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September 02, 2020

ELYSSE MORGAN, HOST: I asked Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O'Connor what Labor's blueprint to boost employment is. Brendan, obviously these growth figures are pretty ugly and the best way out of them is to create jobs. What is your plan? What is your suggestion of how we should be creating jobs at this time?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, INDUSTRY, SMALL BUSINESS & SCIENCE: We need to be investing in our economy. We certainly don't need to see a contraction of government support. And what we have had since the government has made recent decisions is an announcement to reduce JobKeeper between now and the 28th of March, and then of course remove support altogether. We still have not heard any detail on the so-called JobMaker program. We need to know what the government's intentions are. So far it is all rhetoric.

MORGAN: What is your plan? You’re the alternative government.

O’CONNOR: So our plan is we would broaden out JobKeeper to include those workers that have missed out. Our plan would be to ensure that they don't start contracting, that is reducing and removing government support for businesses and also reducing JobKeeper on the 28 September, reducing it again on the 4 January and taking it away altogether on the 28 March. That would not be our plan. Our plan would be to make sure that there is sufficient support for this economic shock, this first recession in 29 years. That would be the first thing we would look to do.

We also want to know what the government plans to do in terms of investment in infrastructure. They have referred to it but obviously we want to be constructive and support the government, but we need to know what infrastructure spend they are thinking of, rather than just the broad term JobMaker which really means nothing.

MORGAN: What should be done for businesses? You are Shadow Small Businesses Minister, what should be done for businesses to help them feel confident enough to employ?

O’CONNOR: That's why we prosecuted the argument for wage subsidies. Remember, JobSeeker only supports workers who have lost their jobs, and that is critical and we support and applaud the government for that. But JobKeeper is not just something that looks after workers. JobKeeper subsidises the labour costs of businesses. As you know in the parliament today we were arguing the case that we would like to see the government, in short, provide support ongoing through this recession. Our fear is they will cut that short.

MORGAN: Aren't you keeping some businesses on lifelines that perhaps are not going to make it, so it's not actually creating new jobs, is it?

O’CONNOR: The first thing to do is to try to stop people being cut from the labour market. That’s the first thing. Remember, these are businesses that have been forced to close down. It's not that they don't have a viable business, they have been forced for health purposes to be restricted, or in the case of tourism, there is very little business because of the restrictions. In terms of food and accommodation, there have been many changes. And of course in Victoria now we have very significant restrictions meaning businesses are forced to shut down. It is not that they are not viable, and therefore we have to assume those businesses can return.

MORGAN: What about on the tax front? Currently, businesses with less than $1 billion of revenue will qualify for the tax cut down to 25 per cent. Do you think that that should be expedited and brought forward and potentially expanded as well?

O’CONNOR: That's another option. That's a juggling act for the government, the falling revenue, and they are looking at that. So that makes it a tougher ask. But again, they need to be looking at a suite of options, and of course looking at tax relief is important.

MORGAN: Would Labor support it though?

O’CONNOR: We will have to see what plan they put forward. We have said at the outset they should be looking at that as an option. We would like to see the detail.

MORGAN: Brendan O’Connor thank you very much for your time today.

O’CONNOR: Thank you very much.