SUBJECT: March employment figures
MICHAEL GENOVESE: The ABS figures for March have been released today. Here to chew through it all with us from Perth Live this afternoon, the Minister for Jobs and WA Senator, Michaelia Cash, joins us. Welcome Minister.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be on your show, Michael, and hello to your listeners.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: These figures out today show the national unemployment rate steady 5.5 per cent. What should we read into that?
MINISTER CASH: Well, basically, the economy continues to create jobs. That's good news for Australians. And compared to 12 months ago the 5.5 per cent is below the 5.9 per cent recorded a year ago. So the Coalition is pleased that in March 2018 the economy created almost 5,000 jobs, which is three per cent employment growth, and in terms of the decade average it's well above because the decade average employment growth 1.6 per cent.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: The news is not great for WA – we’ll get to that shortly – but I just want to ask you about this trend of, I guess, an increase in part-time jobs compared to a decrease in full-time jobs. Are you happy with the ratio and how that's tracking?
MINISTER CASH: The employment figures jump around by month to month. So you actually need to look at the last 12 months. So in terms of the last 12 months what we've seen is the economy's created around 367,000 jobs. And I'll just give you the comparison. The last 12 months of Labor, the economy created around 89,800 jobs. But in terms of the creation of full-time employment, this is the interesting statistic. Full-time employment over the last 12 months under us: almost 230,000 jobs. In the last 12 months of the former Labor Government, the economy actually shed almost 17,000 full-time jobs. So we are well and truly seeing, under the Turnbull Government, strong full-time employment growth.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: West Australian unemployment rate has gone up 0.8 of a per cent. That's the biggest out of any of the states.
MINISTER CASH: Look, it is. I think the good news for Western Australia is though that the participation rate is 68.7 per cent. So, interestingly, it remains well above the national average, and the participation rate nationally is 65.5 per cent.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: Can you explain what the participation rate is?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. So, that is the number of people in the workforce who are actively putting up their hands and saying, "I am ready, willing and able to undertake employment." So whilst, yes, our unemployment rate remains high - and unfortunately in WA it has actually jumped to 6.9 per cent - people are still encouraged. They're out there putting up their hands and saying, "I'm available for work." But what we now need to see obviously is that translating to stronger job creation in WA.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: So you feel like the jobs just obviously aren't there for them. That's the problem that you're pointing to?
MINISTER CASH: We're still creating jobs but not at the rate that we need to. There was a downturn obviously in mining and construction et cetera as you move into production phase. But certainly we do need to address the increased unemployment rate.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: The Australian Council of Trade Unions today - exactly today, the timing perfect - wants to raise the wage of the lowest paid workers in Australia by $50 a week in a move that they say - Sally McManus says - would supercharge job creation. Is that something that would supercharge job creation?
MINISTER CASH: I think they were almost laughed out of the room by economists across Australia. The Independent Fair Work Commission sets the minimum wage in Australia, and around 200,000 people in Australia are on the minimum wage. Sally McManus is out there making all sorts of claims, revving up fear within the Australian population, and the majority of what she says is just not based in fact. A number of key industry people have come out today and said, "If that increase was to occur, you are literally looking at businesses shedding jobs overnight." And that's the reason we have the Independent Fair Work Commission set the minimum wage in Australia because they look across Australia at the economic conditions, they take into account numerous factors and then they advise if there is to be an increase in the minimum wage. And, obviously, that is something that will be coming up shortly - the Fair Work's decision. They advise on a properly researched basis what that should be. But in relation to Sally McManus, she says a lot of things but most of it’s just deliberately designed to scare Australians and it's not based on fact.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: So you’re ruling out the Federal Government putting in a submission in favour of a $50 increase to the lowest paid workers in Australia?
MINISTER CASH: The Federal Government every year puts in a submission, regardless of who’s in power. Whether it’s the Coalition or whether it’s Labor, the Federal Government does put in a submission to the Fair Work Commission. But [it] is a submission that is based on economics and provides the commission with the relevant information that it requires. But, again, we’re not about to put up our hands and say this is what should be done. That is the Fair Work Commission’s decision. But in terms of Sally McManus’ claim it will actually cause job losses - the Government’s about job creation.
MICHAEL GENOVESE: Minister for Jobs, Michaelia Cash. Thanks for joining Perth Live this afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Fantastic to be with you. Thanks to your listeners.