SUBJECTS: Interview with Minister Cash discussing job creation under the Liberal Government, and unemployment trends after the leadership spill.
DAVID LIPSON: Minister, thanks for your time.
MINISTER CASH: Absolute pleasure.
DAVID LIPSON: Today we have an unemployment rate with a five in front of it. What is that attributable to?
MINISTER CASH: Well very much- and obviously the Government is pleased that we’ve seen a decrease in the unemployment rate from 6.2 per cent to 5.9 per cent. I believe that it is a sign that the Government, once it is given the opportunity to implement its positive agenda to grow the economy, to grow jobs, you will ultimately see that reflected in the figures. And that is what we are seeing now. If you look at, for example, the last month- or, the last 12 months of the Labor Government, interestingly when Bill Shorten was the Workplace Relations Minister, there was 86,000 jobs created. In the last 12 months of the Coalition Government what we’ve seen is 315,000 jobs have been created. So when a Coalition Government gets the opportunity to implement its agenda that will be reflected, I believe, in the number of jobs created.
DAVID LIPSON: We’ve seen more than 50,000 jobs created just this month, and at the same time we’re seeing business and consumer confidence surge. Are the two related?
MINISTER CASH: I believe so. But in particular I think retailers will be delighted that in terms of Christmas spending intentions they’re at a seven year high. So certainly we are trending in the right direction. As a Government we are not, though, going to get ahead of ourselves. We know that we’ve still got a long way to go. But certainly, when you’re looking at where the trend is going, the underlying trend under this Government in terms of employment growth is around 2.3 per cent. That compares to the decade average of 1.8 per cent. So in terms of the overall trend we are heading in the right direction.
DAVID LIPSON: So what I’m trying get at really is, is this good news on the jobs front, in part at least, due to the change of Prime Minister and the new [indistinct] …
MINISTER CASH: [Interrupts] I certainly believe, and I don’t think anyone is going to deny, and certainly I’ve been seeing a lot of what the commentators are saying, yes, I believe people are very accepting of the change in Prime Minister. I think that business within itself has come out and said- because, you know, Malcolm was a businessman, a successful businessman. They do feel that with him at the helm the country will continue further down the right path. I think we were heading down a good path under Tony Abbott, but there was a leadership change. I think confidence has been re-instilled within the Australian public, within Australian businesses, and we are well and truly moving in the right direction.
DAVID LIPSON: So you think there is a direct link between the leadership change and the improvement in the jobs figures?
MINISTER CASH: I’m not saying there’s a direct link, but certainly- look, is it a factor? I would say potentially a factor, yes. But in terms of long term trends, what you’ve seen for the two years under the Coalition Government is that in excess now of 350,000 jobs have been created. So that’s over the two years that we’ve been in Government. But I think the more stark figure is that since we were able to implement our agenda, so since the change of the Senate on 1 July 2014 when we were able to work with the crossbenchers, get rid of the mining tax, get rid of the carbon tax, starting to get through our economic agenda, that is when you’ve actually seen growth in the economy. So perhaps the bigger factor is once the Coalition Government is able to get its legislative agenda through, that is of benefit to all Australians.
DAVID LIPSON: You mention 350,000 jobs in two years created. The promise was for a million jobs in five years, so you’re a little behind. But is that still achievable, and is it still the policy of the Government to promise that?
MINISTER CASH: Certainly that was the commitment that we made. I believe that we are …
DAVID LIPSON: [Interrupts] That was under the former Government though. What about the new Government?
MINISTER CASH: That was under the former Government. Look, well certainly I think Malcolm has made it very clear – the overarching policy of the Turnbull Government is one of growth, growth in jobs, growth in participation, growth in innovation. So do we want to increase the number of Australians that are in work? Absolutely. Will we continue to implement an agenda that is going to do that? Absolutely.
DAVID LIPSON: But will you create a million jobs in five years?
MINISTER CASH: Well I certainly hope that we will.
DAVID LIPSON: But it’s not a commitment as such.
MINISTER CASH: Well no, I don’t know why it still wouldn’t be a commitment. It’s certainly- it is something that we will be proud to do, and I believe we are on track to do. And as I said, when you look at the last 12 months, or the 12 months from 1 July when we were able to work with the Senate in a very constructive manner, get our legislation through, that is when you have seen quite literally that surge, and job creation has started.
DAVID LIPSON: Bill Shorten today raised the issue of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, which were repealed under a previous red tape repeal day. He had cleaners with him that work here at Parliament House. They’re concerned that as a result of this repeal their wages are going to go from- or could go from 23.81 per hour down to 18.46 per hour – a hit of some $6000 per year. Was it the right decision for the Government to repeal those guidelines?
MINISTER CASH: Yes, it was. And can I just correct some of the facts, or should I say the non-facts that Mr Shorten was making in his statement. First, the mere fact that Bill Shorten can stand in Parliament House with a group of cleaners behind him, I think is one of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen. There is one person in the Australian Parliament that has a history when it comes to slashing penalty rates – that’s not a history that I’m making up, that is a history that is well-documented…
DAVID LIPSON: [Interrupts] But putting aside Bill Shorten’s history, I mean…
MINISTER CASH: … no, no, hold on. No, no.
DAVID LIPSON: … I want to talk about the cleaners rather than Bill Shorten’s history.
MINISTER CASH: But no- but let’s talk about the cleaners. Because it is Bill Shorten that slashed, took away completely, the penalty rates for the cleaners at Cleanevent.
DAVID LIPSON: Sure, but that’s had extensive coverage. I’m talking about a separate issue, so…
MINISTER CASH: [Interrupts] Absolutely. The- those cleaners that were already employed, what Bill Shorten was saying, those cleaning guidelines do not apply to them. Okay. Because their contract was entered into before the guidelines came into effect. In terms of the guidelines themselves…
DAVID LIPSON: [Interrupts] What about cleaners in the future?
MINISTER CASH: … had the guidelines been in place, they would have applied, in the event that a new contract was negotiated. Can I just, in terms of statistics, there are over 1 million cleaners in Australia – the guidelines apply to less than 1 per cent, to less than 1000 cleaners. And they were brought in because Bill Shorten was trying to prop up the United Voice union. There was no good intention, David, behind the cleaning guidelines being brought in.
DAVID LIPSON: The bottom line is, though, will these cleaners potentially be worse off a result of the changes the government made, the scrapping of those guidelines?
MINISTER CASH: Well, the negotiations for that particular cleaning contract don’t have anything to do with the government, so I’m not able to comment on that particular negotiation. I’m not part of that. Again, but what I would say…
DAVID LIPSON: [Interrupts] But they could, I mean, there’s a...
MINISTER CASH: … well, people’s wages can go up as well. I can’t comment on those negotiations. But in terms of the applicability of those guidelines currently - they don’t apply to those cleaners. And in any event, they only ever applied to 1000 out of 1 million cleaners in the country.
DAVID LIPSON: So what do you mean by those guidelines don’t apply to those cleaners?
MINISTER CASH: Because those cleaners were employed prior to the guidelines coming into place.
DAVID LIPSON: Okay, alright. I want to turn to Julie Bishop,
MINISTER CASH: Yep.
DAVID LIPSON: She has defended the way that her Chief of Staff was present at the meeting of plotters the night before Malcolm Turnbull made his successful challenge on Tony Abbott. Is that appropriate for such a senior member of the Deputy’s staff to attend such a meeting?
MINISTER CASH: Look, Julie Bishop I believe, has adequately answered those questions that were put to her. I’m not going to canvas what literally happened now; I think it was 14 September, almost two months ago. I’m here to talk about the unemployment rate; I’m here to talk about job creation. I think, like all Australians, they’re actually a little bit tired of everything that’s gone on over the past, say, five, six, seven years…
DAVID LIPSON: [Interrupts] Well, I think we’re still trying to work out exactly what happened and it was a monumental- you know, a momentous thing that happened.
MINISTER CASH: Look, do you know what happened? At the end of the day, there was a change of prime minister. That’s what happened.
DAVID LIPSON: Was Tony Abbott’s deputy loyal to him?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. There is the one thing you can always say about Julie Bishop is she has been incredibly loyal to all of the leaders she has served, and I accept the explanation that she has given today in relation to those events. She is doing an outstanding job on the international stage. People in the street will stop me and they will say that Julie Bishop, best Foreign Minister Australia has ever seen. We are so proud of her and what she has done to Australia’s reputation on the international stage. So when it comes to Julie Bishop, I’m going to focus on the positive things that she is doing for this country, and there are so many of them.
DAVID LIPSON: Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, it’s great you have on the show, thanks.
MINISTER CASH: Always great to be with you, thank very much.