund policy, urging Labor not to scrap it forever or entirely. What are your thoughts on this, whether it’s a sustainable budget cost?
RISHWORTH: We are going through the review of all our policies and that includes our franking dividend policy. It was something we took to the election and as with all our policies we have to have a look at it in light of the suite of other things we might want to take to the election..
CONNELL: What’s your view though?
RISHWORTH: My view I will talk with my colleagues about in the appropriate forums.
CONNELL: You can tell our viewers if you like.
RISHWORTH: Well I think we need to look at all of our policies, both our revenue measures and our spending measures, we’ve got to look very carefully at that. There’s no doubt though that the Liberal Party was very effective at running a scare campaign when it came to the so-called Retiree Tax and we’ve got to take that into consideration, along with all our policies.
CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth always appreciate your time.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.