Subject/s: Unemployment, JobKeeper wage subsidy, school closures
DAVID KOCH: Joining me now is Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. Minister, thanks for joining us. They’re pretty dire predictions. Ten per cent unemployment. In the circumstances, is that about as good as we can expect?
MINISTER CASH: Well certainly, David. And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is devastating. Hundreds of thousands of Australians losing their jobs as a result of COVID-19. That is exactly why the Government passed recently the $130 billion JobKeeper legislation to ensure that we keep as many Australians either in employment or connected to employment during this crisis.
DAVID KOCH: It was the biggest stimulus package ever for any government in our history. But is there anything else we could do to try and bring that unemployment rate down a bit further? Have you got any more weapons in the arsenal?
MINISTER CASH: Well, look, its $320 billion in terms of our response to date. As the Prime Minister has always said, we monitor the situation on a daily basis and we respond as is required. As of, I think it was yesterday afternoon, we have had now in excess of 830,000 unique ABN registrations in terms of employers putting up their hands and saying, I want to work with my employees and keep them on the books. That’s actually a very, very positive sign. But as we’ve said, the unemployment rate, it will increase tomorrow. That is why the Government has taken unprecedented action. $130 billion in terms of JobKeeper, but $320 billion in terms of the economic response to date.
DAVID KOCH: Yeah. I suppose you could call it a positive reaction. Those 830,000 employers, there’s only 1 million employers in the entire country. A lot of businesses hurting at the moment and that unemployment rate doesn't include people who have had their hours cut back and things like that.
MINISTER CASH: No, and that’s exactly right.
DAVID KOCH: How quickly are we going to get industry back to work with these relaxing of social distancing regulations? Sort office workers, construction manufacturing?
MINISTER CASH: Look, as the Prime Minister said, at the end of the day, primarily, this is a health matter with an economic response. So, everything we do has to be based on the very best expert medical advice. You look at the decisions that we’ve taken at this point in time, and they certainly have given us that decrease and flattening of the curve that we’ve been looking at. The Prime Minister has been very upfront with the Australian people. This is not going to go away in the short term. We need to ensure that we get on top of the virus, but to the extent that we can keep sectors of the economy open, we should. And certainly, if you look at transport, logistics and construction, if you look at say the Coles and Woolies of the world, to the extent that we can keep areas of the economy of the open we should. But ultimately, this is – it is a health issue with an economic response.
DAVID KOCH: But speaking of the Prime Minister, very blunt message by the Prime Minister today to parents and teachers as schools start to go back after the term break, saying, ‘keep schools open, you should be sending your kids to school because there’s no medical advice to say you shouldn't’. The states and schools are just reacting to concerns from parents and teachers, which the Prime Minister is saying is unfounded.
MINISTER CASH: And look, as the Prime Minister said, COVID-19 is going to take a lot from us as Australians. But what he doesn't want it to take is a year of a child’s life. Everything that the Prime Minister is doing is based on the best possible advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the expert panel. Schools they are able to be kept open and what the Prime Minister is saying is if the medical evidence says you can keep the schools open, then that is what we should be doing and we should be encouraging teachers and students to get back to normal.
DAVID KOCH: Yeah. Terrific. Minister, thanks for joining us, appreciate it.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you. Thank you.