Interview – 774 ABC Melbourne – Jon Faine
- Minister for Employment
- Minister for Women
- Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
- Senator for Western Australia
Subjects: PaTH internships, youth employment, funding to reduce violence against women and their children
JON FAINE: When the Federal Liberal Treasurer Scott Morrison announced his budget the other night one of the key new initiatives was to provide for significant funding to create internships, $4 an hour on top of your dole, internships for hundreds of thousands perhaps of young Australians who are trying to get back into the workforce. Yesterday we had a quick chat to Dimity Mannering from Interns Australia who had this to say about her concerns on it.
DIMITY MANNERING: When you start giving employers an option to pay less than the minimum wage or to indeed not pay people at all, they tend to take that on and they’ll bring in interns and that will be at the expense of real jobs.
JON FAINE: Dimity Mannering there from Interns Australia. Well tasked with the execution of this new policy is the Minister for Employment and Minister for Women in the Turnbull Federal Coalition Government, Michaelia Cash. Ms Cash good morning to you.
MINISTER CASH: Good morning Jon and good morning to your listeners.
JON FAINE: How will it work?
MINISTER CASH: Okay, this is a three stage program. It’s very exciting. It’s part obviously of our national economic plan for jobs and growth. It is a huge investment, $840 million…
JON FAINE: How does it work? Minister how does it work?
MINISTER CASH: Hold on. Let me let your listeners know what it is. It’s all about getting our youth ready. That’s the first stage of the pathway. Giving them a go. That’s getting them that real life experience in a job and then the ultimate goal obviously is to get them a job…
JON FAINE: How does it work Minister?
MINISTER CASH: It’s called PaTH. So in the first stage what we’re going to do is we’re going to prepare our youth. Jon, as many of your listeners would know, so many of our youth today just don’t have the skills that are needed to get them into the workplace. So we’re going to give them employability skills training. We’re going to give our youth the opportunities to understand what employers expect of them. The skills, the attitudes, the behaviours.
JON FAINE: For the fourth time Minister, how does it work?
MINISTER CASH: Okay, I’m telling you how it works. In the first case we’re going to prepare them. We’re going to get them ready.
JON FAINE: How?
MINISTER CASH: By giving them employability skills training…
JON FAINE: How?
MINISTER CASH: Okay. We are going to be working with industry training bodies. They’re going to undertake two blocks of three weeks up to 25 hours per week. It will be compulsory for all young jobseekers within the first five months of being in receipt basically of welfare and it’s going to focus on working in a team, presentation, communication, punctuality, all of those soft skills which all of the evidence tells us and in particular the youth tell us they need but they just don’t have.
JON FAINE: You might teach people how to directly answer questions when they’re asked the first time instead of the fifth time. Now we understand Minister that you in fact will be compelled to attend a training course as part of getting the dole?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely because the- well, no… it’s part of your mutual obligation requirement because the alternative is this Jon. We let our youth linger in welfare for the rest of their lives - and I am very proud to say to you and to your listeners, I am not going to be part of a government that does that. This is a government that is focused on getting our youth ready, giving them a go, getting them a job, we believe, we firmly believe the best form of welfare is a job. We’re getting them out of welfare into a job and the first part of that is to give them that pre-employment training. And then you asked how it works…
JON FAINE: Okay, if I’m required- and it will be compulsory, you’ve just told us…
MINISTER CASH: Yes.
JON FAINE: If I’m required to attend one of these training courses and I don’t attend I get cut off the dole, is that correct?
MINISTER CASH: No, we’ll be working through all of that…
JON FAINE: Will you be breached for not attending?
MINISTER CASH: ..but why [indistinct] Jon. Why do you focus on the negatives?
JON FAINE: I’m not. I’m trying to understand how…
MINISTER CASH: Seriously, you’re focusing on..
JON FAINE: …it works both from an employer’s point of view…
MINISTER CASH: You’re focusing on the negatives.
JON FAINE: From an employer's and an employee's point of view and we’ll go through it from the employer's point of view in a moment. If I’m required and I will be required to attend one of these courses and I don’t attend, I will be breached. Is that correct?
MINISTER CASH: We will work through that but there are already rules in place through DSS if you don’t comply with the requirement of being in receipt of welfare…
JON FAINE: If I’m in a remote location, if I live in a country town and I have to travel to attend a course?
MINISTER CASH: No, no, no, [indistinct] absolutely. So extenuating circumstances exist obviously Jon, if extenuating circumstances do exist as already is the current law and you can’t get there, of course the Government works with you…
JON FAINE: How far is it reasonable to ask me or demand that I travel in order to attend one of these courses on pains of- on failure of which I’d lose my dole?
MINISTER CASH: Jon again. Individual circumstances are always looked at. Of course they are Jon. But if you’re a government- and I believe a society, that wants to break the cycle of long-term unemployment then this measure which has been heralded from both sides of the argument through from, you know, the sector itself Cassandra Goldie through to the businesses, even Andrew Leigh, and I think all of your listeners would agree a reasonable member of the Labor Party has come out and said this is one of the Budget measures that has something to be commended. Something to be commended.
But Jon the next bit is obviously, you’ve asked me how it works, so that’s stage one. Getting our youth ready. Giving them those skills so an employer can say, you know, I’m ready to take them on. So let’s now get them that foot in the door. Let’s get them into an internship. So the internship goes from between four weeks to 12 weeks and we will work with you, the business, the job provider, to make sure the package suits you.
JON FAINE: From an employer’s point of view then Minister I’m wanting to take on some interns…
MINISTER CASH: Yes.
JON FAINE: I can only take on people once they’ve completed one of these orientation classes?
MINISTER CASH: Well you could basically go through the intern process. But this is the issue Jon. This is the issue. Do you know what employers for years now, for years now have been saying? I would love to take on a young person but they don’t have the pre-employment training. And this is why this is such a ground-breaking program because we are linking all of the missing parts and we are putting them together in the three stage process so we get them ready in the first instance. We then get them in the door and we give them a go and then obviously we hope that leads to sustainable employment.
JON FAINE: Hope is one thing, actually making it happen is another Minister. So one of the concerns here is that the same people who were supposed to be regulating 457 visas, the same people who were supposed to be regulating the billion dollar rip-offs and rorts of the VET scheme, the same people who have found that the deregulated ATO, ACCC and ASIC, those are the same geniuses who have put this scheme together. It is so capable of being rorted, so obviously being turned into the sort of 7-Eleven rort that it beggars belief that it’s in fact thought to be genuine job creating policy.
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely, fundamentally incorrect. There…
JON FAINE: Which bit?
MINISTER CASH: Everything that you have just said. Jon, any responsible government will ensure that there are rules around the program not being exploited and not displacing workers.
JON FAINE: What sort of rules?
MINISTER CASH: So let me tell you, in the first instance, what three of those rules are going to be.
JON FAINE: Please.
MINISTER CASH: The first is - the employer who wants to participate in this program, they must verify and the department must verify it is a real job vacancy, so you can’t just make it up. You also, as part of the program, are going to have to commit to not displacing existing workers. You don’t want to commit, guess what? You don’t get to take on an internship…
JON FAINE: And who’s going to check when all of that in fact is in some way not observed?
MINISTER CASH: The Department of Employment will actually be monitoring the program, as will the job providers. And if you don’t commit, if you do displace, guess what, you’re not going to be able to use the program. But, Jon, unlike you I believe…
JON FAINE: So what do you mean you can’t use the program Minister? What does that mean?
MINISTER CASH: … the majority of employers out there do the right thing.
JON FAINE: If you’re found to be rorting it, you’ll be told okay that’s it, you can’t come and play any more, is that how it works?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely, but again…
JON FAINE: Why not prosecute people if they rort it? Don’t just say you’re not allowed to do it any more, actually prosecute them?
MINISTER CASH: Jon, obviously all the laws apply to this program as they would apply to anything else.
JON FAINE: Then why didn’t you say that? Why say if you’re found to be rorting it then you won’t be allowed to use it anymore?
MINISTER CASH: Because you keep on interrupting me. And you asked me what rules would be in place to ensure that employers have to play by those rules. So as I said, there will be rules in place. We will not stand by though and let young Australians fall into a lifetime of welfare dependency, and that’s why, as part of our Budget, our economic plan for jobs and growth, this is Jon, the first time ever the jigsaw’s been put together. We’ve acted on evidence, we’ve acted on advice from businesses, employers, from job seekers themselves, from the sector, and they have said this is the program that we need to get our youth out of welfare and into a job. I believe it is a fantastic program and from all of what I’ve heard yesterday in terms of the feedback, apart from yourself and Ged Kearney, everybody else has given this the thumbs up, because like this Government, they aren’t going to sit by and watch our youth become part of the long-term welfare dependent in this country.
JON FAINE: Yet again Minister, I’ll explain whether I give it a thumbs up or thumbs down is irrelevant and I’m not doing anything. I’m asking you questions about how it works. That is my role, that is the job that someone does in this position, regardless of their personal views.
MINISTER CASH: [Laughs] Did you watch the Mark Latham and Andrew O’Keefe interview the other day? Is that why you’re saying this? [Laughs]
JON FAINE: No I haven’t, and life’s too short. Separately, Minister, $100 million was announced by Scott Morrison the other night for programs against- for violence against women. Over how many years will the $100 million be spent?
MINISTER CASH: Okay so this is the $100 million, that is the funding for the third action plan under the national action plan to reduce violence against women and their children, so it obviously builds on the $100 million that the Prime Minister announced last September.
JON FAINE: Is it over three years?
MINISTER CASH: It’s over three years because the action plan…
JON FAINE: Is it national?
MINISTER CASH: Yes it is.
JON FAINE: So it’s 35 million a year nationally which comes down to what, four or five million bucks a state?
MINISTER CASH: No because this is the action plan. So it’s not divided up on a state by state basis. This is the Commonwealth’s contribution to a plan that’s now been in place for six years. It’s a four stage plan over 12 years. This is new funding for the next three years of the action plan and it obviously builds on the other funding that the Government provides in this space. It’s a really exciting announcement. I’ve had calls yesterday from the sector again, thanking us for the on-going commitment.
JON FAINE: Well it certainly is remarkable because it’s been something- a glaring need for a long time. But there was $30 billion announced for national security, and $100 million- $30 billion against $100 million for women.
MINISTER CASH: But you’ve got to remember this- so the Commonwealth and the states both provide funding to domestic violence. This is just 100 million from the women’s safety package for the national action plan. This is obviously…
JON FAINE: Thirty billion for national security.
MINISTER CASH: But it doesn’t come into- Jon, I’m not going to sit on your program and argue that national security is not an important measure, because the first priority of any government has to be to keep its nation secure. If you as the Federal Government cannot keep your nation secure, then quite frankly you shouldn’t be in government. So I’m not going to sit here and disagree with you, but what I will say is this: I am proud that we have a new Budget measure of an additional $100 million in terms of funding the third action plan. This builds on the financial commitment that the Commonwealth makes to the women’s sector. So for example, $1.6 billion over the five years across legal aid et cetera, $230 million to fund homelessness services. You might not be aware but we’ve recently launched a $30 million national campaign in partnership with the states and territories, it’s all about changing the attitudes about violence and disrespect. We announced the $100 million women’s safety package last year. Remember though, the Commonwealth and the states both fund domestic violence and this is building on the Commonwealth’s contribution.
JON FAINE: Just finally, Bronwyn Bishop gave her final address to the Parliament yesterday. Did you have a chance to have a word to her?
MINISTER CASH: I didn’t unfortunately because I was in the Senate and in back to back meetings. Bronnie was a trail blazer for women. She didn’t break glass ceilings, she completely smashed them. She had a long and distinguished career, and obviously, I think like so many, I wish her all the very best in the next phase of life.
JON FAINE: What was the veiled threat to one day tell all about her falling out with Tony Abbott? What was that about?
MINISTER CASH: I have absolutely no idea. You’d have to ask Tony or Bronwyn, but as I said…
JON FAINE: I haven’t got that opportunity but…
MINISTER CASH: … a woman who smashed glass ceilings and I wish her all the very best in whatever she chooses to do.
JON FAINE: Well it will be fascinating. And what an extraordinary couple of days. Malcolm Turnbull, Sunday, goes to see the Governor-General, calls the election on Sunday, is that correct?
MINISTER CASH: You’d have to ask the Prime Minister, but I think what we all do know is that we’re having a double dissolution election on 2 July.
JON FAINE: And I look forward to many opportunities to ask you and your colleagues and your opponents the sorts of questions that we’ve been through this morning. I’m indebted to you for your time.
MINISTER CASH: Good on you Jon, thanks a lot.
JON FAINE: Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Employment and the Minister for Women in the Turnbull Federal Coalition Government.