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E&OE TRANSCRIPT-TELEVISION INTERVIEW- 7 NEWS- WEDNESDAY, 31 JULY 2019

July 31, 2019

TIM LESTER: Brendan O’Connor, thank you for your time. First, when you heard Minister Cash exploring these new numbers, 78 per cent of job seekers breaching the guidelines at least once and many ten times, what ran through your mind?
 
BRENDAN O’CONNOR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT: On the face of it, it sounded like a huge number. But what we really need to know is what form of compliance breach occurred here. And what’s the purpose behind Senator Cash abusing jobseekers in such an offensive way. And quite frankly I think it’s because the Government is divided on increasing the Newstart allowance and this is becoming a distraction attacking the unemployed.
 
LESTER: To what extent, if that’s the case then, are Australia’s unemployed being used in a political argument?
 
O’CONNOR: I think they are the political football here. The most vulnerable people in our community are being used by Senator Cash as a distraction to stop the internal division within the Government about increasing Newstart. You have the business community, you’ve had community groups saying there needs to be an increase to Newstart. The Government doesn’t want to have that debate and Senator Cash has just been rolled out to attack the unemployed, to argue that they’re in fundamental breach of their obligations. When we look at the detail, the fact is these are very minor misdemeanours and she’s really inflated this issue to attack the unemployed.
 
LESTER: So, how much then are we really looking at the Government trying to pour water on any increase to the Newstart allowance – trying to stop that happening?
 
O’CONNOR: This is a phoney debate. This is a deliberate attempt to distract the community and distract, if you like, those people watching the Government internally divided. We saw Barnaby Joyce come out and say there should be an increase. We’ve seen many members of Government saying that the government needs to increase Newstart. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to do that, so he’s rolled out Senator Cash and what has she done? She’s attacked job seekers, in a very offensive way, in an unnecessary way just to stop this debate continuing.
 
LESTER: But, last, yours and Labor’s view on the need for a Newstart increase. Is there a need for an inquiry or is there a need to actually increase the payment?
 
O’CONNOR: We committed to an inquiry because it should be looked at, but it should be quick and we know people can’t afford to live on the rate. And we impress upon the Government that they should consider looking at increasing this pretty quickly. I think it has become a priority and yet the Government doesn’t see that and that’s why they’ve used unemployed people in this way.
 
LESTER: Have you got a sense of how big an increase will need to be to do the job?
 
O’CONNOR: Well, we think that there should be an examination of that. I think that clearly Newstart is very, very difficult to live on – we’ve made that clear. But, we’re not in Government, we have the elected representatives that form the Government. We think it’s incumbent upon them to make a decision, to make it easier for people who are struggling to make ends meet – really struggling. And, for that reason, they’ve used Senator Cash as a distraction today and that was unnecessary, particularly being so offensive for many thousands of Australians who are desperate to find work and can’t find it.
 
LESTER: Brendan, thank you.
 
O’CONNOR: Thank you.

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