Press conference, Parliament House, Canberra

Transcript
  • Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
  • Minister for Women

E&OE

 

Subjects: Labour force figures, women in the Liberal Party

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Labour force figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics underscore the strength and resilience of the Australian labour market. There are more Australians in work than ever before. There are more Australians in full-time work than ever before. And full-time employment of women is at a record high. Seasonally adjusted total employment has increased by 44,000 in August 2018, to stand at a record high of 12,631,300 and has risen by an impressive 306,400 or 2.5 per cent over the last 12 months; well above the decade’s average rate of 1.6 per cent.

 

Employment has increased for the past 10 of the past 12 months. Since September 2013, employment has increased by 10 per cent, and employment now stands at over 1,144,500 jobs, as the increase in jobs. Full-time employment has risen by 33,700 in August to a record high of 8,630,700 and is now 202,100 or 2.4 per cent above the levels recorded 12 months ago.

 

Encouragingly, we are seeing full-time employment growth having accounted for two thirds of the total increase in employment over the last year. Part-time employment has increased and is now 2.7 per cent higher than a year ago. The unemployment rate has remained steady over the month at 5.3 per cent; the equal lowest rate recorded since August of 2012, and below the 5.6 per cent recorded in August 2017.

 

The participation rate has increased from 65.6 per cent in July 2018 to 65.7 per cent in August 2018, and is now 0.4 percentage points higher than it was a year ago. As I've said, we’ve seen female employment rise. It has increased by 148,400 or 2.6 per cent over the last 12 months. And as I've also said, female full-time employment has also increased to stand at a record high of 3,168,200.

Now, the labour force figures, we know, can jump around from month to month, but today's very strong data continues to reflect a strong labour market and highlight the success of the Government's efforts to date, stimulating ongoing sustainable jobs growth.

 

The Government remains acutely aware though, that there are still more than 700,000 Australians who remain unemployed without the security and dignity of work, and that significant challenges lie ahead. And our focus is on those people, how to help those people to be able to get a job. Now, we know that strong jobs growth should contribute to an increase in household disposable income for Australian workers and we should begin to see that feed through to strong wages growth over time, and the Government is not resting on its laurels, we know that there is more to be done. And that is why we're very proud of our record investment in infrastructure spending that will help continue to boost economic growth, so that we can see even more full-time jobs created in the months ahead.

Are there any questions?

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What do you think the unemployment rate needs to be to get wages moving?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Well look, I’m not going to nominate a figure. Our focus, as a Government, is to get more Australians into jobs and to make sure that Australians, no matter where they live, no matter what their skill base, there are job opportunities created for them. It is our one, two, and three focus as a Government, and as you can see, we have had some tremendous success. Our economic plan is working, we’ve seen more than a million jobs created since elected to Government, and the only real risk for those people is a Bill Shorten led Government.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Can I ask, are you aware of any potentially illegal behaviour amongst your colleagues?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Can we just stick to jobs first, before we move on to some other questions. Are there any further jobs questions? Before we move off onto other issues, can I just make a note of the fact that the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations has come out and made a statement today that underemployment is at record highs; that is not correct. The underemployment rate has fallen from 8.5 per cent in May 2018 to 8.1 per cent in August of 2018. And the underemployment level has fallen by 38,300 over the same period. Any further jobs questions before we move on?

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Although that rate might not be a record high with the underemployment. As the Government, what are you sort of thinking to turn those figures around so more people are working, how much they would like to?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Well obviously, we want people who want to increase their hours to have the opportunity to increase their hours. You need to have an economic environment where there are more jobs created, and as we have seen, more full-time jobs are being created. And of course, that does pick up the slack there. We are seeing less people who are looking for those increased hours, but those who want the increased hours, when they do want them, we want them to have the opportunity to get them.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Minister, Julia Banks last night delivered a speech in Parliament about quotas and the need for quotas within the Liberal Party. I know in the past, you have not been an advocate of quotas, as such, but rather targets. Do you think that quotas now, given the climate that we currently have, given the claims of bullying – do you think something like quotas might alleviate that? Or be a good way to, I suppose, appease what has happened? You know, bridge the gaps there, and is that now the way forward? The only way forward?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Well there is a lot in that question that you've actually asked me. Look, let me just make a broad statement in relation to quotas and to targets. It won't surprise anybody to learn that there are a diversity of views in this place on the issues of quota and targets. The one thing I think that everybody absolutely agrees on is that we need to see more women elected to the Parliament and more women in senior leadership positions in this place, irrespective of what side of politics you're talking about. Now, I've long advocated for targets, but also, making sure that those targets are realised by having measurements along the way so that there is a clear pathway to actually achieve and reach those targets.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Sorry. I was just going to follow up there. Do you admit though that the current target of, I think, 2025 equal representation, the Liberal Party’s unlikely to get there at this point, the way that you're going?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

I think it’s incredibly important to have strong targets. I think it's imperatively important to be able to measure your success along the journey. When I was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, we increased our targets for the public service. We increased those targets so that we could have 50-50 representation at the very highest levels, secretaries of our departments, and that has just been achieved under our Government with 50-50 represented. We had targets, as Minister for Women, for the number of women appointed to government boards. I think it started at just over 40 per cent. We've certainly exceeded that at around 44 per cent. And we've set ourselves a new target of 50 per cent and I'm going to be pleased to be able to report on the success on that journey in just a matter of weeks as we have been getting closer to reaching those targets.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Minister, are you aware of any potentially illegal activity or behaviour amidst the claims of bullying that some of your colleagues have made?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

I'm not clear on what you're referring to.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Julie Bishop yesterday said it's a very difficult situation where you are accusing others of behaviour that could be illegal, to name them publicly. She’s referred to behaviour that could be illegal. Are you aware of any such behaviour?

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:

 

Well, look, as Minister for Women, as Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, I believe very strongly that men and women have got an equal place in our workplaces right across this country and that there are certain behaviours at work that are acceptable and certain behaviours that are not acceptable, and those behaviours ought to be called out. Now, I know that the Prime Minister has said very, very clearly that he will not stand for bad behaviour. He will not stand for bullying in the workplace and that is a high standard that is part of his new generation of Liberal-Nationals leadership. And I think I should add that we have got very sound processes in the Parliament. We've got very sound processes, certainly, on the Liberal side of politics with our whips processes, which have been strongly enhanced by the PM's authority fully backing them. And of course, the Prime Minister has said that he has been talking to both myself and the Chief Whip, Nola Marino, in relation to any further steps that can be taken. And I have made recommendations that the Party organisation have an independent and confidential process that can assist when and where concerns are raised with the Party organisation. But I am not going to go through a public commentary in relation to these matters day in, day out. My job, my primary job is to focus on the jobs of millions of Australian men and women and I’m 100 per cent focused on that task.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But the suggestion of potentially illegal behaviour would be a much higher level of seriousness [inaudible].

 

MINISTER O’DWYER:  

 

That’s clearly a question you ought to raise with the person who's posed it. Thank you.

 

[ENDS]

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