DAVID SPEERS: With me now is the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. Thank you for your time this afternoon. Can I ask, we do see unemployment coming down in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia. It’s gone up though in Victoria and your state, WA. What do you put the changes down to? Where are we seeing jobs growth? Where are we seeing jobs not growing as strongly as they should, do you think?
MINISTER CASH: Well just in relation to the unemployment figures today, obviously the Government is pleased that for the second month in a row we have now seen a decrease in unemployment in Australia – 6.2 to 5.9 to now at 5.8. But you’re right in relation to my home state of Western Australia; we have seen an increase in the unemployment rate. But David, Western Australians understand that because we are transitioning as an economy we’re moving out of, say, the construction phase in relation to the resources industry, into the production phase. We know that that does mean there is going to be a shedding of jobs.
What we are seeing, though, is job creation in other parts of the economy. And I think if there’s one thing that as Western Australians we’re very good at, and as Malcolm Turnbull said last night, Western Australia, we are not a one trick pony. We do know how to diversify. We have done it before, we went from agriculture into a resources-based economy, and we’re now looking at transitioning into that services-based economy. And certainly that is where we’re seeing jobs growth in Western Australia.
David, just in terms of participation though in Western Australia, I’m still very pleased that out of all the states Western Australia still has the highest rate of participation. So certainly what we have here is that enthusiastic, that energetic person putting up their hand and saying I want to work. So very much in WA, yes we have a high unemployment rate, but we are transitioning as an economy and we understand that.
DAVID SPEERS: Are we seeing a smooth transition though? They do look pretty patchy, because unemployment is now 5.2 per cent in New South Wales, which is good, but it’s 6.6 per cent in WA. It does seem to be quite a difference.
MINISTER CASH: In Western Australia two years ago there was a four in front of the unemployment rate. We had record numbers of people in employment, and again look at the nature of our economy. Our economy has been for some time very much focused on the resources industry, we had record levels of employment. As I said, we are not surprised that because we have moved from the construction phase into the production phase there is that shedding of jobs. But as I said, look at the positives: the participation rate remains the highest of all states, but we’re also seeing …
DAVID SPEERS: But where’s the transition happening in WA?
MINISTER CASH: The transition- very much into the services sector. So what you’ve seen is an increase in the number of jobs in the health sector, an increase in the number of jobs in the aged care sector. But I’m also very pleased, in particular given that burgeoning middle class in China that we all want to get a piece of, that we have seen an increase in the number of jobs in tourism and hospitality. So going forward it is positive.
Can I just say though also, in relation to the unemployment rate generally, when you look at the decade average, which is 1.8 per cent, across Australia we’re trending now to about 2.5 per cent. So in terms of that trend across Australia we are above the decade average in terms of employment growth, and that’s a good thing.
DAVID SPEERS: What about Victoria, a manufacturing heartland. The unemployment rate there has gone up from 5.6 to 6.2 per cent. What is going on in Victoria and what’s the Government doing to help?
MINISTER CASH: Very good question again. And obviously you have seen the decline of the car industry, in particular in Victoria. In particular, I would say, in Geelong. And certainly, the Government has recognised that and we have put in place a number of assistance packages. So we are looking at working with those car manufacturers to ensure that the employees that are no longer going to have drops in that manufacturing phase of the car industry certainly are up-skilled or able to change the nature of what they do so they can look at having jobs, or the jobs of the future. So very much in the research and development, et cetera. So as I said, the Government recognises again that there is an industry that is transitioning. We’re not going to have as much manufacturing but we’ve recognised that and in terms of the funds that we’ve put in place we have put in funds that specifically target Victoria.
David, the Government understands that whilst there are almost 12 million Australians in work, and I’m delighted to say that under this Government, we now have a record high in terms of Australians who are in the workforce – that is absolutely sensational. But we also understand that as a Government we cannot stop and we are very much focused on doing what we can to ensure that we have the framework in place that allows business – because at the end of the day, governments don’t create jobs, we create frameworks in which business creates jobs. And this Government is all about creating that framework in which business can grow, can prosper and more Australians can get into work.
DAVID SPEERS: Well, speaking of governments creating frameworks – we have heard a lot from the Prime Minister, from the Government, this week about innovation and the need to foster more opportunities, more employment, in start-ups, in innovative, more productive areas of the economy. Are we seeing any growth at this stage in those parts of the economy?
MINISTER CASH: Well there are people putting their hands up and saying we need some assistance. And as a Government we recognise innovation is going to be the new black, it’s going to be the new buzz word. In fact, it already is the new buzz word. And we recognise that the jobs of today are probably not going to be the jobs that our young people are performing tomorrow.
So globally we need to look at where those growth areas are. And I don’t think there is any doubt – in particular, based on the very positive reaction that I have seen over the last sort of 48 to 72 hours since we released our $1.1 billion innovation policy – that this Government has got it right in terms of stimulating those areas of the economy which we know are going to create the jobs of tomorrow.
I have actually personally been inundated with feedback. In particular from young people who are just so excited that we have a Prime Minister and a Government that understand that the jobs of today are not necessarily the jobs they’re going to be doing tomorrow. They want more flexibility; they want to be able to do their own thing, and that’s why we are making such a serious investment in innovation.
DAVID SPEERS: Alright.
MINISTER CASH: Can I just put my women’s hat on for one moment, David?
DAVID SPEERS: Yes.
MINISTER CASH: I’m absolutely delighted with the investment that the Government is making in science, technology, engineering and maths, in STEM. And in particular the investment that we are making to ensure that young girls and women know that there are jobs for them in this area. And we’re going to invest in them to ensure that they have those requisite skills so they can take up those jobs in the STEM areas.
DAVID SPEERS: Okay, but Minister, getting back I suppose to where we started and the jobs of today that are under some cloud, and particularly as you acknowledged in WA, your home state, with the end of the mining investment boom now into the construction phase. But we are seeing some threat to existing mines – Anglo American are shedding jobs; they are selling or shutting down a number of mines here in Australia. We’ve seen commodity prices for oil, for coal, for iron ore, tumble just in the last week even further. How worried are you about the future of some marginal mines in Australia right now and the jobs associated with them?
MINISTER CASH: Whenever there’s a threat to jobs in Australia a government needs to be worried. But what the Australian people need to be looking for in a government is a government that has a vision; is a government that understands that it needs to put in place the appropriate policies to enable business to create jobs. That is what this Government has been focused on from…
DAVID SPEERS: Well, let me ask you specifically about that. Does Government have a role in providing any sort of loan guarantees to some of these mines? I know Clive Palmer is certainly seeking one for Queensland Nickel.
MINISTER CASH: I would leave that up to the Queensland Government to deal with Clive Palmer. But certainly does Government have a role where we know- for example, in relation to the manufacturing industry - where we know that you do have a transition from the manufacturing industry. You have car manufacturing leaving Australia. You do have significant potential job losses. Do we have a role to step in and help ensure that those employees are given the opportunity to be up-skilled? Are given the opportunity to take on another role? The answer is yes, we absolutely do and very much that is why the Government has put in place the programmes and the significant investment – a significant investment – to ensure that people who have a particular skill today that is not going to help them tomorrow are given that opportunity to take on a new skill.
DAVID SPEERS: Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you David, thanks for having me.