Parliament House 12 November 2015
SUBJECTS: Labour force figures, Opposition claims on Commonwealth cleaning guidelines, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
MINISTER CASH: Good afternoon. Well, just recently we have had the labour force data released for the month of October, and what we have seen is a rise in the number of jobs that have been created, a rise in the number of people who are participating, and a lowering of the unemployment rate.
The unemployment rate for October 2015 has fallen from 6.2 per cent to 5.9 per cent - going against all market expectations. In relation to youth unemployment, we've seen a further drop from that. It was, as you know, 13.7 per cent. It had dropped to 12.9 per cent and it has today fallen further to 12.2 per cent.
Whilst we’re seeing a drop in the unemployment rate, I'm pleased to note that as a country we are also seeing an increase in business confidence and an increase in consumer confidence. And in particular, retailers will be pleased to know that in terms of consumer intentions for Christmas spending, they are at a seven year all-time high. So certainly, we are trending in the right direction and the Government is obviously pleased with that result.
In terms of the number of jobs that have been created this month, we have seen in excess of 58,000 jobs created this month alone. Forty thousand of them were full-time places. Another interesting statistic is that in the last 12 months of the Coalition Government, Australians have seen in excess of 315,000 jobs created.
That compares to the last 12 months of the Labor Government where the current Leader of the Opposition was, of course, the workplace relations spokesperson. They created just 86,000 jobs.
So I think the statistics clearly show that when you elect a Coalition Government, a government that has a clear agenda for growth; a government that has a clear agenda to invest in infrastructure; a government that has a clear agenda to implement free trade agreement after free trade agreement; what you will see is positive signs for the economy. Any questions?
QUESTION: What do you believe the main factors are that saw the unemployment rate drop?
MINISTER CASH: Well, certainly the Government is now having the opportunity to implement its economic agenda. If you look at the number of jobs that were created in the first 12 months or the first 10 months of the Coalition Government where we were quite literally battling a Labor-Green Senate that blocked everything, jobs were created but at a very slow pace.
Since the change of the Senate, we've been able to abolish the mining tax; we've been able to abolish the carbon tax. We have been able to get a lot more of our agenda through and it’s in that time you have seen an increase in job creation.
So again, I believe that when a Coalition Government is given the opportunity to have Labor and the Greens get out of the way, we’re able to work with the crossbenchers in a constructive manner, and pass our economic agenda and our legislation through the Senate, the statistics are there for all to see in relation to job creation.
QUESTION: Labor says are you’re not doing enough. Do you believe that you need to look more and focus more on those that don't have a job?
MINISTER CASH: Can I tell you that a government that ever says that it is doing enough, quite frankly, is probably not doing enough. I will never say that we are doing enough. What I will say is this, though: in the last 12 months of the Labor Government, when Bill Shorten was the workplace relations minister, they created 86,000 jobs.
In the last 12 months of the Coalition Government, in the last 12 months when our agenda is being able to be implemented, Australians have seen a record number of jobs being created - 315,000 jobs. If you look at the growth over the last, say, two years of a Coalition Government, you've seen a growth rate of approximately 2.3 per cent. If you look at that against the last decade trend of 1.8 per cent, again what you are seeing is a very positive trend. This is a government when, given the opportunity to implement its agenda - and we are now doing that constructively with the crossbenchers - we are able to deliver results for all Australians.
QUESTION: On another matter, do you think it's appropriate that Julie Bishop's Chief of Staff attended that gathering with Peter Hendy the night before Tony Abbott was toppled?
MINISTER CASH: The Foreign Minister, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, has answered those questions herself. I believe she answered them comprehensively and I have nothing further to add.
QUESTION: Some of your colleagues are upset by it, though. Has it upset you?
MINISTER CASH: Well, go and ask those colleagues then. Because again, the Foreign Minister, I believe she has more than adequately addressed those questions.
QUESTION: What about in your home state, the unemployment is at a 13 year high and there is a record number of West Australians out of work?
MINISTER CASH: Look, certainly as a Western Australian Senator, the increase in the unemployment rate in Western Australia was disappointing. However, when you look at the Western Australian economy compared to the eastern states economy, I believe you start to sort of look at it and you can see why.
In Western Australia, it is a very well-known fact that we have a resources-based economy. The resources sector in Western Australia is currently undergoing a transition. We are transitioning from an investment phase, a construction phase into a production phase. And with any transition from construction into production there is clearly a decrease in the number of people who are employed.
I think the fact that, though, we have in Western Australia more people than ever before participating in the workplace is a sign that we still have a healthy economy. But I think what it also shows is that as a government, you need to ensure that you are diversifying your economy.
And again I go back to this is a government with an agenda. This is a government that wants to ensure that Australians are given the opportunity to diversify. And certainly in relation to the most recent passing of the Free Trade Agreement with China, I believe Western Australians in particular, and in particular our agricultural sector, will be given those opportunities.
QUESTION: Minister, Bill Shorten just did a doorstop here with some cleaners. And he said that the removal of the Commonwealth cleaning guidelines had resulted in them getting less pay and he said that he was happy to sit down and speak with the Government about trying to restore pay and conditions for them. What's your response to that?
MINISTER CASH: Look, thank you for that question, Joe. I was actually in my office watching the press conference by the Leader of the Opposition.
Can I just say it was the most disgraceful statement I have ever seen given by a person in this place. Why? Because Bill Shorten is the only person in the Australian Parliament who has a record of stripping, slashing and taking the penalty rates off cleaners. Who can forget this headline: AWU traded off worker penalty rates, wages for $25,000 a year.
Why wasn't Bill Shorten explaining to the cleaners at Parliament House why, when he had an opportunity to do the right thing by the cleaners in Australia, instead for his own self-serving purposes, he ensured that their penalty rates were stripped completely with no compensation at all. But on top of that, he then traded off their penalty rates for $25,000 a year and then accepted the membership list to add to the AWU.
Can I also just say in relation to the press conference, there’s one thing to come out and say something, there is another thing for the Leader of the Opposition to stand here today in front of the press pack with cleaners behind him and factually misrepresent the situation. Bill Shorten knows, Brendan O'Connor knows, that the cleaning guidelines that they referred to never applied to the cleaners at Parliament House. They know that.
These cleaning guidelines - which were introduced by Labor purely for political motive to help United Voice increase their membership and get information - applied to less than one per cent of the one million cleaners in Australia, to less than 1000 cleaners. But they did not apply to the cleaners that were standing behind Bill Shorten today and, quite frankly, he was using, for purely political purposes - the one man in Australia who when he talks about penalty rates, quite frankly, should be apologising to the lowest paid workers in this country.
Bill Shorten also said that when this Government discontinued those cleaning guidelines, the cleaners received a cut in wages. They did not. Those cleaners that were subject to the guidelines, we are honouring, honouring the term of their contract. So there was no cut in wages.
So quite frankly, Bill Shorten should come back to you right now, do another press conference, feel free to question him on the lies that he told and perhaps hold him to account for slashing the penalty rates when he was a union official and did the deal with Cleanevent and ensured that the lowest paid people in this country were worse off because of his actions and his actions alone.
QUESTION: Senator, there are reports today that in the lead-up to September's leadership spill, you approached Julie Bishop the week before the spill and encouraged her to, I guess, make a move, or speak to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Do you think that she spoke to him soon enough and was it appropriate for her to wait until that Monday?
MINISTER CASH: Again, I think Australians are very excited at the moment, and as Prime Minister Turnbull said it’s a really exciting time to be an Australian.
I've just announced that we've seen a drop in the youth unemployment rate of 13.2 per cent to 12.9 per cent. We’ve seen an increase in consumer confidence, an increase in business confidence. I managed to get some industrial relations legislation through the Parliament. I'm looking forward – I’m not going to sit here and dissect what happened now in September.
There was a leadership change. I believe the Australian public have embraced the leadership change, and I also believe the Australian public, they’re tired of people going over that ground. They are looking forward; they want a government that is going to back them. They want a government that is going to instil confidence in them. They want a government that is innovative, and as the Prime Minister says, is agile. It really is an exciting time to be an Australian, and I'm really delighted to be part of the Turnbull Government. Thank you.