PRIME MINISTER: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a real thrill to be here. I want to thank Nick Varvaris for welcoming me and Luke Hartsuyker, the Assistant Employment Minister, to this electorate. I particularly want to thank Accor for making me and Luke and Nick so welcome today and also, in particular, for spearheading this push to ensure that we make the most of the contribution that our older people can make to the economy.
There are lots and lots of older people who don’t just want to be cultural and social contributors, they want to be economic contributors as well. Ability, not age, should be the criteria against which we are judged.
It is ability, not age, which should determine our success in the workplace.
That is why it is so important that we should work to overcome this prejudice against older workers in our economy.
For too long we have had this idea that once you have hit a certain age you are just sliding towards retirement. We’ve got to ensure that this kind of stereotype, this kind of pigeonholing, is avoided in the future because we do need to boost the productivity and the participation of our economy in the years and decades to come.
As everyone knows, the average age of Australians is edging up. As everyone knows, the proportion of retirees – on current trends – is going to increase. At the moment we’ve got something like five workers for every person over 65. By 2050 – on current trends – we’ll only have three working-age people for every person over 65. So, if we are to be the strong and dynamic economy in the future that we’ve always been in the past, we need to encourage older people to stay in the workforce.
And this is not a question of asking people to do what they don’t want to do, of asking people what they’re not capable of doing, it’s giving people more opportunities to realise the best that they can, to be the best that they can. That is what this is all about.
Now, in a few moments Luke Hartsuyker will talk about the details of our Restart programme to support older workers. I simply want to point out to all employers right around the country that – as of now – if you take on someone 50 and above who has been on a social security benefit for the last few months, if you take some like that on and keep that person on for two years that is a $10,000 benefit that you can get.
So, we are changing the economics of employing older people. We are making the economics of employing older people easier and that should mean that we have more older people employed, it should mean that we have better workplaces, and it should mean that we have happier and more productive and more prosperous people. And that’s the objective of good government. In the end, the objective of good government is a better society and more older people being their best selves, more older people being able to make the contribution, that they know in their hearts they can make, is going to make us a better society.
So, I’m very pleased to be here. This is a significant innovation from this Government. It’s an innovation which is already in place. It is already there available for employers who want to do the right thing by themselves, the right thing by their customers, and the right thing by older Australians to take someone on and keep them on.
So, Luke, you might like to come to the podium now and extol the virtues of this programme for which you are particularly enthusiastic.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT: Well, thank you, Prime Minister, and thank you to local member Nick Varvaris who is a passionate supporter for creating opportunities for the people that he represents.
And I’d also like to thank Accor for their support of older workers and giving jobseekers a chance and that’s vitally important because we as a Government will do our best to get the settings right and get the right programmes in place to create employment.
But we need employers to come on board and give people a chance because the Government is absolutely committed to creating employment and opportunities and as Assistant Minister for Employment, I have been working hard to put in place the Government’s agenda that will create opportunities for employees or jobseekers, future employees, and to assist employers to work with those jobseekers to create those opportunities.
And we find that around 22 per cent of the Job Services Australia caseload is comprised of workers 50 years or older. That’s around 173,000 Australians looking for work and I must say that when older workers become employed, some make that transition relatively easily into a new job, but regrettably some find that transition very difficult. Many are becoming unemployed these days perhaps for the first time in their lives or the first time perhaps in decades. It’s a very daunting task for those jobseekers to get into work.
The reality is that older workers bring a wealth of experience to the workplace, and entities and employers benefit from having a combination of ages in their workforce; the combination of youthful exuberance plus the experience and wisdom that comes with years in the workforce. So, it’s a benefit for employers to take on older workers as well as a benefit for those jobseekers.
I’m delighted today to be able to give you some of the details of the Restart programme aimed at assisting employers to gain the benefits that those older jobseekers can bring. The Restart programme, as the Prime Minister says, involves a payment of up to $10,000 to engage older works. How it works is that if an employer takes on a jobseeker who’s been on benefits or unemployed for a period of six months or longer, at the end of the first six months of employment that employer will receive a payment from the Government of $3,000. If that arrangement continues to 12 months, a further $3,000 is payable. At the 18-month mark, a further $2,000, and then at the two-year point another $2,000, which makes up a total payment from the Government of $10,000.
In addition to that, this programme has a significant degree of flexibility in that it makes provision to support on a pro rata basis part-time employment of 15 hours or longer. So, for a person who’s perhaps employed for 20 hours a week they would receive $10,000 – or the employer would receive $10,000 on a pro rata basis.
So, I would encourage all employers to get on board, to go out and source older workers and enjoy the benefits that those older workers can bring to your organisations. I would encourage those employers to make contact with their local Job Service provider to find out more details about the programme. Or alternatively, they can go to the website and visit the website: www.experiencepays.gov.au to unlock the productive capacity of our older workers and to make Australia a place that will be more productive into the future and create greater opportunities for those workers.
So, thank you, ladies and gentlemen.