SKY NEWS AM AGENDA
WEDNESDAY, 13 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Wrapping up JobKeeper early; no plan for the economy after COVID-19; early access superannuation scheme fraud.
ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us live is Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones. Thank you for you time. There’s been a lot of discussion about JobKeeper wrapping up early. What do you make of this push from, we’ve heard, a number of Liberal MPs saying we should be wrapping up sooner, if we can, to save the budget bottom line?
STEPHEN JONES MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: This is crazy talk. You know, it was announced six weeks ago, big announcement, but the cash is only started flowing this week. Eight weeks into the crisis, six weeks after the announcement, one week of cash flowing to businesses, small businesses around the country and Government members are saying let's cancel the scheme. I mean, absolute crazy. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said the most important thing to get the economy moving again was business and consumer confidence. Well, nothing is guaranteed to put a hole right through consumer confidence than foolish Government members out there saying let's cancel a scheme that's only just got up and running.
NIELSEN: In the meantime though, you do have some people actually making more money out of JobKeeper than they would have been making out of their own salaries, if they were working. It doesn't give you much incentive to get back to work.
JONES: No, a point I raised in Question Time with the Treasurer yesterday. It seems perverse that some people are excluded from the JobKeeper scheme for no good reason, while others are getting more money. I think this needs to be revisited. We're calling on the Government to redesign the scheme. We think we should be able to reallocate some of that money that is going to workers who are getting more than they work pre-crisis so that we can extend the scheme to workers who are currently excluded for no good reason. Let's focus on the needs of the workers and those areas. It's absolutely critical that we keep a connection between the worker and their workplace and that we provide a decent level of wage support for those workers right across the economy. Too many excluded, too many are getting more than they were pre-COVID-19 crisis. It needs fixing, it needs fixing quickly.
NIELSEN: Labor has also seized on these comments made by the Government about a snap back in the economy. Is that a bit unfair considering we were dealing with a lot of unknowns when the Government said that and really that is something we should be aspiring to even if it turns out that global forces mean it's not as achievable as anyone would have liked?
JONES: I’d except the talk of a snap back more readily if we had the Treasurer using his opportunity, or the Prime Minister using the opportunity, of Parliament convening yesterday on budget day, supposed to be the time when a big economic statement was going to be made, we got absolutely nothing. We got zip, nada, nix. It was a perfect opportunity for the Government to say; here is our path way out of this crisis, we're nowhere near having it beat yet, but here is a pathway out of the crisis. And instead we got crickets. So I don't criticise the Government for moving quickly and in some respects making some mistakes, that's understandable. But when they won't listen to advice when obvious mistakes are made and not fixed and when they call for confidence and they talk about a snap back but they give us nothing by way of a plan to get there, then they are deserving of the criticism they're getting.
NIELSEN: Is that a bit unfair though? Yesterday was an economic update, updates don't usually involve plans. We're expecting more of a plan next month, when we have a better idea of what these easing of restrictions will do to the economy.
JONES: Look, I don't think it's unfair. At a time when the Prime Minister is calling on schools to get back, where he's calling on businesses to be reopening, when he's saying we got to get this economy moving again, I don't think it's unfair at all to ask the Prime Minister; okay, this is what you're asking the states to do, this is what you're asking businesses and households to do, what are you doing yourself? And we got no answer to that. Big at making statements not too good at implementing the announcements that they've made and not too good at outlining a pathway forward. In fact to the extent we've had anything, it's a reheating of old ideas. Now the Australian people are wanting more than that. If the Prime Minister is calling on sates and businesses to do something, it's reasonable enough for us to say; okay fair enough, what are you going to do?
NIELSEN: If we can turn to superannuation now, there have been concerns about people's super funds taking a hit. There's been some surprising data, even medium balanced option super funds are up 2.7 percent in April. Does that show we were perhaps a bit too nervous about this early access superannuation scheme?
JONES: Too early to tell what the long-term impact is going to be. I know for a whole heap of individuals who have cleaned out their superannuation accounts the long-term impact of that for their retirement savings will be devastating. I think it is worthwhile taking a pause and saying actually the superannuation sector has done pretty damn well, they've delivered over a million claims, they have provided 6.4 billion dollars worth of stimulus to households, to individuals into the economy over a very short period of time. In less than two weeks 6.4 billion dollars, the Government couldn't deliver that with its JobKeeper program, but the superannuation sector is delivered that, very very important. I think it's also worthwhile reflecting on the fact that our pool of domestic savings has been absolutely critical to the capital raisings on the Australian stock market and I'd like to see some more data on that, because I think we'll find far from being an institution that has been criticised by many Government members, our superannuation funds have actually been a critical part to keeping capital moving, liquidity flowing and helping households bridge the gap between them losing their jobs and losing income and government support coming through. I think they've done a very good job.
NIELSEN: I don't want to overstate those figures that, I mean on average it is 8.1% that super funds are down across the country. And so there are still concerns about liquidity going forward. What do you think we can be doing to bolster the industry to make sure that people's retirement savings aren't under threat?
JONES: I think the most important thing we need right now, Annelise, is policy certainty. I think we can weather the immediate storm. I had some initial concerns that I expressed to you and others. I had some initial concerns about liquidity. It appears if the current trends are maintained that won't come to pass and that's a good thing. I welcome that. I think that's a great thing that our funds will be able to cope with that. Just as important as that is ensuring that we have long-term policy certainty, so our funds are able to make the sort of long-term Investments that our economy needs right now. We need investors in the market who are investing for the long-term, not short-term gains, but long-term gains in economic infrastructure and economic good that is in the national interest. We need capital in there doing that today. But I also think that's important for members of the superannuation funds, whose interests have got to come first. We need policy certainty so our superannuation funds can be making the long-term investments that are going to ensure that fund members recover, 30% hit to the share market over the last two months, we need to ensure that they recover that money, but over the long-term are able to do the great work they do in building retirement savings for Australians.
NIELSEN: Stephen Jones Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Thank you for your time.
JONES: Great to be with you.