Transcripts → 2020


ABC - 730

Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia


Date: Thursday, 16 July 2020

Labour force figures, economic support, coronavirus

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mathias Cormann is the Finance Minister. He joins me now from Perth. Minister, good evening.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Government has announced the training places and the extension of the apprentice wage subsidy. But the big question is will there be enough jobs for all of these apprentices, all of these people going through training schemes at the end of it?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The employment numbers released today certainly are encouraging. The world is going through a tough period. Australia is going through a tough period. But back in March Treasury was advising us that they were expecting an unemployment rate of about 10 per cent at the end of June. We are now looking at 7.4 per cent, with 280,000 people having rejoined the labour market. Work participation heading up. More than 210,000 jobs restored. 50 per cent of them for young people, 60 per cent of them for women, in the context of the easing of restrictions. It is a long way to go but we are heading in the right direction. Compared to other parts of the world, we are in a comparatively better position. Compared to what we expected only a few months ago we are in a better position. We have to continue to work hard to remain on top of the virus where we are and to get on top of the virus as fast as we can where there are localised outbreaks like in Victoria.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The headline figure is 7.4 per cent. But your colleague the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg says the real figure taking into account people on JobKeeper is more than 13 per cent. How high will the jobless rate get to in September when a lot of people are stripped of their JobSeeker payment?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I cannot speculate on the number for you now. What I can say to you though is that the Government will continue to make responsible decisions to transition our economy through this period. At the end of this initial six-month period, the situation will not be the same for many businesses at the end of September as what it was at the end of March. Quite a few businesses have seen a comparatively strong recovery. For those businesses that continue to be on the frontline of this crisis and continue to be very hard hit, we have always said that we would ensure that we provide the appropriate support through this transition to the situation on the other side.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How much extra support will there be once the formal JobKeeper scheme ends? We had the Prime Minister today saying he will do everything it takes to provide extra money. So, will we see a large scale extension of more income support?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We will be providing appropriate levels of support. One of the things that is coming out in the data are the JobSeeker numbers. The number of people on unemployment benefits has actually stabilised in June. In fact, it was slightly below the end of May number at the end of June. So that is also encouraging. But we will continue to make judgements. The Treasurer and I will be releasing the economic and fiscal update next Thursday. In the lead-up to that we will be making announcements as flagged in relation to the arrangements for JobKeeper and JobSeeker beyond the end of September.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to talk about the Government's approach to suppressing the virus. The Government isn't a fan of the elimination strategy. Implicit in that approach though isn't it Minister, is that there is going to be continued hopefully low level of infections and in the worst case more deaths. Is that a scenario you think Australian people are really comfortable with?

MATHIAS CORMANN: If you compare the Australian situation to the international context, every single death is tragic and is one that we would prefer to avoid, but if you look at the number of deaths from coronavirus in Australia, compared to what is experienced in the UK, the US and many other parts of the world, it is extremely low. Elimination is just not realistic, when you have significant daily increases in the number of infections all around the world. We have Australians coming back to Australia from those parts of the world where there are significant increases in infections. We do want to remain engaged to the extent we can in international trade to preserve a level of strength in our economy, to preserve a level of opportunity in our economy. So … interrupted

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How much is that possible in international trade and indeed reopening our international borders if we continue with this strategy and don't go all out for elimination?

MATHIAS CORMANN: Elimination is not realistic. The level of harm that you would have to do to the economy, the level of harm you would have to do to working Australians, to families around Australia would be completely disproportionate. What we are focused on is on suppressing the spread of the virus as much as we can. If we can maintain zero community transmission, that is great. But you cannot set yourself up for an expectation that when you have hundreds of thousands of new cases on a daily basis just about around other parts of the world, with Australians coming back to Australia from other parts of the world, with Australians still required to engage in order to keep our economy going at the best possible level. You just cannot completely shut our country off from the rest of the world.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mathias Cormann, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.