September 25, 2020

RICHARD KING, HOST: The Government will be cutting the JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplements as of today. As to what the impact will be, well our next guest feels that ending this support will cost local jobs and hurt those who have recently found themselves unemployed, and with the economy still in a bit of a freefall, maybe it’s not a good time to be doing what’s happening as of today.
For more on that, the man who has done a bit of number crunching is the Member for Shortland Pat Conroy. He is on the line, good morning Pat.
PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: Morning Richard, how are you?
BAUER: Yeah very well thanks. Yes well obviously a lot of people have been saying that we shouldn’t be cutting these payments, but you’ve actually done a bit of number crunching Pat as to the effect that it will have.
CONROY: Yeah I’ve worked out with my team what the impact will be on the Shortland alone, and the cuts today to the JobSeeker payment are going to impact 20,000 people in Shortland and it will pull $6 million a fortnight out of our local economy, and then the cut to JobKeeper on Monday will hurt 17,000 workers in Shortland and that will pull another $15 million a fortnight out of our economy. This is at the worse possible time. Our businesses are still struggling in many industries and they need the support. We’ve got lots of people unemployed and this is absolutely the worst time to be pulling this assistance back
KIM BAUER, HOST: But how long can it go on Pat?
CONROY: Well Kim I think it needs to go on for as long as we’ve got such high unemployment. We’ve got 1.6 million people unemployed in this country and the Government’s own modelling says that they expect another 400,000 people to hit the dole queue by the end of the year, so that’s two million unemployed Australians. So I know people are really concerned about how much money is being spent and I understand that concern, but pulling back this assistance will hurt these families massively. We will see a rise in homelessness, we will see a rise in people going without food, and the mental health issues. And as importantly, it will hurt our economy and actually set the recovery back. This is not the time to be prematurely withdrawing assistance. We need to maintain it until the private sector, until business are able to start employing people again.
KING: Right. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence – and obviously you’ve received reports too – the increase in JobSeeker Pat. A lot of people that might have been looking for work are thinking ‘no, I don’t need to look for work now, this JobSeeker is pretty good, I’ll just sit on this for a while’. 
CONROY: We do hear those stories but for example in regional New South Wales where we are, there is one job for every 28 applicants, so I honestly don’t think that it’s the rate of JobSeeker that is driving that issue. The fact is that for every job there are 28 people applying on average. So I think we need to grow more jobs in the economy and then more people will come off this. And as we grow more jobs we can think about reducing the assistance rate, but we are not there yet and all we are doing is punishing people who have lost their job at no fault of their own.
I met with the tourism industry, some local travel agents a couple of days ago and they are doing it so tough. They’ve lost staff and JobSeeker is keeping those unemployed people’s heads above water, and they are relying on JobKeeper for the few staff they’ve been able to retain. This is the worst time. No one says it should go on forever, we have to reasonable about this, but the impact on our local economy and on families will be massive.
BAUER: The example you’ve just given – tourism. The borders are starting to open, slowly admittedly, but don’t you think they’ll all sort of bounce back or do you think we are dreaming if we think that sort of sector will bounce back pretty quickly?
CONROY: Well travel agents is probably the most impacted sector in the entire economy, and in fact I think they need special assistance above and beyond JobKeeper. 95 per cent of their income comes from international work. So for example, one of the travel agents I talked to said they just booked a four day trip for someone to go to Mudgee and Dubbo - they made $50 off that booking. They make their big money off the big overseas trips, the cruises, the 30 days around Alaska, the Europe trips. That’s not going to come back for at least a year. So we are talking about an industry that employs 40,000 people around the country – that’s just under the number of people employed in coal mining for example – and that’s an industry that I think needs special assistance because they won’t see business coming back to anywhere close to normal until the end of next year.
KING: Yeah. Seventeen past seven, talking to Pat Conroy the – well he’s the Shadow Minister for a number of things but he’s a local, he’s the Member for Shortland. And look I must ask you because I know you’re a cricket lover – very sad to hear about the passing overnight of one of Australia’s great cricketers Dean Jones.
CONROY: Oh it’s absolutely tragic. I grew up in the 80s and I remember he was sort of that swashbuckling cricketer that we’re now used to seeing, but in the 80s under the sort of dour Allan Border led teams, he was such a breath of fresh air, him and Mark Waugh. I remember that test match in Madras where he just kept batting and batting and batting and Border sort of played mind games with him to keep him on the pitch. He lost eight kilos and had to go to hospital but made over 200 runs. It was incredible.
KING: Yeah. Alright, great to talk to you. And of course you’ll be cheering on the Knights against the Titans tonight no doubt Pat?
CONROY: Absolutely, we need to finish as high up the ladder as possible to give them a good chance in the semis.
KING: Alright, thanks for talking to us this morning, have a great weekend Pat.
CONROY: Have a great weekend guys. Thanks very much, bye.

To listen to the interview, click here.