Sky News Television Interview – National Redress Scheme; JobSeeker; JobKeeper; independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak

E&OE

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
Now joining us live is Social Services Minister, Anne Ruston. Anne Ruston, thank you for your time. There's been a push for Labor to be naming and shaming people who haven't signed up for the National Redress Scheme to compensate people who were victims of child abuse in institutions - should they be doing this before your 30 June deadline?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well right from the get go the Government has always said that we would have a two-year period in which organisations would have the opportunity to join, that period ends on 30 June and we will, after that period, name and shame those organisations that haven't joined. But we have been very clear that 30 June was always the deadline and we will remain consistently to adhere to that deadline.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
So, if there are over 6000 applications made and roughly 1300 that haven't- that have been processed rather. Why is there such a delay?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well, there are there are a number of reasons why this has been a much more complex process than I think any of us imagined. First of all, it has taken a lot longer for organisations to sign up so that we can match applications with institutions. But I have to say, very positively, we have the majority of applications, we now do have institutions on which we can actually pass the applications on for processing. But the other thing that was probably more of a surprise to the team when they started working on these applications, was just the extraordinary complexity of them. We thought that probably around 75 per cent of the applications that came forward would have one institution named in the application. What we found is an excess of 75 per cent named more than one organisation and many of them are naming multiple organisations, you know, four, five and six. So the complexity of these has actually been something that we were not expecting. But with the addition of some significant new resources, we've seen a massive increase in the number of applications that are being processed. I mean just as an example, we processed 700 in the first three months of this year, whereas in the first three months of last year we processed less than 100. Now, for anybody who's waiting, I understand that the trauma continues. But I want to assure everybody who is waiting on an application that we have applied massive new resources and we are working very, very hard to try and process the backlog of applications as soon as we possibly can.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
There have been concerns raised by a number of sporting organisations, in particular the AOC and Swimming Australia, saying that they can't look at paying this out because they can't afford it with their insurance, or how their insurance is organised. Do you think that's fair enough?

MINISTER RUSTON:
I've spoken to the AOC and I've spoken to Swimming Australia and a number of other sporting institutions and said to them, there are many different ways that you can work to be able to provide the opportunity to be able to join the fund. We're not saying that every organisation, every small sporting organisation needs to join in its own right. But I think, under the umbrella organisation of the AOC it would be good if they were able to auspice the organisations that sit within their area and come forward with a combined consortium so that they actually can join the scheme. Because it is simply not good enough that an organisation, particularly one that has been named in the Royal Commission as having some very bad track history with working with young people, should shirk their responsibility for making a redress available to people who've been waiting so long. And I would also say to Swimming Australia, or any of the other organisations who are suggesting that they can't afford to pay this, think of the reputational damage not joining is going to do to your organisation. And please continue to work with us so that we can work out a way that you can join the scheme, you can provide the redress and that you can get on with what is now an organisation that has very strong constraints in place to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
If I can ask about the JobSeeker program which is under your remit in social services. Is there a risk [audio skip] JobKeeper payments start coming through if people have been on JobSeeker in that time, it could be income counted against them and they could end up with a Centrelink debt?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well, one of the things that we've been very mindful and very careful to do through the process of people applying for JobSeeker is to say to every new applicant, please contact your employer or your previous employer to ascertain whether they're intending to claim JobKeeper payment. And if they are, then they need to be mindful that if they have claimed JobSeeker and then they get JobKeeper, JobKeeper is considered income for the purposes of reporting for their JobSeeker payment. We're very confident that everybody has that information and we would be very hopeful that we've already started to see a number of applications or intents to claim that we thought would come through to the JobSeeker have no longer come through which we assume many have gone through to JobKeeper. So, we're hopeful that the people that are going onto these payments or having to make themselves available, avail themselves to these payments understand that if they are on JobKeeper then they will not be able to be eligible for JobSeeker, and if they are, then JobKeeper will be considered as income for reporting purposes.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
And just finally, these interactions between the Chinese Embassy and the Australian Government have really escalated over the last 24 hours. Do you think it's helpful to have mining magnate Twiggy Forest on radio this morning, saying that we should be postponing any kind of global inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic that the Government's pushing for until after the US election, and we shouldn't be focusing on China?

MINISTER RUSTON:
Well, what I would say is I think the Australian public and I think the international public reasonably and responsibly want to know how this pandemic has occurred because we must make sure that it never happens again. And I think that is a completely reasonable thing for the Australian and the international public to be expecting.

ANNELISE NIELSEN:
Senator Anne Ruston, thank you for your time.

MINISTER RUSTON:
My pleasure. Thanks.