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Channel 7 Sunrise with David Koch



Subjects: JobKeeper payment

DAVID KOCH: Now, the pressure's on for the Government to pass its JobKeeper package this week with the $130 billion wage subsidy to go before Parliament on Wednesday. The Morrison Government is urging Labor and the unions not to stand in the way with up to 6 million Aussie jobs at stake, but it's facing increasing calls for the subsidy to be extended to cover more casual workers. For more, I'm joined by the Attorney-General Christian Porter. Christian, thanks for joining us.

There are about 1.1 million casuals who will miss out on this because they haven't worked with a primary employer for 12 months. Is the Government prepared to budge on this?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well that definition that we've used, and of course you have to have some kind of eligibility definitions even in a package this enormous, and this system is essentially pushing out $130 billion worth of lifeboats to 6 million workers in the Australian economy to help them get through this. The definition of casual that we've used is in essence from the Fair Work Act- it talks about a systemic connection to an employer or 12 months. And keep in mind that there's no limit on how many hours you need to have worked, it's just the connection to the employer. Keep in mind also that the scheme has to be seen as working in tandem with the very large increases that have occurred to the JobSeeker payment. So in effect, doubling the old rate of Newstart. So these work in parallel and tandem together. You have to have definitions around eligibility. The Treasurer's already done some refining around the definition for charities and how they'll become eligible. But there have to be limits, even to a scheme of this enormous size.

DAVID KOCH: Yeah. So what you are saying is, if you're a casual and you don't come in within the 12 months, you can still go on JobSeeker if you want to, so you're covered there, you're not completely left out. But, am I-

CHRISTIAN PORTER: And you can work, right. So a casual can work and earn up to $104 without losing a single cent of the JobSeeker payment which is double the rate of Newstart. So the two of them work in tandem together.

DAVID KOCH: Right. And I suppose you don't want to run the risk of people doing dodgy things like making up casuals at the last minute to claim the JobKeeper in their business?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well the legislative drafting process is obviously being done under enormous time pressure and there will be safeguards and protections in there to make sure that the system is not misused by anyone who's involved in it. But there always have to be limits around definitions. But ultimately, Kochie, this is our Dunkirk moment for the Australian Parliament, right.

We've got $130 billion worth of lifeboats we need to push out to 6 million workers in the Australian economy. And we can argue around definitions and some of those will get refined, we've already seen charities changed somewhat in terms of their eligibility. But this is our Dunkirk moment. What we cannot be doing is what people like Tony Burke in the Labor Party are doing and saying wait, that we should wait for changes to Award systems or 11,000 enterprise agreements or millions of Australians who are on individual contracts. I mean, that's crazy stuff. This is happening in 48 hours. The lifeboats are being pushed out in 48 hours. $130 billion worth of them and people need to decide whether or not they're going to help us push those lifeboats out.

DAVID KOCH: And also, my understanding is the Tax Office is going to be pretty flexible with workers and businesses in terms of definitions, anyhow?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well there's an enormous amount of honesty that will have to be applied in this system because employers, of course, are going to be making an assessment that they're going to certify to the ATO that they're in distress and we've got those measures of distress being a decrease in the turnover of the business. So we're going to be relying on people doing the right thing. There'll certainly be safeguards in the legislation so that there'll be penalties for people who don't do the right thing. But this is obviously being done in record time; it will be done properly. But there are always limits and it must be seen as working with tandem with the already enormous expenditure that we've applied to the welfare system.

DAVID KOCH: Yep. Christian Porter, thanks for joining us.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Thank you very much.