Interview 2GB Breakfast with Alan Jones
Subject/s: Unemployment, JobKeeper wage subsidy, MySkills website
ALAN JONES: I spoke at the start of the show about these forecasts from the International Monetary Fund. They're predicting our economy will contract this year by 6.7 per cent. They're saying, the economy could rebound but of course, when you're at the bottom of the bird cage and there's no further south to go, you most probably will go north. I mentioned also the comment by Adam Creighton who writes brilliantly in The Australian newspaper- I'll talk to him tomorrow. He says when historians look back on 2020, it's not clear whether they will focus on one of the greatest pandemics or the damage caused by the response.
Now, the figures today come after a new analysis yesterday found Australia is heading for an almost doubling of the unemployment rate due to the coronavirus pandemic. It suggested 700,000 people will be out of work by the middle of the year taking the jobless rate from 5.1 per cent recorded in February to 10 per cent in June. The analysis says if it hadn't been for the Government's $130 billion JobKeeper Program, unemployment would rise not to 10 per cent but 15 per cent.
The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg - the Government’s aware of all this - says the unemployment rise is very concerning but it's also a reflection of the economic challenge that we face. He says I believe that more jobs will be created on the other side of this crisis. I'll tell you something, I'd rather this lot in charge of the problem than the other side, believe me. Now, his comments come as more than 800,000 businesses have registered with the Tax Office for the Government's JobKeeper payment. This morning I’m speaking with Michaelia Cash, she’s the Minister for Employment, Skills and Small and Family Business and a good Minister, I’ve got to tell you. She has though, as you can imagine, a fair bit on her plate.
Today, she's going to announce a new and improved MySkills website. It's called myskills.gov.au, myskills.gov.au. Basically, it's about saying: well listen, you're at home, you can't go to work, you're isolating, you can't move. Hang on, improve your skills. She's on the line. Minister, good morning
MINISTER CASH: Good morning, Alan, and good morning to your listeners.
ALAN JONES: I keep getting you out of bed early. How do you look?
MINISTER CASH: As I said, it’s a good thing that we're not FaceTiming.
ALAN JONES: Now listen, we spoke on 2 April after you announced the JobKeeper Program. How is that going?
MINISTER CASH: It's going really, really well. We've had now, as you said, around 830,000 unique ABN registrations and this very much, you know, is a good sign that employers do want to keep that connection with their employees. You know, they do want to do everything they can to stay in business and emerge on the other side of COVID-19.
ALAN JONES: So are you saying in those 830,000 businesses, we may well have up to six million workers who will benefit from keeping the worker in touch with the employer?
MINISTER CASH: Certainly, that's what the projections were that the $130 billion JobKeeper payment would help save the jobs of around six million Australians. And you know, that is what the Government is all about, keeping Australians connected to their employer during this time of crisis. It's also why, you know, as you said in your opening, we're launching today the repurposed MySkills website. As a result of COVID-19, look at the way you and I are talking at the moment, it has changed the way we work, we train, and we study. And we need to ensure that our training systems are now catering for the way Australians are staying at home.
That's why we've been working with registered training organisations and we now have around 2,000 vocational education and training courses that you can do online. If you’re sitting at home, you can go online to the MySkills website and have a look at around 2,000 courses that you can complete online.
ALAN JONES: Michaelia, I’ll just come to that in a moment. Because, just go back to this JobKeeper Program. Given that the money has gone into the worker from 1 March but the employer doesn't get the money until May, are you worried that some employers mightn't be able to hang in until they get their money in May?
MINISTER CASH: No. Look, and the banks have really stepped up here and the banks have said they will do whatever they can to ensure that small businesses are given access to the money that they need, if they need the money - and there are certainly businesses out there that do, during the month of March. So, the response that we've had to date has been very positive. But in particular, the acknowledgement by the banks that they need to do what they can do to ensure that those businesses who may not have that cashflow that they need for the month of March are able to get it for when the money does start flowing from 3 May.
ALAN JONES: We've just got this problem though, Michaelia, which I spoke to you about the other day, that the casual person who’s been a casual all their life and have worked continuously in casual work, and their tax file number would indicate that. Nonetheless, if they haven't been with the current employer for 12 months, they only get the JobSeeker program.
MINISTER CASH: Look, and that's exactly right. And the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been very upfront, the definition that we use was a definition that's used in the Fair Work Act. So, it's the continuous employment for over that 12-month period, we had to draw a line somewhere.
ALAN JONES: I know but they have been continuously employed but not with his employer.
MINISTER CASH: The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been upfront. The line was drawn, the continuous employment with that one employer was where the line was drawn. There are two elements to this, if you don’t qualify, as you said, for JobKeeper you are able to apply for JobSeeker.
ALAN JONES: I know.
MINISTER CASH: So they haven’t been left out. And when you apply for a JobSeeker, obviously, there are other elements of that program that you can get, for example, rent assistance, et cetera.
ALAN JONES: See, Michaelia, you're a realist and I've said this a thousand times. I mean, if you've got a mortgage, you've got three kids, you've got to put fuel in the car, and keep the lights on and pay for the groceries - how do you do that on 550 bucks a week?
MINISTER CASH: Oh, look, and that's why we have got the COVID supplement. We obviously doubled what the JobSeeker payment was for the duration of COVID-19. You can access that early release of superannuation, if you are, and this is individuals, if you are in financial stress as a result of COVID-19. You can access up to $10,000 of your super this year and a further $10,000 the following year.
ALAN JONES: I know, but a whole stack of people don't have $10,000 in super, you know that.
MINISTER CASH: And we’re not saying – Alan, as you know - we're not saying it's easy, but we've put $320 billion, at the moment, into this response. As the Prime Minister continues to say, we monitor this situation very, very carefully. But the key with JobKeeper is to keep as many Australians as we can, full-time, part-time, long-term, casuals, that connection with their employer is just so important.
ALAN JONES: Okay. Just a quick one though before you go, vocational education and training, the website is myskills.gov.au and to improve skills in vocational education and training. Just quickly, what trades and professions are we talking about?
MINISTER CASH: We've now got over 2,000 courses online, and 1,000 of those online courses you can actually completely do the entire course online. So, you could be doing project management, accounting, hospitality, certificate one in construction, certificate two in business, certificate three in individual support, community service.
ALAN JONES: And you pay? Do you pay?
MINISTER CASH: Look, there are costs associated with it, but as you know, the states also have certain fee relief that they have in place. So, for example in some states, you actually have free TAFE. So, depending on what course you do and in what state, there'll be different fee structures available to you- assistance.
ALAN JONES: Good on you. Thank you for your time, thank you for what you do.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you, take care.
ALAN JONES: Michaelia Cash - she’s good, isn’t she? Myskills.gov.au.