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ABC Afternoon Briefing 7 December 2020

December 07, 2020


SUBJECTS: Cashless Debit Card, Industrial Relations Reform.

KARVELAS: Joining me this afternoon, is the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, and Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg - welcome. Andrew Giles I think we lost you a couple of times this afternoon because of the House bells ringing so there's a lot of excitement in the House - I love a parliamentary sitting week. Let's talk then about that issue - the Cashless Debit Card legislation vote in the House. It's just carried 62 to 61, the Bill will come down to the crossbench. Why is Labor opposing this so strongly?

ANDREW GILES, SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP: Well, look, I mean we're deeply concerned about this Bill, no case has been made, the Government commissioned the University of Adelaide to do a review of this and haven't released it. We're concerned that there are issues of racial discrimination underpinning the approach, and I listened to the Prime Minister during Question Time talking about how its Australians who are best placed as to how to spend their money. What an extraordinary thing to say on a day like today when this bit of legislation has been rammed through the House. And of course, it wouldn't have got through the House if the Member for Bass, who very articulately set out her concerns about this being something that stigmatises poor Australians and First Nations Australians without any basis. If she'd voted against it, the bill would have been tied and it would all be over.

KARVELAS: Okay. Bridget Archer is who you're referring to, Andrew Bragg, she's a colleague of yours and she's been very strong on this - there's a clearly very strong opposition within the Government to this. Has the case really been established for why this is necessary to make these permanent? I mean, it seems that some of the concerns about whether this really has benefited people's lives are quite real. Why are you pushing so hard for this?

ANDREW BRAGG: PK, the first point to make is that in our Party people are entitled to express a view as Bridget has done. On the substance of the issue, in some communities, it's been a up to 40 percent reduction in alcohol usage, and it's been supported by the communities in which its being used in South Australia and Western Australia, and I make a note that these are not necessarily Indigenous communities, in fact, for the most part the non-indigenous people that are using the cashless cashless debit card. So far it has been successful, and if it was to be further rolled out that would require the Parliament to approve that.

KARVELAS: Okay. But it does actually disproportionately affect Indigenous communities as well?

BRAGG: Well, it depends where the trial sites are.

KARVELAS: Okay. But, you know, if you look at its history, I spoke to Linda Burney she says it is actually racist - it's a racist piece of legislation that's how she described it to me.

BRAGG: While I respect her perspective. I would say that this program is not geared at any particular form of ethnic profile or background.

KARVELAS: What do you think about that, Andrew. Do you think that, that there systemic racism in the Bill?

GILES: Well it is, and I don't think it's a big leap in 2020 to recognise that a set of policies or arrangements that are on the face of them don't refer to a particular race or group in the community, disproportionately impact such a group, and that's clearly the case with the cashless debit card, I think that is well understood. It is incredibly concerning to me right now when you think about the big debates that we're having and debates that I know Andrew has played a really important and positive role in about achieving reconciliation with First Nations people that we're pushing on with this in such an authoritarian manner, that is unsupported by evidence or by the vast majority of communities.

KARVELAS: OK, let's move on to some other issues industrial relations reform is the big one, this week and will continue to be. The union movement is pretty concerned about some of the changes in relation to casuals. Andrew Bragg why won't the Government or the Prime Minister actually say that no worker will be worse off from the Bill? Is it because there will be workers who will be worse off?

BRAGG: To start with, I think it's very welcome. This is our first serious Industrial Relations policy since 2007 - this is a package based on incremental but important systemic changes, rather than being based on any other you know foundation such as ideology, and I think what you see is longer term agreements, more flexible arrangements at workplaces on the ground, and that is very welcome. I mean the scare campaigns that I think have cruelled a lot of important reform in his space. I think are now a thing of the past.

KARVELAS: Andrew, why is Labor so opposed to this? It seems - I spoke to some Labor people a couple of days ago - who said that you'd just be pushing for some amendments - but it seems that that position really hardened, why has the position hardened?

GILES: Because what the government are talking about has changed quite dramatically, particularly in terms of these issues impacting casual workers. And I guess, I reflect on what's happening in the labour market right now, Patricia, in Australia today, the share their economy that's going to wages is at a record low and everything this Government seems to want to do is to make that share lower and lower, which is obviously terrible for working people but it's also terrible for our recovery in terms of boosting consumption. The other thing that I'm very concerned about and my colleagues are too, is we've seen just how corrosive the casualisation of the labour market has been for the operation of our society more broadly. That's something that a government that's on the side of Australians should be recognising and seeking to counter, instead of it would appear, trying to come over the top of the Federal Court's decision.

KARVELAS: I just want to get you on a couple of your individual issues, I know...

GILES: Sorry, Patricia I've got to run and vote again, I hope to be back.

KARVELAS: Someone has to vote, there's always someone who has to vote. There you go. Walk out actually creates a bit of drama on the show.