03 September 2020


SUBJECTS: The need for a plan for the economy and jobs; JobKeeper and JobSeeker; superannuation; Andrew Bragg.

STEPHEN JONES MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It’s the last day in Parliament before the budget. The Prime Minister should use it to outline his plan for recovery. The national accounts have not told most Australians what they didn't already know, that is that the economy is slowing unemployment is going up. A million Australians are out of work and 400,000 more are going to lose their jobs before Christmas and yet we don't have a plan. It seems, to us, crazy that unemployment is going up but the support for the unemployed is about to be ripped out from under them. The Prime Minister needs to rethink this plan. We need a plan for the economy, we need a plan for jobs and that's got to work hand-in-hand with the health imperatives. They're not working against each other. They've got to work together. When we're talking about plans, they have got to do a little bit better than yanking support out from the unemployed and cutting superannuation. I agree with Paul Keating. I agree with Ken Henry. This is not the time to put the car in reverse. We need to back the legislated superannuation increases. We need to back the promise that the Prime Minister made at the last election and get superannuation moving so that it can do its job to build the economy and jobs and growth. Let's look at the areas of the economy that need a fix. Yes, we need to be building things. Yes, we need to be investing in infrastructure and in housing. But we all should also look at those areas where there is an obvious crisis and aged care is a standout, child care is a standout. We will work cooperatively with the government. That second raft of tax cuts, we will work cooperatively with the government on that, but we're not interested in policies that have been proven in the past to fail. We want to ensure that we have a plan that will bring the country together and ensure that everyone has a part in the recovery and that nobody is left behind. 

JOURNALIST: You mentioned ripping out support from people with the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs. If Labor was so concerned by those changes, why did you support them? 

JONES: We didn't support them. We supported the extension of JobKeeper and JobSeeker arrangements, that was the bill before the House. We have been calling on the government to extend those arrangements. It would have been hypocritical of us to call for the extension of those arrangements and then vote against them. The way the government has designed this legislation has given the Treasurer the sole discretion what the level of those payments are, it's now on the Treasurer's desk and he has to explain to Australians if he's going to cut support for the unemployed, at the same time as unemployment is going up, and why that's a good idea. We think it's an atrocious idea. We think it will be a disaster for those families, for those households relying on unemployment benefits, but also for the economy, to be ripping that money out of households and out of the economy at the same time as the economy is slowing and at the same time as unemployment is going up.

JOURNALIST: Tourism is going to be down 55 billion dollars year-on-year this year. Surely a plan to get the economy moving has got to include tourism and at some stage is going to have to include interstate travel, isn't it? 

JONES: Look, I want to see interstate travel up and running as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so. We’ve got to take the advice from the medical authorities. If you look at the national account figures, there is a couple of instructive things in there. If opening up our borders and letting this virus rip was the answer, then the United States would be going gangbusters. Sweden often cited as an example of the opposite would be going gangbusters. Our economic growth down by seven percent, Sweden down by eight and a half percent. So what this tells us is that we have to have our economic policies and our health policies working hand in hand. You know, people don't tend to spend up big when somebody they know is being rushed off to the hospital to intensive care. People will spend up big when they know we've got a plan for the future, a plan for jobs and that we've got the health crisis under control as well.

JOURNALIST: As your superannuation nemesis Andrew Bragg says that raising the compulsory contribution will destroy jobs or will result in job losses. Do you agree with that? 

JONES: Look, Andrew Bragg is a mouth for hire. He once advocated in favour of superannuation and the superannuation guarantee arrangements, when he was paid to do so. He has been paid to say something else now and has zero credibility. What we know from history is this, when we froze the superannuation guarantee arrangements under Tony Abbott, wages were frozen as well, and at that period when the superannuation arrangements were going up at the highest rate since superannuation was created, we also saw some of the highest wage growth. I'm talking about that period between 1996 and 2002. We saw the what was some of the highest wage growth in the last 50 years, at the same time superannuation was going up on average by 1% per year. So let's not have any of this rubbish by, you know, mouths for hire like Andrew Bragg and the Rolex militia who are out there on a sanctioned war against superannuation. Let's look at the data and the data is clear we do not have to make a trade-off between superannuation and wages. Let's get super moving. Let's get the economy moving again.