28 May 2020

SUBJECTS: RBA Governor’s caution on Scott Morrison’s “snap back”; the bungled JobKeeper rollout; fraud in early access to Super; future of the so-called “National Cabinet”.
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Deputy Labor Leader in the Senate, Kristina Keneally, thank you for your time. It was a very blunt Governor of the RBA, wasn't it, about the need to sustain some fiscal support for the economy…
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: It was, wasn't it, Kieran. Good afternoon and good afternoon to your viewers, you know, quite extraordinary evidence given by the RBA Governor, Philip Lowe, today and quite honest and forthright, I thought. Making clear that the economy's not going to ""snap back"" in six months' time the way that the Prime Minister predicted that it would. The RBA Governor, his evidence made clear that we can't just see JobKeeper and JobSeeker come to an a blunt end in September, that's just not going to be good for the economy, it's not going to be good for Australian families. He also made clear, as we heard last week from Treasury, that monetary policy really can't do much more in terms of the heavy lifting. Such low interest rates that fiscal policy is going to be so important. We come through this economic crisis and recovery, it's quite unfortunate that the Government, having presided over the biggest accounting error in Australian history—a $60 billion bungle—is now going to have to navigate with the trust of the community to be able to take us through the next steps of this economic recovery. I mean, as Scott Morrison said, Kieran, “if you can't manage money, you can't manage the country.” There are 60 billion reasons, now, to wonder if Scott Morrison really can manage this economic recovery.
GILBERT: Well, but the thing is, as the Government says, you'd rather if there were to be a revision, they're on the right side of the mark, aren't they? In that sense, as the Prime Minister said this week in an answer to my question at the Press Club. He said, “but we're on the right side of the mark. You'd rather that than a blowout.”
KENEALLY: Kieran, I think that's a question that should be asked to the single mom with three kids who was in a casual job for less than 12 months and she's not getting JobKeeper. That's a question that should be asked to the university lecturer who, because they're on a casual contract, and maybe with one or two employers, isn't able to get JobKeeper but some uni student who had a shift or two a week is now getting more than what they earned before. I mean, JobKeeper is a great idea, a wage subsidy is an absolutely essential tool in this economic crisis, but it is a good idea being delivered by an incompetent government and being bungled quite badly. And so, when you say, “are we on the right side of this”, not to the million casuals who aren't getting the support they need. Not to the teachers, the local council workers, the temporary visa holders, the people who have been left behind by this Government who said they had to draw a line somewhere, they drew it at $130 billion and now they've really got to do—well, they've got to take on board what the Reserve Bank Governor said today—which is that if they don't extend these programs, if we just have a sudden withdrawal of support, this economic crisis is going to have a longer tail and a deeper impact than it needs to.
GILBERT: The other reform that has been introduced, obviously Labor has been very critical of it, the Superannuation access, but it's been very popular. It's helped a lot of people get through this very tough time, that access to their, their Superannuation accounts. APRA today though, warned the super-matching mechanism where you go back to find your other Super accounts, that that had been targeted by fraudsters. How widespread is that concern?
KENEALLY: Well, I'm deeply concerned about the evidence we heard today in the Senate COVID hearings, Kieran. You're right. We are concerned about the Early Access Super Scheme. It has a self-verification process, which I would say is no verification. It seems almost nobody has been denied early access to Super, so whether or not they're even complying with the eligibility provisions remains to be seen. We also heard today that, as you say, the super-match system has been suspended because it was a way that people could fraudulently get in and create new accounts, match them to accounts that already had money in them and then fraudulently obtain funds. Now, this is different to the fraud that the Senate COVID Committee heard about a few weeks ago when we heard about 150 accounts that had been fraudulently accessed. What was concerning today, Kieran, APRA couldn't tell us any details in terms of whether or not money had been paid out, how many accounts were at risk. And I think this shows the importance of having the oversight body that we do in this Senate COVID Committee, with government, Labor and the crossbench being able to bring these concerns forward. Can I just say this too, Kieran, it's a popular scheme. It has been quite well-subscribed, but I would say it's more been a necessary scheme than popular. I don't think people are overjoyed about taking money out of their retirement, they've been forced to do that because JobKeeper took so long to be delivered by the Government. And there was so much uncertainty about the program.
GILBERT: Demand has been there though. The point is I guess the, the other, the other thing...
KENEALLY: Out of necessity, Kieran. Out of necessity, Kieran.
GILBERT: Yeah. Indeed, but you got the National Cabinet. I know Labor again, it's, the Opposition's role, I guess, to some extent but the National Cabinet involving Labor Leaders around the nation has been successful in charting one of the best medical and health responses in the world. And now, Adrian Clennell reports today that tomorrow's National Cabinet is going to basically start the process to replace COAG. As a former Premier, do you think that's, that's a good move?
KENEALLY: Well, we've always said that National Cabinet was really nothing more than COAG. I mean I'm yet to see what the fundamental difference is. In fact, I would say as a former Premier who has participated in COAG, COAG is a more-binding body. When you finish a COAG meeting, you sign on to an agreement, you sign on to a National Partnership Agreement, you issue a joint communique. National Cabinet has been, you know, a COAG hook-up. It’s been useful to keeping the states and the Commonwealth at least having conversations and guiding state decisions. But the states have still taken largely their own decisions and there's nothing wrong with that, Kieran, and I just think the idea that National Cabinet in some kind of fundamental historic federation reform of the type that Greg Hunt described is a little bit overblown. I've got to say, if the Commonwealth and the states want to demonstrate the importance of these bodies, whether you call them COAG, whether you call them National Cabinet, they could get on moving on just one, Kieran, just one. There’s a public dental agreement and National Partnership on Public Dental Services. It’s due to expire in five weeks, no progress has been made. There's 180,000 Australians who are already doing it tough in this health crisis, this economic crisis, we're now poised to lose access to public dental health services. That's the kind of real world impact at a body like COAG or a National Cabinet can have. The Commonwealth just needs to get on and sort things like that out, rather than coming up with, you know, whatever the newest marketing slogan is for the newest version of COAG phone hook-ups that the Prime Minister is creating.
GILBERT: Senator Keneally, I appreciate your time as always, talk to you soon.
KENEALLY: Thank you.