SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 29 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: The Morrison Government’s woeful track record on technology; the need to invest in education; Terminals/MUA dispute; Reconnected.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's go to Canberra now. Joining us live is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, good to see you. First of all, let's get your reaction to this announcement coming up today from the Prime Minister.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: We've clearly seen rapid uptake in technology. We're probably at 2010 when it comes to globalisation, but at 2030 when it comes to technological uptake. What I worry about from this government though is their track record. You’ve just got to look back at the census fail and the robodebt disaster to worry about the government's ability to really get it right when it comes to technology. Rationalising business registers is something that Parliament passed previously, getting a director identification number is something that should have been done years ago. So some of these measures are reannouncements, to the extent that they’re fresh we’ll obviously look through them carefully. But the best way of getting Australians engaged with technology is to expand education, and right now you're not seeing that with universities. You're not seeing an expansion of universities, which should take place at an economic moment like this.
STEFANOVIC: But I guess the pandemic is forcing people to change their thinking, and by encouraging business to take up technology at a much more rapid rate, surely that is a good thing, and will be supported?
LEIGH: Technological uptake’s incredibly important. We also need to think about the flow on effects that has. There's going to be some level of job displacement that comes from technologies such as automated checkout within retail or greater use of robots within factories. So that'll have impacts on the labour market, and I don't see from the government a sense that they've really thought this through for the long term. We had last year the Morrison Stagnation, where productivity was going backwards, wage growth was in the doldrums, business investment was down. Now we're in the Morrison Recession, and I don't get the sense that they're doing more than reaching into the Liberal Party compost bin of rotting old ideas, rather than really thinking through what the economy needs. The idea that we need to be taking money out of superannuation, that we need to be fighting culture wars in universities, that we need more irresponsible lending - these are discredited ideas the Liberal Party's running with, rather than investing in skills and productivity and building the productive capacity of the economy.
STEFANOVIC: But their idea I mean, their argument when it comes to super anyway is that this is the pandemic. It's the cat amongst the pigeons. It's changed everything. And so when it comes to super, I mean their argument is that, okay the idea in itself, it's been legislated, it's a good idea, but right now, that can't happen because businesses can't afford it.
LEIGH: If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge you might want to buy, Pete. Some in the Liberal Party have always been against superannuation. They’ve looked for an opportunity now to privatise the recovery, essentially asking Australians to rip money out of their retirement savings, to be poorer in retirement in order to get through the pandemic now. Many other countries have provided much more generous levels of support. Many other countries have expanded education in a way that we haven't chosen to, and fighting the culture wars against the arts and university sector right now is absolutely the wrong approach for the government to be taking.
STEFANOVIC: Just this issue, Andrew, of wharfies striking. There’s a whole lot of containers that have been postponed, are being delayed and slowed down. It's over, you know, a strike, a pay dispute. Do you think that there is an element of being a bit tone deaf here at the moment, considering what's going on in the pandemic? What's your view of that?
LEIGH: I only know what I read in the papers, which suggests that there's protected industrial action being taken by the union that involves a relatively short stoppage. I think it's a matter for the Fair Work Commission to sort out. I think if the industrial relations minister is really serious about resetting the relationship with the unions, then he'd be leaving it to the independent umpire rather than choosing to pick a public fight.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just finally you got a new book, Reconnected: A Community Builder’s Handbook. Give us the pitch, Andrew.
LEIGH: Reconnected is about expanding community. Nick Terrell and I are worried that Australians have fewer friends, know fewer neighbours, are less likely to attend church or be part of a union. And so what we've done is we've engaged with thousands of community builders to tell their stories. Groups like Orange Sky, which drive mobile laundry vans around Brisbane and connect up the homeless. Groups such as the Kindness Pandemic, which has used Facebook not to spread false news but to renew hope in the face of the pandemic. We've showcased ways in which organisations are bringing together diverse groups, such as helping vulnerable communities connect to sport. It's a whole lot of stories, but it's also a plan for building a more connected nation. A country more of ‘we’ than of ‘me’.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Reconnected. There it is. Andrew Leigh, as always, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us.
LEIGH: Thanks very much, Pete.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.