ABC Radio National Breakfast – Fran Kelly
- Minister for Employment
- Minister for Women
- Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
- Senator for Western Australia
SUBJECTS: The Youth Jobs PaTH scheme, funding measures to tackle domestic violence
FRAN KELLY: The Government’s Budget plan to pay businesses to take on interns has been welcomed by the welfare sector as we heard yesterday; Cassandra Goldie describing it as a shift from the use of the stick to the use of the carrot. It’s a $750 million program to get young unemployed Australians into jobs, and it was a key plank of the first Turnbull-Morrison Budget. It’s called the Youth Jobs PaTH scheme, and PaTH stands for Prepare, Trial, Hire. It will give employers a subsidy to provide training, internships, and hopefully a job to 120,000 job seekers aged under 25. But the union movement warns this program could turn into a churn and burn scheme which will see unscrupulous bosses hiring young people as cheap labour. The Employment Minister Michaelia Cash joins me in the Parliament House studios. Minister good morning, welcome back to Breakfast.
MINISTER CASH: Thank you so much Fran, and great to be with you and your listeners.
FRAN KELLY: It’s a three stage program this program, it’ll start next April, three weeks skills training, internship placements, and finally hopefully permanent employment. Will these young people get real skills or could they... are they going to be working in cafes or supermarkets or...?
MINISTER CASH: No, no, absolutely. So let’s talk about it in basic English; this is all about our young people, getting them ready, giving them a go, and getting them a job. Fran what we’ve done is we’ve looked at the evidence both domestically and globally, and what the evidence says is you need a three stage pathway to ensure that our youth have the best possible opportunity to impress an employer and get a sustainable job. So that’s why in the first stage we are preparing them for employment, and as you identified two blocks of three week training to literally give them those soft skills which so many of our youth today do not have. After they’ve got those soft skills they have the opportunity to undertake an internship. Again that is based on all the feedback from employers in particular, and jobseekers themselves; they just don’t have an opportunity to get their foot in the door and showcase their skills.
FRAN KELLY: And everyone knows that, everyone knows from when you were young it’s hard to get your start…
MINISTER CASH: Exactly, because it’s evidence based, exactly.
FRAN KELLY: But nevertheless businesses will be offered an upfront $1000 payment to host an intern, that’s for 15 to 25 hours a week, from four to twelve weeks.
MINISTER CASH: Yes. Yes.
FRAN KELLY: The interns get an extra $200 bucks a fortnight topping up their Newstart.
MINISTER CASH: On top of, exactly.
FRAN KELLY: It’s not bad though, is it; $1000 to get free labour for up to 25 hours a week for a few months. So what safeguards are in there to stop it being just a churn and burn?
MINISTER CASH: There will be significant safeguards, and I hate to... it is not $1000 of free labour. And you know this package has been welcomed as you rightly said; Cassandra Goldie ACOSS has welcomed the package across the board. Even Andrew Leigh, I think everyone would say one of the more reasonable members of the Labor Party, has welcomed this package; said it’s something we should all be looking at. It’s not $1000 for free labour; this is to defray the costs that are associated with taking someone on. But in terms of the safeguards I can assure you, you know, the Department monitors these situations very closely. So for example in the event that employer was to take on two or three interns that would be a trigger in our system, and we would go and speak with that employer. The employer also has to verify in the first instance with both the job provider and the department, this is a real vacancy. So that’s the first thing you’ve got to prove. It’s a real vacancy. You cannot just make a vacancy up; you will not be able to participate in the program.
FRAN KELLY: So they actually have to have a vacancy before they can take on an intern.
MINISTER CASH: This is all about, remember, getting a real job. And this is the fundamental difference Fran between what we’ve done in the past, okay, and what this program is doing. Getting them ready, giving them those soft skills in the training, giving them a go, giving them that opportunity, get your foot in the door, showcase your skills, and hopefully for 30,000 Australians each year, young Australians, getting a job.
FRAN KELLY: So what will trigger the department if an employer applies for one intern then another intern, then another intern, and then change over…
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely can I tell you, and let’s be fair to employers, the majority of employers do the right thing. I’ve already been in discussions with tourism and hospitality. They have as you know, a real need for workers, they don’t want to have to rely on foreign labour. This is a great opportunity for them to work with government and industry to put in place an industry-led program to ensure that the young Australians out there have the right skills that industry needs to ultimately get a sustainable job in what is an emerging job sector in our transitioning economy.
FRAN KELLY: I think there’s a lot positive about this scheme but the unions are also worried about the impact of this on older unskilled workers. Why would an employer hire a worker on the minimum wage when they can get a subsidised young worker because they’ll get up to $10,000 if they keep someone on in this job.
MINISTER CASH: A youth wage subsidy.
FRAN KELLY: Have you considered that?
MINISTER CASH: Youth unemployment in Australia – unacceptably high. Almost one-quarter of 1 million of our youth are unemployed, it currently stands at 12 per cent. We acknowledge that the last thing we want to see is youth depending on welfare. So this is a concerted effort to say to those quarter of 1 million people we need to upskill you and give you a go but at the other end of the scale, we already do have wage subsidies Fran, for those over the age of 50. We have what’s called the Restart wage subsidy…
FRAN KELLY: Are they as generous as this?
MINISTER CASH: Yes they are. So we cater for wage subsidies across the board but in particular we acknowledge we need to do more for our youth. Most mature age people may have had a job so they’ve already got those soft skills, our youth on the other hand may not have even had a chance to get their foot in the door.
FRAN KELLY: Minister I need to get to your other portfolio but just briefly someone has likened this to the pink bats scheme and given what happened there and the tragic death of four young workers, will your government be responsible for the health and welfare of every young person…
MINISTER CASH: Fran, absolutely. There are very strict occupational safety and health requirements across the board for government, for providers, for the person hosting the internship. All of this is already in place in our current programs and I can assure you it will be in place for this program. But Fran this is a key element of our policy- getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job and I’m delighted that across the sector, it has been hailed as a success.
FRAN KELLY: It’s 17 to 8, our guest is Michaelia Cash. She’s the Minister of Employment and Women. Can I ask you about the domestic and family violence measures in the Budget?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely.
FRAN KELLY: The Budget papers include $100 million over three years to tackle domestic violence, can I just get this clear, is this new money on top of the $101 million announced in September?
MINISTER CASH: Okay. So this builds on the significant commitment the Federal Government has already made so with the women’s safety package that the Prime Minister and I announced in September of last year, that was an additional $100 million. In the Budget we have now announced a further $100 million over the three years. This 100 million will go towards what’s known as the third national plan to reduce violence against women and their children and that’s what that money has been allocated to.
FRAN KELLY: So let’s look at how that might be spent.
MINISTER CASH: Okay.
FRAN KELLY: Not strictly your portfolio I know, but funding cuts to community legal centres, we spoke earlier to the Chair of the National Association of the Legal Centres, Rosslyn Monro, they face a looming funding cliff as you know from July next year, let’s just have a listen to Rosslyn Monro.
ROSSLYN MONRO: In 2014 when the Productivity Commission released its report around access justice, they had a recommendation in that report that said we need an immediate injection into the legal service sector of $200 million so we’re not even coming close to addressing that urgent need two years ago, let alone building on any of the services that might step up to meet that increased demand as a result of the awareness campaign around domestic violence.
[End of excerpt]
FRAN KELLY: So fair point, I mean will this extra money, will some of it and how much of it will go to community legal centres?
MINISTER CASH: The answer is yes, a proportion of this funding will be allocated to frontline services, the priority being legal services, and we’re just finalising the consultations and announcements will be made during the election.
FRAN KELLY: Minister and before I let you go we have had a call responding to our previous discussion about the youth unemployment scheme and the training scheme. Karen from Woy Woy says why not money to give free training to young people in industries of the future like codings and robotics instead of internships wiping down tables because the costs of courses at TAFE and colleges are now astronomical, as indeed they are?
MINISTER CASH: Okay well let’s never be job snobs because the best form of welfare is a job.
FRAN KELLY: No but we’re talking about future productivity.
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely and we will be working across the board with industry, so this is not one type of job, this is industry putting their hands up and saying this is where there is the need for training et cetera and jobs and we’ll be working with industry. So this is going to be across the board where job vacancies are.
FRAN KELLY: Michaelia Cash, thank you very much for joining us.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks so much, great to be with you.
FRAN KELLY: Senator Michaelia Cash, she’s the Minister for Employment and Women.