SATURDAY, 11 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; unemployment.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: While finance is the lifeblood of the economy, charities are the connective tissue. The 1.3 million charity workers help hold Australia together at times of crisis. This is a massive sector, and one which has been suffering a perfect storm over recent weeks. We've seen a huge drop off in donations to Australia's charities. Philanthropic foundations are experiencing lower sharemarket returns, so they're giving less. Australians are giving less to their favourite charities, and many significant fundraising events such as fundraising balls are dropping off. Op shops are closing. Charities are getting far less revenue now than they did in the past. They're suffering a fall in their volunteer base, too. Millions of Australians volunteer, but older Australians are increasingly refraining from volunteering because of the risk of being exposed to others.
At the same time, we need our charities more than we ever have. We need Australia's charities to assist with addressing family violence, with the challenge of joblessness, with the mental health issues that are arising and with problems around financial counselling. We're drawing on Australia's charities to help the homeless and Indigenous Australians, groups that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. And yet the Government has been slow to assist charities. Their first response package contained nothing for charities whatsoever. The second response package contained nothing for major charities. The third package, the wage subsidy scheme called JobKeeper, did assist some charities and more when the Government on Sunday night changed the threshold so that charities only had to have a 15 per cent drop in turnover rather than a 30 per cent drop in order to qualify. Labor welcomed that change.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 8 APRIL 2020
When parliament met 16 days ago, Britain, New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden were among the countries that had implemented significant wage subsidies to save jobs. Labor said at the time that Australia should do the same, and we're very pleased that, as a result of significant pressure from Labor, the business community and the union movement, the government has announced a $130 billion wage subsidy scheme.
This reflects Labor's fundamental view—like it says on the tin—we're Labor: we believe in the dignity and the purpose that comes with the job. We believe that it is important to minimise the unemployment tragedy that flows from the coronavirus crisis. One private-sector forecaster estimated that without this package unemployment would have gone to 17 per cent and that with it, it will peak at nine per cent. An eight per cent reduction in unemployment is worth the significant debt that the government will accrue as a result of this package. Total support will now be more in the order of 10 per cent of GDP than the three per cent of GDP it was beforehand.Read more
WEDNESDAY, 8 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; coronavirus restrictions and the economy.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Andrew Leigh is a very highly credentialed Labor member of the Federal Parliament for the ACT seat of Fenner. He happens to be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. He's most probably smarter than the people who've got the big gig, but that's another story. He's also though the Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, and the in Parliament sitting today. He's written to me expressing some concern about this JobKeeper legislation bill to be introduced into Parliament. I might add that Andrew Leigh is a James Ruse old boy, so he comes from his fairly smart intellectual stable. Labor and the Government are on the one side, Labor will support the bill. Now this fellow is not oppositional, Andrew Leigh. He's capable of evaluating things on merit. He has written to me to say that even though the Government made a minor tweak to the JobKeeper bill, allowing charities to claim if they had a revenue drop of 15 per cent rather than 30 per cent they'd qualify, Andrew Leigh is saying that major charities including Anglicare, UnitingCare and Oxfam have said that the solution won't work. I just thought we'd have a word with him. This is really important, because I know that there is a bit of disillusionment – and I was going to raise this with Andrew - a bit of disillusionment about charities because people gave generously in drought and bushfires and no one knows where that money has gone. But nonetheless, in this environment which is very, very difficult, charitable work - there is tremendous demands on these charities. Andrew, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Alan. Great to be on with you.
JONES: Thank you. Can I just preface things by saying that point, that charities are a little bit on the nose with the public because they feel that hundreds of thousands of dollars were given somewhere for drought and bushfire relief and no one seems to know where it is. Is that something that is often raised with you?
LEIGH: Certainly from time to time. I think it's absolutely critical that charities account to their members properly for every dollar they spend. They've got a public trust to spend given the money wisely, but I think in bushfire relief it was charities we turned to-Read more
CHARITY JOBS AT RISK
The future of hundreds of charity workers remain in limbo as they continue urging the Morrison Government to further revise the JobKeeper program.
In spite of initial changes to the program’s requirements, major charities - including Oxfam, Anglicare, UnitingCare, Fred Hollows Foundation, the Samaritans, St Vincent de Paul, Wesley Mission Queensland and many of our major medical research institutes - say they cannot meet the test of a 15 per cent drop in revenue required for charities to qualify.
According to a survey this week by the Australian Council of Social Service, many charities are expecting to have to shed jobs as a result of the drop in donations. They estimate that 37 per cent of anticipated job losses will still occur in organisations whose overall revenue loss is likely to be less than 15 per cent.Read more
ABC RADIO CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 7 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: The need for Parliament to keep sitting; JobKeeper payments for casuals and migrant workers; charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; coronavirus modelling.
ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: And it's the federal government's response for weeks now that you've probably been hanging on. What immediate financial relief is available to you? Where can you go? Where can't you? How clear is that advice from the federal government? Dr Andrew Leigh is a former professor of economics at the ANU. He's also the Federal Member for Fenner, a Labor member, and he's with us now on ABC Radio Canberra. Dr Leigh, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Adam. Great to be with you and your listeners.
SHIRLEY: How well are the economic measures taken by the Government working, in your view?
LEIGH: I think they'll have a significant effect. The estimate from Westpac is that if we hadn't had the wage subsidy the Parliament will pass tomorrow, unemployment would have hit 17 per cent. Westpac is now forecasting it'll hit 9 per cent. Now 9 per cent is still awful, but it's almost a halving of the unemployment rate as a result of this package. With stimulus 1 and 2, Labor said we welcomed them but they didn't go far enough, and that we needed to do what other countries have done and provide significant wage subsidies. And I'm pleased that Parliament will be passing those tomorrow.Read more
2CC CANBERRA DRIVE
MONDAY, 6 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper payments for casuals; charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; the importance of maintaining community.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now the Federal Member for Fenner and Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you.
DELANEY: Good to have you along again. I'll tell you what, that's a bit of a mouthful, all of this nonsense about changing the Fair Work Act and fiddling about with the different awards and enterprise agreements and so forth. I know we're here to talk about the changes for registered charities, but can we touch upon the JobKeeper package more generally to begin with, and which way you think the government should be addressing this question of implementing the changes. Changing the Fair Work Act or individually going through all the awards?
LEIGH: Leon, there's lots of twists and turns with this but I don't think it's hard to imagine the Fair Work Commission, which deals with a national wage case and with many awards every year, can't deal with an issue like this. What's important is to make sure that as many workers as possible are supported at a time when they might otherwise lose their jobs. There's debate in the US as to whether the unemployment rate there now is 13 per cent or 16 per cent, but either way it's clear that much of the world is in a recession already and it's just critical that as many employees as possible maintain that connection to their workplace. Once a firm goes insolvent, once a worker loses their job, those relationships are really hard to rebuild Leon and it means that the recovery becomes a whole lot slower. We want a V-shaped recovery, and that means doing what we can now. It also means looking after those casuals who've been employed for less than 12 months. The Government’s set this-Read more
CHARITIES ON THE BRINK
Major charities will have to dismiss staff in coming weeks unless the Morrison Government again revises its JobKeeper program.
Charities run a range of different services including retail stores, early childhood centres, disability services and facilities that bring communities together. In many cases, some operations have suffered massive losses of 80 per cent or more. But because other operations have been sustained, they do not meet the test of a 15 per cent drop in revenue that is required for charities to qualify for the JobKeeper program.
Charities have seen a major increase in demand for help, while also experiencing a drop in donations and volunteering numbers. While some federal assistance has been provided, much more is needed to help the sector navigate the impact of coronavirus.The government’s decision on 5 April to offer charities a reduced threshold (15 percent rather than a 30 percent drop in turnover) was an attempt to fix the problem. But major charities say that it isn’t a solution.Read more
FRIDAY, 3 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: The impact of coronavirus on Australian airlines; competition; US unemployment figures; Australian unemployment figures; stimulus measures and the wage subsidy package; government debt.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: My next guest on the program is Andrew Leigh, a shadow minister for the Labor party. Andrew, thanks very much for your time. Why don’t we start on Virgin Australia, I know you’ve had some comments to make on this. Labor’s been saying that the government might be acting in haste here, denying the assistance that Virgin is after, which might be a $1.4 billion or so loan. What is Labor saying exactly, that should be considered or that should just be given to Virgin to make sure they stay?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Tom, the bottom line is Australia needs two full service airlines. Much as we love the budget carriers, it's important that there is competition in the business end of the market. No market is well served by a monopoly. We saw from 2001 to 2008, after Ansett exited the market, the impact that that had on the choice of routes and on the fares themselves. So it's vital that the Government recognises that consumers are well served by competition. Whether that's done through an equity stake or through a loan - I'm actually pretty relaxed about that, Tom. But the Government should be engaging constructively. You know, they seem to be behaving towards Virgin no more constructively they behaved towards Holden when they goaded them to leave the country. This isn't a sensible approach for Australian flyers.Read more
LET’S TAKE THIS CHANCE TO REBUILD OUR SOLIDARITY
Herald Sun, 30 March 2020
A century ago, the Spanish Flu hit Australia. Quarantine measures were only partially effective, so in 1919, authorities turned to social distancing. Public gatherings were cancelled. Masks were distributed. Schools were closed. People stayed home when they could. One analysis of the response found that it prevented 22 percent of Australians from catching the potentially deadly disease. In the end, 15,000 Australians died. It was a huge toll, but smaller than you might expect from a disease that claimed over 50 million lives globally.
Social distancing measures work, but they are especially tough on those with fewer social connections. In a recent survey on social connections, Nick Terrell and I found that Australians report having only about half as many close friends as they did in the mid-1980s. We are also less likely to know our neighbours. Remarkably, half of all Australians report feeling lonely at least once a week.
Social capital is the idea that the bonds of trust and reciprocity that bind us together have inherent value. Those with stronger social networks tend to be healthier, to do better in business, and to report being happier with their lives. Yet over the past generation, Australians have become disconnected. We are less likely to attend church, less likely to join clubs, less likely to be part of a union, and less active in politics.
Sometimes, a crisis can build social capital. We have seen this at times of war, and at moments when communities put aside their differences to battle bushfires or fight floods. But disasters can also be emotionally scarring. As Lifeline warns, ‘The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to “burnout” and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.’Read more
HON LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR BARTON
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
EMERGENCY RELIEF BOOST WELCOME BUT PAYMENTS STILL NEEDED SOONER
The boost in emergency relief funding for food banks and financial counselling services announced today is important and welcome step, which Labor has been calling for.
But many families facing the loss of a job or being stood down will still be waiting at least a month to get the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus supplement.Read more