ABC RADIO MELBOURNE
WEDNESDAY, 7 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal budget; the Morrison Government’s lack of plan for full employment, for climate change, for universities, for older workers, for childcare, for productivity; the Government’s track record on Sports Rorts, Reef Rorts, HelloWorld, the Paladin scandal, Robodebt and Watergate.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: I’ve left Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury waiting, and I apologise Mr Leigh for doing that. But I did want to get a quick response from you to the budget last night. Is it the right amount of money spent the right way?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Hello, Virginia. Great to be with you and your listeners. We’re concerned about the size of the debt that Australia is racking up and what we get for it. So a trillion dollars of debt, but there's no plan for full employment, for climate change, for universities, for older workers, for childcare or for productivity. So we think that if you're going to be racking up that much debt - no surplus until the 2030s at the earliest - you could have gotten more for the economy. We're worried that older workers are being left out, that there's wage subsidies for hiring under-35s but for nearly a million older workers who are on unemployment benefits there's no incentive for employers to bring them on.
TRIOLI: So if the debt was even deeper, but there were more payments or incentives for other workers, you wouldn't have a problem with it?
LEIGH: It's about spending the money the right way. I mean, this is a government that delivered us Sports Rorts, Reef Rorts, HelloWorld, the Paladin scandal, Robodebt and Watergate. They just paid over $30 million to a Liberal donor for a block of land worth $3 million. So this is a government that has form on wasting money, and spending money more efficiently is exactly what we need right now. Every single dollar is borrowed money, and we need to be sure that it's doing the most not just to get economic growth now, but to set us up for prosperity in the future.
TRIOLI: It's interesting to hear from other economists who say they've got really no problem with the amount of debt that we're racking up, what else would you do in a pandemic. It's more the forecasts that are the issue. So, it's not so much the debt, but whether we can actually get to creating those jobs. What would you do instead?
LEIGH: It's about the quality of the spending. There's very little here for education. We know that disadvantaged students have basically lost a year of education, particularly in Victoria. We know that there's great opportunities for young people wanting to get to universities, but there's just not going to be enough places available. Why should Australian taxpayers be paying money to have young people on unemployment benefits when they could be studying, learning the skills that will prepare them to work in the automated workplaces of the future? There's not enough of that forward planning. Partly Virginia that comes down to the fact that the Coalition for so many years has seen the one yardstick of good budgets as being whether or not they deliver a surplus. Now that that's gone, they don't really have any economic compass as to what a what a good budget is, what an investment budget entails.
TRIOLI: Andrew Leigh, I'm sorry I've had to cut you short this morning, but it's good to hear from you. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.