Transcripts → 2020


4BC – Breakfast with Neil Breen

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


Date: Tuesday, 21 July 2020

JobKeeper, JobSeeker

NEIL BREEN: We know that as an emergency measures JobKeeper came in $750 a week, JobSeeker basically the unemployment benefit was bumped up from around about $656 to $1,115 a fortnight. It is unsustainable going forward, but it will stay, they will stay until September 27 and after that they will both be modified. 

The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is on the line, good morning to you Minister. 

MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning.

NEIL BREEN: We know how important these are at the moment to keep us afloat. How big a haircut will they be given to people who are already on them?

MATHIAS CORMANN: The Prime Minister and the Treasurer will be making the specific announcements a bit later this morning. But I can certainly confirm that both JobKeeper and the enhanced JobSeeker payments will continue at current rates until the end of September. They then will both be extended, JobKeeper for six months and the enhanced JobSeeker arrangements to the end of the year, but at a lower rate. We will also be making sure that businesses need to be reassessed in terms of their eligibility once we get into this next phase to make sure they still require this level of significant support.

NEIL BREEN: We can understand how it happened in the first place, that hey we have just got to move fast, it was a one size fits all, the $750. But then it became clear that some people who were earning less than that were getting $750 and that was one of the things that has to be tightened up in this JobKeeper 2.0

MATHIAS CORMANN: Look we knew that, because at the beginning we needed to move quickly and we needed to get support into the economy and to business and to working Australians as swiftly as possible. It is true, about a quarter of recipients of JobKeeper receive more than they would have under their normal ordinary working arrangements. That is why we will be changing the single payment into a two tiered system, where based on the number of hours worked, there will be either the higher or the lower payment

NEIL BREEN: I read through all the briefing notes last night when they came through from the Government and they were quite extensive. One of the things that I found disturbing, but we already knew from anecdotal evidence presenting this show Minister was Treasury found that both JobKeeper and JobSeeker, in some instances, not for all people it promoted disincentives for work and that was little bit disappointing to read and hear.

MATHIAS CORMANN: We knew that that was a likely outcome when we put this level of support in place earlier this year, but we did not really have any choice. Given the crisis that we were dealing with, we needed to put a floor under the economy, to help cushion the blow and help Australians through that initial six month period. That is why we need to make some adjustments. That is why you cannot keep these arrangements in place on an ongoing basis because the longer you keep this level of elevated crisis level temporary support in place, the more those distortions take hold. It goes from disincentives to work, hampering labour mobility and the reallocation of workers to more productive roles, and keeps businesses afloat that would not be viable without this support on an ongoing basis when we cannot possibly provide this support on an ongoing basis. So if a business is not able to be viable in this new context, at some point in time we are going to have to cross that bridge.

NEIL BREEN: Minister, we are sitting pretty up here in Queensland, we are not getting cocky and we have to really look after ourselves health wise because we have so few cases, basically none. Victoria is devastating for Queenslanders to watch, when we see what is happening in Victoria. How devastating was it for the Federal Government to think that we were in such good shape and then to go backwards so quickly in one state?

MATHIAS CORMANN: We always knew that there could and that there would be localised outbreaks. All of us from around Australia we want to see Victoria get on top of this as swiftly as possible. If you look at the situation Australia wide, all states and territories other than Victoria and parts of New South Wales are in a pretty good position. There are hardly any active cases, there is virtually no community transmission. If you look at Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania the Northern Territory and the ACT, and including Queensland, we are all in a comparatively good position. But we all have to remain vigilant, because there is a risk of potential future localised outbreaks everywhere. So we do have to continue to act sensibly and to act consistent with the health advice.

NEIL BREEN: Finance Minister, we have not had a chance to talk to you on the show since you announced that you are going to be leaving us from Parliament. Anyway, what is life going to look like for Mathias Cormann going forward when you finish up your Parliamentary days?

MATHIAS CORMANN: I am here for a while yet.

NEIL BREEN: I know, there is a little while to go.

MATHIAS CORMANN: There is the economic statement on Thursday, there is the Budget in October and a half yearly Budget update before the end of the year. I am going to continue to focus 100 per cent on this job while I am here. I felt it was appropriate to manage an orderly transition in this role. It is a great job. It is a great portfolio. It is very central to the Government, so I thought that the Prime Minister and the Government deserved the opportunity to manage this transition in an orderly fashion. At the appropriate time I will turn my mind to what is next.

NEIL BREEN: Well, you are very popular amongst Queenslanders, I have even had emails about you while you have been on air, saying that they are sad you are departing…interrupted

MATHIAS CORMANN: Oh thank you so much. That is very generous.

NEIL BREEN: It is hard for anybody outside of Queensland to get a wrap from Queenslanders, so you have done well Finance Minister and we thank you for joining us on 4BC Breakfast.

MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you so much Neil and thank you so much to your listeners.