25 February 2021

SUBJECTS: JobKeeper; Future Submarines. 

MATT KEOGH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE INDUSTRY, SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR SMALL BUSINESS: It's now 31 days until the end of JobKeeper and the Morrison government is still failing to provide any certainty to business across Australia and the 1.3 million employees working for those businesses that are still relying on JobKeeper.

Josh Frydenberg in question time yesterday, went to great lengths to talk about all of those businesses that are no longer relying on the JobKeeper payment. And that's a great outcome for those businesses. But he completely ignored all of the businesses, and the people working for those businesses that are still relying on JobKeeper, and are clearly going to require ongoing support after the 28th of March. I think everybody's happy to see that the economy is recovering after the worst recession in a century. But what Josh Frydenberg is failing to see, are all of those workers and businesses in the cinema industry, in the aviation industry, in the tourism industry, in the hospitality industry, in so many different sectors across Australia, those businesses in our CBD’s that have still not come completely back to life, they're still relying on JobKeeper. They still require ongoing support after the end of the 28th of March, and the government is failing by not providing them with any certainty. We've now got a whole host of organisations, peak bodies for business, industry groups, coming and telling the government that their sector or businesses across the board - small business require ongoing support from the government after the 28th of March, and the government is giving them not only no confidence, but no certainty, no security, about what will happen after the 28th of March when JobKeeper comes to an end, and what plans therefore those businesses should be doing. Some of them are just hoping that there's going to be some form of targeted support. And they may be found wanting when that support is not there. Some businesses though, they’re seeing the writing on the wall now, they’re having to make calls about letting go employees and winding up their businesses. The Treasury Department has already told government 100,000 people are going to lose their job when JobKeeper comes to an end in 31 days time, if the government doesn't do something to continue to support small businesses and the people working for them around Australia. 

I just want to make some comments in relation to the reporting on the Future Submarine Project. 

The Future Submarine Project is the biggest project that the government has ever embarked on, it is the biggest thing an Australian government has ever purchased. We've seen a huge cost blowout to $90 billion on the project. We've seen a time blowout of around seven years delay in the future submarine project. And now, we see that Scott Morrison is looking to torpedo the entire future submarine project itself. 

It appears he has no confidence in the way in which his Defence Ministers have handled the future submarine project looking at bringing in an entirely different supplier. This causes huge problems for Australia, it means that there's a lack of confidence in government about the capability for a submarine programme. But importantly, this government has failed defence industry here in Australia. It's failed Australian workers by not having any commitments in its future submarine contracts for at least a minimum Australian industry capability requirement. The government over a year ago, said that it would negotiate a 60% minimum, but it's done nothing to actually deliver on that. And now it looks like it's going to torpedo the entire future submarine project. 

This is why Australian Labor has made the commitment that we will have minimum Australian industry capability requirements in major defence procurement projects, so that we employ more Australians on those projects so that we build defence industry businesses and support them, and that we build critical sovereign capability here in Australia for our defence projects, our defence industry and our skilled defence workforce. 

JOURNALIST: Just on Defence firstly, I mean, obviously, cost blowouts aren’t great, but I mean, it seems like a lot of submarine projects have cost blowouts, for example, the Collins Class submarines were famously late. How would Labor actually stop those kind of blow outs, these late entries coming through? And it seems like no Governments have been capable of getting these programmes to run on time. 

KEOGH: It's quite clear there's been a dramatic failure under this government in its procurement process. So I think we now have something like a cumulative delay of some 87 years on the defence projects that are currently under procurement under this Morrison government. They cannot manage any of these projects. They clearly don't have the capacity to do it. The Collins Class programme - whilst yes, it did suffer from delays and problems at the beginning, it is now the poster child of Australian industry capability. We've built the capability around the Collins Class Submarine Programme, so that we can have Australian workers, the Collins class programme at the end demonstrated what Australia can do, what we can do here and what we should be supporting, and highlights effectively the failure of the Morrison government by not supporting Australian industry as part of the Future Submarine Project.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned as well that 100,000 - Treasury thinks 100,000 people will lose their jobs at the end of JobKeeper. Is there any possibility that that might climb because there are around about a million workers relying on it. Still those businesses are still struggling and things could get worse.

KEOGH: We certainly face the problem right now with only 31 days to go until the end of JobKeeper that not only will we see job losses of around 100,000 people as Treasury predict, once JobKeeper comes to an end on 28th of March. But over time, as more businesses suffer from not getting support while we’re still seeing the economic ravages of the COVID pandemic, there'll be further and further closures of those businesses and more people will become unemployed as a consequence. I think that is something that is a real possibility. And it just exemplifies why government needs to provide more targeted support and clarity to businesses that are relying on JobKeeper. They need to provide that clarity and support after the 28th of March.