Minister Abetz: I’m delighted to be able to introduce His Excellency the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr Kurtulmuş, who will be taking over the chairmanship of the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting when Turkey takes over the presidency of the G20 in 2015.
Today the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, in a very pleasing, unanimous resolution, signed off on a Declaration that I understand has been circulated to you. It is bold, it is ambitious, but we believe as a G20 that it is nevertheless achievable. It does foster policies that will have genuine, practical outcomes for the peoples of our various nations.
If I can briefly take you through the Declaration, we talk in it about strengthening employment plans; preventing structural unemployment; creating better jobs, including addressing informality and underemployment; promoting safer workplaces; boosting participation, especially for youth and women; and then, going forward, we have some practical policy outcomes.
And then, in the annexes to the Declaration, you will find the policy priorities for preventing unemployment from becoming structural, for creating better jobs, and for safer and healthier workplaces, together with boosting female participation, quality of employment and gender equity.
As you might imagine with a G20, and some of our guests that were there, there are a range of issues confronting the various economies of our nations.
But there is one factor on which we are all agreed, and that is when we have economic growth - and the Finance Ministers have set themselves a target of 2 per cent economic growth above trajectory - that with that, there needs to be jobs growth, and rich jobs growth with meaningful jobs.
So, in the past we have regrettably seen in some economies, economic growth without jobs growth, and if we want the social dividend from economic growth, it is vitally important that economic growth be in lock step with jobs growth.
Why are jobs so important? Jobs are the vital lifeline for individuals to be actively engaged within their societies, to be self-reliant and people’s mental health, their physical health and self-esteem, social interaction, all those factors are vitally influenced by whether or not people are employed.
And so countries have high unemployment rates or a large informal economy which denies a lot of the people the ticket to ride in the formal economy, which of cause then provides them with better jobs and quality jobs in the formal economy, then that is something that we have all agreed to address.
So we have a range of countries within the G20, some that are very low on female participation, others like Canada that are very high. Some with huge rates of youth unemployment, others where it is exceptionally low. It was great to be able to spend two days with Ministers from around the world sharing the various experiences as to how they have been grappling and dealing with the various issues in their countries, be it mutual obligation, be it the impact of minimal wages, be it on the safety record, be it increasing female participation.
A very worthwhile conference has been held and we have built on past G20 conferences, the past Labour and Employment Ministerial Meetings. This is the fifth one, and I for one am looking forward to building further on this Declaration that was made today in 2015 when we all meet in Turkey.
And if I may, on that note, hand over to his Excellency, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmuş: Thank you, Minister Abetz. I thank you all for attending our press conference. At the beginning, I would like to congratulate the Australian Government for the excellent term of G20 presidency and especially for the warm hospitality in one of the beautiful cities of the world, Melbourne.
The year 2015 is going to be a very special year in terms of Australia-Turkey relationships. We will have two separate events next year. First we will be taking over the G20 presidency from the Australian site, and also there will be the commemoration of the centenary of the Gallipoli war which was a very sad event 100 years ago.
So we invite Mr Abetz and Australian delegates to Turkey as a number of G20 countries and also as a friend of Turkey to come and participate in the centennial commemorations of the Gallipoli war.
As the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the wellbeing of the Turks living abroad, I have happily observed the Turkish people, the Turkish community here in Australia are well integrated into the society.
Each year, the G20 is progressing for a more detailed and result-orientated approach against challenging problems faced by the global economy. We perceive the G20 as a platform based on collaboration, solidarity and <inaudible>.
The pursuit of a fair economic system is a widespread subject in the economic and business circles all around the world. Inequalities in various fields, such as the inequalities in income distribution, have become global challenges and require profound consideration of governments.
Therefore there is a true need for strengthening social security systems, social security networks and putting emphasis on providing social justice in our societies.
Empowering the middle class still continues as an important component of economic policies of different governments.
The G20 platform has emerged as it became apparent that as present economic problems can only be solved by joint action of the nations and their governments.
By establishing an employment taskforce within G20, our leaders learnt the collective test for solutions regarding labour employment issues. In the fifth meeting of Labour and Employment Meetings of G20 during the last two days, we have discussed issues like preventing structural unemployment, creating better jobs, and boosting participation especially for participation of women and youth in the labour force.
Within the framework, Australia has been carrying out a marvellous job, which included the drafting of comprehensive growth strategies and national employment plans.
I sincerely believe that these documents will <inaudible> G20 platform to a new advanced level, creating more opportunities for incorporated international action against global problems.
As the upcoming presidency of G20, we are eager to build our efforts upon the work done by the Australian Government and especially by the Labour Minister of Australia.
< Inaudible> priorities, commitments and decisions of the ministers and leaders, it will be an indispensable element of our agenda next year.
We will also set the priorities for G20 presidency regarding emerging issues and ongoing challenges of the labour markets throughout our collaborative action with the G20 members, international organisations and social partners.
So, finally, I would like once again to thank the Australian Government and my colleague Mr Abetz as Minister of Labour, for their great hospitality here in Melbourne and also for their organisational capacity to organise such a very important international organisation.
Thank you so much.
Minister Abetz: Thank you. Are there any questions?
Question: Can I ask one?
Minister Abetz: Yes, of course.
Question: Ben Potter from the Financial Review. Quite often a lack of specificity of concrete measures, commitments in these communiques, and I’m just wondering if you can tell us a bit about … there was apparently some discussion about goals for employment creation that were not able to be agreed upon. Just wondering if you could tell us a bit more about that.
Minister Abetz: Well, I’m not sure where you got that idea from. There was a great sense of unanimity, a great sense of common purpose in all the discussions, as is the wont with these documents they do require the sign-on, and I’m delighted to confirm that this document was adopted by everybody unanimously of the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting representatives.
The issues that we have been willing to tackle, for example, the issue of the informal economy - very important in some areas - which disenfranchise a number of people. You will equally see that in paragraph 16 we said we’d take a strong stand against forced and child labour. And those sort of statements of principle do send a message to the world, keeping in mind that the G20 countries represent two-thirds of the world’s population and 85 per cent of the economic activity of the world.
So in two-thirds of the world’s populations, their governments are willing to sign-on to a document talking about child labour, forced labour… I think that one example sends a very strong message.
In relation to specifics, especially employment plans, all the countries have agreed after these discussions to further develop their employment plans and they will then be considered at the G20 in Brisbane later on this year.
So the G20 and the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, it’s not an event, it’s actually a process and it will continue to keep on.
This is now the fifth meeting, and as the meetings progress the issues that we discuss will be developed and we will be seeking to report to each other in future meetings as to how we’ve gone with our trends.
Without saying too much, for example, Spain presented us with some very interesting facts and statistics with a trend and I, as Chair, said I really do look forward to meeting with Spain again next year in Turkey to see how their graphs go for the next 12 months as to whether the trend that they’ve been able to set is going to continue.
So we are learning from each other, and I think it’s been a very valuable exercise for Australia and indeed all the other participants.
Question: There was also modelling that showed, or that called for generally, a wage rise across the G20 group. What’s the reason that that is not appeared in the final reports?
Minister Abetz: As is the wont, there will always be differing views, differing studies, different consideration, and it would be fair to say that the view that was expressed, for example, by our very own Professor Gary Banks who provided a morning session yesterday, a former head of the Productivity Commission from 1998 to 2012, I think, for some considerable period of time, I’m not sure that he would necessarily share that view.
And, of course, that’s one of the good and dynamic aspects of the Labour and Employment Ministerial Meetings… it’s a potpourri of a whole lot of different ideas and then we seek to settle on those on which we can get a commonality, a unanimity, and it seems reasonable that if all the countries are adopting particular stances on issues that there might be some robustness about them whereas there are other issues that clearly are still very debatable.
So, these studies are interesting, they are very informative, but it does not necessarily mean that they will all necessarily be adopted by the various countries.
Question: Can I just ask another question? The IMF about six week ago said that the countries’ broad growth strategies did not pass muster in its view, and it didn’t make an exception for labour plans. I presume from that there is still a lot more work to be done in these labour plans because these country-specific plans don’t yet meet the required standard.
Minister Abetz: Look, the International Monetary Fund, like other bodies will have their particular approach to the various employment plans. I don’t think any country in our discussions put up their hand and said "we have got the perfect plan, we’ve got the answer to all the world’s problems, follow us". There was none of us who were foolish enough to assert that.
We all agreed that we could learn off each other and that there were things that we all needed to improve because we all do have unemployment statistics. We all do have a lower female participation rate than male participation rate. We all do have long-term unemployment statistics in our national statistics.
So we all accept that there are things that need to be achieved, but some of the countries in the G20 have a very substantial informal economy as opposed to let’s say Australia, where we have a relatively strong formal economy. And so there are those differentiations. There are those countries that rely heavily on their own domestic markets. There are countries like Australia that are heavily dependent on exports and so different considerations will come into play with different economies, with different cultures, and we try to be as accepting and understanding of the different place where all the various countries are. But, nevertheless, desperately look and thank goodness we’ve been able to achieve this… we do look for the commonalities amongst us. Those things that we can all agree on that we understand will be of benefit to the people of our nations.
Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmuş: Just more comment. Actually this declaration made by the participants today unanimously is not a detailed action plan. Actually, it is a kind of framework to approach the problems related to the labour issues in the global sense. So, therefore, we cannot find detailed action plans and they’re in somewhere in the declaration.
Minister Abetz: All right, all right, well look thank you very much, and can I say on Australia’s behalf it’s been an absolute delight to be at this meeting sharing the leadership with Turkey, and we look forward to Turkey taking over the leadership of the G20 next year.
Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmuş: Thank you. We will be more than happy to welcome you in Turkey. You also the press people, media people, you will be all welcomed to Turkey.
Minister Abetz: Thank you all very much.