By Matt Keogh MP

25 March 2021

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper, Defence Estimates, Morrison Government Reshuffle   

MATT KEOGH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY, ASSISTING FOR SMALL BUSINESS: It’s just 3 days until JobKeeper comes to an end and the Treasury Secretary has revealed that we’re looking at 150,000 people losing their job as a consequence of JobKeeper ending on the 28th March. And this isn’t just about jobs, this is people’s lives – and of course there is significant anxiety amongst those business owners and those employees. It’s a situation where business owners are going to be left without any support and I say to those business owners, please make sure you speak to your financial advisors and planners, make sure you get the right support and advice about how to deal with this very difficult time.


We're also seeing heightened anxiety from people who are realising that they are going to have to adjust from a situation of receiving JobKeeper at around $1,000 a fortnight down to JobSeeker at just $615 a fortnight. People are wondering how are they going to be able to make ends meet in that situation. Centrelink is redoubling its efforts now advertising, asking people who think they might be affected by this to make sure that they pre-register with Centrelink that they find out what other supports they may have available to them, because JobKeeper is coming to an end. And I say to people who work in businesses that are relying on JobKeeper, please make sure that you have that conversation with your boss, that you understand what is going to happen for you next week, and if you need please reach out to Centrelink and other services to make sure that you're able to access other payments to support you if the worst happens, and you become unemployed because JobKeeper comes to an end this Sunday. It is quite clear that for so many small businesses across the country, across different industries in different sectors and their employees - they've been left high and dry now by the Morrison Government, even though they are still suffering tough economic times as a consequence of COVID.


And it's not just them that have been left high and dry, our Navy has been left high and dry as well. What we've seen through Estimates yesterday is that the Morrison Government is struggling to keep on top of managing many, many defence projects, we've seen that our Joint Strike Fighters can't even fly a lot of the time. We've seen that the wrong metal is being used on the Offshore Patrol Vessels, meaning there's been blowouts and delays and rework required. We're saying that when it comes to the Future Submarine programme, the 60 per cent Australian industry capability requirement that was being spruiked by the Government just a few days ago, is being kept in secrecy. We're saying that no Government Minister has even seen the amendments to the agreement with Naval, and the government is hiding behind confidence. Sorry, the government is hiding behind commercial in confidence requirements to not disclose what the Australian industry capability requirements are. Nor whether there's any penalties or how any of this is actually going to work, or what categories of work for within what they deem to be Australian capability. The government is hiding. It's hiding behind commercial in confidence when there's no competitor to Naval in this process. It's just a further example of a don't ask, don't tell mentality from the Morrison Government.


JOURNALIST: On JobKeeper, Josh Frydenberg is set to announce the arts and entertainment industry funding package shortly I believe. Is that, would you welcome that? Should there be some more, I guess more targeted funding for (inaudible).


KEOGH: Targeted ongoing support is precisely what we have been calling for, for many, many weeks now. And it's great to see that the government is going to be topping up its “rise” grant programme that has been taken up reasonably well by the sector. And that's good. But that's just one sector. That's not going to help tourism operators in Cairns, it's not going to help cafes in the CBD of Melbourne, it's not going to help cinemas around Australia or so many other industries. So while this is a good thing, where is the other targeted support? And what is it? Three days now until JobKeeper comes to an end? What sort of support programme is that that gets announced when we're on the death knell of the previous programme. Businesses need to make decisions, they need weeks of advance notice to be able to handle these decisions properly to make sure that employees get enough notice, we're now in the dying days of JobKeeper, but at five minutes to midnight the government's rolling out one targeted programme that will support one industry. But what about all the others that are still suffering?


JOURNALIST: There was talk last night and this morning that Linda Reynolds might actually be moved on out of her Defence Minister role, you speak of submarines and that sort of thing there. Obviously she’s come under some criticism not just for the last couple of weeks, but the ongoing issues in the defence portfolio not to sledge her while she's still on leave, but would you welcome her being moved out of that role to a different one?


KEOGH: Well, I think clearly what we saw in estimates is that there's some significant governance issues now in Defence, and these issues have arisen largely now under Minister Reynolds’s leadership of the Defence portfolio, but we've seen some reports that Scott Morrison is looking at reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic now across a number of portfolios. I think people will regard that as appropriate because clearly, someone's got to get control of all of these different Defence projects. Someone's got to get the future submarine programme, the future frigate programme, the offshore patrol vessels, the Joint Strike Fighters and so many other programmes back on track.


JOURNALIST: What do you make of the fact that Peter Dutton’s name has been floated to Defence, and Stuart Robert will be going into Home Affairs?


KEOGH: Sorry I didn’t catch that?


JOURNALIST: So what do you make of the fact that Peter Dutton’s name has been floated as the new Defence Minister.


KEOGH: Well, as I said before, I think what we've seen in terms of speculation of a cabinet reshuffle during, while Parliament is still sitting is really indicative of reshuffling of the deck chairs now by the Morrison Government.


JOURNALIST: Do you think that Michaelia Cash may be a good AG?


KEOGH: I think Michaelia Cash has a law degree.


Thanks, everybody.