FIVEAA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER
THURSDAY, 7 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Dnata; JobKeeper.
LEON BYNER, HOST: I’ve been concerned about the employees of Dnata. Dnata is a company that used to be owned, well, the people who do the work that Dnata has them do, it was all working for the state. Right? We sold off these companies, and that’s not the fault of the people working for them. That’s just something Government’s did. I have an issue with this but nevertheless, that’s the reality. But what’s happened is that we heard recently that the employees of Dnata, who provide important airline services to Qantas and others, are not entitled to JobKeeper. The reason, they’re owned by the Government of Dubai, can’t have that. However, the Chinese-owned airport baggage Swissport qualifies for the same subsidy that Dnata employees don’t and it’s owned by the People’s Republic of China, communists. Now, frankly, this can be fixed with the stroke of a pen. It is a stupid anomaly. Because whether these people are working for an international company whose head office is in Botswana, they’re Australians, they live in the community, they contribute like everybody else, they pay tax like everybody else. So frankly, this ought to be fixed and very soon. Let’s talk to Labor’s spokesperson on aviation, Catherine King. Catherine, good morning.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good morning Leon, good to be with you.
BYNER: This is mad.
KING: It is and I think this is incredibly frustrating disappointing. It’s 5,000 workers, Australian citizens, who are providing services still for the small number of planes that we’ve still got flying and they’ve been working for this company for a long time and expected that they were going to get JobKeeper, the company that told them that they were going to get JobKeeper and now it seems that they’re not eligible. That’s the problem when you’ve got a scheme that’s been structured around the structure of the employer, not focused on how to deliver money directly to the workers. The anomalies you point out where Swissport has partial ownership by an overseas government entity, then you’ve got this one because it’s 100% owned by a company that’s owned by the Dubai government, they’re not eligible. That’s the problem. None of this money goes overseas or to any of the companies overseas, it goes to the workers, but it’s got to go through the company and that seems to be where the Government’s really mucked this up. There’s some real anomalies in how it’s being applied and I’ve written to the Treasurer and asked him to fix it. I’d hope it’s a loophole that can be fixed because, frankly, these workers are in a lot of bother because they expected to be getting JobKeeper, they haven’t applied for JobSeeker payments yet, they’re now going to have to do that if they’re definitely going to be ruled out of the JobKeeper payment.
BYNER: Well, I’ve spoken to Hank Jongen from Centrelink and he assures me that these employees would be eligible for JobSeeker. But as I pointed out yesterday, Catherine, there’s another anomaly here and that is that because these employees were led to believe that they would be JobKeepers in terms of receiving the $1,500 per fortnight, they didn’t apply for JobSeeker. So, had they done so they would have already had money in their pocket, which they do not. So we have got to fix this. How long ago did you write to Treasury about this?
KING: The company was only told on, I think it was Friday last week. So I wrote to the Treasurer on Monday, it’s only been a couple of days but it’s been in the media so it’s not as though the Treasurer doesn’t know about it. I think it’s something he does need to fix really quickly because you’re right, these workers were told they were going to get JobKeeper, they haven’t applied for JobSeeker, and of course, with JobSeeker we know that as often in the aviation industry both partners are working in the industry so the spousal income test will have to be applied to see if they’re eligible or not, some may not be eligible. Some might have payouts or other things that they’ve got to draw on first, or they’ve got to draw down on super. So it’s really complicated, and as I said there’s 5,000 of them and it’s the anomaly where the Government’s focused it on the structure of the employer, and not how do you actually get money into workers’ pockets and keep that connection. That’s been a problem with the wage subsidy, unfortunately. There’s many people employed in South Australia with this company, so let’s hope that with the pressure from you and others, we actually get the Government to take this seriously and look at it really quickly.
BYNER: See I look at it in a very simple way, and that is that the company’s structures that are set up to employ people are not the purview of the employee, they probably wouldn’t even know. They wouldn’t know. All they know is they’ve got citizenship, they live here, they’re residents, they pay taxes, they do all these things, and to actually say to them, because the people that employ you are structured in such a way, you don’t have the same rights as other Australians who are working for people who are structured in the way we approved. I just think this has got to be fixed, and I can assure you Catherine, that as soon as I come off air today, and I’d be interested in the public’s view of this, I understand you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. But you know what? The line’s got to be consistent, doesn’t it Catherine, it’s got to be consistent.
BYNER: You can’t have one company, yes you’re partially owned, no you’re fully owned, because that doesn’t consider the human cost in the community for those people who have got jobs in those sectors does it?
KING: Look, absolutely. As you point out, the workers probably wouldn’t even know what the ownership structure of the company is, and it changes. It changes all the time. It’s no fault of their own that companies change structures, that’s what happens. There’s been sell offs of assets as you said, companies that come in and bought them and the structure of the company varies all over the place. Again, that’s the problem and I think you’re absolutely right. The money’s not going overseas, it’s not going to a foreign entity, this is about paying Australian workers so they keep that connection with their job so when we come out of this, these skilled workers that have got security level classes that work in aviation can get back to work and we’ll be able to get back in the air as quickly as possible.
BYNER: Catherine, thank you for coming on this morning and you’ll keep me well apprised as to what response you get from Treasury.
TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – FIVEAA MORNINGS WITH LEON BYNER