ABC News Interview: Afternoon Briefing: Victorian Restrictions, JobSeeker, Olympic Games in China



SUBJECTS: Victorian Restrictions, Jobseeker, Olympic Games & China. 

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST:  Dave Sharma and Labor MP Peter Khalil, both my guests. Welcome to both of you, Peter Khalil I’m going to start with you. The Victorian Premier has indicated some restrictions, may be relaxed on Sunday. So that means essentially going beyond that roadmap and its timeline, which is significant, I think, what do you want to see happen? 

PETER KHALIL MPWell, great news. It’s great news, first of all, for all Victorians, we’ve been in this lockdown now, who’s counting? 90 days, 91 days. 

HOST: I’m not counting! 

KHALIL: Not counting! But school is going back for a lot of kids in the second week of term. That’s a big relief for parents. I’m not sure where the Premier is going to make announcements around, further easing of restrictions. I know that we’re going to get the easing of restrictions that was announced a couple of weeks ago on the 28th of September, but the good news is, and what I would like to see obviously is in relation to the better numbers that we’re seeing, possibly further easing of restrictions, particularly for small businesses, potentially for, you know, the grade three over to year 10, weren’t supposed to come back until I think the 26th of October. Maybe that could be brought forward a week or two, to relieve parents in that space. I’m not sure what the Victorian Premier is going to announce, but it’s great news to hear that he’s going to make an announcement with further easing beyond the ones that he’s already announced. And that’s very good for all Victorians. 

HOST: Okay. So you think that the school return though should be a priority? 

KHALILLook, it’s one of my, I mean, there’s a lot of priorities. PK as you know, the parents have been under enormous stress during this period with learning from home. Teachers have done a fantastic job as have schools to try and facilitate this, but kids need to have that social engagement as well. My kids are feeling it and I’m sure yours are and many other parents in Victoria. Also business, you know, there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of small, medium sized businesses. There may be further easing’s there, which might allow, opening up a bit earlier with some of those businesses, but the Victorian Premier is going to be very careful and I think rightfully so, because we want to actually protect the gains that have been made, so we don’t have to go back to a further statewide or citywide lockdown. And, what you’ve heard on your program today about the importance of contact tracing, localised teams, making sure we’re on top of any further outbreaks in the future at a localised level is going to be critical importance as we manage this, over the next 12 months or until we get a vaccine. 

HOST: I think you’re right on kids. My youngest child, Tommy, her only fantasy was to go back to school, which you wouldn’t have expected kids to say a little while ago. So it doesn’t the world change. Dave, what needs to be done before New South Wales can open its border to Victoria. I mean, you’ve always believed that we should have an open country. Clearly Victoria’s rates are getting pretty low. They’re getting much better. Is it time for New South Wales to allow us Victorian’s back in? 

DAVE SHARMA MP: Look, I think, New South Wales should open, reopen its borders with Victoria as soon as it’s safe to do so, now with that obviously, and the Premier in New South Wales, Premier will be guided by the advice of, you know, of the Chief Health Officer in New South Wales and others on this. But I’d expect from the level of community transmission in Victoria is at a comparable level to that in New South Wales, and you know, provided, we can relatively quickly and easily track any Victorians coming into New South Wales. We should be reopening the border and that’s certainly always be the disposition of the state and the liberal government here in New South Wales is to keep borders open as much as possible. Cause we know it’s not just about people’s personal freedoms. It’s also about their relationships. It’s also about businesses. It’s also about the health of the economy and jobs. And these are all elements of people’s wellbeing. 

HOST: Dave Sharma, staying with you and just talking about what might happen in the budget. Do you think the budget should deliver permanent increase to jobseeker, the old Newstart payment? I had Katie Allen on the program this week and she said that the new figures should be higher than that $40 a day. Do you agree? 

SHARMAWell, I think there will be an opportunity to examine all this. I don’t know if the budget is the right one. I mean, there’s obviously the coronavirus supplement, which has been topping up jobseeker now for some considerable time and that will remain in place. I think we really need to see though where the labor market is at and where the jobs market is at. Some considerable time beyond the, you know, when the budget’s delivered in October (inaudible), this is something that we’ll need to have a look at in, you know, December, January, February, depending on the rate of unemployment, how easily, how many new jobs have been created. We’ll need to tailor that to economic conditions at the time. But I would say that at this time, I mean, it’s important for the government to lend all the support to the private sector and consumption and households that it can, you know, we are in an economic crisis, the likes of which we haven’t seen before. And this is when the government is the sort of the buyer of last resort. The fiscal stimulus of last resort needs to play in and step up and play an important role. 

HOST: Peter Khalil, I know Labor has been calling for a permanent increase to jobseeker. Government’s not going to do it in the budget, but clearly you just heard Dave Sharma there and others, it’s on the table. Why do you think it needs to happen immediately? Why can’t they just be an increase, extension as there is? 

KHALIL: Well, because PK, and I’m bemused by Dave’s answer, when else is not when the Federal Budget is being, actually given, do you talk about these major measures and the other reason PK is at this economic recovery as Dave pointed to needs economic, fiscal stimulus into the economy. Now cutting jobseeker at this point in time, on Friday actually, this Friday does not make any sense. Okay. You’re sucking money out of the economy. People on jobseeker are not putting the money in a sock and hiding it under the bed or buying shares with it. They are spending it in the economy. Okay. And it’s no good for Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison to say, Oh yeah, but we’re going to announce all these other parts of a package in the federal budget. Well, you’re giving with one hand and taking with the other. It makes no sense. And so the budget is the time to do it. We should be locking in the permanent increase for another reason that is to allow people who are on jobseeker to live with some level of dignity. And the other point of course is that, Dave, there are 13 applications for jobs vacant, every one job vacancy, and that is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The reserve bank has pointed out that we’re going to see some patchiness around unemployment. It may actually increase again going forward. So it makes no sense whatsoever to cut jobseeker or jobkeeper at this point in time. 

HOST: And Dave Sharma, just to you, the founder of a global coalition of MPs is pushing for the international Olympic committee to reconsider Beijing’s hosting of the 2022 winter games. Do you think China should be stripped of hosting the games? 

SHARMA: No, I don’t. I think, you know, there are certainly elements of China’s behaviour, both in Australia, but also abroad and domestically in China that we find troubling. And we speak out about that from time to time, but you have to think about what the Olympics is designed to do and what its purpose is. You know, the Olympics, isn’t a forum for moral censure or even a diplomatic forum. It’s about people to people ties and sports and the athletes fundamentally. And I think when you look at what the Olympics has managed to achieve in years past, it’s often created a higher level of openness and the societies and countries that host them a greater concern about their international reputation and generally speaking an improvement in their behaviour. It doesn’t mean it’s going to lead to a permanent change, but I think it’s actually an opportunity to, have some greater scrutiny of China’s behaviour, including towards its own citizens and push for reforms and improvements in areas that matter to us. But I don’t think stripping, I think stripping them at the games or any sort of move towards that end would have almost the sort of opposite effect of that intention. It would lead to a hardening of domestic opinion within China. Probably a clamped down on freedoms and less engagement with the outside world. 

HOSTWe’re out of time. Thank you so much to both of you, a little shorter than usual. We’re going to talk to the Minister in a moment. Joining us this afternoon, Peter Khalil, he’s of course, a Labor MP and Liberal MP, Dave Sharma.