SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
THURSDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Westpac’s record fine; Insolvency and government inaction on dodgy companies’ phoenixing activities; Paul Keating and the RBA; JobSeeker and the need to support our unemployed.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me now is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, thanks for joining us this morning. Let's get your take on this breaking news from Westpac. It's agreed to pay $1.3 billion.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Yes, I pushed Peter King the CEO of Westpac in the House Economics hearings a couple of weeks ago as to why Westpac had only put aside $900 million to cover the fine. I was pretty sceptical at the time that that was going to be enough, given that the regulator was asking for $1.5 billion and given that the Commonwealth Bank's breaches - which didn't see them lose their chair or the CEO, didn't involve the sorts of extraordinary misconduct that Westpac was engaged in - cost the Commonwealth Bank $700 million. I see now Westpac hadn't put enough aside and indeed the fine is much closer to what the regulator was calling for than what Westpac had provisioned. That’s appropriate, given the misconduct.Read more
2CC CANBERRA DRIVE
TUESDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper and JobSeeker; Cuts to universities and job losses in Canberra; the Morrison Government’s lack of long term planning; the need to support unemployed Australians and maintain a liveable rate of JobSeeker.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: The battle over whether or not to reduce employment subsidies continues, although that reduction is due to take effect from the beginning of next week. New analysis shows that the ACT will lose almost $17 million a week when the payments are reduced next week. The JobKeeper rate is due to fall by $300 a fortnight from the start of next week for full time employees, by $750 a fortnight for part time employees, and further reduced again in January, Joining me now, Member for Fenner, Dr Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. How are you?
DELANEY: Very well, thanks. Thanks for joining us today. JobKeeper - well, we've said all along it was a jolly good idea. It's done a great thing in keeping the economy supported. It could have been a little better, there were some cracks through which some people fell. But now of course the crunch time has come. We're about to see it start being wound back. There's been a lot of argument and discussion in recent times about whether or not now is the time to do this, but that's what's happening. What do you see will be the fallout when this proceeds next week?
LEIGH: It'll be twofold, Leon. First of all, we're going to have a range of people not getting the support that they used to have, either because their firms aren't eligible or because their amount of assistance is being scaled back from $750 a week to $600 a week. But we're then also going to see the spill over impact to the community, because JobKeeper money is going to people who are living paycheque to paycheque, and so it's all getting spent. It’s all going back into retail, into hospitality, into paying the rent. And so we're going to see millions of dollars ripped out of the ACT economy when JobKeeper gets cut at the end of the month.Read more
6PR PERTH LIVE
TUESDAY, 22 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: JobSeeker; Companies treating JobKeeper like BonusKeeper; October Budget; the Morrison Government’s lack of long term planning.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Olly.
PETERSON: It looks like more than 3000 people have found a loophole with JobKeeper. They’re claiming unemployment benefits because the asset test was waived. Seems a bit odd, Andrew.
LEIGH: It certainly does, Olly, and the government could have dealt with this anytime in the last six months with just the stroke of a pen. The thing about the JobKeeper and JobSeeker changes is that the government had extraordinary discretion to be able to close this loophole, and seems to have chosen not to.
PETERSON: We're talking about people who may have assets such as cars, perhaps holiday homes, totalling more than a million dollars. Should they have to pay this back?
LEIGH: I think it’s a question for the government. They're the ones that chose not to close the loophole, they're the ones that have chosen to allow JobSeeker to be used in this way. So really, it's up to them how they deal with an issue that shouldn't have gotten to this stage.
PETERSON: They're going to be closing that loophole this Friday as the JobKeeper program is having a few nips and tucks, for want of a better term. The asset test will return later this week. So it's estimated 30,000 people will be affected by the asset limits. Is that some sort of acknowledgement or confession, do you think Andrew, from the government that this loophole should have been closed when the program was created?
LEIGH: Olly, I think it made sense at the time the changes were made [in March] that we relaxed the asset limit somewhat. The problem was that the government allowed it to go completely and then didn't keep an eye on who was actually claiming. We do need to make sure that the support’s available for people who need it. I know that the sudden snapback in JobKeeper and JobSeeker is going to take a lot of money out of local communities. One thing about the payments given to those who are earning very little is that they go straight back into the economy. So they're out there supporting retail, supporting hospitality, supporting childcare. And as that money gets taken out of communities, we can expect a follow on effect on the economy.Read more
ABC NEWS RADIO
FRIDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Australian universities facing job losses after missing out on JobKeeper; Companies treating JobKeeper like BonusKeeper; Charities facing a perfect storm.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: The ABC is revealed one of America's top universities, with revenue of 16 and a half billion Australian dollars, has received the JobKeeper payment at its Sydney campus. New York University is an elite institution with outposts all over the world, but staff at its Sydney campus were apparently able to access Australia's taxpayer funded JobKeeper program. Its eligibility could infuriate Australian universities, who missed out and where job losses have exceeded 11,000 with more to come. Federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh is the Deputy Chair of the House of Representatives Economics Committee. He recently asked why many corporations in receipt of millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments seem to be passing it on to their executives in the form of large bonuses, while the taxpayers cover their wage cost. Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Glen. Great to be with you.
BARTHOLOMEW: First, reaction to this news that a New York University was eligible for this taxpayer assistance.
LEIGH: Look, I don’t begrudge NYU getting it. I don’t begrudge a private Australian university - Bond University - getting it. But it is pretty extraordinary, isn't it, that the government's changed the rules three times to prevent public universities from accessing JobKeeper. We're now seeing 11,000 job losses. Universities Australia say it might go to 21,000 losses. And all this at a time in which young people are facing the worst labour market in decades, when we should be opening up university places. Now the smart thing to do during a downturn is to provide young people with a chance to study. We ought to be expanding universities, not contracting them.Read more
2GB MONEY NEWS
THURSDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: JobKeeper, BonusKeeper, DividendKeeper
BROOKE CORTE, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. Welcome to Money News, Andrew Leigh. Do you reckon it passes the sniff test?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: I don't, Brooke, and very few people I've spoken to think it does. We had the head of the Business Council Jennifer Westacott out on Sunday, saying that she didn't think that firms receiving government subsidies through JobKeeper should be paying the executives a bonus. It's just one of those basic principles, that if you have to put your hand out to the taxpayer to ask for assistance in order to hold onto your staff, then you shouldn't be paying executive bonuses to those at the very top of the organisation. Yet we've seen some of those firms which are paying bonuses of over a million dollars, despite being in receipt of taxpayer assistance.
CORTE: The BCA as you said, I saw that too, they’ve called it out. Jennifer Westacott. It's tricky though, isn't it? The companies haven't done anything wrong. They met the eligibility requirements for JobKeeper.
LEIGH: Just because something's legal doesn't mean it's morally the right thing to do. People need to recognise that in a crisis like this, we need to pull together. There's a great Australian egalitarian tradition. We're a nation that does prize the notion of working together, and most firms did do the right thing. The purpose for JobKeeper was not to keep billionaires in champagne - it was to keep battlers in jobs. It's called JobKeeper. It's not called BonusKeeper. It's not called DividendKeeper. The fact is if you've got enough money to be paying bonuses, then you should think about doing what the New Zealand company Mainfreight did. They actually went back to the New Zealand government and said ‘we're eligible for the wage subsidy payment, but we don't need it - spend the money on others who need it. Spend the money on people who are living pay cheque to pay cheque, who are worried about how they're going to feed their family’. This is the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, and we don't need to be paying million-dollar bonuses to people on multimillion dollar salaries.Read more
ABC CANBERRA BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: R U OK Day; Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention.
LISH FEJER, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is the federal Member for Fenner, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. He is also co-chair of The Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention, which is the crux of all of this, in checking in ‘are you okay’. Good morning, Dr Leigh.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Lish. That was a beautiful summary of the issue that you gave earlier. It's a real challenge for our community right now, isn’t it?
FEJER: It really is, and it's only going to get more challenging as certain things are wound back, as the full extent of COVID-19 comes to the fore. What is the Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention? What does this group do?
LEIGH: It's about raising the profile of the issue of suicide prevention and mental health in Australia, co-chaired with Julian Leeser, the federal Member for Berowra and a good mate of mine. He’s somebody who has been working for a long time on this issue, and he like me has had his life touched by the issue. I don't think people realise that suicide takes twice as many lives every year as the road toll. An average of eight Australians every day die by suicide, and it's a particular issue among LGBTI+ communities, rural communities, Indigenous communities. So we need to do more to bring that toll down.Read more
ABC MELBOURNE DRIVE
TUESDAY, 8 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: China; JobKeeper payments; holding the Morrison Government to account; aged care.
RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: The federal government says it has spent an extra $15 billion widening the criteria for those who are eligible for JobKeeper, and they widened those criteria because of the situation in Victoria. Labor is unimpressed. Dr Andrew Leigh joins us. He's the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, one of the MPs in the city, the capital, Canberra, and part of Anthony Albanese’s team. Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Raf. Great to be with you.
EPSTEIN: Just on the journalists in China, do you think China's singling Australia out?
LEIGH: It certainly feels that way, and I guess we need to remember that the relationship is strongest when there's frank media on both sides. That was something that the deputy ambassador emphasised at the National Press Club when he spoke recently, and I hope that underlies China's approach.Read more
ABC NEWS RADIO
FRIDAY, 4 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Economics Committee Hearing with the Major Banks; JobKeeper as DividendKeeper; International Day of Charity.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: I think it’s going to important to delve into how the banks have responded to the crisis, to find out why the loan facility provided by the government hasn't been accompanied by a surge in small business lending. We've seen big businesses taking out more loans, but small business lending has contracted 8 per cent. So I'll be keen to explore that some of the big banks.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: It's been estimated that bank loans have been deferred for more than 700,000 mortgages and businesses, adding up to around $260 billion. Now, total equity in banks is estimated at only about $250 billion. The big four budgeted just $3.7 billion for impaired loan write offs in the last financial year. That's been increased a little now. Is there a reckoning coming, given the amnesty for businesses trading while insolvent is about to expire? Are defaults likely?
LEIGH: That's certainly something on which I get very mixed messages speaking to people in the industry. Whether there's likely to be a surge of insolvencies or not at the beginning of October is up in the air, and obviously a crucial issue for the banks. One of the other issues for householders is what's going to happen when repayments recommence, and often at a higher rate. For people who've had their interest capitalised into their payments, they may now find themselves facing higher monthly repayments than they did last year. So that could place a significant strain on households, particularly people where there's been a job lost.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020
In March my constituent Chris Endrey found himself jobless. As he put it:
The financial distress of this period has pressed into other areas of my life, with deleterious impacts on my health; a loss of housing security; the loss of higher order capacities, which evaporate in the face of such baseline pressures… I'm so desperate to end my hours of infinite couch surfing ,writing stupid letters and instead channel my energies and talents into something of use to our rumbling society.
Chris Endrey is among the one million Australians out of work. Another 400,000 will lose their jobs before Christmas.Read more
ABC ADELAIDE MORNINGS
WEDNESDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: JobKeeper payments.
DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Andrew Leigh is making headlines. He’s the Labor MP for the ACT seat of Fenner. He's making headlines because he had a good look at the JobKeeper scheme, and he says ‘you know what? I'm not happy with where some of this money is ending up’. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, David. Great to be with you.
BEVAN: What's the problem?
LEIGH: Most firms did absolutely the right thing when the downturn hit. They received government subsidies if they’d had a big drop in revenue, and they used them to support jobs. But there's a small number of firms that appear to have done the wrong thing - paying out substantial bonuses to executives, paying out significant dividends, which in some cases have ended up lining the pockets of billionaires. The thing about JobKeeper is it was designed to support the jobs of battlers, not to benefit billionaires. It's there in order to reduce inequality, but some firms seem to be using it to increase inequality.Read more