Jennifer Westacott panel interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, The Today Show

07 October 2020

Event          Jennifer Westacott panel interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, The Today Show

Speaker       Karl Stefanovic, co-host; Allison Langdon, co-host; Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia; Cassandra Goldie, chief executive officer Australian Council of Social Service

Date            7 October 2020

Topics         2020 Federal Budget



Karl Stefanovic, co-host The Today Show: Welcome back to the show. It's all about jobs is the line straight from the Treasurer. Hoping a million new roles will nurse the economy back to health.

Allison Langdon, co-host The Today Show: And while increased funding is welcome, will it be enough to support those still reeling? With more on this, we're joined by Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott and the Australian Council of Social Services CEO Cassandra Goldie. Good morning to both of you. Jennifer, from what you heard from the Treasurer last night, are you happy?

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Yes very happy. This is a very, very good budget. Absolutely the right budget for the right time. It's going to instil confidence, it's going to inspire hope, and there's some very important initiatives that are going to go that issue about creating jobs. Getting business investment happening again. $27 billion to drive business investment. That's going to drive work orders, that's going to drive people putting more people on. Wage subsidies to support those higher risk Australians so that they can get access to work. Huge, massive announcements in training, to get people reskilled. You've got to look at the whole thing as a package. And I think when you look at that package you say, 'this is going to help those million Australians get back to work.'

Karl: We'll come back to some of those individual things in just a second. But to you Cassandra, what did you make of it all?

Cassandra Goldie, host Australian Council of Social Services: Well look millions without paid work have been left stranded in this budget. I mean we do have this glimmer of hope with these wage subsidies for young people under 35 years of age. We've got to hope that business will respond to that. But we've missed a big opportunity here, of course, that crushing let down for people on JobSeeker, to deliver that permanent, adequate increases to social security payments. Giving money to people on very low incomes who really need it and we knew would be spending it. We knew that if you gave people on low incomes they would be spending it in the real economy. Instead, we've got this heavy reliance on tax cuts and again, the most amount are going to people on high incomes. Well did they need it? Will they spend it? And we've got nothing really big in terms of critical areas of services like childcare. A little bit on aged care. Nowhere near enough of what we need in these really, what's called job-rich areas of human services. We also saw women at the front line of this pandemic. Nowhere near enough in terms of what we should be doing in terms of providing support particularly to women. So overall this isn't the budget we were looking for at all. We've got this heavy reliance on the private sector. Of course, the private sector plays a role. But we've got to hope they'll invest Jennifer. But in the meantime, we needed everything to be going into the hands of people who really needed it. We have high confidence they'd spend it. We've left many people behind in this budget and we're very worried about that.

Allison: Your response to that Jennifer?

Jennifer: Well look, the bulk of people, the overwhelming number of people who've lost their jobs, those million Australians were in the private sector. The principal task of this budget was to get those million people back to work. And those were jobs in the private sector. So that's about getting the private sector to invest. I agree with Cassandra, I think the next budget has got to be about some of the reforms that she's talking about. You know, JobSeeker lasts until December. But she and I both agree that it can't go back to the Newstart Allowance. In May next year, we need to see those reforms to childcare. But this budget was about those million Australians who are out of a job, who are overwhelming in the private sector and getting the private sector to get confident and get incentivised to start investing again.

Karl: Much has been made about this instant asset write-off for small businesses in particular. Trying to give them a kick start. Wouldn't it have been easier just to extend JobKeeper? Because I'm not sure how instant asset write-offs help with job creation?

Jennifer: Let me explain that because it's a really good question Karl. First of all, JobKeeper is spending over $10 billion a month to stand still. We're going nowhere. People are not working. People want to work. They want to have their jobs back. They want their businesses to get going again. Now if I get an instant asset write-off and I've travelled around this country, I've talked to small, medium, and large businesses. If I upgrade my equipment, I create a work order for someone. That creates a job for somebody else. That creates a delivery. If I upgrade my computer system to do more online delivery, I can expand my retail operations. That's what this will do. And I agree with Cassandra, we now just need to see business responding.

Karl: Okay.

Allison: And something bigger in regards to childcare too at some point?

Jennifer: We've got to fix the childcare problem. It's absolutely essential.

Karl: We've run out of time, unfortunately. Could have talked to you ladies all day. I have a feeling you're going to be talking elsewhere. Thank you very much for your time, appreciate it.


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