SUBJECTS: Launch of the Australian Jobs 2018 report; company tax cuts; live export trade; Newstart Allowance.
MINISTER CASH: Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is fantastic to be here today at Merici College in Canberra to officially launch the Australian Jobs 2018 report. I’ve just been speaking with a group of Year 11 and 12 girls about their job prospects, and I’m delighted to hear a number of them putting up their hands and saying to me: Michaelia, I’d like to be a pilot. Michaelia, I’d like to be a criminal psychologist. Because the job opportunities for these Year 11 and 12s, because of the labour market conditions in Australia, are fantastic.
This is a practical guide for students who are thinking about the next step when they leave school and are looking for work. It’s great for jobseekers, in particular those job seekers who might be thinking of looking for another job. It’s great for those within the industry, job providers, to know exactly where the growing industries are. What it also highlights, though, is that the labour market fundamentals in Australia are strong and they’re projected to stay strong. It analyses the 2017 data, and the good news for Australians is 2017 was the best jobs growth ever in Australia.
We had in excess of 400,000 jobs created by the economy. Three-quarters of those jobs were full-time, so in excess of 300,000 jobs. If you compare that to the last 12 months of the former Labor Government, the economy actually shed around 17,500 full-time jobs. In terms of employment growth, the decade average is 1.6 per cent. In 2017, under the Turnbull Government, employment growth grew by 3.3 per cent. But that does not happen overnight. It happens because the Government, since we were elected in September 2013, we have consciously put in place policies that will ensure that businesses are able to prosper and grow. Because a business that prospers and grows is then able to employ more people.
We also said in September 2013 that we would be a job creating government. And again, what this report identifies is that is exactly what the Turnbull Government, the Coalition Government is. We said we would set about putting in place the right economic policies to ensure that businesses can prosper and grow and create jobs, and that is exactly what we have done.
So, fantastic to be here today at Merici College in Canberra. I’m just absolutely delighted to hear the prospects of the students, in particular those who are saying: I’d like to be a pilot, I’d like to be a criminal psychologist. And certainly, as I said to them, the labour market fundamentals in Australia are strong and there are sensational job prospects for these young women. Any questions?
QUESTION: Yes. I was going to ask, on another topic, on the topic of company tax cuts, how feasible is it in the wake of the banking royal commission that you’ll now get these over the line? Does it make your job harder in doing that?
MINISTER CASH: In terms of company tax cuts more broadly, the Coalition Government understands that if you give business the ability to lower its costs – so this way, it is company tax cuts – they are able to reinvest back into those businesses and prosper and grow. And that is why we vigorously pursued, in the first instance, the tax cuts for small and medium businesses. As a government, it is in our DNA to do everything that we can to lower the tax burden in Australia. As Mathias Cormann has said, he will continue to negotiate with the crossbench because these company tax cuts will be of benefit not just to the businesses, but ultimately the flow-on effects directly to the Australian people.
QUESTION: Will it not look like you’re rewarding the bank for a time when they’ve been bad?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not. The banks are a fundamental part of our economy. What you don’t want to do is start picking and choosing winners and losers in the tax system. What is occurring with the banks at the moment will ultimately be addressed. In fact, the Coalition Government has, since we were elected, progressively put in place policies to actually ensure the integrity of our banking system. We will obviously now await the outcome also of the royal commission, but you are talking about a taxation policy. It is in our DNA to do everything that we can so that we can offer lower taxation to all Australians.
QUESTION: Minister, just on a related point, Tim Storer says he would support increasing the Newstart allowance, citing the report from the Deloitte economist Chris Richardson. Can we expect any changes of that in the Budget? Do you think that this would actually help people get into work from that [indistinct] circumstance?
MINISTER CASH: Obviously, I won’t pre-empt anything that’s going to be happening in the Budget. It is next Tuesday.
In terms of the Newstart allowance, it is there, obviously, as a basic safety net for those people who are not in work and are looking for work. This Government is fundamentally focused on – and we’ve said it from day one – getting people off welfare and into work. Everything we do is designed to ensure that the economy is creating jobs, which it’s doing, and we are putting in place the right policies to get people off welfare and into work, because the best form of welfare is a job. If you look at what is being proposed, I think a $50 increase in the Newstart allowance will, over the forward estimates, cost in excess of $7 billion. Again, I’m not going to pre-empt anything in the Budget, but our focus is getting people off welfare and into work.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] I was going to ask you, you told some great stories upstairs about backpacking for three years. The Newstart is $40 a week. Could you live off $40 a week?
MINISTER CASH: Well certainly as a backpacker – and this is going back a long time – but yeah, I lived off a very, very minimal amount of money. But that’s actually not the point. Newstart is an allowance to ensure that people have a basic safety net whilst they are looking for work. Our focus as a government is to ensure the economy is creating jobs, which it is doing: record jobs growth in 2017. Three-quarters of the jobs created, in excess of 300,000 fulltime jobs. We focus very much on getting people off welfare and into work.
QUESTION: Is $40 a week cruel?
MINISTER CASH: Again, we focus on getting people off welfare and into work, because the best form of welfare is a job.
QUESTION: I respect that, but is $40 a week cruel?
MINISTER CASH: The Newstart allowance is there, as you know – and this often comes up, this debate, as to what the actual amount should be – it is there to provide a basic safety net for those looking for work who are on welfare, and that is what it does.
My focus and the Government’s focus is let’s get those people off welfare and let’s get them into a job, because the best form of welfare is a job. But again, I won’t pre-empt anything for the Budget next Tuesday.
QUESTION: Would you support a referendum on Section 44 of the Constitution, as Linda Reynolds has suggested?
MINISTER CASH: Look, I’ve briefly seen those comments that Senator Reynolds made today. As you know, she is chair of the relevant committee that has been looking into those issues. I haven’t had the opportunity to review the report. I understand it is going to be handed down imminently. I will look at the report and the recommendations, because they are obviously going to be based on extensive evidence that has been undertaken, but I won’t pre-empt – and I think Linda said they were her personal comments – she would not pre-empt the outcome of the committee report. I also will await the committee report before I make any further comments.
QUESTION: Minister, would you support a fixed date of getting rid of old live export ships, given the concerns that have been raised about animal welfare?
MINISTER CASH: Look, I think David Littleproud is doing an absolutely outstanding job in terms of his engagement with the industry. What we saw – I’m not about to make any excuses – was absolutely appalling. Australians were rightly horrified, but the answer is not to shut down the industry overnight. Labor did that with devastating effects across the Australian economy, but also for the countries who were no longer receiving a source of protein.
As Minister Littleproud has said, he will respond with an evidence-based solution. He is not going to do an emotional reaction. He quite rightly has condemned the footage. I personally, I am condemning the footage. What we need to ensure is that we continue to have this trade, for so many reasons, but I think all Australians are now demanding greater regulation and, in particular, on the ships, so we know exactly what is happening to those – the sheep in this case, cattle in a previous case – whilst they are being transported. But again, David Littleproud is doing an outstanding job. He will provide an evidence-based solution to this issue, and I really do commend him on the work he’s doing.
QUESTION: The question here, though, is not about an overnight expiry; it’s about a phase out: giving notice that some of these old ships should be taken out. Does that seem like a reasonable approach to you?
MINISTER CASH: Again, and David Littleproud – that’s exactly right – is looking at this. In relation to the older ships, they are subject to certain laws and regulations. I think there is an argument that they need to change, and we do need to know exactly what is happening whilst the sheep or the cattle are exported. As I said, I’m not going to stand here and try and tell you that the footage wasn’t appalling. It was appalling, but at the same time, there are people’s livelihoods in Australia who depend on this trade, and we need to ensure that it is properly regulated and we support the trade, but in particular, the countries to where this source of protein is actually going.
QUESTION: Minister, sorry to backtrack, but for all the Australians who have been ripped off by the banks, can you understand how they might think it’s unfair that the banks are heading for a tax cut, and how would you explain it to them?
MINISTER CASH: Well again, as I previously said, in our DNA, as a Coalition Government, we focus on, in the first instance, giving Australians back the money that belongs to them. So very much what we can do for your personal income tax cut we will do, and in terms of business, we understand that when you lower the company tax rate for business, it does enable them to reinvest back into them.
In terms of what is currently going on with the banks, the Coalition has progressively put in place policies, and in particular, I think 1 July 2018 the Banking Executive Accountability Regime will commence, which gives far more powers to the regulator – in particular, to fine banks. What we are seeing at the moment is appalling. I don’t think anybody in government is standing there and saying otherwise, but you are conflating two issues that are quite separate.
QUESTION: Who do you think will end up paying the compensation bill for this royal commission, which will be inevitable? Do you think it’ll come out of taxpayers or do you think banks will be slugged, or perhaps could there be an opportunity to hold back the banks’ tax cut and use that extra profit margin to pay off the compensation bill?
MINISTER CASH: I won’t pre-empt anything that the Treasurer may or may not do with regards to the outcome of the royal commission.
QUESTION: Just speaking on the commission, the Treasurer said he expects- not the commission, sorry, the APRA report. The Treasurer said he expects Commonwealth Bank board members to go in coming days. Do you support that? Do you think more executives should go?
MINISTER CASH: Well certainly, I’ve seen a summary of the report, and it highlights failings within the board. We have seen certain board members already go. Certainly, I support the Treasurer’s comments that there needs to be far more accountability, in particular in this board, and if that means ultimately resignations, then yes, I support the Treasurer’s comments. Thank you very much.