SUBJECTS: Jobs figures, AFP investigation into AWU
MINISTER CASH: Well, ladies and gentlemen, with the release of the labour force data today, Australians will be pleased to know that the unemployment rate has yet again fallen to 5.3 per cent. This is the lowest the unemployment rate has been in Australia since November 2012. We’ve also seen in the last 12 months the economy – that is the businesses out there – create in excess of 300,000 jobs. That is an increase of 2.4 per cent in employment growth. Compare this to the decade average of employment growth of 1.6 per cent.
But in relation to those in excess of 300,000 jobs, there is some really good news when it comes to full-time employment. Two-thirds of those figures – almost 200,000 of those jobs that were created – were full-time jobs. As at today, we have a record number of Australians in full-time employment. When we came to office in September of 2013, we said to the Australian people: this is a government that will put in place the right economic framework so that our businesses can prosper and grow and create one million jobs. And, as you know, the economy, a few months ago now, hit the one million jobs mark. So, employment under this government is doing exactly what we want it to do. But the really good news story for Australians is the growth we are now seeing in full-time employment with a number of Australians in full-time employment at a record high.
I also want to make some comments on the youth unemployment rate in Australia. I have always said that the number of youth in Australia that are unemployed – it is way too high. I am pleased, though, that we are now seeing a reduction in the youth unemployment rate, and today the figures showed it is again reduced to 11.1 per cent. This is actually the lowest it has been since April 2012. In the last 12 months we’ve seen an additional 57,000 of our young people get a job. Again, there is still so much to do. However, I’m really pleased that the youth unemployment rate in Australia is now down to 11.1 per cent. But the really good news for the Australian people today: the unemployment rate has decreased to 5.3 per cent, but full-time employment in Australia is at a record high. But that is only because of the economic policies, the very considered economic policies, that the Coalition Government – the Turnbull Government – are putting in place.
QUESTION: Minister, you mentioned the youth unemployment rate there, but the youth underemployment rate is now at 21 per cent. It has been increasing. It’s now more than one in five young people who wish they had more hours. That's not really something that the Government can look to for praise.
MINISTER CASH: As I said, when you look at the number of young people who are now in work: 11.1 per cent unemployment. The lowest it has been since April 2012. The number of young people who are in work – 57,000 in the last 12 months. But in relation to underemployment, many of those who are actually asked the question, 'Would you like to work more hours?' they say yes. But they are students, they are part-time and they are actually unable to. But, again, I've never stood here and said it is acceptable when it comes to young people. That is why this government invested in excess of $800 million in our Youth Jobs PaTH program, because we recognise you've got to have the right programs in place to get our youth off welfare and into work, and with the decrease in the youth unemployment rate our programs are working.
QUESTION: Minister, have you been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police?
MINISTER CASH: Oh, Alice.
QUESTION: They said that they are speaking to the DPP about possible prosecutions over the leaks from your office last year.
MINISTER CASH: Well, Alice, in the first instance you would know that I am not a party to the proceedings. You would also know that I am not being interviewed. I have not been under investigation, nor my office. What this is all about is the AWU are currently challenging proceedings in the court, because they don't want to produce the relevant documentation to show that donations made by Bill Shorten when he was the leader of the AWU – members’ money – to get up $100,000 to his own campaign of $25,000 were properly authorised. I am not a party to these proceedings.
QUESTION: Minister, that’s not true, though. The AFP have clearly said …
QUESTION: Minister, the subpoenas that were issued ordering you to give evidence – you said months ago that you would be instructing your lawyers to have those subpoenas set aside. They are still on the books. Are you delaying this or have you indeed decided you won’t indeed fight them?
MINISTER CASH: Again, I'm not a party to these proceedings …
QUESTION: But this is a subpoena relating directly to you.
MINISTER CASH: … however I will not be providing a running commentary on what is occurring.
QUESTION: So have you changed your legal advice?
MINISTER CASH: Again, I am not going to be providing a running commentary.
QUESTION: But, Minister, you said your office isn’t under investigation. That’s not what the AFP have said. They were in front of Senate Estimates a week ago and they said that your office is under investigation.
MINISTER CASH: Well, Alice, you and I …
QUESTION: So, why won’t you answer? Have you been interviewed by the AFP?
MINISTER CASH: Alice, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree. As I said, not a party to the proceedings, not under investigation. But I would like to know why the AWU does not want to show the Australian people, but in particular the members of the AWU, that the money they were spending on their behalf was properly authorised.
QUESTION: You won’t comment on the AFP and whether or not they’ve spoken to you. But has the Commonwealth DPP spoken to you or anyone in your office?
MINISTER CASH: Again, I’m not going to give a running commentary on the legal proceedings.
QUESTION: Surely you can understand how these issues would be in the public interest though, Senator?
MINISTER CASH: Well, as I said, I'm not a party to the proceedings and I'm not under investigation. I can only say that so many times. The issue, at the end of the day, is it’s actually been 12 months since the issues in relation to properly authorised donations were actually made. I would have thought you might like to ask, 'Were they or weren't they properly authorised?'
QUESTION: Minister, how much money have you charged [indistinct]?
QUESTION: Can I take you to Fraser Anning’s comments?
MINISTER CASH: Fraser Anning’s comments, yep.
QUESTION: Can I take you to Fraser Annings’ comments yesterday. A leaked audio has come out in the last hour or so saying it was deliberately designed to hit a nerve. It was obviously deliberately designed to be controversial. What do you make of those comments?
MINISTER CASH: Well, I have to say, I utterly reject the comments that were made. I think that yesterday what you saw in both the House of Representatives and the Senate was the Parliament coming together in unity to properly respond to and condemn the comments that were made. In relation to anything further, you would need to speak to Fraser Anning. I voted to support the motion that was put forward by the Senate in a bipartisan manner.
QUESTION: The idea that he didn’t perhaps know the final solution reference, what that may have meant that we now start to get an idea of the deliberate intention to agitate, to the extreme in his voice – extreme in his opinion to upset people. That would be alarming for a Senator hearing what was echoed in the Senate yesterday.
MINISTER CASH: And, as I said, that is why I am very pleased that yesterday morning the first available opportunity that the Senate had, and the House had as well – we were able to come together in a unified manner and put forward a motion and have members speak to it and express their condemnation of what was said. It does show that we can come together to agree, and in this way we came together as quickly and responsibly as possible. What I also don't want to do, though, is give those comments any further air time.
QUESTION: Should the Government continue doing deals with Katter’s Australian Party?
MINISTER CASH: Well, look, that is a decision for individual ministers. At the end of the day, it would be nice if the Labor Party could look at what we put forward and say, 'Yes, it's in the national interest' and give us their support.
QUESTION: Senator, at the last election, one of the key complaints for the Coalition was the issue of industrial relations – was the issue of regulating or, at least, keeping an eye on the union movement. Since the reintroduction of the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission, we've basically heard very little, and I guess this ongoing AWU raids case would force a lot of people to wonder whether or not that the whole issue of industrial relations has been pushed off the radar because it’s not palatable to the community and that they think that the Government has squibbed it. How would you respond to those sorts of claims and [indistinct]?
MINISTER CASH: Oh, absolutely not. We took an incredibly strong stance when it came to industrial relations. Malcolm Turnbull dissolved the Parliament on the basis of two industrial relations bills.
QUESTION: But since then, since then ...
MINISTER CASH: We went to a double dissolution election and, I know – you know, many journalists in the press gallery said to me, you will never ever get these double dissolution triggers through. How wrong they were. We actually did and we did it by getting them through the Australian Senate, working closely with the individual crossbenchers. And I'll remind the journalists here, during my time as the Employment Minister under Malcolm Turnbull, I successfully negotiated on behalf of the Government seven pieces of industrial relations legislation through the Parliament. Not once did we get the support of the Labor Party or the Greens. On each piece of legislation, we had to sit down and negotiate with a crossbench that was very, very disparate. Different to the crossbench we have now; it was an entirely different crossbench. But we successfully got through seven pieces of industrial relations legislation, including putting in place fundamental changes to protect vulnerable workers and ensure that they are paid what they deserve to be paid, stopping dodgy deals between employers and unions in the course of enterprise bargaining.
QUESTION: But now we have an AFP investigation into one of those key organisations, the Registered Organisation Commission.
MINISTER CASH: That's actually not true. It's not an AFP investigation into …
QUESTION: Don’t you think that takes away from that, I guess, legacy that you’re trying to put forward?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely not. Can I tell you, when I go around the country – I was with a group of builders last week. They say to me, 'Michaelia, thank you for the Government's conviction in relation to restoration of law and order in the building and construction sector.' The importance of the ABCC in terms of restoring law and order to the building and construction sector was yet again highlighted this week with an in excess of half a million dollar fine made on the CFMEU. I think they've now racked up, proudly, $15 million in fines. Can you imagine if Bill Shorten and Labor were ever elected to office? They have said they will get rid of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. They will allow the lawless state of that industry to be returned. I travel around the country. I talk to builders, in particular, small and medium builders. Can I tell you that puts an absolute shiver up their spine.