2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 23 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: The need to change the culture of sexual harassment and entitlement in Parliament House; Support for a Royal Commission into veterans’ suicide; JobKeeper.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh is our #JobKeeperWarrior. He joins us each Tuesday on the program. G’day, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Marcus. How are you?
PAUL: Well, thank you, mate. Now a couple of things I wanted to touch on. An awful story emerged in the press overnight in relation to, well, a bit of hanky panky going on there in the Parliament. Stuff that really should be outside of federal parliament. I'm going to be honest with you mate, I think Australians are getting a bit sick and tired of hearing of all of this rubbish. Parliament is a building that should be, as far as I'm concerned and I think most Australians would agree, it's building that needs to be set aside for lawmaking rather than extracurricular activities. I mean, what do you make of this news overnight?
LEIGH: More Animal House than Parliament House, isn't it, Marcus? It does remind you that there are people out there who forget what a privilege it is to serve the public, whether that's in elected office or working for a Member of Parliament. There are people who would give their eye teeth for that chance, and every day we go into to do those jobs we should see them as a privilege. But some of these guys seem to reckon that they’re born to rule, that they've got a right to treat the place abominably. It's just awful behaviour, it shouldn't be tolerated in any side of politics.
PAUL: I mean, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blasted as disgusting and sickening reports of Liberal staffers allegedly performing sex acts inside Parliament. He's urged staffers with any more information about them to come forward. The PM said the conduct of the staffers was totally unacceptable, and as soon as the man at the centre of the claims was identified he was fired. I mean, it is unacceptable. We expect Parliament to be a place of high values, of you know supreme morals, and yet all this stuff's going on.
LEIGH: It’s good that this person has been removed, but certainly there's a culture that needs to be dealt with, and Kate Jenkins’ inquiry I hope will go directly to that. This culture of sexual harassment has been allowed to permeate for too long in Parliament, as it has of course in many other workplaces. We know that sexual harassment is one of the big things that's causing the gender pay gap to stay stubbornly wide in Australia, and narrowing it's in the interest of us all.
PAUL: Alright. Now the royal commission into veteran suicide. It seems everybody is in agreeance that this needs to be endorsed by the Prime Minister and set up. I think Scott Morrison is heading toward that direction.
LEIGH: He’s one of those guys who might do the right thing once he's exhausted every other alternative. I just don't know why it needed to take so long, Marcus. We know that serving military personnel are half as likely to take their own lives as the general public, but veterans are twice as likely to take their own lives. We’ve lost many more veterans to suicide than we have to battlefield casualties in the last 20 years. So this has got to be a high priority. The royal commission’s the right way of dealing with it. Anthony Albanese has been out there doggedly making this case and Scott Morrison has had to be dragged to it, just as the Liberals were dragged to the banking royal commission.
PAUL: Alright. Now the other issue I wanted to touch on, how are we going with clawing back more millions of dollars in JobKeeper?
LEIGH: It’s been a zero week, as best I can tell, Marcus. So we had a bit of a deluge a while back, but we haven't got too much coming back lately. So with JobKeeper coming to an end now in just a handful of days, it is a real priority to make sure that we've got money coming back from firms whose profits went up. You look at retailers like Accent Group or Premier Investments that have done extraordinarily well through the pandemic. We had this list coming out on the weekend in The Australian of Australia's top 250 rich listers. There's a surprising number of them that benefited from JobKeeper, a program which really should have been focused on keeping battlers in jobs rather than helping billionaires buy their next yacht.
PAUL: The concern, of course, and the reason I've been talking about it is because the more money we can get back from some of these larger businesses, it could have meant that JobKeeper may be extended. But that's obviously not going to be the case now, Andrew.
LEIGH: That’s right, and estimates of job losses vary. Treasury says 100,000. Jeff Borland, an economist at the University of Melbourne, says 150,000 to 250,000. So there's a lot of jobs on the line and if you go to places like Cairns, heavily dependent on international tourism, JobKeeper has been their lifeline. I'm really worried about what will happen, and that this will potentially stymie the recovery.
PAUL: Alright, good to have you on, Andrew. Thank you for your time.
LEIGH: Thanks, Marcus. Take care.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.