Panel discussion, 2CC Canberra Breakfast, 29 September

Panel discussion, 2CC Canberra Breakfast, 29 September  Main Image

By David Smith MP

29 September 2020



Subjects: Pollie pedal; JobKeeper changes plan; NBN; the passing of Susan Ryan AO

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Our political panel, Zed Seselja, can't be with us this morning, so subbing in for him is the man in Lycra, Liberal member for Hume, Angus Taylor.  G’day, Angus

ANGUS TAYLOR, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR HUME:  G’day, thanks for having me.

CENATIEMPO: You're not wearing it Angus, at the moment... you're not wearing Lycra at the moment.

TAYLOR: No, we finished yesterday afternoon, thankfully for everyone.

CENATIEMPO: Excellent. Good. Because I don't know if I could talk to you if you were. Representing the Labor Party is the member for Bean is David Smith. G’day, David.

DAVID SMITH, LABOR MEMBER FOR BEAN: Good morning, Stephen. And look, congratulations to Angus who took part in that really important fundraiser.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, the Pollie Pedal has been going for quite a number of years now. Angus, I imagine this one was probably a little bit different, though, with COVID-19 rules in place.

TAYLOR: It was different. Look, this has been going since 1998. We've done over 20000 kilometres, raised seven million dollars for many causes this year. Soldier on — veterans — a fantastic cause, but we couldn't do a normal Pollie Pedal. We'd normally have about 40 or 50 riders. We had less than 15, a much smaller group, but a fantastic ride, went down through the fire affected areas in southern New South Wales and brilliant to spend time with those fire units that played such an important role over the summer.

CENATIEMPO:  I remember back in, it must have been 2010 or 2011, when the Pollie Pedal, for some reason, somebody decided that you're all going to peddle up Dorrigo Mountain and Tony Abbott pedalled all the way. Luke Hartsuyker might have got to ride in the back of a car from where...

TAYLOR:  That was at Nimmitabel, where I grew up. So, yeah, hell of a ride up through there, but no, it was a little easier, but not too much this time. We went into a 65km/h wind, heading into down to Canberra over the weekend and went through Canberra, but a really fantastic ride.

CENATIEMPO:  Right now, we do need to talk changes to JobKeeper, have come into place this week with the payment reduced and the criteria tightened.  This wage subsidy ... now changes are $1500 dollars a fortnight to $1250 for full time employees, $750 for part-timers. Angus, my concern with this is and look and I understand this couldn't possibly last forever, but the idea was that JobKeeper was supposed to prevent businesses from shedding employees. Haven't we ... all we've done now is basically kicked the problem down the road. And aren't businesses now going to get rid of employees and they'll go on to JobSeeker instead?

TAYLOR: Well, no, I don't think that is necessary and it's certainly not what we want, but we do have to come out of this, as you said earlier in the segment, that it's important we come out from under the doona we get back to work. Obviously, lots of people have kept working throughout, but it is important we get the economy up and running. And as we said at the start, we were going to scale it back over time. We're doing it piece by piece. You can go from $1200 up to almost $1500 with extra part-time work. So we're strongly encouraging people to get back into work. The incentives are aligned that way. And certainly that's the objective. And as you said, look, we have it really struggling at the moment. Fruit picking was a great example you gave a moment ago. We can't get fruit pickers in this country. We've got what will be probably the biggest current grain crop we've had for years and years and years. And we can't get people working on the grain crops, so we've got to get people back to work. This is crucially important.

CENATIEMPO: David, how do we do that? How do we address the cultural problem that we seem to have had for years and years? We can't get unemployed Aussies to go and do this farm work.

SMITH: Well, Stephen, what we're seeing at the moment is a much, much larger problem than that. And I think certainly what we can't do in relation to the jobs that we've lost at the moment is that we won't be able to address that unless we have a comprehensive jobs plan to deal with it. And look, you know, there are some real challenges in terms of some of those elements around agricultural work. Obviously, you can't expect people who've got families with leases, with mortgages to be able to just necessarily up sticks and move out into the region. So, what we need is something that's more comprehensive and we need to have a plan ...

CENATIEMPO: Hang on, David, let me let me just stop you there for a moment.

SMITH: ... across the region and across the city.

CENATIEMPO: David, I'm going to stop you there because the unemployment rate is always higher in regional areas, so people don't have to move.

SMITH: And look, what I'm saying, Stephen, is the challenge we have now is much, much, much larger. And obviously some of the challenges have been exacerbated are that there's been obviously a reliance on the workers who are also here for holidays. It's been a way where people have been able to get around the country and see so much of the country and put money back into the economy more broadly. But, you know, there are obviously some significant, some broader significant challenges.

CENATIEMPO: So, Angus, what is the government's plan to get people back to work?

TAYLOR: Well, that's what JobMaker is all about. And I've announced in the last 10 days what we're doing on energy, making sure we've got affordable gas. We're using technology to bring down the cost of energy and bring down emissions at the same time. This is all about getting jobs in manufacturing, but energy is used in agriculture, in transport and the whole jobmaker plan. You'll see much more of it as we approach the budget — digital jobs we're talking about today in. You'll have seen in the papers, so, look, we are doing a great deal of this, but you've got to remember, know the private sector creates jobs, we can help to facilitate that. But it's the private sector that creates jobs and we've got to get the private sector back up and running. And the truth is, there are many job opportunities around. We really, really want to encourage people to get in and have a crack. I know. I know in Goulburn where I live, there are job opportunities. We're seeing that. I'm talking to employers. They're looking for employees. You know, it's time to get out from under the doona and get going again.

CENATIEMPO: David, what, as far as the job plan goes, what's the … what's the opposition's take on this?

SMITH: Well, look, I guess our real concern is, you know, why would you be withdrawing support from the economy unless there was a comprehensive jobs plan? And what we do know is that there's effectively 13 people for every job that's available at the moment.

CENATIEMPO: Okay, but isn't this the time for. But isn't this the time to stop the petty politicking and come up with some ideas?

SMITH: Oh, absolutely, and I guess that's what we're frustrated about. It's actually a really important time to still be providing that economic support right across our community. I held a small business forum only a few weeks ago, as you know, the immediate consequence of cutting back on JobKeeper without a real change in the economic environment is basically employees losing their hours and effectively businesses are actually in a more difficult position to actually come back. So, look, I guess the frustrating thing for us, and it is a hard ... it's a difficult time with many of these issues ... it just doesn't make sense why you wouldn't marry up these changes with a comprehensive jobs plan.

CENATIEMPO: But that's what I'm saying here, David. I mean, it sounds to me like your only answer is keep the welfare going.

SMITH: No, not at all. But you know we haven't been the government for seven years. We've said it's actually really important to be looking at labour market programs. And I guess what we're surprised by, what we'd like to actually see is, you know, some evidence that there's some really strong thinking about a jobs plan right across this country. I guess that's where a fair bit of our frustration is. Maybe that will change next week. I guess, you know, maybe it maybe that's what we might see through the budget. But certainly at the moment, what it pretty much means for businesses in Canberra and across the city is that they can see that there's going to be an enormous pressure ... effectively, our hospitality and retail areas which are starting to come back a bit but still under a lot of pressure, are going to see significantly more less spending.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, the government back flipped on the NBN?

TAYLOR: No, absolutely not. I mean, look, the whole goal of the NBN was to get this thing up and running and do what businesses do. You build the good product and then you build from that good product. I mean, that's how you do things. That's how I did things in business for many years before I went into politics. We've taken a commercial business-like approach to getting the NBN out. And, you know, if we'd stuck with that original plan, there'd be many Australians — Labor's original plan done on the back of the serviette by Kevin Rudd — there'd be many Australians who wouldn't have had access to NBN during the recent coronavirus, and that would have been a complete disaster. Now, the truth is that we saw the Internet and NBN working remarkably well over that time period under enormous pressure. I mean, they're in a position where we can upgrade for those businesses and households who want it. Many won't want to, but some will. And we're doing exactly that. That's the way you build a business and build a product over time. That's exactly what we're doing with the NBN.

CENATIEMPO: David, hasn't 5G basically made the NBN redundant, though?

SMITH: Oh no definitely not. And look, the idea that this backflip is this sort of a backflip flop followed by the splits. I mean it’s sort of [like] we're rebuilding over a network that we knew that was always going to be a bit of a problem. So, it's good in the end where we're going to get to. But you know, where we've ended up spending a hell of a lot more money than we should have.

CENATIEMPO: Now, just quickly, gentlemen, Susan Ryan, the ACT's first Labor senator and first woman to serve in a Labor Cabinet, passed away at the weekend aged 77. Regardless of what your, what side of politics you come from, an absolute giant, Angus?

TAYLOR: Yeah, absolutely. She was a ground breaker. I sort of grew up in this region. She was she was a big figure across the region, you know, for a long while back. And no doubt she was a ground breaker in the role for women. She was the first Labor Cabinet Minister, as I understand it, which is an extraordinary achievement. So remarkable woman.

CENATIEMPO: And David, as a as a local MP in this area, a fairly long shadow.

SMITH: Oh, absolutely, Stephen, and so you know, when I first start to get involved, it's sort of almost dovetailed when Susan Ryan was moving into the private sector, if you like. She casts an enormous, enormous shadow and, you know, obviously amazing groundbreaking achievements in terms of the equality for women across workplaces, across so many areas of endeavour.

One of the real main achievements, too, was she was responsible for getting completion rates up in Year 12. In 1983, it used to be three [in] ten and we have ended up with nine in ten.

In later life, incredibly generous with her time. I recall having a number of conversations with Susan in a different role about the issues that many Australians face, older Australians with age discrimination in work. You know, it's a real issue that we still have to come to terms with. An amazing Australian and a great one.

CENATIEMPO: Absolutely. Angus Taylor, David Smith, thank you for your time this morning.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Stephen and David

SMITH: Thanks, Stephen