Release type: Media Release

Date:

Interview with ABC Alice Springs

Ministers:

The Hon Luke Howarth MP
Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services


STEWART BRASH:

Now, 600 jobs were on offer at the Commonwealth Jobs Fair in Alice Springs yesterday, but there were only 100 registrations. The national jobless rate sits at 5 per cent, and for young people, it sits at just over 13 per cent. So, the feds are really wanting to connect job seekers with paid employment. But there seems a bit of hesitancy that the pandemic is playing on those who might be on welfare or needing to get back into employment, from engaging in looking for jobs. 

The Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, Luke Howarth, was in Alice Springs yesterday for the Jobs Fair, and he spoke with ABC Radio's, Justin Fenwick. They spoke about the issues of the over-supply of jobs and not enough people to fill them, and how this affects people right across the country and in Alice Springs. 

LUKE HOWARTH:

When we were running Job Fairs before COVID-19, there were more people coming to the Fairs. At the moment, it is down a little bit, but that's partly because of lockdowns in different states and territories, as you say. So, some people have said, well, why would I come out looking for work, if we’re about to go back into lockdown? The good news is that as the vaccine rollout has increased, and we're now, I think, 90 per cent double dosed across the country, almost there, that's a great opportunity to bounce back. And we have also lost 500,000 skilled workers out of the country during COVID-19. 

So, the real opportunity is for young people that perhaps don't have the experience that some of the older people might have, and need a first start. There's never been a better opportunity than right now, in the lead-up to Christmas, and I believe, in the first quarter of 2022, to get a job. Because before international borders really open back up next year, there's a great opportunity and there’s high demand for workers right across the country, including in Alice Springs. 

JUSTIN FENWICK:

Do you think - and I know you probably can't answer this, because this is out of your jurisdiction. 

LUKE HOWARTH:

Sure.

JUSTIN FENWICK:

But do you think we’re realistically going to see those international borders reopen and international people coming back to Australia to get jobs specifically? Do you think, I guess essentially what I'm asking is, do you think the jobs market has changed during the pandemic, and we're more likely to, as a business, employ, you know, domestically than internationally?

LUKE HOWARTH:

Well, I hope so, as far as domestic jobs go. I mean, at the end of the day, the Australian Government is very focused on Australians. So, we want Australians employed first and foremost. We're doing everything we can to help people that are on JobSeeker to re-engage with the workforce including programs like JobTrainer to get the essential skills that they need. We’re providing low fee or free training, to help people get the skills and change industry. So, very much focused on Australians first. 

However, there will be some gaps where people don’t have the skills or demand for jobs that is here right now. And so, I think people will come back to Australia. We are a wonderful country, let’s face it. We’ve done remarkably well through COVID with low death rates and keeping employers engaged with employees. So, I think naturally, people from overseas do want to travel here as well.

There’s also the opportunity, through COVID, for people, as we’ve seen, to change their location. I know in Queensland, in the state I’m in, it’s got strong growth at the moment with people moving north from Victoria. And I think in the centre of Australia and in the Northern Territory, there’s great opportunities there for lifestyle change as well. So, it’ll be interesting to see where it rolls out in the next 12 months. 

JUSTIN FENWICK:

What have you heard from businesses? You’re obviously in town for the Jobs Fair here in Alice Springs. But what have you heard on the road with other businesses across the country that’s probably a similar story that you have heard here in town?

LUKE HOWARTH:

Well, I’ve heard that they’ve just– they’ve, advertising jobs and can’t get workers - that’s the absolute reality of it, not just here in Alice Springs but in other parts of the country, even in the cities - there’s more jobs than workers applying at the moment. So, today in Alice Springs, we’ve got over 600 jobs on offer, but at the moment, there’s only about 100 people registered to attend. Now, I do know that a lot of people will turn up on the day. And please, come in, you’re welcome to come today at the Convention Centre at Barrett Drive, Alice Springs. 

So, I suspect we’ll get a couple of hundred people through the door. But if that's the case for every one person that walks through, there's three jobs on offer. And so, it is a good problem to have - it's better than having the opposite problem of more job seekers and not enough jobs - but that's why it's really important to push that today you can change your life, no matter what your past, no matter what difficulties you've had in the past. 

And I think today, businesses are looking for locals that can connect. So, there's a lot of people that live in Alice Springs that have been here all their life that know many of the local people. And that's a big advantage for business owners, if they can bring their network, a new employee to that business to use their services to buy their products. So, I'd say to business owners as well: look outside the square, invest in training. There's obviously a lot of incentives from the Australian Government with wage subsidies for young people, people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, there's, there’s great opportunities for business, but also people looking for work right now. 

JUSTIN FENWICK:

That was going to be my next question, was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. How do they fit into this equation? 
 

LUKE HOWARTH:

Well, I think first of all, businesses need to make sure that they give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a go, right? So, they- if, perhaps, you know, hire people that are Aboriginal. I've met a lot of people yesterday down at the Federal Government's Transition to Work provider here in Alice Springs, and I could see - I met a young man, who was Aboriginal, that hadn't work for several years, and he's now got a job as a chef. And he's earning $1000 week, probably about 52 grand a year, 800 in the hand after tax, so well over double what you'd normally receive on JobSeeker. 

There's opportunities with the Australian Government's first home super saver scheme, the Salary Sacrifice, 200 a week, put 10 grand a year into that. That can't be touched, it's taken out by the employer, and they're still left with 600 in the hand - over double what you'd get on JobSeeker. So- But also to the businesses give Aboriginal people a go. And not just Aboriginal people, but maybe people with disability, people that have been unemployed for long term. We have job shortages. 

Now is the time to invest in those Australians and help change their lives. And as the Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services who has run a small business before I came in - I ran a pest control business before coming into Parliament with 20 staff - if you invest in your staff, they'll return the favour. And I'd say to business owners too, you know, mentor people, particularly in your local community, give them hope. And if you can do that, that's a great thing that you can do in life. 

 

STEWART BRASH:

That is Luke Howarth, the Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, speaking there to Justin Fenwick. Yes. So, there were 600 positions, 100 people registered, 100 young people, I'd imagine, mostly. 

ENDS