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5AA Mornings with Leon Byner



Subjects: JobKeeper

LEON BYNER: Now, at the present time, there's going to be a parliamentary meeting very soon to try and pass the JobKeeper legislation. And to explain how it's going to work, let's welcome the Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter. Christian, thanks for joining us today.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Good to be here and I hope all your listeners are staying safe.

LEON BYNER: Yes. Is the Federal Government going to extend the wage subsidy to casuals who have worked less than a year with the same company?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: We won't be changing the time period. So what we've said is that casuals are eligible for JobKeeper if they've been employed on a regular and systemic basis. Now, that's a definition that essentially comes from the Fair Work Act. We've nominated 12 months and you have to put some kind of measure on that - 14 months, 10 months, 12 months. You need some kind of delineation to make the system work. We've chosen 12 months. What that's meant to do is recognise, if you like, a permanent casual in a business.

So I think, Leon, for the purposes of all your listeners' understanding of what's going on, this system, JobKeeper, which is money that flows through the employer - $1500 to subsidise or pay a wage of someone who might otherwise lose their job - it works in parallel with the changes to the welfare system, which have basically seen a doubling of the Newstart amount under JobSeeker. So, whether you're in the JobKeeper or JobSeeker, you're going to get looked after in a way that no one's ever been looked after in the Australian economy by government through the taxpayer before. But we have to draw boundaries around all of these things even in expenditure programs as massive as the new JobKeeper $1500 payments.

LEON BYNER: I've got the Federal Attorney-General on the line. Christian Porter, there is a view that some businesses might rort this payment or system. What's in place to make sure that doesn't happen?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, we're drafting the legislation at the moment. There'll obviously be penalties for any businesses that do the wrong thing. And the business has to self-identify itself as meeting the criteria of being distressed- so a reduction of turnover depending on whether the business has turnover of under a billion or over a billion. So look, we rely on people to make that self-assessment but of course we'll be checking and auditing that and that's going to be subject to a regime that ensures, through a random sampling and auditing system that people do the right thing. But we're very much expecting that people will do the right thing because this is $130 billion worth of taxpayer support to the Australian economy to six million people who might potentially otherwise lose jobs and whose employment depends on it. So, yes, there'll be a degree of self-assessment but we'll be checking.

LEON BYNER: I'm joined by Christian Porter, the Attorney-General. Christian, when does this money start flowing for JobKeeper?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Mate, we're not having the most successful interview of all time but we'll keep pressing ahead. Well the first step is passage through Parliament. So in 48 hours the legislation needs to be passed. We need to make changes to a variety of legislation, but importantly from my end, the Fair Work Act. The payments start in early May I think it is, but it's very important obviously that we get legislation through in 48 hours on Wednesday because without the legislation, the changes to the Fair Work Act, the money can't flow.

LEON BYNER: Are you confident that this will be passed in Parliament this week?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well we're going to sit 'til it's passed. I mean this is just one of the most critical moments for the Australian Parliament post World War II. Labor's position seems to be that we should wait for payments to be enabled by some other method - changing 121 different Awards or some percentage of the 11,000 enterprise agreements and find some other way of ensuring that 4 million Australians who are covered by individual contracts can receive the payment. But we are not going to do it that way. We are going to get this dealt with on Wednesday, get the legislation through. And the reason that you need the legislation and the changes to the Fair Work Act is to make sure that people don't work too many hours for the $1500 if that's all a business that might otherwise be unviable can afford to allocate to the employee. So it's absolutely critical that you change the Fair Work Act, otherwise the system just doesn't work.

LEON BYNER: Look, thank you for coming on today. You've clarified the matter as best you can and we'll definitely keep in touch and make sure we're in the loop on all these matters. That's Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter.