Minister Rishworth on ABC Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett


GREG JENNETT: Amanda Rishworth, great to have you back on the program. I promise we do want to get to the important matter of the National Plan to End Domestic Violence - that's a major body of work that you're engaged in. But, why don't we start out today on something that broadly sits within your portfolio, the pandemic supports and the pandemic leave disaster payment in particular. Do you hold out any possibility to the many people who are now asking for that decision to be reconsidered, the ending of it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That payment was due to end at the end of this financial year and the government has taken that decision that there is no money to be able to extend that and this is the right time to end that payment. We haven't sat on our laurels when it comes to tackling this pandemic. What we've done is extended money to hospitals and it is very important for states and territories to be able to deal with the increased numbers of patients. So we've been able to make those payments, as well as put an information campaign out about getting a booster and ensuring that there is a fourth shot available for people as well as antivirals, making sure they are widely available. So, as we move into the next phase of the pandemic, our response is critically important, and we are taking very important steps to make sure Australia manages this difficult health situation.

GREG JENNETT: And I'm sure that all of those spending initiatives are welcomed, but do you acknowledge there's a particular circumstance here for, let's face it an unknown number of casuals, really who've just for the first time in this pandemic been left in the lurch. There is no support payment to get them through those seven days. We've spoken to some on ABC News, who are really high and dry, unable to meet rent relying on family to help, do you acknowledge that they are in a unique circumstance now, because not for the first time, the pandemic has thrown things at us we didn't expect?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This pandemic has been very difficult to navigate and this payment was due to end on the 30th of June and the government has ended that, but I would encourage people if they're finding themselves in difficult situations to reach out to Services Australia, but also speak with their employers. Many of us have changed the way we work with this pandemic, so it is a difficult time there's no suggesting that it's not. But our government has, as we move into the next phase of the pandemic, really looked at how we can support states and territories with hospital funding, and all those others measures I've mentioned particularly about making antiviral medication available as well. These have been important decisions that our government is taking to help Australians through this pandemic.

GREG JENNETT: You say reach out to Services Australia, but is there any stop gap support? Is there anything to be offered?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It all depends on people's individual circumstances. I'm just making a general point that Services Australia is there with a range of payments. Of course, it depends on people's unique situations about their financial situation, whether their employment has stopped or not. I'm making a general point there, but in terms of this particular payment, it was a difficult decision, but this was due to end on the 30th of June and that's what has happened.

GREG JENNETT: And Jeremy Rockliff the Tasmanian Premier has written to the Prime Minister asking that it be reconsidered. So has Chris Minns the Labor leader in New South Wales. To both of them, same answer?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The government has made the decision that this payment is to end. We've moved into the next phase of the pandemic and there are payments available to states, to hospitals and as I said a range of other measures that we are taking.

GREG JENNETT: Alright, so we'll move on then. I guess there's not going to be a change the government doesn't seem to be signalling one today. Anyway, why don't we take you to jobless figures. Today, unemployment has come right down to near historic low levels. How's that going to show up on the welfare budget that you oversee. Are we already likely to see a budget improvement there, as more and more people look for work and apparently are able to find it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is really good news for so many people that may not have had a job last month, but have a job this month. There was an additional 80,000 jobs available to people in the economy. So this is really good news for so many people looking for work, and as you said, more people are wanting to actively look for work. This is good news. Of course, we also know that there are people and some people for example, living with a disability or some people that have been unemployed for some time. For those people, we want to make sure that they get the support to enter the job market and that is what the focus for me will be on at the Job Summit. How do we make sure that people's talents are fully utilised and that people that have been perhaps in a situation of long-term unemployment or have been shut out of the labour market can actually get into the labour market, and that's an important piece of work that I'll be doing at the Jobs Summit in September.

GREG JENNETT: Were you frankly surprised by the very sharp further fall that came through in the month of June, that might there be even further declines that take us truly into historical territory, wouldn't it for unemployment?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There is no doubt that businesses when I speak to them out on the ground, are saying that they are looking for workers. And I think many businesses are starting to look outside the box when it comes to employing workers. So that's a good thing, that perhaps people that hadn't had the opportunity to before to get into the labour market, now have the opportunity to get into the labour market. That is a really good thing. But we do know that there are some barriers for people that have stopped them from getting into the labour market to take up the opportunity that now exists. We need to support those people as well. But look, it's not a surprise that business is really looking out for workers. And, it's really important that as a government, we support them in growing skills, growing productivity to ensure that there is ongoing economic growth as well. 

GREG JENNETT: All right, let's take you back to what we referred to right off the top. Amanda Rishworth and this is your National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. We've had a bit of a consultation study now released. What does it tell you about what will be needed, that you kind of weren't already working on in that process?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This consultation plan and releasing it was very important. The previous government sat on this consultation plan and didn't release it publicly. I think it is really important that these pieces of work are released so that as we move towards finalising the National Plan, we can really understand all the different perspectives. Some of the strong messages coming through. This consultation was highlighting the importance of individual’s experiences, particularly those that perhaps might be more vulnerable to violence - women in First Nations communities, women who might have a disability. There's a number of women that are particularly vulnerable and so that intersectionality of experiences is really important. Also, of course, making sure that services are trauma informed that they have a good understanding of the experiences and the causes of violence against women and children. That was a really strong message coming through. And another very, very strong message coming through was that advocate-survivors and victim-survivors needed to be heard, they needed to have a voice. So these are all really important elements that will be taken on as we finalise our National ten-year plan.

GREG JENNETT: So it is a major body of work. When do you realistically want all that settled and signed up to?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I will be taking another version of the plan to the roundtable of ministers next week. Womens safety ministers will be meeting in Adelaide next week, and I will be certainly talking with them, they are from all the states and territories, about what are the next steps to finalise this plan and start taking more action to end violence against women and children.

GREG JENNETT: All right, an ongoing bit of work for you and others for sure. Amanda Rishworth we'll get you back on before too long for further updates. Thanks for joining us today though.