Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Tuesday, 7 April 2020
DAVID KOCH: The Government’s crucial JobKeeper package is one step closer to being passed. Last night, support was secured from the unions for the $130 billion wage subsidy, but it required some concessions on the part of the Government. A vote on the JobKeeper scheme will take place in Parliament tomorrow. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann joins us now from Canberra. Minister, thanks for joining us. What concessions has the Government granted to get the unions on side?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Christian Porter has been working very hard all the way through with the ACTU. It is essentially in relation to drafting matters in the legislation. We want to ensure that employers are able to pass the $1,500 a fortnight payment onto their workers and they can do so legally and consistent with our fair work laws. That is why we have to ensure that the drafting is absolutely right, that all of the safeguards are right, that the balance is right and that is why we have been engaging with the ACTU on the way through.
DAVID KOCH: You want to be pretty flexible. The whole idea is to get money into the economy to savour, but this issue of casuals and having to it continuously for 12 months, all sorts of anomalies coming up there of people who have only worked 10 months with an employer rather than 12, being left out. Is that the nub of the concession that you have given to the unions, that you’ll be a lot more lenient?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, not at all. The relevant definition of casual is longstanding in the Fair Work Act. It is 12 months. That is where we have taken it from. You have to draw the line somewhere. The important point is anyone who does not qualify for the JobKeeper payment they will qualify for the JobSeeker payment if they are out of work. Once you qualify for the JobSeeker payment, you qualify for family tax benefit payments, rent assistance and the like. It is not like you are being left in the lurch.
DAVID KOCH: And JobSeeker is tax-free, and JobKeeper is taxable.
MATHIAS CORMANN: That is right.
DAVID KOCH: You are roughly getting the same thing. Under JobKeeper, does the money have to go straight through to the employee? Employers must pass it on because there have been some allegations, some bosses are saying we’ll use it to pay down your leave entitlements.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The issue in relation to leave entitlements is one of the issues that we are still working our way through in terms of the final drafting of the legislation. But yes, this $1,500 payment is paid to employers whose business is in distress, who have obviously experienced a severe downturn in their turnover and it is absolutely required to go to the employee. That is the purpose of the payment… interrupted
DAVID KOCH: As cash?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is designed to go to the employee as cash, but in terms of all the specifics, that is still being finalised.
DAVID KOCH: Alright, let us know when that’s finalised. A lot of people hanging on that. Appreciate your time, Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.