Politics with Michelle Grattan
Jim Chalmers on JobKeeper’s flaws and the Eden-Monaro byelection

Jim Chalmers on JobKeeper’s flaws and the Eden-Monaro byelection

May 20, 2020

Labor will campaign on the flaws in the JobKeeper program in the Eden-Monaro byelection, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says.

“There will be so many people from Eden-Monaro who would have heard the Prime Minister say that there would be wage subsidies only to find out that they’ve either been deliberately or accidentally excluded from those wage subsidies, who can’t understand why someone who might have been on $100 a week before is now getting $750 while they’re excluded from it.”

Chalmers says he intends to campaign in the byelection - for which a date has yet to be set - and has spoken with Labor leader Anthony Albanese about doing so.

As the political debate turns to the strategy for the economic exit from the pandemic, Labor is seeking to define its differences with the government.

“We don’t want to see all of this support withdrawn from the economy in one hit, on one day, based on a faulty assumption about ‘snap back’, when the reality is that the recovery is going to be patchy, Chalmers says.

"It’s going to be longer than ideal, and different types of workers in different types of industries will feel the impacts differently. I think the Government’s policy needs to recognise that.”

The aftermath of the crisis will be the defining debate at the next election,“ Chalmers says.

"I think the next election will be about unemployment in particular. It will be about what the future economy looks like and whether we can create that inclusive, sustainable growth that creates well-paid jobs for more people and more opportunities. I think that’s where the next election will be won or lost for the government and for the opposition.”

“This is not the sort of crisis where we get to September, people forget about it, and the world moves on”

Chalmers, who worked in then-treasurer Wayne Swan’s office during the global financial crisis, contrasts the support Labor has given the Morrison government with the stand of the Coalition opposition then.

“We actually haven’t held anything up in the parliament because the priority is to get this support out the door and into the pockets of workers and businesses as soon as possible.”

“We are deliberately being more constructive than our opponents were a decade ago because we saw firsthand the costs of that kind of oppositionist approach.”

Democracy 2025 - The role of the APS in a post COVID-19 world with Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans, Peter Shergold, and Renée Leon

Democracy 2025 - The role of the APS in a post COVID-19 world with Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans, Peter Shergold, and Renée Leon

May 18, 2020

In the latest Democratic Fundamentals, Renée Leon, former Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, and Peter Shergold, former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, discuss the challenges and opportunities for the APS as the world eases restrictions with hosts Mark Evans and Michelle Grattan.

Democratic Fundamentals is produced in partnership with Democracy 2025, The Conversation and contentgroup.

Paul Kelly on the risk of a COVID-19 second-wave

Paul Kelly on the risk of a COVID-19 second-wave

May 12, 2020

Speaking as an expert in epidemiology, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is candid about the prospects of a second-wave of coronavirus in a society that hasn't developed herd immunity.

"There is a very large risk of a second wave. We need to do this very carefully," he says, as Australia starts to roll back restrictions.

"We are potentially victims of our own success here because we have been so successful in minimising the first wave of infections, the vast majority of Australians have not actually been exposed to this virus in a way that could develop immunity in people or herd immunity in the population".

"There is that sense that people want to just get back to doing what what they did before. But it's going to be a new normal. We have to decide as a society, what does a COVID-safe society look like? And there will be changes..."

"This is a big change in the way we're going to live. I think we've seen that in human history. The changes that pandemics have brought, back to [how] the 1918 flu changed the world. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has changed the world. And this one will change the world."

Kelly, in his role as an adviser to the government, praises Australia's response to the virus as one of the most effective in the world - comparable to the successes of Taiwan and New Zealand. But he also acknowledges the marked difference in policy between the Tasman neighbours.

"New Zealand very early on decided that they could and wanted to eliminate the virus altogether as a public health issue. And so they've gone very hard with their social isolation policies and so forth...they really are on a path to not having any virus in the country at all."

"On our side of the Tasman, we went for a suppression approach, which meant that we didn't go quite as hard with the lockdown measures that have been introduced, on the basis that the economic and social impacts of that were not proportionate to the threat of the virus."

If, as both governments would like, a trans-Tasman "bubble" is established for travel, Kelly agrees that, in terms of risk, it would be the New Zealanders who'd have to be more careful about inviting Australians in rather than the other way around.

"But I think it's definitely achievable. "

Describing himself as a glass half-full person, Kelly says: "So with my glass half full, I will hope that sometime in 2021 we'll be talking about vaccines. And then our challenge will be getting enough of them available to the people that need them, not only in Australia but throughout the world and particularly in the poorer nations of the world, so that we can have an equitable distribution of something that could change a lot of people's lives."

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Nev Power on the role of business in a post-coronavirus world

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Nev Power on the role of business in a post-coronavirus world

May 6, 2020

Nev Power, former head of "Twiggy" Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group, is now the Chairman of the government's National COVID-19 Coordination Commission.

The commission, set up by Scott Morrison in March, is working on mitigating the effects of the virus on jobs and businesses, and exploring opportunities to help get the country moving again in the post-virus future.

This week the national cabinet was briefed on its preparations for the COVID-safe workplaces.

It is also looking towards the big ideas.

With many calling for reform, Power advocates "tax benefits to companies that invest here in Australia".

"If there are opportunities to incentivise companies to do that, and to accelerate that process, I think that would be very positive.

"This would be some form of investment allowance, or investment tax concessions that reward companies for investing directly in Australia rather than across-the-board tax reductions for those companies."

Power sees a longer-term role for the national cabinet: "I think the national cabinet has been very successful and the results speak for themselves... I believe that there's a great opportunity to keep it in place to help us accelerate the economy and to put through all of the changes that we need to make sure the economy comes back as quickly as possible."

Katy Gallagher on the senate’s coronavirus watchdog

Katy Gallagher on the senate’s coronavirus watchdog

April 28, 2020

Labor's Katy Gallagher is chair of the Senate committee that will assess the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, both its economic and health challenges. It is set for the deep dive, having a final reporting date of mid-2022.

With parliament currently sitting only in fits and starts, Gallagher considers the committee a "key accountability vehicle".

"We don't want political grandstanding, we don't want long winded political arguments, there are other forums for those," she says.

"We do expect public servants and ministers to attend with information and provide information. I don't want it to be turned into one of those committees that we see so often where we ask questions and the officials at the table work out how not to answer them"

The committee's role will be "to explore why decisions were taken and provide that conduit back to the public."

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his autobiography, ‘A Bigger Picture

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on his autobiography, ‘A Bigger Picture

April 20, 2020

In this episode of Politics with Michelle Grattan, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull gives his frank assessment of Scott Morrison as a former colleague and as prime minister, warns about the right of the Liberal party, and tongue lashes News Corp.

As Treasurer, Morrison at times infuriated then PM Turnbull by leaking to the media and “frontrunning” positions before decision were made.

“Morrison and I worked together very productively” but “he had an approach to frontrunning policy which created real problems for us,” Turnbull says.

As for now, Morrison’s “obviously got massive, completely unanticipated challenges to face … I think he’s doing well with them by the way. … I think the response of Australian governments generally [on coronavirus] has been a very effective one”.

Turnbull’s anger against both the Liberal right wing and News Corp continue to burn undiminished.

The right, “amplified and supported by their friends in the media, basically operate like terrorists”.

News Corp “I think was well described as ‘a political organisation that employs a lot of journalists’”; The Australian “defends its friends, it attacks its enemies, it attacks its friends’ enemies, and the tabloids do the same.”

MPs Tim Watts, Fiona Martin, Clare O’Neil and Helen Haines discuss serving their electorates during the coronavirus crisis

MPs Tim Watts, Fiona Martin, Clare O’Neil and Helen Haines discuss serving their electorates during the coronavirus crisis

April 9, 2020

Michelle Grattan talks with MPs Tim Watts (Gellibrand, Victoria), Fiona Martin (Reid, NSW), Clare O'Neil (Hotham, Victoria) and Helen Haines (Indi, Victoria) about how they do their job during the pandemic.

They discuss the operation of their electorate offices in light of isolation requirements, and recount how the crisis is affecting their constituents.

Democracy 2025 - How does Australia compare: what makes a leading democracy? With Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans and Ian Chubb

Democracy 2025 - How does Australia compare: what makes a leading democracy? With Michelle Grattan, Mark Evans and Ian Chubb

April 2, 2020

In this special hour long podcast presented by Mark Evans, professor of governance and director of Democracy 2025, the panel discusses Australian democracy with Emeritus Professor Ian Chubb and Michelle Grattan.

The panel dissects the Australian trust in government, compared with other modern democracies around the world. Drawing on the world values survey, the report (available <tc-file-link id="982">here</tc-file-link>) notes the sharp focus on the quality of democratic governance, especially in the time of global crisis caused by coronavirus.


Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty on the coronavirus crisis and the timeline for a vaccine

Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty on the coronavirus crisis and the timeline for a vaccine

March 26, 2020

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, has infected nearly half a million people and taken the lives of more than 21,200.

No person in Australia is more qualified to speak on the science of this global pandemic than Professor Peter Doherty. Professor Doherty was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine in 1996 for his work studying the immune system. The Doherty Institute, now at the forefront of Australian research on the coronavirus, bears his name.

In this episode of Politics with Michelle Grattan, Professor Doherty discusses the particulars of the pandemic - including how controlling this pandemic differs from that of other illnesses:

“It’s a problem of dealing with a respiratory infection,” he said.

“It’s different from, say, AIDS. We can all modify the way we behave in the sexual sense, but we can’t decide not to breathe. And so it’s very important that we keep that social distancing right at the front of our mind. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen is, think [as if] you’ve already got it and you don’t want to transmit it to anybody else. And if you think like that, you’ll protect yourself. ”

Scientists from The Doherty Institute were the first to successfully grow the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) from a patient sample. According to Professor Doherty, a COVID-19 vaccine could be available within 12 to 18 months.

“There are a few new concerns … that some vaccine formulations, not all, but some could give you what we call a bit of immunopathology,” he said.

“That is, they might actually make [the illness] a little bit worse or contribute to some bad, bad situation. So we have to be careful with the vaccine. But the first vaccine product from the University of Queensland, I’m told, has already gone into lab animals.”

Listen to the full podcast for more from Professor Doherty, including how his research and institution is furthering the vaccination effort, how the virus affects the body and the future of the crisis.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on COVID-19

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy on COVID-19

March 10, 2020

With 100 domestic cases as of March 10, federal and state governments and health authorities face daunting challenges posed by COVID-19 in coming weeks and months - securing a workforce of nurses and doctors to treat the sick, ensuring enough testing facilities to meet a rapidly growing demand, and stemming the spread of the virus, to the maximum extent possible.

As Chief Medical Officer for the federal government, Professor Brendan Murphy is confident about maintaining enough health staff, including in nursing homes.

“You can find a health workforce if you look hard enough, and if you can fund the surge. So I think we will find them.”

Murphy is also optimistic the present self-isolation period of 14 days can be shortened at some point, as the incubation period of virus is now thought to be “probably around five to seven days”.

When will the virus peak in Australia? Murphy says: “If we had widespread and more generalised community transmission, I would imagine that would be peaking around the middle of the year, in the middle of winter. … But that’s really our best guess of the modelling at the moment. And it’s very, very hard to predict.”

Murphy re-iterates that only people in certain categories need to be tested; in the last few days there has been a “significant surge” of people with flu-like symptoms but outside these categories who have been seeking testing, placing pressure on facilities.

With eyes on Italy’s lockdown, could a single region of Australia be locked down?

“It’s potentially possible, absolutely. If we had a city, a major city that had an outbreak of some thousands, and the rest of the country was pretty unaffected, we could very easily consider locking down a part of or a whole town or city.”