Government's $13 billion in JobKeeper overpayments - Transcript, 2SM Mornings





SUBJECTS: Kristina Keneally; Joel Fitzgibbon; $13 billion of JobKeeper overpayments

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Let's speak to somebody from Labor about this: Andrew Leigh, our #JobKeeperWarrior. Good morning, Andrew.


PAUL: Thank you, mate. Look, Kristina Keneally, there's an offensive being mounted by the federal government and Labor detractors, critics, that Kristina Keneally being parachuted into Fowler is not a good thing.

LEIGH: Kristina is one of our strongest performers, somebody who's a former premier of New South Wales, and has a strong policy mind, who's able to take the fight up to the opposition, but who also, I think, will be a terrific advocate for the people for the people of Fowler.

PAUL: Will she live there, Andrew?

LEIGH: Absolutely she will Marcus. She just puts her heart and soul into everything she does. One of the things I really noticed about Kristina is whatever job she takes on she does it with absolute gusto. She is a woman who lives life 100 per cent and that will be true of her advocacy for her community. That community will have somebody in the cabinet, assuming we form government, and that will mean that they've got a voice at the highest levels of the government.

PAUL: I've got to do my job here, and I say it with the utmost respect and of course I admire Kristina Keneally, I think she's done remarkably well, but you do need to remember that she was smashed the last time, if you like, when she was in New South Wales as the Premier in that awful election result. Look, I don't know, I just hope it doesn't come back to bite Labor at the federal level, because the knives are out, Andrew, there's no doubt about it, from those critics of Labor.

LEIGH: Kristina Keneally took over that job at an extraordinarily difficult time. I don't think Barack Obama, Bill Clinton or Tony Blair could have led the New South Wales Labor Party to victory in that particular election. She did well to hold the show together, but it was fairly clear that New South Wales Labor was going to lose office. I don't think you ought to hold that against her. She's a formidable politician, one of our great stars. Of course, this situation arises because we have more talented women than we have spots. That's true of Jenny McAllister, Deb O'Neill and Kristina Keneally, who were contesting for those two upper house seats. It's also true of Tu Le, who I hope will be able to find an opportunity to serve Labor in the future. She's only 30, and I'm sure she's got a bright future in politics ahead of her.

PAUL: Well, as long as she's, and this is my concern, because I've followed a little bit of what she's been up to, and I receive daily emails - well, I am now, ever since this announcement by Labor in support of her - and look, as you know, I strongly advocate for, you know, some of the changes that I want and that I believe that a Labor government could bring to Australians, but, you know, I kind of get a little, I hate to say it, Andrew, a little disappointed. I don't know why Tu couldn't just be allowed to run there and maybe Kristina put somewhere else. I don't know

LEIGH: I know exactly where you're coming from, Marcus. I'm a strong supporter of the rank-and-file pre-selection system. It's served us very well here in the ACT. I think that's the way in which these decisions ought to be made right across the party. But until we move to that system, the world is as it is, and we are fortunate to be served by an array of talented women. Now, you look at the other side of the house, they've got about a quarter women, we've got about a half, and that is just chalk and cheese in terms of our commitment to issues like gender equity, sexual harassment, and making sure that we're a better nation.

PAUL: Alright, yesterday I spoke to your colleague, soon-to-be-former colleague on the program, Joel Fitzgibbon. I believe he'll be a loss for Labor. Hopefully you can pony up somebody with as much support as he has in the Hunter.

LEIGH: Yes, the retiring- but-not-shy Joel Fitzgibbon, somebody who has been a very firm voice on the issues that he cares about. One of the things I think we always need to make sure we deal with as a party is to have contestation of ideas. We need that diversity of views, because having somebody in the room who thinks differently from you tests your ideas. Even if they're wrong that forces you to sharpen your views. I've enjoyed many conversations with Joel over big ideas. He's not somebody who shies from an argument and he's somebody who is passionately committed to the Labor cause.

PAUL: Alright, well, passionate or not, he's gone. I worry that up there in the Hunter the Labor vote may be eaten up by One Nation. I wouldn't be surprised, and I'll quiz him on it a little later this week, Mark Latham could well be the elephant in the room, there.

LEIGH: I don't know the details of what's going on in the Hunter, but it would be a bit of a mistake for the people of the Hunter to have a representative who would be marginal at best for their interests in the parliament. One Nation has, in general, really struggled to make any impact on the Australian public. In the Senate right now they do deals here and there, but they're not a central force to governing the country and they never will be.

PAUL: Alright, let's talk about decisions by premiers whether or not to do daily press conferences. The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, she'd get a start in the Australian Olympic side with that magnificent about-face somersault yesterday. If she wasn't going to show up to the press conferences in New South Wales, and she was obviously saying that yesterday, 'oh, it's Monday, we've reached a milestone, I was always going to be here.' Well, then when she made the announcement last Friday and over the weekend, why didn't she tell reporters there and then that she would be fronting up on Monday, yesterday. I believe in my heart of hearts she only fronted up to the cameras because the Opposition was very strong and Chris Minns decided to hold his own press conference and Gladys was given hell by reporters and in the press over the weekend.

LEIGH: It's hard to be the Premier during a pandemic, but that's what we pay you to do. Daniel Andrews turned up day after day through the Victorian lockdown. It's what people expect, those daily updates. Here in the ACT you've had Andrew Barr doing it regularly through the pandemic. People come to rely on that calm, clear assurance from the Premier and the health officials. It's just not reasonable to be ducking the job. It reminds me of Scott Morrison not going out to speak to the March for Justice and refusing to come home from Hawaii during the bushfires. At certain times you take on a job and you've got to be there to do it the way in which people expect.

PAUL: Alright, now: JobKeeper. You are our #JobKeeperWarrior. What are the latest developments? I noticed that, well, there are some others who ordinarily would be, I guess, a little shy of commenting on this. It's gathering momentum, I guess is the point I'm trying to make, and a really good story on 60 Minutes has, I believe, brought this more into the mainstream. You and I have been talking about it till, you know, till we're hoarse. We've been calling for the repayment of all of this money for so long now, at least what, eight, nine months? Maybe even longer, Andrew, but the others are catching up.

LEIGH: That's right. I gave my first speech on this in August 2020 in the parliament, but it's been fantastic during the last week to see a range of voices from across the political spectrum coming on board and speaking out about the $13 billion given the firms with rising revenue. We've had Niki Savva, a former advisor to John Howard and Peter Costello, Janet Albrechtsen and Judith Sloan speaking out against the JobKeeper overpayment scandal. During the week we've learned that more than $100 million flowed offshore to foreign shareholders, including $5 million of JobKeeper that went to one of the richest families in Singapore. Now, I'm all for foreign aid, Marcus, but if we're going to give foreign aid let's give it to poor people in foreign countries, not foreign billionaires.

PAUL: Well, can't argue with any of that, Andrew, and that 60 Minutes report was a damning indictment on the flaw in the system. Absolutely it was, and I would encourage anybody listening to us right now that's still a little sceptical about all of this to Google it, and you can watch it on YouTube, that 60 Minutes report. It was a really good expose of the unfairness of the system, and how the Federal Government allowed so much taxpayer dollars to fall into the bank accounts of big business owners, shareholders and others, and as you say, even overseas entities, private schools, even though they've done quite well out of the pandemic. We deserve greater scrutiny of how our taxpayer dollars are spent, particularly this amount of money, Andrew. As we know, it'll take generations to pay off.

LEIGH: Certainly will, and Liam Bartlett in that 60 Minutes account really brought out the contrast with Jan Raabe, a pensioner from Frankston who had a JobKeeper supported job and has now been overpaid her pension and has to pay it back at a rate of $15 a fortnight. The call for her to pay it back contrasts with the fact that the Morrison Government won't lift a finger to ask some of the cashed-up firms in Australia who didn't need billions in government support to hand the money back.

PAUL: Yep, absolutely. I'm going to play a little bit of your speech on Jan in just a moment just to remind people of why it really should have been called #DividendKeeper rather than JobKeeper. All right, Andrew, thank you for your time, mate. I appreciate it.

LEIGH: Thank you, Marcus.


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.