Press Conference, Parliament House, Canberra

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

E&OE

Subjects: September labour force figures, employment programs, supporting small business

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Today’s labour force figures released by the ABS underscore the strength and the resilience of the Australian labour market. There are more Australians in work than ever before, and 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 5,600 in September of 2018 to stand at a record high of more than 12,636,000. It has now risen an impressive 280,900 over the last 12 months. Since September of 2013, when we came to Government, employment has increased by more than 1.1 million new jobs, and full-time employment has risen in September to a record high of more than 8,654,000 jobs.

It's very encouraging that full-time employment growth has actually accounted for the majority of the total increase in employment over the last year, and we have seen, today, the unemployment rate decline from 5.3 per cent in August of 2018 to now 5 per cent in September of 2018, which is the lowest rate recorded since April of 2012; well below the 5.5 per cent recorded in September of 2017. So, there's a lot to talk about and there are very strong reasons why the figures that have been announced today are strong. It is yet another demonstration that the Government’s economic plan is working. We want small, medium and family-sized businesses to continue to be able to invest in their businesses and the decision today to bring forward the company tax cut for those businesses will allow them to do just. Small, medium and family-sized businesses account for around 3.3 million businesses in this country and they employ around 7 million Australians. And, if they succeed the whole nation succeeds, and we are backing them 100 per cent. So today's figures are very, very strong and I'm looking forward to lots of questions about the figures.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, the population- sorry, rather the employment figures are in many ways just keeping up with population growth, particularly in Victoria; are we just seeing new jobs going to more migrants and fuelling a cycle of employment growth in the wake?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

No, what we are seeing is we are seeing the Australian economy growing and when the Australian economy grows, it actually creates new employment opportunities. And this is what we want. We want our economy to continue to grow because when it grows it benefits absolutely everyone. Under Bill Shorten and a Labor government, you would see them diminish the opportunities for so many millions of Australians; diminish living standards for so many millions of Australians, because all they have a plan to do is to impose more than $200 billion of new or increased taxes, whether it's on people's savings or whether it's on their housing. I mean, you name it; they will tax it. And that will simply see our economy restrict, and when that happens you are ever and ever slicing a smaller and smaller pie.

JOURNALIST:

Sorry Minister, how much of this is to do with population growth?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well, we certainly have strong population growth and we certainly have strong jobs growth, and the figures today are fantastic; more Australians in work than ever before and more Australians in full-time work than ever before, and a record number of women in full-time work right now. As I said, it's a sign our economic plan is working. It's a demonstration that you cannot risk the economic plan that is in place right now under a Bill Shorten-led government.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, despite some of the great – or the good – news we’re seeing when it comes to lowering unemployment, particularly with youth unemployment; research out today shows it’s still pretty dire out there if you’re looking for a low-skilled or unskilled job – something like up to 12 job seekers per job. What’s the Government doing to try and help those often most vulnerable job seekers?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

We think it's critically important to get young people into work and the Government is absolutely committed to getting more young people into a job. We've got a range of employment programs which are specifically designed to help young people to get into a job, to be able to gain the skills and confidence that they need to be able to get those jobs and to take their very first steps on the employment ladder. But I think it's important to also note that education is also an incredibly important pathway for those young people in being able to get into a job, and we need to remember that more than half of the young people in Australia are in full-time education. Since coming to office, we've actually seen that number increase from about 49.9 per cent to now around 52.7 per cent. And we have seen the youth unemployment rate diminish, to fall from around 12.5 per cent to 11.4 per cent over the past 12 months. We recognise that number is still too high, which again, goes back to my earlier point that we have specific programs designed for young people to help them get back into work.

JOURNALIST:

Apart from Jobs PaTH, what are those programs?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

We've got transition programs, we've got programs where people can work for the dole and gain the skills and confidence that they need to be able to get a job. We've got programs that, of course, allow people to do work experience. It's very important for young people when they're being considered by an employer to be able to demonstrate some sort of work history. So, being able to prepare young people, whether it's pre-employment or whether it's on-the-job training; all of that will help young people to be able to get a job, to keep a job or to get an even better job.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, just on another issue within your portfolio…

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Are we moving on from the figures?

JOURNALIST:

The participation rate was dropping but the trend figures on unemployment were pretty good, and if it keeps heading that way, is there any risk that you might be overheating the economy – do interest rates need to rise faster than we previously thought?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well, I think- I mean, it's an interesting pick-up. I mean, the participation rate may vary slightly from month to month, as we've seen, and today's figures remain both above the long-term trend and the participation rate of 12 months ago. We are seeing huge job opportunities out there for people who want to get a job and keep a job. We're seeing the opportunity to grow the jobs in our economy because of our strong economic plan, and we certainly want all of those people who want to be able to get a job to be able to get that job, to have the skills that they need in order to gain that job. And that is what our focus has been and continues to be as a Government.

JOURNALIST:

Just another one on unemployment: is it time to start thinking about raising the rate of Newstart?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

I know this is a perennial question that comes up. Obviously, those who are on Newstart; the majority of people who are on it are not on it for more than a 12 month period. The idea behind Newstart is to actually assist people to be able to get into employment. The best path to financial security and to better financial security is to be able to get a job. And our focus as a Government is to create the right economic settings to be able to grow jobs in our economy. And as you can see, since coming to Government, there have been more than 1.1 million jobs created here in Australia. But that’s all at risk. It’s all at risk if Bill Shorten dictated to by the ACTU and Sally McManus and the CFMEU – if they are the people who are going to be making the policies in this country. If the law breakers are going to become the lawmakers, then that is all very much at risk.

JOURNALIST:

So, can we take it from that answer that there is no appetite from the Government to increase Newstart?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well look, we've been asked this question many, many times. As we've said, at this point in time it's at the appropriate level.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, the CFMEU has just been hit with another $250,000 fine by the Federal Court. Has the Government given up on securing support for the Ensuring Integrity Act which would enable it to bring [indistinct]?

MINISTER O’DWYER:     

No, the Government has not given up at all on our Ensuring Integrity Bill, and I think today's decision by the court is yet a further demonstration of why our Ensuring Integrity Bill, which is currently sitting in the Senate right now, is critical and needs to be passed, and needs to be passed with the support of Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. The Federal Court decision today issued penalties against the CFMMEU and its officials, totalling over $300,000. And it’s further evidence that this very militant mega union has a very reckless disregard of the law.

In fact, in this financial year alone, they have racked up more than a $1 million worth of fines and counting. In the judgment, the judge said that the CFMEU see this as simply a cost of doing business. Our Ensuring Integrity Bill will make it much easier for rogue officials to be brought to heel so that they cannot be a wrecking ball when it comes to our economy. It will ensure that we only have good union officials going about their business. And there are many good union officials, but those that continually want to break the law are doing the wrong thing by workers, they're doing the wrong thing by the people who create those job opportunities in this country and they're doing the wrong thing from the point of view of creating economic growth. And Bill Shorten needs to be a bit more like Bob Hawke. He needs to call out rogue unions, he needs to support this bill. Bob Hawke did this with the BLF. Bill Shorten seems to lack the spine and lack the ticker to call out the CFMEU, which demonstrates that if he was given the job to be prime minister of this country, Bill Shorten would be dictated to by the CFMEU.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, with the WorkPac case, you’ve decided to intervene in the WorkPac case; can you walk us through your rationale there?

MINISTER O’DWYER:     

This particular case is a new case that is being heard in the Federal Court of Australia, and it follows on from an earlier case that was heard. I, as Minister, have decided to intervene to make the Commonwealth a party in this test case before the Federal Court of Australia, and the case will be considering whether an employer can be required to pay twice for the same workplace entitlement. The Government is very concerned that the legal right to offset an obligation against payments already made for the same entitlements was not dealt with in the Skene v WorkPac case. And we want to make sure that in this case, that there is clarity and certainty for employers and for their employees. It's got to be really clear that there is a common law right to offset for those small businesses if they face claims to pay twice for the same workplace entitlements. And we know that this particular case has caused great alarm for small businesses right across this country. As I said, there are more than 3.3 million small businesses employing around 7 million Australians. And those businesses and their employees, they need certainty. And when we have certainty, we can also know that there can be greater compliance with the law.

Now, this decision to intervene is one that I know will be welcomed by so many out there who want that certainty. And it is very much in line with decisions that have been made by previous workplace relations ministers and industrial relations ministers in the past, where there are issues of national importance that require the Commonwealth to intervene in the public interest.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, the common law also establishes that a casual employee should not be deemed a casual if they’re in continuous employment; shouldn’t you respect the decision of the Federal Court? And just in terms of certainty, Labor has promised to codify that in law; is there a reason why the Government doesn’t consider that a good approach?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well as I said, we're very specifically focused on the offsetting arrangements and whether businesses are going to be paying people twice for the same entitlement. If you're a casual and you've been paid 25 per cent loading, it seems completely incongruous to think that that 25 per cent loading that would have paid for your holiday pay and all the rest; that you would also equally be paid for those holidays and other entitlements. It's generally one or the other, but not both. And the certainty needs to be made very clear. That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case. Small businesses need that certainty, they need that certainty because each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody’s future and that's their future opportunity. We want to give them the confidence to be able to continue to employ our fellow Australians – more than 7 million right now – and hopefully that number will be even higher as we continue on with our strong economic plan.

JOURNALIST:

But the worker in this case was paid 30 per cent less than full-time workers, so how can you say that’s double-dipping?

MINISTER O’DWYER:

Well this is a new case. So, we didn't intervene in the past case. This is a new test case that is specifically looking at the offset arrangements. As I've said, the Commonwealth is particularly keen to ensure that there is certainty around those arrangements. And I am intervening in this case, because it is a test case to clarify what was not clarified in the previous court decision. It is very much in the public interest to be able to clarify that you shouldn't be paid twice for the same entitlements; one or the other, but not both. I think most fair-minded Australians actually understand that. And certainly the anxiety that this has created amongst small businesses right across the country is one that needs to be settled and settled very quickly.

Thanks very much.

ENDS

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