Subjects: Casual Workers, National Skills Commission Report, and JobTrainer.
SCOTT EMERSON: Michaelia Cash is a Federal Minister for Employment, Skills and Family Business, and she’s on the line now. Michaelia Cash, great to have you on 4BC Drive.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you. And good afternoon to your listeners.
SCOTT EMERSON: Now, Michaelia Cash, this is really good news from Phillip Lowe, these forecasts. I reckon at the start of COVID 12 months ago, no one could have imagined that at this stage, 12 months later, we’d be talking about these kinds of things.
MINISTER CASH: Look, absolutely. And look, and while there is still a long road ahead, I think without a doubt the economic outlook for 2021 is looking more optimistic than 2020. I mean, when you look back at 2020, and it was only last year, but it feels like a long time ago. If you recall, we were facing the prospect of double digit falls in economic growth in the tripling at that time of the unemployment rate. But what we're seeing now, and what was so pleasing about Philip Lowe’s speech today is that there are really encouraging signs of economic recovery. And in fact, over the past seven months, it's around 90 per cent of the jobs that were lost due to COVID-19 have now returned. That is good news for Australians.
SCOTT EMERSON: Now, obviously, across the board, there may be some sectors there that are doing it much harder than others. The obvious one here in Queensland is the tourism sector. They’re calling out in more support. And Phillip Lowe did say that with the ending of JobKeeper at the end of March, there could be some further shedding of jobs. Isn’t that a worry, then, for the tourism sector?
MINISTER CASH: Look, the tourism sector has been doing it tough. Nobody denies that. But we have also as a Government, we continue to act decisively to assist the tourism and travel industry, as you know, through COVID-19. Look, in relation to the ending of JobKeeper. I mean, the Government has always said it was a temporary programme. It was designed to taper off as economic confidence and momentum built. And certainly we are now seeing that. But if you also recall when we were first stepping down JobKeeper last year, the predictions were that more jobs were - would be lost. What we actually saw, between October and November last year, was 7000 fewer employers were receiving JobKeeper, and around 35000 fewer employees were on JobKeeper. At the same period, you actually saw around 90,000 jobs created. So certainly, at the height of COVID-19, JobKeeper was the economic lifeline. Nobody denies that for the 3.6 million Australians, but the continued reduction in the number of employers and employees relying on the payment, it is a positive sign that the economic recovery is underway.
SCOTT EMERSON: But you can see that some sectors, like the tourism sector, may need to have ongoing support, because they’ve been hit much harder than other areas.
MINISTER CASH: Oh, look, and again, I think what the Government has shown, in particular over the last year, you know, 11 or 10, 11 months is that, you know, we listen. We listen and we respond. In terms of JobKeeper, we've always maintained that JobKeeper itself is a temporary programme. And as I said, designed to taper off as economic confidence and momentum builds. And that's what we are now seeing. And in relation to the tourism industry, I am pleased. I think in Queensland, there are some green shoots. I think with Queensland it's up 10 per cent. You'd rather it heading in that direction than the other direction. You know, we've supported the tourism industry, as I said, access to JobKeeper, cash flow investment, lending incentives. In fact, we've already paid, I understand, now, around $54 million to travel agents from $128 million targeted grant programme. We have provided substantial package to the tourism industry, but I'm not going to deny it is tough for them and in particular for those who rely on international tourism whilst international borders remained closed. You know, it is going to be tough. But I think what we've shown as a Government is we will continue to consult with stakeholders. We listen and we respond as we need to.
SCOTT EMERSON: Now Minister, your colleague, Craig Kelly, was called into the Prime Minister's office today. Clearly told to, really, shut up about his comments regarding COVID. What do you think about his views of Craig Kelly about the vaccination rollouts and masks?
MINISTER CASH: Well, I think Craig Kelly has also today issued a statement confirming that the Government's position is that you adhere to the medical advice. That is the Government's position. And I am pleased that Craig has today issued that statement. The Government has been very, very clear. We listen to the medical experts. Full stop. That is it. And that is where we take our advice.
SCOTT EMERSON: Will you be urging Craig Kelly to make sure he doesn’t make further statements along that he has been doing over the last couple of days and weeks?
MINISTER CASH: Oh, look. And again, I am very pleased that this afternoon, following his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Kelly has issued a statement and he has again confirmed that the Government's position is that we will look to the very best medical advice that is, of course, given by our medical experts. That has always been the Government’s position, and it will continue to be the Government’s position.
SCOTT EMERSON: Michaelia Cash, great to have you on 4BC Drive this afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.