BEN FORDHAM: The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is on the line this Wednesday morning. PM, good morning to you.
PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. Good to be with you and also I should note, and thanks for that run through the figures. That is for businesses that have had a continuous 30 percent fall in their turnover. For small or medium sized businesses, and and for large businesses, a 50 percent fall.
FORDHAM: Yes. You're also tightening up the eligibility there, right? I mean, it was always there, those eligibility tests. But you want to make even more certain that anyone who's claiming it, deserves it?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we actually waive some of those for that period during the pandemic's early phases and through till now. But from the 4th of August you can't knock back a job offered to you through the system and expect to get JobSeeker. We'll also be reintroducing the need to re-engage with employment services providers, starting at four searches. And that will roll through to the end of September with the reintroduction of the assets test and the liquid assets waiting test. So that means that we're going back to the normal mutual obligation rules, pretty much. But I should say that the partner income test for JobSeeker, that we're keeping that up at the level we increased it to, which is just shy of $80,000 because we know there are many people who would have had part time jobs and other things like that. And in households where they may be now reduced to just single income earners.
FORDHAM: On JobKeeper, it drops from $1,500 to $1,200 and then to $1,000 by January 1. Is that based on our hope that things are going to be a lot better in 6 months than they are now?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's based on the assessment that you can't keep burning $11 billion dollars of cash every month Ben, at those higher rates. And you've got to start weaning the Australian economy off these income supports. And that means we are phasing them back. We're tapering them down. And that's the assessment that was made by Treasury, its an assessment that's been made by the government. We always said that these were temporary payments. They were targeted payments for those businesses that are still enduring those drops in revenue. Then they'll continue to get support. And, we are seeing is that many businesses now are being able to top up those JobKeeper payments, which is great. So there seems to be an assumption that $750, for example, is all that a part-time employee might get. Well, that's what the JobKeeper payment is, but they would hopefully be getting a few extra shifts and also those on lower incomes. And that is people on, say that $750 only JobKeeper payment, then they'd be able to apply for JobSeeker as well.
FORDHAM: Just on JobSeeker, it's coming down from $1,100 to $800. That's a temporary payment. Will there be a permanent change to the base rate of JobSeeker?
PRIME MINISTER: We haven't made any decisions on that yet. I mean, I understand the issues that are being raised there, but I said very clearly yesterday that we'd be leaning into the COVID supplement, being there in some shape or form post December. But we will make that decision closer to the time, see where you set JobSeeker and how you make people eligible for JobSeeker, that can be, as Treasury has also advised, a real incentive or disincentive for people to actually go out and go to work. Now, we don't want to have our payments being more of a hindrance than a help. And we've got to make these decisions closer to when we know what the economic conditions are.
FORDHAM: Just on those economic conditions. Tomorrow, we have the mini budget. Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, told me this week that the debt and deficit figures are eye watering. Is this the most expensive issue that we've ever had to manage as a country?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes. And daylight's second and third. But I should stress Ben, it's not a mini budget tomorrow. What it is, is just a reconciliation of all the commitments that have been made in the programmes which everyone's heard from. No one should expect any new announcements tomorrow. There is a budget in October. Tomorrow is about just reconciling the books for last year and this year in terms of all the commitments that have been made. So it's to be transparent with people about what the cost is. As you say, this has been the single largest economic impact that the government has had to face since the Second World War.
FORDHAM: A few other quick ones. Have you got a mask?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I do.
FORDHAM: Have you worn it?
PRIME MINISTER: Yeah I wore it at the optometrist the other day.
FORDHAM: Donald Trump took some time to wear one in public. Are we going to see you in public with a mask at some stage?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, if the medical advice is wherever I am, I'm required to do so of course I would.
FORDHAM: What about public transport? Do you like the idea of people wearing them on public transport?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes.
FORDHAM: The COVIDSafe app, it's been a bit of a misfire...
PRIME MINISTER: I should say, that’s what the New South Wales government is saying, by the way.
FORDHAM: Yeah they’re saying we should do it. They're not saying that we have to do it.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I think, that the approach is for people to exercise that common sense. I mean, the situation in Sydney, in particular in New South Wales more broadly, is not the situation in Melbourne. It could not be more different.
FORDHAM: Let's hope it remains that way,
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely.
FORDHAM: On the COVIDSafe app. And you’ve really encouraged everyone to download it. And we can understand why you've got to throw everything at a problem like Coronavirus. But we spent about $2 million bucks on the app and about $60 million dollars on advertising. It hasn't been used to find a single case of community transmission, though, yet has it on its own?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that wasn't its point. Its point was to support the manual contact tracing that was being done by the contact tracers and it has identified hundreds and hundreds of cases alongside the manual contact tracing. So it's there as a support Ben, it’s belts and braces, you say. I mean, it's another point in the armoury and it's one that we continue to strongly recommend people to download. I mean, about 40 percent of the population who can download, have. That means 60 percent hasn't. So obviously, if someone hasn't downloaded, it can't help you can it?
FORDHAM: There's another Black Lives Matter protest planned for Sydney next week. The police are trying to stop it, but the organisers are saying it'll go ahead. What's your message?
PRIME MINISTER: I just think that's appalling. Where the police and where the state government has said that there's a mass gathering that can't go ahead. Well, people should obey the law. I mean there's no special rule for people to not obey the law. And this is what the state government, they'll be making decisions about all of these things as they do every day. I mean, what gives people a ticket to not obey the law?
FORDHAM: The Centre Alliance, Senator Rex Patrick, says politicians should have their pay docked while Parliament's not sitting. What do you say, PM?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, if he's not working while the parliament's not sitting, that's a matter for him. I can tell you my government members are working as hard outside of the Parliament as they do, and I can certainly assure you that I am. I think that sort of stuff is just political clickbait for people looking to put their head above the parapet. I mean, it doesn't help anybody, it doesn't get us anywhere.
FORDHAM: The community support issue is a big one. We learnt today that thousands of clubs could go bust by the end of the year unless,
PRIME MINISTER: Sorry I missed that Ben what was that? I missed that?
FORDHAM: Community sport, we're being asked today for a lifeline for community sport, because thousands of clubs say they can't survive till the end of the year. Is there likely to be more help for community sport?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we did a, well the state governments in particular would be the first port of call for something like that Ben. And I'm sure if that's an issue that they're getting that feedback on, that they may be looking at that. It's great, though that community support is getting back on the field. I think it's so important for communities as long as people are, you know, observing and practising the rules around them. And there was a couple of little flareups, down in my own electorate the other week, last weekend I think it was. They got on top of those and they dealt with them. But people just need to, I think, be careful about these things. I thought it was great that, you know, some of the rugby league clubs were, I have an interest, but they were, you know, filming some of these things so grandparents could watch it and things like that. I thought that was really clever. I mean, my girls’ grandparents used to come and watch the girls when they were playing netball in the Shire. It's a very important family sort of time.
FORDHAM: You were filmed on the weekend kicking off the club rugby game, Southern Districts,
PRIME MINISTER: Not well.
FORDHAM: How many times did you practise in Kirribilli House before you got there?
PRIME MINISTER: Not enough! Not enough clearly, at least it went 10 and went the air. But it’s something I've been doing, I've been kicking off that season now. Oh, gosh. I don't know, maybe seven, eight years. And so it's always a bit of a kick and a giggle. But I was pleased to see that the Southern District boys got a very good win over Eastwood in the opening round. So, good for them. I wasn't able to stay for the rest of the game, but I was, I had a friend who was there. He kept me up to date with the score. So I was very pleased they got an early win.
FORDHAM: Well, you’re brave doing that with the cameras around. We'll talk to you soon. Thanks so much.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks a lot, Ben.