Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 28 July 2021
David Lipson: And for more on this, I was joined earlier by the Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham. Minister, thanks for your time. The new disaster payment is the same as the original JobKeeper payment, $750 a week. The difference is the way it's paid directly to workers rather than through the business payroll. What guarantee do you have that the connection between workers and their employer won't be broken to ensure that those businesses can snap back to normal as quickly as possible.
Simon Birmingham: Well this payment is also operating alongside the new business support and expanded business support payments, which do provide payments to businesses based on the scale of their payroll for those businesses. So that creates a clear incentive for businesses to keep staff on in those operations. But the disaster assistance payment being paid directly to individuals is particularly important for casual employees, for example, some of whom missed out on JobKeeper in its old incarnation but are actually able to receive this payment in its new allowance and model, which is part of the redesign we've undertaken in ensuring that we have a more targeted payment, one that is able to be switched on and off in geographical areas as we need it. But that also reaches those people who need it most.
David Lipson: How are you going to ensure that businesses maintain their employee headcounts?
Simon Birmingham: As I said, the business support is tied there to the scale of their payroll. And so that payroll then determines the scale of financial assistance to businesses-
David Lipson: Just the mechanism for ensuring that for policing that. How does that happeen?
Simon Birmingham: In terms of other individuals- Well, in terms of that business support the mechanism, if you like, is the fact that working with New South Wales, who administering that we have the test as to whether they are still making that payroll. And so it does link very directly through in terms of the scale of support they receive. But for other workers, particularly casuals, part timers or the like, the direct payment to them, which is going to see now support for Sydney hitting in total around $750 million per week, really is giving them the type of assistance directly that they need and making sure that we continue to support people through these tough times, but also position the economy for the fastest possible recovery afterwards.
David Lipson: Can you guarantee that businesses that receive this assistance won't be able to make big profits and then claim the government support, as we saw writ large with Jobkeeper?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the big difference here is that a large part of the support, as you said, is going directly to individuals. So that does change the fundamentals for how businesses can receive support.
David Lipson: Is that a tacit admission that there was too much rorting last time?
Simon Birmingham: Well, JobKeeper was designed at a stage where we had a nationwide shutdown occur. Fortunately, that nationwide shutdown didn't go on as long as it might have. And we ended up coming out far more strongly than anticipated.
David Lipson: We now have a Christmas target for the end of lockdowns, according to the Prime Minister. We've missed quite a few targets this year. Why should we believe him now?
Simon Birmingham: Even if the vaccine rollout had continued purely at the rate that we were achieving during the month of June, and we were in a position to be able to hit some 70 per cent of the eligible Australian population by the end of the year. But we're seeing the vaccine rollout scale up quite significantly in the last 24 hours, 197,000 doses administered. We've hit eleven point six million doses in total and we are now clearly exceeding one million doses a week being distributed across the country. And that gives us the potential to be able to push beyond that 70 per cent target. And what we're doing to help with that is opening up pharmacy distribution centres across the country, providing more places and more opportunities for Australians to get the vaccine as the supply is increasing. And we need Australians to respond as they have been by getting out and having those doses administered.
David Lipson: If the federal government secures any more doses from overseas or secures them sooner than expected. Do you think they should be prioritised for greater Sydney where the need is greatest right now?
Simon Birmingham: We're certainly working with New South Wales to provide all of the additional AstraZeneca that they can possibly use and to support them in opening up new VACCs hubs as well as the types of-
David Lipson: What about Pfizer or Moderna though?
Simon Birmingham: In terms of other doses where we have had surplus above the planned distribution arrangements that has been provided to New South Wales and no doubt will continue to look at that if we have a surplus above those planned distribution arrangements.
David Lipson: So that's a maybe
Simon Birmingham: Well, it's something always that in terms of the distribution arrangements, if we get. More than we have planned for, then we want to make sure that it's used as quickly and effectively as possible.
David Lipson: Are the other states are open to that?
Simon Birmingham: I think that's something that has already occurred only in doses or amounts, I think around the 50,000 or so to date. But we've made sure that we get doses distributed as quickly and effectively across the country as possible. Sticking with the national rollout plan is crucial for all Australians. New South Wales can best beat the Delta strain by complying with the provisions of the lockdown. That's why we've in part why we've expanded the economic support that's available to help New South Wales make this suppression strategy, make this lockdown a success.
David Lipson: Minister Birmingham, thanks so much for your time.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure.