JobKeeper was for workers, not billionaires - Transcript, 2SM Mornings


SUBJECTS: Euthanasia; JobKeeper; Scott Morrison’s vaccination bungles; Scott Morrison’s government by rorting.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: I’m going to put my mate on the spot here. Andrew Leigh, good morning. how are you mate?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G'day, Marcus. Always pleased to be put on the spot.

PAUL: Alright, for or against euthanasia - if you were asked to vote with your conscience, how would you go?

LEIGH: I'd support it, Marcus. I've certainly been in a situation with family members who suffered unduly at the end of their lives. I know for myself I'd want to be able to choose the time to go if I had an incurable disease, and have my kids remember me as somebody who was strong and with all their faculties. I respect there's a lot of differences on this, but certainly when I look at the attitudes of Australians, most Australians are supportive. You've got a majority of Anglicans, a majority of Catholics, a majority of Liberal Party voters, Greens Party voters, One Nation voters. Right across the spectrum there's very strong support for euthanasia.

PAUL: It's certainly going to be an issue here in New South Wales over the coming days and weeks with this draft bill to legalize euthanasia in New South Wales. Alrighty, look, you think today it's probably best to lead off with the egregious decision of Premier Investments, the mob that runs Just Jeans, Dotti, and Smiggle. They said in March they weren't repaying the bulk of their JobKeeper because, they were ‘quarantining it to pay staff that might be stood down in future lock downs’. Yet, what, are you telling me that they're still shedding staff?

LEIGH: It's extraordinary, Marcus. They took more than $100 million in JobKeeper and paid back only a small share of that. Now, they’ve announced they're going to stand down staff in direct contradiction to what Solomon Lew, their biggest shareholder, had said back in March. Now it's one thing to take JobKeeper when your firm has rising earnings and to tell the Australian public you're hanging on to it for a rainy day, but then the rainy day comes and you throw the staff out in the rain to fend for themselves and get drenched.
The fact is there's a lot of firms that have done the right thing during the Sydney lockdown, taken a bit of a hit to the bottom line in order to hold onto their staff. There's been some government assistance. I think those packages could have been better designed, but it is extraordinary that you would profit off JobKeeper one year and then fire your staff the next.

PAUL: Yeah. Alright, well watch this space. I don't know what it'll mean with a lockdown, now, of retail in Sydney in particular, but I would hate to see any firms that kept JobKeeper when the times were good, I would hate to see them retrenching or letting off staff during this current lockdown, because you know very well they'll shift the blame to the Government and the health advice, et cetera, and that's not right.
The vaccine rollout continues to be a little tardy, even with 1 million new Pfizer doses arriving each week, that's the new timetable, the latest improved timetable, Andrew. We still remain last in the OECD for the percentage of people fully vaccinated.

LEIGH: It's shocking, Marcus. We should be one of the countries in the OECD that has the fastest vaccine rollout. We're relatively affluent, we've got a strong healthcare system, and if we had the political leadership to match that then we would have a higher share of the population vaccinated than countries such as Poland or the Czech Republic, Chile, Colombia, Mexico. All of those countries have significantly higher vaccination rates than we do. I'm increasingly wondering, Marcus, whether Scott Morrison's approach to vaccination isn't just the same as his approach to climate change, the same as his approach to stagnant wages: that these are problems you can just kick off into the never-never. You don't have to take action. It's not a race. You don't have to hold a hose. You can just sit back and let someone else deal with it. The fact is we need a prime minister who is willing to say that Australia can be at the top of the pack, to actually take some leadership on issues like climate, like wages, like COVID vaccination. If you don't have that strong, passionate leadership, then you do end up stone dead, motherless last in the OECD, which is where we are.

PAUL: All right, well, look, at the end of the day, it may well be that the tides are turning somewhat. I know we don't like to focus too much on polls but, you know, 53 to 47 is a pretty good lead at the moment, two-party preferred.

LEIGH: I think that reflects the frustration that so many Australians have with Scott Morrison, the idea that this is really a tired government more interested in pork-and-ride and sports rorts and all kinds of different deals for their mates. A whole bunch of these commuter parking stations, Marcus, weren't even at railway stations.

PAUL: I know, I know.

LEIGH: We know they were drawn up from the list of 20 marginal seats devised by Minister Tudge's office. We need a federal integrity commission to get to the bottom of the rorts and the mis-dealings by the Morrison Government, and we need a government that is as good as the Australian people. Right now the Australian people are making enormous sacrifices through these lockdowns, but they're being let down by a Morrison government that isn't doing the hard policy work on vaccination, that's ignoring climate change, that's ignoring the fact that people's wages are going backwards after inflation. It's just not good enough, Marcus.

PAUL: All right, Andrew, thank you, mate. Just on sports - no, oh God, I've lost count of the rorts, I was about to say sports rorts! - carpark rorts, they're sports rorts on steroids.

LEIGH: They blend into one another, don't they!

PAUL: One of your colleagues, Catherine King, who's obviously been involved in Estimates over this, she says that 87% of the money, hundreds of millions of dollars, were pork barrelled into Coalition seats ahead of the last election. I will speak to the Member for Ballarat about this in the next 15-20 minutes, Andrew.

LEIGH: Terrific. Catherine and Andrew Giles have been right on top of this and it's an issue that's got a long way to run.

PAUL: Alright, mate. Talk soon. Take care.

LEIGH: Look forward to it.

PAUL: There it is. A good bloke, Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.