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Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB Afternoons

10 April 2020

Interviewer: 
Deb Knight

Subject: JobKeeper, Easter, JobSeeker, the week in politics.

E&OE

Interview with Deborah Knight, and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: As we do every Friday, whether it's a public holiday or not, we're joined by Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister, and Joel Fitzgibbon, Shadow Agriculture Minister. Hello fellas. Happy Easter.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Happy Easter Deb.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: G'day Deb. G'day Angus. Happy Easter.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Good to have you with us on what's been a massive week in politics. The JobKeeper package - really, we've got to stand back and take this in - $130 billion this scheme, the biggest single package ever introduced through Parliament. It is massive, Angus Taylor. And in terms of whether or not there could be more added to it, potentially, could it become even bigger?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well there is a lot more, but of course, it in itself is a centrepiece, Deb and it's one of the most generous programs of this kind in place in the world. And it's important because we've got to keep our employees connected to our employers. We've got to be in a position where our businesses can get up and running once we get out of this, and of course we've got to make sure that people are well supported all the way through. So it's important. But I would say there are many other things - you've got to remember there's the JobSeeker as well - the $1100 a fortnight for those who are unable to maintain a connection with their employer and many other initiatives including in my area, we've seen the energy companies, we've been working with them to put in place hardship and hibernation policies for small businesses. There's a whole range of these things. We've appreciated the bipartisan support we've had on many of these initiatives, and that's been a very, very important part of getting this in place at the pace and on the scale that this has been, which is, as you rightly say, quite extraordinary.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, it is a monster amount of money, that's for sure. And Joel, it is good to recognise that bipartisanship but, really, Labor has been kind of cut out of the negotiations here - we've seen the Government dealing directly with the unions. But are you going to be pushing to extend who is covered by this? Because I know that there's been a lot of concern about many of the casual workers who haven't been in a job for twelve months missing out.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: It certainly is a big package, Deb, measured as a proportion of the economy which is the most accurate way of thinking about it. It's about four times more than we spent during the Global Financial Crisis. But it is necessary and it has enjoyed our bipartisan support. Of course we called for the wage subsidy, and I think it was the right thing to do. And look, it's disappointing that so many in our communities are missing out on the payment. But I know your listeners will also be asking the questions - well how much can we spend? And the Government currently is spending about $300 billion, so there is a lot of money there. I just think in the rush things could have been designed a little better so that without spending more money, money could have been better targeted, particularly with casuals and others in our economy who are absolutely missing out.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: But credit where it's due, Joel. I mean this is stuff that's happening at a rapid pace and it's got to happen at a rapid pace because people's lives have been turned upside down in an instant. I mean you can't sort of sit back for months and debate and scratch your chin over this. People's lives, they're being affected, they need help now.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yes, Deb, I acknowledged it was done in a rush and it was always going to be imperfect. Thankfully the Parliament has now given the Treasurer some discretion to add to the things or to change things so some of those who are missing out will get picked up, and he knows he'll have the Labor Party's support if he chooses to do so.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah.

ANGUS TAYLOR: And Deb, can I add to that? Those who are missing out on the JobKeeper, still have access to the JobSeeker arrangement. So this idea of, sort of, completely missing out is not right, and those JobSeeker arrangements are much more generous than has been the case in the past.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, I wanted to ask you both too, because obviously the rules and restrictions we're living under, which are not ideal, no one likes them but they're for good reason, and we're seeing some people flouting and trying to get around these restrictions. The New South Wales Arts Minister Don Harwin fined $1000 by New South Wales Police for trying to get around the social distancing, the isolation rules. There are calls that he should be sacked - Angus Taylor, should he be?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh, look, that's a matter for the Premier. But look, he clearly did the wrong thing. There's no doubt about that. People should stay at home. They shouldn't go off to a holiday house on the coast as he did. He did the wrong thing. He's been fined. I'll leave that sort of judgment to the Premier. But the message here for everybody has to be, stay at home unless you really need to go shopping or you have one of those, sort of, natural exemptions which are there for a reason. But outside of those, stay at home.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah.

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is a good time to reconnect with the family and with the basics in life, and certainly that's what we're doing in my household at the moment.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah. And Joel, what are you doing at your place for Good Friday? Because it is a weird one, we've never had an Easter quite like it.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: It's very strange, Deb. Over the course of Easter there'll be plenty of reading, probably too much eating.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Oh good.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Too much Netflix, a bit of exercise and as little gardening as I can get away I think.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: As a little gardening as you can get away with?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yeah. I'm not as keen on the gardening as my wife would like me to be.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: I don't blame you, I'm not a green thumb either. Angus, what are you doing with your family?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I've been hanging pictures this morning. Look, we've been doing all those jobs that you've looked at for years and said, yeah, I've got to get round to doing that - we're actually doing them which is just fantastic, it feels very good to be doing that. We're also, I mean, we're spending more time with each other than we have for a long time and it's marvellous. We're having a brilliant season in a part of the world that's suffered more than most under the fires back over Christmas. It is greener, one of the best autumns we've had, so it's actually been a lovely, lovely time to really spend time at home and reconnect with family. And that's what Easter's all about, of course.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, absolutely.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Can I just quickly say, I've learned that blokes can do two things at once and I've found enormous economic efficiencies. You know, I can clean the shed while talking work on the phone.

ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s right!

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I can wash the car while talking work on the phone. So, it's amazing what you can do.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: It's a revelation, Joel.

ANGUS TAYLOR: I’m with you, Joel. This is a new discovery for me too.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: We might never go back to the Parliament. We'll just do Question Time on the AirPods, and just keep washing the car.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Hey, careful what you wish for - you'd save a lot of coin for the taxpayers doing that, I tell you. It might be welcome all around. I might talk to both of your better halves too to find out if you are successfully managing multiple tasks, but that's another matter for another day. Fellas, have a great Easter and we wish you and your families a safe and a happy holiday period.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Deb.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Thanks very much, Deb.

ENDS