Sky News Interview: First Edition: Federal Govt. JobKeeper/JobSeeker Spending, Vic COVID-19 Quarantine Problems, Mandatory Masks in Victoria



SUBJECTS: Fed. Gov. JobKeeper/JobSeeker Spending, Vic. COVID-19 Quarantine Problems, Mandatory Masks in Victoria

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST And the doctor will be joining us in a round about half an hour’s time. Well, let’s go to Melbourne now, joining us is Labor MP, Peter Khalil, Peter, good morning to you. Thanks for joining us. So, first of all, your reaction to the treasurer’s $20 billion spend yesterday?  

PETER KHALIL MP: Well, look, it’s good that JobKeeper has been extended. We’ve been arguing that for that for a long time, Peter, as you know, on this program as well. I’ve got to ask the question though, that even though it’s been extended, Josh Frydenberg still, and the government still have not addressed some of the weak spots in the big gaps, the gaping gaps, I think, the cracks in the JobKeeper program from the very beginning, which leaves out a million Australians who are casual. You know, so even with this extension, you know, a single mom who has worked as a casual for 11 months at a particular employer does not qualify because she doesn’t meet the 12 month threshold. And there’s about a million other Australians in that category for, just for, for example. So again, we have tried to play a constructive role Peter, we’ve supported the economic stimulus packages when Parliament has managed to sit, but we always try to see where it can be improved and where it can be better. 

HOSTWhat are your biggest concerns moving forward about, about the new changes, even though JobKeeper, you know, it’s broken up into two tiers now, 1500 down to 1200 and then eventually down to a thousand dollars and that’s for the full time workers. And then obviously you’ve got the cuts to JobSeeker as well. And, and you did say that you’re going to support it, but, but, but is there, is there anything that alarms you the most out of all of that? 

KHALIL: Well, a couple of things, Pete, we’ll look at the detail when Parliament does sit to actually amend this, if that does happen in late August, because Parliament’s been suspended in the first two weeks of August. So, I mentioned the casuals, there’s a couple other categories that have been left out of JobKeeper entirely. We’re going to push again for the government to consider or reconsider those groups. Millions of Australians who have been left out of JobKeeper. The stepped approach is something that we’ve talked about as well. Like it was, it was kind of very strange and I think wrong that a person who is working a couple of hours a week was getting the same JobKeeper as someone who was basically having JobKeeper replace their, their income, as a sort of someone who’s a provider for a family, that didn’t make any sense.  And that’s been sort of been addressed with the stepped-down approach announced by Josh Frydenberg. The other issue that I have an issue with is the JobSeeker. We’ve been advocating for that to be maintained, and that’s something I don’t think is going to happen although there’ll be an extension, but a stepped-down extension as well with the supplement. So there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. And again, I’ll go back to this point about Parliament not sitting it’s, we, we will be constructive. We will, we will work with the government to get economic stimulus out to Australians that need it. But we also need to play our role as an opposition and hold the government to account and see where we can make this stimulus package better than it is. 

Host: Because you’d have to agree wouldn’t you, that, that you don’t want, there can’t be a disincentive to find work, right? I mean, we do understand everyone understands that the working conditions are really tough at the moment. Businesses are really struggling, particularly in those regional areas, but there also has to be an incentive for people to not take the government help if they can, and to find work. 

Khalil:  So, Peter, do you really think that the vast majority of people who are now relying on JobSeeker, don’t want to get a job? I mean, there’s some contradiction in the way the government’s talking about this, on one end Morrison’s saying, oh, we’ve got to disincentivise people from just staying on job seeker because you know, they’re bludgers and so on, the old sort of trope, you know, the dole bludger trope, right? When in actual fact, the vast majority of, we had 1.6 million Australians, I think on JobSeeker. Within a couple of months of COVID hitting hard, millions, or, you know, almost a million Australians went on to Centrelink queues. These are people who are working. These are people who want to work. I don’t think it’s the case that they are quite happy sitting there on JobSeeker, frankly.  And then you’ve got to ask the question. It makes economic sense, doesn’t it, if you are putting money into people’s pocket, they’re going to spend it in the economy. That’s going to stimulate the economy. You pull that back, you’re going to have a bit of a problem because people are going to stop spending that money. And I don’t think people on JobSeeker, the vast majority of unemployed Australians or people who’ve had their sort of employment suspended are saving up the JobSeeker cash every fortnight and putting it in a sock and then buying shares with it. That’s not happening. 

Host:  Just on the Victoria, as a Victorian, a couple of a couple of issues. I’m sure you’ve got yourself a mask, are you happy that that is made mandatory statewide? 

Khalil:  I do. Yeah, I’ve been following this debate, it’s interesting because a lot of the medical evidence obviously has pointed out that that masks can assist in preventing the spread of the virus. If you’ve got it, or if someone else got it, putting the droplets in the air, it has some measure in actually slowing that down or preventing, preventing that flow in the air. And, and I think that especially so indoors, so in Victoria, it’s, it’s mandatory to wear the mask in indoor, closed spaces, but also if you’re going for a walk or, you know, around other people outside. You don’t have to wear it if you’re running, which is interesting. But I’m surprised that it wasn’t actually introduced earlier in Australia. When you’ve seen some of the success stories overseas when large populations, like Japan and South Korea, where mask wearing was a sort of big factor in their attempt to address the virus, as well as very good contract tracing, I should say. I’m surprised that we haven’t moved to mask wearing earlier in this phase. 

Host:  Yeah, no, I’ve got to agree with you on that point. It makes sense, given that, you know, a sneeze can go out one and a half metres, or a cough can go out one and a half metres, and then those particles hang in the air as well. It makes sense to me as well. I don’t know if you caught 7:30 last night, Peter, did you, on the, on the, on the security guards in, um, in Melbourne, uh, who, who took the job and on a WhatsApp message and, uh, you know, it basically accentuates the calamity of the quarantining system in Melbourne. Just your thoughts on that, if you did manage to catch that report. 

Khalil:  Yeah, well, well, yeah, it’s funny, you should say whether I caught it or not I was on remote learning duty yesterday and then dinner duty, cause my wife had to do some work. So I actually didn’t watch the full report. I saw snippets of it. But, but on that, on that, I’m not going to dodge the question on the issue of the security guards and the hotel quarantine. It’s pretty clear from the chief health officer in Victoria, that the vast majority of the clusters that have formed, have their origins in that breach from quarantine, the hotel, quarantine hotels. Now I’ve said this before, governments, both federal and state, like the Ruby Princess in New South Wales, was a big mistake. This is a big mistake. It’s caused another cluster. That’s going to happen. We want to limit that as much as possible across governments, in Australia, state territory and federal.  And I understand that this is frustrating and angering people because it has largely led to this second lockdown in Victoria. Although there were some cases of community transmission that haven’t been traced back to the hotel quarantine leak. And so there has to be accountability on that. Absolutely. And that’s why I understand the Victorian government has an inquiry with a judge, a retired judge that is going through that and calling witnesses and so on. And I would hope that that is a process that actually, delves deep into how that happened and why it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again because, a final point on this, Pete, if we are going to be successful in Australia around a suppression strategy, rather than eradication strategy, we have to make sure that our quarantine processes and systems are watertight. Because you’re gonna have people coming in overseas from America or Europe or other parts of the world, with mutated strains of the virus, and we don’t want that leaking into the community. 

Host:  Alright, Peter Khalil, good to get your thoughts. Thanks so much for joining us as always, chat to you soon.