Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Sky News First Edition with Peter Stefanovic

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

E&OE-------------------------------------

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Let’s go to Canberra now and joining me live is the Employment and Small Businesses Minister Stuart Robert. 

Minister, good to see you this morning. Thanks for your time. More than half the country now in lockdown, 18 months into the pandemic, it's a sorry state we're in isn't it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's particularly depressing, no question about that if you're a small business operator, it's, it's pretty sad, because there's no customers flowing, we know the economy's strong we saw that a number of weeks ago with unemployment down to 4.9% so the fundamentals are excellent, we just need to get through this period. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

You're powerless to stop these lock downs, but do you believe, and let's go to South Australia here after five cases only one new one today six cases Was that necessary?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We’ll leave that to the premiers they're responsible they're accountable they're dealing with their health professionals on this, and they have made decisions about that. 

Our job in the Federal Parliament is to provide as much support as we can to continue the vaccine rollout 10.3 million Australians so far, 35% of the country, and also to provide assistance and payments when necessary, but we’ll back the states and territories in. 

We're all in this together, it's a bit of a team Australia moment at present. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Yeah but, but until your vaccination levels get to a certain point, this stop start system that we are in at the moment is going to continue isn't it quite possibly until the end of the year.

MINISTER ROBERT:

I feel it'll continue in the short term, the Prime Minister has rolled out four stages, we're in stage one, stage two of course starts when the vaccine levels are raised, and with a million Australians being vaccinated a week I think we'll see this happen quicker than we think.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But for the next few months at least, it's going to continue these lockdowns are going to continue. So how on earth do small businesses survive in a climate like this when they can't plan?

MINISTER ROBERT:

This is why the Prime Minister announced the small to medium business support payment which will kick in from week three on any lockdown. Of course, there is the pandemic disaster payments, which are kicking in, in arrears so literally from day one, and they're flowing in the 50-60,000s a day. And the first tranche of the small and medium business support payments of course is rolling out in New South Wales. 

The Prime Minister has made it very clear, this is available for all Australians with a 50/50 from the Commonwealth, with the state governments, and we're prepared to step in with any state that requires that support on that same basis as we're doing with New South Wales.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

So, when it comes to those individual payments of some $600 a week for those who lose more than 20 hours. I mean, how, how do you survive on 600 bucks when you've got a family to feed and mortgage payments to make?

MINISTER ROBERT:

$600 a week is in line with the final part of Jobkeeper. So it is completely consistent with what we did last year, and of course the small and medium business payment is 40% of payroll from $1500 to $10,000 so the support is consistent, they've been consistent since the middle of last year coming forward, and they'll be in place, and they’ll be there, and Australians can rely on them because the Federal Government will step in to ensure we take and carry our load on that.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Tough to survive on that though, isn't it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It's always difficult when, when the state, by virtue of their lockdowns takes away many of your capacities for livelihood, absolutely, yes.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Still lockdowns that your government support so too, right?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We're all in this together, and there's no point, and Australians don't want to see governments squabbling, they don't want to see dissension, they want to see everyone pulling together. 

The states are responsible for their public health orders, and they're responsible for making those decisions. The best the federal government can do is stepping beside them, alongside them to support Australians, and that we think is the best response here. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Jobkeeper pumped $1 billion a week into the New South Wales economy, the current package, is half a billion. This is a deeper lockdown with construction paused at the moment so is your government ruling out any further support?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, we've never played the ruling rule out game if you like, we've always responded as the next curveball got thrown at us. There's no playbook unfortunately, I wish I had one for COVID-19. So, we will just respond as required. And if something else comes up, the Federal Government will step in and respond again and we have to be that dynamic we've got to be that agile, because things are taking a change all the time. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay, sounds like you're open to it.

MINISTER ROBERT:

We're open to providing whatever needs to be done to whatever curveball gets thrown to us. You saw that last week with the last set of announcements were the pandemic disaster payment was increased to $600 and $375, depending upon hours worked, you saw that with a small and medium enterprise support package we put in place up to 40% of payrolls, and we will continue to provide support where we need to because we're not through this yet, but we're going to do it together.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay, what about Jobkeeper 3.0, is that possible?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well that's what the smaller medium enterprise support package does exactly that. At 40% of payroll for $1500 to $10,000, in line with the disaster pandemic payment for individuals at $600 Those two together provides that support. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

What about getting back to the original levels of Jobkeeper it though is that possible I mean Labor, we had Jason Clare on my show yesterday he's talking about wanting those payments to be increased from $600 to $750, that's in line with the original part of Jobkeeper, is that possible?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh you’ll never outspend the Labor Party, they'll always think the payments should be higher, this is the same Labor Party that said, when Jobkeeper came out it would be a disaster, yet we saw that one of the greatest job growths in the OECD. So, Labour's all whinge and all noise are present. 

We've lined up the payments of $600 in line with where we talk Jobkeeper to as we took it out on its glide path of $1500. And that's appropriate, as Jobkeeper was designed, to put the economy into hibernation. These measures are designed to support these shorter, sharper lock downs. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But is it possible, is it possible to increase it from 600 to $750? 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, we started of course with the disaster pandemic payment at $500 and $325, in response to what we're seeing now we've increased to $600 per week for those who've lost over 20 hours, and $375 for eight to 20 hours. 

So, I think we've, we've nailed this about the midpoint of where the glide path from Jobkeeper was, and I think it's about right. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay so, but is it possible to increase it again? 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Keeping in mind you've got Jobseeker payments at $620. So, you've got to be consistent right across the board, as much as possible, which is why we've landed in the place we have. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

But is it a yes or no, that this payment could increase again above $600 for those who miss out on more than 20 hours a week of work, which gets in line with the original part of the original JobKeeper?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well Jobkeeper of course had a glide path down from $1500 down to $1000 we’ve nailed the support payment at $1200 across a fortnight $600 per week, which we believe is the right spot for now. 

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Okay, running out of time but just one final one, can you give us a scoop on the Olympic Games is Brisbane getting it or what?

MINISTER ROBERT:

If I was a betting man, and I'm not, I’d be putting my money on Queensland. Queensland always comes through.

PETER STEFANOVIC:

Stuart Robert appreciate your time.