SUBJECT/S: Launch of the Government’s Transition to Work service for youth aged 15-21 years, legislation on the building and construction industry, marriage equality.
DR PETER HENDY: Good morning everybody.
So we’re here with the Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash. It’s always great to have her visiting Queanbeyan and Eden-Monaro. I’m not going to talk for very long because we’ve got thunderstorms and we do not want to lose a Cabinet Minister to a lightning bolt!
MINISTER CASH: Or maybe we do!
DR PETER HENDY: So over to you Minister!
MINISTER CASH: Thank you very much. It is fantastic to be here today with Peter Hendy in the seat of Eden-Monaro. But I think even more so, at a fantastic example of a small business—Resort Trailers—here with Danny today and of course, Tina, the co-owners of Resort Trailers. They are a great example of a small business, been operating since 1984. They have in that time manufactured more than 45,000 trailers. But they also work very closely with employment service providers to ensure that they are giving Australians, who might otherwise not have a chance of a job, a job. And that is the type of thing that this Government encourages.
We’re also here today to announce the first round of providers under the Government’s Transition to Work programme. This Government is very focused on job creation. We have created more than almost 427,000 jobs since we came into office. And in the last 12 months alone we have created in excess of 301,000 jobs. That compares with just 88,000 jobs that were created in the last year of the former Rudd-Gillard Government.
Transition to Work is all about getting youth aged between the ages 15 and 21, and who are at risk of long-term welfare dependency, into either education or work. We are committing $322 million dollars over four years to this programme.
This is a Government that understands that the best form of welfare is a job. And we will do everything that we can to, in the first instance, ensure that we are generating jobs in Australia but then, that we also focus on those people who don’t have a job, and in particular the youth, who quite frankly are the future of this country and we need to ensure that we have programmes in place that, for those who are at risk of becoming long term welfare dependent, we are tackling that issue. So again, fantastic to be here today with Peter Hendy at Resort Trailers but to formally announce the first round of the successful providers under the Government’s $322 million Transition to Work programme.
Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Senator, on the legislation to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission, will that be up first on Tuesday?
MINISTER CASH: The Government is very clear in its commitment to restore the Australian building and construction industry. It was a commitment we took to the 2013 election. We were given an overwhelming mandate by the Australian people.
The findings of the Heydon Royal Commission endorsed the Government’s position. This is all about a particular industry, the building and construction industry, within Australia, that has proven itself to be unique, in terms of non-compliance with workplace laws. No one should have to go to work in Australia in an industry where you are subjected to thuggery. Where you are subjected to bullying. Where you are subjected to intimidation. Where Australians themselves are subjected to an increase in costs, because we know when projects get slowed down or they don’t get off the ground that ultimately costs all Australians. So on Tuesday, the Government will reintroduce into the House of Representatives the legislation to re-establish the building regulator and I call on the cross benchers whom I am working with in relation to the passage of this legislation to assist us in passing it.
JOURNALIST: Glenn Lazarus wants the six volume of the Trade Unions report released. He’d like to see it released publicly, is the Government willing to release a redacted version?
MINISTER CASH: The Government is obviously prepared to talk with the cross benchers in relation to their access to the confidential report. But, you know, the Australian public, and in particular the Labor Party, need to understand the Commissioner made confidentiality requirements in relation to these reports for very good reasons.
They named witnesses and they also may, if read, prejudice the ongoing criminal investigations. So, they will not be made public. The Government will respect the findings of the Royal Commission but I am working in good faith with the cross benchers who’ve asked to see the report to assist them in their deliberations.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on that legislation. Given that you’ve given it such a high priority, are you trying to set it up as a big issue in this election year?
MINISTER CASH: If the legislation does not pass the parliament, we are prepared to take it to the next election and fight. I think I need, quite literally, an umbrella now.
[Press conference relocates inside Resort Trailers due to inclement weather]
MINISTER CASH: It’s fantastic to actually undertake the tour of Resort Trailers and to get a positive story that this small business has. It is wonderful that they actively engage with employment service providers to ensure that Australians who may not otherwise be able to seek employment are able to get long-term sustainable jobs in what is a growing small business. And again, we are here today to formally launch the first round under the Government’s Transition to Work Programme – $322 million investment of four years by the Government.
It’s part of our broader, in excess of $6 billion investment, in employment services because this is a Government that understands. You need to grow the economy, you need to create jobs. We are creating jobs.
In the last 12 months of this Government we have created in excess of 301,000 jobs. The unemployment rate, it’s still too high, but it is on a downward trajectory. That is a good thing.
And in terms of youth, ages 15-21, who are at risk of long-term welfare dependency, we understand. We need to ensure that they are made work-ready, or if they so choose, go back into education. And that is what Transition to Work is all about – actively targeting youth between the ages of 15–21 who need that intensive support so they can become contributing members of society.
Any further questions?
JOURNALIST: Senator, just on the legislation slated for Tuesday. It’s already been defeated once, if defeated again will it be used as a double dissolution trigger?
MINISTER CASH: You are correct. It has already been defeated once in the Senate. The same legislation is being introduced into the House on Tuesday. If the Senate again fails to pass this legislation it does become a double dissolution trigger. That does not obviously mean that a double dissolution will be called. We already have a double dissolution trigger in relation to the registered organisations legislation that has been rejected by the Senate three times.
But I want to make it very, very clear that when it comes to the building and construction industry in Australia, it is too important to Australians and the Australian economy for a Government to sit back and watch the thuggery, watch the breaches of workplace laws, watch the bullying, watch the intimidation, watch the small contractors get completely pushed out of doing any work because the industry does sometimes indulge in unlawful behaviour. This is a Government that has a mandate. We received the mandate from the 2013 election from the Australian people to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
We continue to exercise that mandate, and we will reintroduce the legislation into the House on Tuesday and if it does fail to pass the Senate I have been very clear we will seek a further mandate from the Australian people to reintroduce the building regulator.
JOURNALIST: Minister what do you make of Tony Abbott’s speech to the alliance defending freedom?
MINISTER CASH: Well, the wonderful thing about being a Liberal in particular is we believe in freedom of speech. Tony Abbott is a former PM so when you do give these speeches they do attract a little bit more publicity than if just a backbencher would go overseas. But, certainly, Tony’s views on these subjects are well known.
And if he wants to go overseas and give a speech I applaud freedom of speech. And quite frankly, Peter, I believe long live freedom of speech.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s appropriate for a former Prime Minister to give a speech to a group like that?
MINISTER CASH: Again, you would need to speak to Tony about why he decided to give the speech.
But in terms of the broader picture, freedom of speech – we applaud it. Tony’s views are well known. I don’t think he has expressed any view that is inconsistent with his long-term beliefs.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott was speaking on marriage and family. Will you respect the decision of a plebiscite on marriage equality?
MINISTER CASH: I have already stated that the position of the Government, and it was actually the position of the Abbott government, was to take the question of marriage equality to the Australian people by way of a plebiscite. Under the Abbott Government we have said that if the question was supported by the Australian public, the Parliament would support the will of the people. That position has not changed under the Turnbull Government. I am opposed to marriage equality; however, should the Australian people vote in favour of it, I will support the will of the Australian people. But I would also say, let’s all slow down, we’re not there yet. We don’t even know what the question is. But in the same respect, for those people calling for the will of the Australian public to be respected, that goes for whatever the vote may be, for or against.
JOURNALIST: What about some of your Coalition colleagues, who have said that no matter what the answer is, they will vote no?
MINISTER CASH: The Coalition colleagues, who have said that to date, are those who have been opposed to marriage equality, I think, all their lives. Again, we are elected as individuals with our own individual beliefs. If any one believes that they cannot respect the will of the Australian people and again, whatever that will is, it may be to not support marriage equality, and they don’t believe that they can then exercise that in the Parliament, they need to explain it to the Australian people. But at the end of the day I am not going to criticise people who for their own personal beliefs, are making their own decisions. But as I said, let’s all slow down because we’re nowhere near the vote being taken yet.
JOURNALIST: What about yourself, Mr Hendy?
DR PETER HENDY: Well, I confirm complete agreement with the Minister. My view is that the Government in August last year, the Government made a very long, detailed internal debate on this issue and came to the decision to put the matter to a vote of the Australian people. I think that was by far the best decision to come out on in respect to this issue. And I fully supported it at the time and continue to support it and part of that decision was that the Government will support whatever the vote result is. And so we wait. We are still yet to decide what the vote will be and when it will be, the timing of the vote and the questions that will be asked of the Australian people. So we have quite a way to go on things but when we get to it but I can tell you absolutely that I will respect the vote of the Australian people on that particular matter.
JOURNALIST: Minister, can I ask just back on the Royal Commission’s report, those cross benchers, will they see a redacted version or will they get access to the full sixth volume?
MINISTER CASH: The Government is currently considering its position in relation to that, bearing in mind again, I just want to make it very, very clear that the Royal Commission has made its reasons for the non-publication of these confidential volumes very, very clear. They are to protect the witnesses that are named in the reports and they are to ensure that ongoing police investigations are not prejudiced. So the Government, in its decision to allow access to that, does need to keep that in its mind.
JOURNALIST: Mr Hendy just getting back to the programme, how many employers will be taking part in the programme from Eden-Monaro? Is it just this one?
DR PETER HENDY: This roll out will be a programme that starts with the whole of Australia and eventually it will go to all segments of the Australian geography and so eventually it will also be implemented in Eden-Monaro.
MINISTER CASH: In the first instance, what we’ve done is that we’ve gone to state and territory governments and we’ve asked them to identify where they see the most need. So there is a programme being rolled out. As I said, this is just the first part of the programme that we’re announcing today but we’re very excited to be here in Eden-Monaro and to be able to provide this intensive support to, over the period, each year up to 29,000 youth who will be able to receive this intensive support to ensure that they are either able to enter the workplace or if they so choose, go back into education.
JOURNALIST: So there’ll definitely be more employers in the Eden-Monaro?
MINISTER CASH: Eden-Monaro has been chosen as one of the key areas.
Thank you very much.