Interview with Lisa Millar, ABC Breakfast

Media release
07 Oct 2020
Prime Minister

LISA MILLAR: And for more on the Federal Budget, Prime Minister Scott Morrison joins me now from Parliament House. Good morning, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:  Good morning, Lisa.

LISA MILLAR: Lots of talk about hope and confidence this morning but you are hoping that a whole lot of things are going to happen for this Budget to come through for you, whether it's on the vaccine, whether it's on borders. How confident are we that that's going to happen?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I want to be very clear about this. The bring forward of tax cuts and the tax cuts that are there in this Budget; the support for hiring new employees with a JobMaker hiring credit; the instant asset write-off taken to stratospheric levels to ensure that businesses can write-off everything you see to create jobs. None of this is dependent on whether there's a vaccine or not. There are assumptions in the Budget. There are always assumptions in the Budget. There are assumptions about many things. But this Budget is a plan and that plan is not dependent on those assumptions. This plan is dependent on doing the things we need to do to get the economy moving and get people back into jobs to cushion the blow of the COVID-19 recession, to recover by bringing forward those hiring and investment decisions and bringing forward those tax cuts so that people can keep more of what they earn. And to ensure that we're building the economy for the future. With everything from our digital transformation changes, the investments and changes we're making in training and education, $1bn extra in research for universities, almost half a billion to support the CSIRO, whose other corporate revenues will be affected by the COVID-19 recession, and building for the future. We are going to come out of this stronger and we're going to have another generation, our plan is, over the next 20-30 years that Australia can once again move into, just like we had over the last 30 years.

LISA MILLAR: And we talk about that generation and the young people and the help that is there for them. What do you say to a 52-year-old who worked at Qantas who doesn't have a job? There's nothing in this Budget for them. And we've seen from the last recession that that can end up being a devastating long-term period of unemployment for older people.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I know for a fact there are many at Qantas who still remain at Qantas because of the JobKeeper programme. And if you remain an employee of a business, the job hiring credit applies to new jobs on top of those existing...

LISA MILLAR: Yeah, but JobKeeper ends in March.

PRIME MINISTER: Let me finish the answer. They won't be able to take the numbers down and then increase them and expect to get the hiring credit. It's about new jobs. But one of the reasons the JobTrainer programme, that's $1bn, together with the states, that's 340,000 training places right now. And that will often be used by those who are moving between careers. And so it may be someone who's working in the aviation sector, or the hospitality sector, or working in a travel agency or something of that nature and training to work in a different part of the economy, which is growing. But if you don't grow the economy, there won't be these extra jobs. And what we're doing over, particularly these next two years, which is where 90 per cent of the spending is additionally in this Budget. It's been temporary and it's been very targeted. And that's to ensure the economy can move forward and there'll be more jobs in the economy, whether you're 55 or whether you're 25, or even 65.

LISA MILLAR: And Prime Minister, Richard Nestler owns a helicopter tour business in Victoria. He's told us this morning he's going to be selling helicopters, not buying new ones. He can barely keep his head above water. Why do you think that businesses are raring to go to spend money?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are some businesses which will be heavily COVID-affected and in the aviation industry, I think that's clearly one. And especially in Victoria, where they remain locked-up. And what we do need to do is ensure that our economy continues to open up. And for many of these businesses, that will be the most important thing that can happen. Whether that's in Queensland, or in Tasmania, or in Victoria, or anywhere else. That's essential. And that has to be done safely as part of a proper COVIDSafe plan. Our economic success will be built on our continued health success. But Australia is managing both of these crises comparatively better than almost any other country in the world, except for a handful. We're in a group of about half a dozen countries that are managing both of these crises as well as Australia is. But for businesses like that, we want to see those tourists come back and as soon as those borders can come down, there's a $32bn net import of tourism into Australia, that's $32bn that Australians net spend overseas. Now, that can be spent here in Australia. And that's why we need to get the country open, safely, so those businesses can move forward again and take advantage of the many measures that are in this Budget.

LISA MILLAR: Plenty of economists also suggested that if you spent a few billion on childcare, you could actually boost annual growth far greater than what you're spending on business. Why didn't you do that?

PRIME MINISTER: We're spending $9bn a year on childcare. And as you would know, particularly during the course of the COVID crisis, we spent even, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that the childcare sector was able to get through. And for a period of time, we did make it free. But that is not a sustainable position. I mean free childcare would mean those on high incomes get free childcare, while others are forced to face difficulties in other areas of Budget and expenditure. What we're doing with childcare is targeting that support, that $9bn to those on low and middle incomes where you get 85 per cent rebate on your fees, 100 per cent fees for people who are earning $200,000 a year, waivers, I don't see how that would be a fair thing to do to those on low to middle-income earners who need that support.

LISA MILLAR: If this doesn't work, what's left in the fiscal kitty?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've demonstrated our ability to respond. And we did that because we came into this crisis better than most of the countries in the world. A triple-A credit rating, a record of one and a half million jobs that have been created, a Budget that was brought back into balance and that enabled us to move quickly. That said, the Budget comforts and cushions that initial blow. You can't get rid of the blow completely. We understand that. We had a 7 per cent fall in our economy in June. But that compares to over 12 per cent in New Zealand, almost 20 per cent in the United Kingdom. But we have been able to cushion that blow. We are putting out there our recovery plan that has seen 760,000 jobs restored or jobs that were reduced to zero hours. 60 per cent of the jobs that have already come back have been for women. And that's great. And in this Budget, our Women's Economic Security Package is all about giving those additional choices and safety for women at work to ensure that they can be a big part of this recovery.

LISA MILLAR: Prime Minister, we're almost out of time. I do want to ask you, Donald Trump has again been downplaying the dangerousness of COVID, Should people here in Australia heed the president's advice not to be afraid of coronavirus?

PRIME MINISTER: We've had a uniquely Australian response to COVID-19 that has meant -

LISA MILLAR: Yes. But what about Donald Trump's response?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Donald Trump doesn't run Australia. Donald Trump is responsible for the United States and I'm sure Australians will look to the Australian Government and the State Governments to take their directions from the health authorities here. Australia has ensured, together, working together at all levels, that we have had the, one of the least impacts of COVID of any country around the world today. Now that's not to say it hasn't been a brutal impact. It has. And that's why this Budget has responded at the scale that we have. I mean, this is an unprecedented challenge in a modern global economy. I mean, recessions are now in absolute real time. And this recession, this COVID recession is 45 times worse than what we saw in the Global Financial Crisis. Global growth will go down, we expect, by 4.5 per cent, during the Global Financial Crisis it fell by 0.1 per cent. So I think that puts it in perspective in terms of the scale of our response. But it is targeted. It is temporary. It is proportionate. And it has been well-designed to ensure that the measures are effective and are doing their job.

LISA MILLAR: All right, Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.