Going Behind the Scenes of JobKeeper | Dr Steven Kennedy PSM and Matt Comyn

Jessica Irvine in conversation with Matt Comyn and Dr Steven Kennedy PSM

Jessica Irvine, the Senior Economics Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald, in conversation with Dr Steven Kennedy PSM, Secretary of The Treasury, and Matt Comyn, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald

Dr Steven Kennedy PSM, Secretary of the Treasury, and Matt Comyn, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank, were recently interviewed about JobKeeper by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Senior Economics Writer, Jessica Irvine, for the WORK WITH PURPOSE podcast.

Steven recalled how he had been attending a lot of Cabinet meetings and National Security Council meetings back in February as the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding in China.

He realised the seriousness of the crisis when he was asked about a paper he had written more than a decade earlier about the macro economic impacts of pandemics.

‘Is that going to guide what we a going to do?’ Steven was asked. He said, ‘I hope not’.

‘Because that paper was about a very serious pandemic, the type of pandemic that’s unfolded. And back in February we were still thinking “maybe this will be a SARS, like … maybe this will be contained in China”.

But it was at that point, I suppose in my mind, I actually went back and read the paper again — because I wrote it a long time ago, 2006 — and started to think if this goes big, if this goes everywhere, what’s this going to look like?

And so that really switched it on for me.

And then in that March period, the first stimulus package is really a package that’s responding to a very large international shock. And the next two are about a very large international shock with a domestic shock now, very significantly rolling over the top.’

Dr Steven Kennedy PSM

Dr Steven Kennedy PSM, Secretary of The Treasury.
Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald

Matt also reflected on when the significance of the pandemic became real to him. It was in March when the Reserve Bank of Australia introduced a second rate cut and banks were required to process an unprecedented number of loan deferrals.

There were a number of people in a video conference with the Reserve Bank Governor that included Steven and Matt.

‘I think the Governor opened up with words along the lines of: “this is a national emergency”.

I think it was in that week … that was before JobKeeper, but it was the week of the second RBA rate cut, huge numbers of … we were starting to then process deferrals. So that definitely stood out to me.

He went on to say:

I think what really impressed me during that period and since is, it takes a lot to make big policy decisions very quickly …

It’s not easy to roll out something of that significance …

It’s not easy for a government of a day to do that, and all the policy makers.’

Matt Comyn, CEO of the Commonwealth Group of Australia

Matt Comyn, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald

Dr Steven Kennedy PSM and Matt Comyn went on to discuss the decision making and the design of JobKeeper, why a demand-driven stimulus approach was chosen, and the differences between Australia’s and other national governments fiscal responses to the pandemic.

WORK WITH PURPOSE is produced in partnership between contentgroup and IPAA ACT, with the support of the Australian Public Service Commission.

The podcast can be accessed from the link below and is also available on Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes.

Work with Purpose

Episode #23: Keeping up with JobKeeper: Behind the scenes of Australia's largest ever spending program - with Dr Steven Kennedy and Matt Comyn