SUBJECT/S: Federal Government Job Training Skills Package announcement
NEIL BREEN: The Government’s latest economic stimulus will be unveiled today; it’ll expand an apprentice wage subsidy by six months to keep tradies in jobs through March 2021. It comes as the Government prepares to release an anticipated Budget update next week, that’s 23 July, and also outline the plans for the future of the $70 billion JobKeeper package – we know how important it is, and it has been.
Joining me now is Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash. Good morning, Minister.
MINISTER CASH: Good morning Neil, and good morning to your listeners.
NEIL BREEN: Now, this looks like a great program, but boy oh boy, we keep spending.
MINISTER CASH: Oh look, I would consider this a very, very good investment; $2 billion to give hundreds of thousands of Australians, and indeed, it’s around 68,500 Queenslanders themselves, because I am pleased to say, Premier Palaszczuk has signed up and will match the funding. This is their opportunity to get new skills by retraining and upskilling. And the key is this, Neil, [indistinct] with job opportunities - training to get people into a job. So certainly, I see that as a very good $2 billion investment by the Government.
NEIL BREEN: So, you said how many Queenslanders, sorry Minister?
MINISTER CASH: It's around, in terms of training places, the Queensland funding will support around 68,500 training places.
NEIL BREEN: Wow, that’s a lot. And the Premier's committed that she'll match you dollar for dollar?
MINISTER CASH: She has, and certainly, that was a very welcome announcement. But of course, the $1.5 billion that we are investing to expand the wage incentive across Australia to keep apprentices in work, will certainly also help apprentices and trainees in Queensland.
NEIL BREEN: Minister, as Employment Minister you've got a tough job at the moment. We know the official rate is 7.1, figures of 13.3 have been thrown around as a real figure without JobKeeper. How big a task have you got ahead of you for the rest of this year and into next year?
MINISTER CASH: Oh look, and as the Prime Minister has consistently said, Neil, every job lost as a result of COVID-19, it is just devastating. So that's why we did, through that initial investment of $260 billion, that is why JobKeeper was just so important to keep those 3.5 million Australians, you know, to give them that connection to their employer.
You know, that is why today's announcement, the $2 billion investment in skills and training in apprentices and trainees is so important. I mean, our job as a government we have one focus; to reopen the Australian economy in a COVID safe manner, but to keep businesses open, to get those businesses that had to close their doors to reopen their doors, and just to get Australians into work.
NEIL BREEN: One of the tough things for yourself and the Prime Minister, and the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, is that JobKeeper has kept Australia afloat - we understand that and we appreciate that. But now that JobKeeper has to end at some point because it can't go forever, you're copping criticism about ending JobKeeper. So, where do you strike a balance? Is this going to be in a reduced JobKeeper or something?
MINISTER CASH: Okay, so the first instance, the announcement today, the $2 billion includes, as I've said, that additional $1.5 billion to expand the wage incentive. So, the wage incentive currently is supporting in excess of 80,000 apprentice and trainees; that's a really good thing, it’s kept them on the job. We're extending it today to give certainty to around 180,000 apprentices, and we’re extending it from just small businesses to small and medium businesses with less than 200 employees.
So, we're giving certainty - 180,000 apprentice and trainees, and around 90,000 small and medium businesses - they have that certainty as of today that if they appoint apprentice or trainee, they will now be supported through to March 2021. And of course, on 23 July the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, he will provide the economic update and he will outline what is that next level of support that we are going to give to businesses that we know still require support from the Government.
NEIL BREEN: Okay. So that's on Wednesday of next week. Employment Minister-
MINISTER CASH: [Interrupts] Yeah. Wednesday of next week.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, Wednesday of next week. Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, thanks so much for joining us on 4BC Breakfast, and good luck with the announcement today.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks a lot, Neil.