Transcript - ABC Afternoon Briefing [10 June 2020]

June 10, 2020

SUBJECTS: State borders; JobKeeper Payment.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I want to bring in my panel this afternoon, Liberal MP Jason Falinski and Labor MP Anne Aly. Hello and welcome to both of you.

ANNE ALY: Thanks, Patricia.


KARVELAS: Jason, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the reluctance of some Australian states to reopen borders is delaying opening the trans-Tasman bubble – and of course we heard the Prime Minister, pretty strong in Question Time, saying that the state borders should be opened – but is that, like, that megaphone style going to work? Clearly, it seemed to me with the schools debate, the louder the Federal Government was, there was a sense that the states kind of dug in. Is it effective to communicate this way?

FALINSKI: Well I... oh, sorry, PK. Well I hope, I hope they don't. What I do hope is that they listen to the expert advice, both of economists and health experts, who are telling them that this is a) not necessary, b) not doing any good and c) actually doing a lot of economic harm. So if they won't listen to the Prime Minister, if they won't listen to the media, hopefully they will listen to experts and hopefully they'll listen to the people who they represent.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly, the Prime Minister urged the relevant Premiers to, at the earliest opportunity, indicate the July dates they plan to reopen their border – and that was the national plan they all signed up to that the Prime Minister announced: where it had a timeline, July was the opening. Do you want to see WA reopen by the end of next month?

ALY: I want to see WA to continue doing what's right for WA, and there's no doubt that the Premier Mark McGowan has done a stellar job so far and has the backing of West Australians, and I think that the decision to open borders should be a decision that is taken by the Premiers, based on the health advice within their States, and based on a very cautious response to the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus hitting us.

KARVELAS: Okay. I hear a lot about the advice, but isn't the issue here - I feel like this needs to be resolved at some point, Jason Falinski – is, there's the Federal advice and then they're getting advice from their own medical officers at a State level. But that's been at odds, it seems, now, twice over schools and now over this. How do we resolve that...

FALINSKI: Sorry, PK, that's...

KARVELAS: ... or does it need to be resolved?

FALINSKI: ... just not.

KARVELAS: Well, it is.

FALINSKI: Well, sorry, PK that's... well, it's just not. I mean, the health advice, the Australian health expert panel expert advice, is clear that these internal border controls - which didn't work behind the Iron Curtain, and won't work in Australia in the 21st century - are not justified on health grounds, and are not justified on economic grounds. There's no confusion about that message.

KARVELAS: And so let me be clear – well, no...

FALINSKI: No, it's very very clear.

KARVELAS: So I maybe I can explain – because the Queensland Health officer has told the Queensland Premier that that's not the case yet. So what I'm saying is that the local authorities are saying something different – clearly, then, you're right – the Commonwealth authority.

FALINSKI: Well no, the Australian health panel of experts has made it – of which, I believe, the Chief Medical Officer in Queensland is a member of – has made it very clear that their advice is borders... that keeping borders shut – as I say, like some sort of... country behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s – is not doing any good for anyone on either health or economic grounds. So if that panel – which is the expert panel, which was assembled by both the Commonwealth and the State governments – is giving that advice, then it just seems incomprehensible, other than for potentially base political reasons, that you would want to keep those borders shut. I mean, why would you want to punish your own people that way if there's no health reason for doing it? And we certainly know it's not helping the economy, or the... or the economic hope and opportunity that people should have. You know, it's a bit like Michael Jordan wanting to play basketball while playing baseball. You either enforce the laws and listen to experts, or you don't. You don't get to pick and choose the experts and the laws that you listen to and that you enforce.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly, is there some sort of reform we need, or a shift at the end of this? We're still in it, so we're kind of knee deep in a... in an argument, not a great time always to rethink things, but it seems to me that that's one of the issues that's come up in this pandemic. I reckon it's really confusing for Australians. I definitely do because I do think that the Chief Medical Officer says it's safe - I agree with you, Jason. But we're hearing something different at a State level - that's pretty confusing.

ALY: Yeah, I agree with you, it is confusing, Patricia, and I'm just trying to get over Jason's analogies – Iron Curtain, baseball, basketball, I don't know where he's going with all of that – but I agree with you that, I think, throughout this there has been conflicting messaging and confusion. You mentioned the opening of schools, for example, but I speak from a Western Australian perspective, and I can tell you that within Western Australia there is an inordinate amount of public support for Mark McGowan to keep the borders closed at this point, on the advice of the West Australian health professionals.

KARVELAS: Jason Falinski, the future of JobKeeper. It's... well, it's going to end for childcare workers. The Government's got a review underway. As we all know, and we'll let our viewers know, that's what's going on there. Do you think it should be switched off for sectors earlier than planned at the end of September?

FALINSKI: Look, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm on the record as saying that I think that JobKeeper and JobSeeker were great programs when the pandemic started. However, we are borrowing a lot of money for those programs to continue – and it is incumbent upon this Parliament, and all of us, to make sure that, when we are spending other people's money that they don't have, that those programs are as targeted as they possibly can be and doing the most help that they can be... crudely putting it, that we're getting the best bang for our buck. It was always in the legislation that this would be reviewed after three months. We have ended up with world, you know, the envy of the world in terms of health outcomes. We should now be trying to aim for economic outcomes that are as equally as good.

KARVELAS: Okay. So you'd like to see it switched off in other sectors beyond childcare?

FALINSKI: Well, I would like to see it... well, I guess what I would like to see us do is not spend money we don't have when we don't need to. So there are some sectors that don't need the support. It would make a lot of sense...

KARVELAS: Okay, can you name them? Where's the evidence of where they don't need the support anymore?

FALINSKI: Oh, there are... look, the people who are best placed to make that judgement are the ATO, who are getting BAS statements back from businesses on a monthly basis, so they're the ones that will be best be able to advise Treasury where to target these payments more in the future. I don't have that data to hand.

KARVELAS: Yeah, sure.

FALINSKI: We do know anecdotally, for example, supermarkets did very, you know, did very well out of this crisis, and there are a whole bunch of other sectors that have not suffered as much as others. So we know for example that cafés, pubs, restaurants, tourism-related, education-related sectors have actually suffered more than other sectors in the economy. Therefore, it may be more sensible to continue payments to those sectors while their economic activity returns to them, but to preserve our financial firepower in those other sectors that no longer need the financial support that we've given them today.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly, is that sensible – to kind of review it and keep it for some, and then remove it for ones that don't need it anymore?

ALY: Well, I just want to be clear here, Patricia, because Jason said that the ATO makes those decisions and has said that the ATO should make those decisions. Did the ATO make a decision to stop JobKeeper for childcare workers? And why is it that childcare workers – the substantive issue that we need to deal with right now, at this moment, is that childcare workers are deemed to be the first industry that the Government is going to cut payments to, when they are some of the poorest paid essential workers in Australia. It's going to affect 120,000 childcare workers, as we heard from Tony Burke earlier, and 95 per cent of them are women. 95 per cent of them are women, and it's not just going to affect that workforce, it's going to affect – for example, as myself, I was a single parent, a single working parent – it's going to affect single working parents as well, and their ability to go back to work. It is going to, to... substantially impact on women more than any other... any other group in society. So I hear Jason saying that, you know, yes, there are sectors that did well out of this – but they were sectors that didn't rely on the JobKeeper or didn't rely on JobSeeker. So what he's saying to me... I'm finding it very difficult to make sense of it, to be honest.

KARVELAS: I have run out of time, so I don't know much more sense we're going to make, but we'll invite you both on and continue this conversation. There will be changes, no doubt, in between our next conversation. Thanks to both of you.

ALY: Thanks, Patricia.

FALINSKI: Sounds great. Thanks, PK.

KARVELAS: Liberal MP Jason Falinski and Labor MP Anne Aly joining me there.