Subject/s: ABS labour force figures, COVID-19 economic impact
TOM ELLIOTT: Unemployment. So, no surprises here, but the unemployment rate has risen. It was 6.4 per cent last month - sorry, last quarter. It was actually 5.2 per cent before that. It’s now 7.1 per cent. Now, that is an increase, and it hasn’t been this high for a while. I've got to tell you, without the JobKeeper allowance, the 7.1 per cent would almost be double, it'd be 13, 14 possibly even 15 per cent. So, thank god for small mercies. Something that jumps out of the figures though, in particular younger people are really losing jobs at a greater rate than others. WA is in a world of hurt, 8.1 per cent unemployment. Queensland and South Australia just under 8 per cent, New South Wales 6.4, Victoria 6.9. But the ACT, where the politicians and the bureaucrats live at taxpayers’ expense, unemployment has actually fallen. It’s just 4.1 per cent.
Our next guest is the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Senator Michaelia Cash, good afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Good afternoon Tom, and good afternoon to your listeners.
TOM ELLIOTT: Firstly, I don't know if you just heard the caller Liz there. Do you know, do people need permission to go overseas or is it just they have to go into quarantine when they come back?
MINISTER CASH: No. Look, for your listeners’ benefit, you actually do need to get the exemption from Home Affairs. I’m happy to take that offline with you and your team and get all the information that your listeners need so they know what to do and the process they have to go through.
TOM ELLIOTT: Great, because she’s only got three days and she’s been trying to do it for quite some time.
MINISTER CASH: Okay, and you and I will talk offline and we’ll have a look at that for her.
TOM ELLIOTT: Okay. Fantastic. Now, the job numbers. Firstly, youth unemployment, it is high. Is that because young people are overrepresented in sort of, hospitality, and those sorts of jobs?
MINISTER CASH: That’s exactly right. Going into the COVID-19 crisis, we actually had a record number of youth in employment, but unfortunately because of the nature of the industries that have literally shed jobs overnight, many of them part-timers, it has had a disproportionate effect, not just on youth but unfortunately also on women. The Government recognises this. I was listening, Tom, to your comments as we came onto air - the JobKeeper payment, $70 billion, and 3.3 million employees - it has been an absolute lifesaver for so many businesses, but more than that, the 3.3 million employees that still have that important connection with their employer.
TOM ELLIOTT: What do you reckon the unemployment rate would be if we didn’t have JobKeeper?
MINISTER CASH: Oh, look, it would obviously be higher, but that's why we have JobKeeper in place for that exact reason, so you do maintain that connection with your employment. When you look at the statistics today - as the Prime Minister said, as I said, as the Treasurer said - every job lost as a result of this global pandemic COVID-19 is absolutely devastating. And you know, prior to COVID-19, we had record employment in Australia. We were doing so well as a country. But you know, 838,000 people have lost their jobs in three months - absolutely devastating. That's why we have - and I know it's a lot of money – spent 13.3 per cent of GDP – a $260 billion investment in the economy. That is why it is so important to do that to get us through and to the other side.
TOM ELLIOTT: Now, I do want to ask you about JobKeeper because the Prime Minister and the Treasurer both said in recent weeks the JobKeeper will not be extended beyond September. The ACTU is saying it has to be extended, the hospitality- sorry, not the hospitality, the accommodation industry and tourism industries are saying they want to extend it out to March. If, as you say, it is doing such a good job of keeping unemployment relatively low, are you sure you still want to get rid of it in just two or three short months?
MICHAELIA CASH: Okay, so what the Prime Minister had always said was that it was a six month program and so, for any small business out there, you've got it for the six months. We legislated it for six months, you’ve got it for the six months. What we had also said was Treasury would undertake the review, they’re currently undertaking a review, and the Treasurer has indicated that he'll outline the outcomes with the review on 23 July, in the fiscal and economic update that he is doing. But the Government had always said they are temporary measures, scalable and measured. So, at this point in time it is there for the six months, but the Treasurer will outline the outcomes of the review at the end of July.
TOM ELLIOT: Right. So, there is a chance depending on what is in that review that it could be extended.
MICHAELIA CASH: Look, and as the Prime Minister said, they’ve got everything on the table at the moment. It might be targeted measures, that's something that as a cabinet we are currently working through. These are really tough conversations, Tom. I cannot tell you as a cabinet minister, I’ve made some pretty tough decisions in my life. These are such tough decisions because you're dealing with people, you're dealing with Australians, you’re dealing with Australians who- you know, had a great Christmas, and then guess what - we went into the New Year, some were already subjected to the bushfires and then a global pandemic hit. So, we take our role here really seriously. And as the Prime Minister said, we've got the review, but we are looking at all different types of policy options.
TOM ELLIOTT: Okay. Well, it's very interesting. Now, final question. I know that the unemployment rate in the ACT actually fell and sits at almost record low of 4.1 per cent. Is that almost embarrassing because, I mean, we keep being told that the pain is being shared, that we're all in this together, but you know, job security at the ACT, where you work, doesn't seem to be much of a problem.
MINISTER CASH: Albeit, in saying that, I'm a Senator for the WA, and unfortunately in my home state, 6.1 to 8.1 per cent. So on that basis, what I would say in relation to all states and territories, it's the reason the Prime Minister has said in every single press conference, please open your borders. The jump in unemployment today, and the ACT actually did have a jump. They went from 3.2 to 4.2. Still, the lowest in the country admittedly though. But they did have that increase. But this just goes to why all states need to open their borders. The sooner we open our borders, the sooner we can get back to travelling, the sooner businesses can get back into business. And the sooner we can see, as Treasury had said, that 850,000 people they believe that they can transfer back into the job market. That’s what we need to occur.
TOM ELLIOTT: Thank you for joining us, Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.