SUBJECTS: Casual workforce; pay for childcare workers
TIM SHAW: ACT secretary Sally McManus came to the National Press Club a couple of weeks ago, and she made it pretty clear that on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a lot of work needed the raising in the minimum wage, permanency within the workplace. The difficulties for some people in the new gig economy. Now, there’s no question that the Turnbull Government hasn’t got that fair and square in their crosshairs. They understand that there are changes in the workplace. But I want to talk to a man that understands what hard work’s all about. I want to talk to a man who’s family has been involved as publicans for decades. The family owns more than 30 hotels across New South Wales, and Craig Arthur Samuel Laundy – born on the 16 February, 1971 – is of course now our Minister, responsible for Small and Family Business, Workplace and Deregulation.
Nothing was made clearer when the Parliamentary Friends of Australian Music assembled last night in the federal Parliament and recognised the importance of live music. Not only in clubs and pubs right around Australia, but the importance of that entertainment that that industry brings us. But workers – particularly in the hospitality industry – suffer from that challenge of being casual employers rather than permanent employees, and that was one of the issues that Sally McManus brought up in her address to the National Press Club. This is what she had to say ahead of that address.
SALLY MCMANUS: We have a huge problem with inequality in our country. Working people just aren’t getting a fair go anymore, and the way to do something about that is to change the rules, to make sure people get fair pay rises, and much better job security.
[End of excerpt]
TIM SHAW: Yeah, and job security is a big issue for all Australians, and I’m pleased to say that Minister Craig Laundy is on the line now. Craig Laundy, welcome to 2CC Breakfast.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Gidday Tim. Nice to talk to you and your listeners.
TIM SHAW: And thank you for your time. You’ve got a meeting scheduled with ACTU secretary Sally McManus. She said: look, I’m really happy to meet with the Coalition. Do you reckon you’ll find some common ground on the future of the Australian workplaces when you meet with the secretary of the ACTU?
MINISTER LAUNDY: Look, I hope so. However, that hope may be forlorn because I’ll be talking facts and figures and actual realities, not falsehoods, which is what she propagated last week at the Press Club. I note, in your intro, you played a grab about casualisation, you spoke about it – the so-called casualisation of the workforce. And what I’ve been at pains to stress since she came out with those claims – and absolutely prior to that as well when it’s been said – is that the rate of casuals in the Australian workforce is the same today as it was 20 years ago. This lie that there is an increase in it is exactly that – a lie. And you mentioned I’m a publican by trade and, yes, there are casuals in the pub industry. But some of my father’s best hotel licensees today started as casuals ten to 15 years ago. And you’ve got to remember that the casual workforce in the hospitality sector, especially in my family’s business, is dominated by university students who are working flexible hours, part-time around their studies, and if they’re any good and they want a career in the hospitality trade, we move them- my father, my family’s business moves them through into assistant manager roles, manager roles, licensee roles. And this is how the workforce actually plays out and my challenge, being given this role is, given my background, to explain to the overwhelming majority of Australians that will, in reality, never actually employ someone; they’ll be employees themselves, that casual workers – there is a role for it. Not just on behalf of the business and the flexibility it provides the business operator, but on behalf of the worker, the flexibility it provides them as well.
TIM SHAW: Yeah. Look, I take your point here- and yes, she is an activist. She represents the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and they’re arguing, for example, childcare workers at $21.29 – gee, that’s not a lot of money to take home after the care and the Certificate Three training that you’ve got. I want to ask you, are you prepared to show her classic examples of: look, here’s a pub and here’s 40 of our employees in this particular pub. Now, they’re university students, Sally. They enjoy the casualised opportunity that we provide them. And as you’ve said, you can show a long-term, full-time pathway in the hospitality industry.
But do you understand that there are a number of companies that do have casual workforces, and as a result of that – whether they like it or not – they’re grateful for the job. I don’t know a worker that doesn’t say to the boss: thanks for the pay, I appreciate the money going into the bank account. But it makes it harder for getting home loans, car loans; getting that extra pay per hour that you offer them. Because they do get paid a higher rate that compensates for the lack of holiday pay, et cetera. Is there middle ground? Do we need to look at industry by industry as part of that meeting that you’re going to have with Sally McManus at the ACTU and prove the point to her?
MINISTER LAUNDY: Look, Tim, this part that gets missed largely – and obviously I come from a hospitality background – but 82 per cent of our economy, the employment in it, comes from service-based industries. And the problem with that is- I don’t know, take Manuka. If you were to go to Manuka on Saturday morning, there’s a neat street there, or down to the Kingston Foreshore. Either Saturday lunchtime or Saturday night. The place is pumping as long as the sun is out.
TIM SHAW: Yep.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Now, the drama is- you know, with half the seating outside- and in my electorate, I have places like Concord and Majors Bay Road with exactly the same predicament. You’ve got café and after café, restaurant after restaurant, with half the seating outside. Now, if it rains, you’re going to get a third of the trade that you would if the sun’s out. Now, the business operator needs the flexibility to bring the workforce on when the trade’s there and to let them- to finish them up and send them home after they’ve done their minimum hours that they have to when the trade is not there. And it’s the same in any industry. The business owner- the whole idea of casual- where you seem them used, is where you don’t know, you can’t take it as a given that trade will follow. You need the flexibility to cut your cloth according to the trade. So, that if you want to close early for example, because it’s a quiet night on a Saturday night in the middle of winter in Canberra, it’s raining, it’s pouring; you know at 9.30, you normally stay open until 11, but at 9.30 you know there’s not going to be any trade coming. So you say to your staff who have been on since 4 or 5 in the afternoon: listen, let’s pack up and call it quits.
TIM SHAW: Yeah.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Now, if that person’s a permanent, that business owner has to pay them the additional two or three hours when there’s no revenue coming in. And that’s the balance you’ve got to strike here, and that’s the role, the very important role, that casual and part-time work plays. And as I say, you can’t underestimate the fact that it is also a very important pathway for young people to start their careers, as I mentioned in the intro.
TIM SHAW: Yeah. Look, I’ve had a lot to do with Kate Carnell, former chief minister, and you know her well as the ombudsman responsible for the Australian small business and family enterprise. You are the Minister for Small and Family Business. Without small business, the largest taxpayers in Australia, the largest employers in Australia- and without that tax cut that the Turnbull Government has delivered them, have you been told by members, representatives around Australia, that as a result of that company tax cut, as little as it was from 30 to 27.5 per cent, that it’s led to job growth, Craig Laundy?
MINISTER LAUNDY: The short answer is yes, but don’t forget, Tim, it’s on its way to 25. So, as I go down- you know, I take a classic- I was talking to a chicken shop owner in my electorate a couple of weeks ago, and he was thanking me for two things: for the tax cut and also for the instant asset write-off. And he was explaining to me that with some extra money in his kit, he now has the opportunity to pull- and him and his brother are doing the majority of the hours in that chicken shop. And his mum in the morning makes the bread. It’s family business 101. You don’t get a better example. He’s brought on a casual to give them a hand at peak trade times, which he hasn’t done up until now. So, that’s frontlines, grassroots, you don’t get better than that. So, the answer is yes. And that’s- there’s no mistake here. The reason that we have seen more jobs created in the past 12 months than in our nation’s history, is a combination of policies like instant asset write-offs, which flow right through the economy, not just the company that use them, it’s the companies that you trade with, but also make tax cuts, and that’s why we’re pushing so hard to extend them to all businesses because we know the result will be a continuation of employment growth.
TIM SHAW: We’ve got a lot of mums and dads listening to the program now. They’re sending their children to childcare centres and, of course, they know that childcare workers are getting $21.29 an hour. It’s not a lot of money for a childcare worker with a Certificate Three, when a metal worker is on $40 an hour. And I know they’re different trades, Craig Laundy, but the fact is they’re both the same level of training. Do we need to have a good, long hard look at one of the important sectors of the Australian economy – the childcare sector?
MINISTER LAUNDY: That’s exactly what the Fair Work Commission have done, Tim. And this part gets completely overlooked – conveniently I may say – by our opponents. But that’s where the industrial terms and conditions in this country are decided, and the political irony of where I find myself is that it is a body that was set up by the Labor Party and their union mates in 2009, as a result of probably the most hostile workplace relations election in this country’s history in 2007. And this adage that they’ve all got, that the system’s broken, we need to fix it: it’s their system, Tim, they put it in place. It’s independent of government, as it should be, because if it wasn’t, you could get some lunatic populist that would come in and say: I’m going to give everyone a pay rise if you vote for me. Sound familiar? That’s exactly where we find ourselves now.
They have turned convention on its head because they are seeking to be populist and in an attempt to get people to vote for them, but at the same time- and the challenge we have in the Turnbull Government, is to explain to Australians across the board – the overwhelming majority of whom will be employees, not employers - that if businesses are healthy and profitable, your job is safer than otherwise. And more importantly, if they are growing and employing more people, your children ultimately will have more chances at jobs, which is the question I get asked a lot: where are my kids, where are the jobs for my kids going to come from? The jobs, Tim, that are going to come for Canberra people’s kids, are going to be driven by entrepreneurs that respond to good sensible economic policy, which is what we’re attempting to do. Populist rubbish and breaking down the independence of our Fair Work Commission – the independent umpire – seeking votes, is economically irresponsible. And the irony of it is, that could ultimately be putting employees’ jobs at risk.
TIM SHAW: Sally McManus delivered a lot of bad news from the ACTU perspective, and what you’ve delivered today is a reinforcement of the Turnbull Coalition Government’s positive news regarding those tax cuts about the growth in jobs. I wasn’t being cheeky, Craig Laundy, but I said to the ACTU secretary: Sally, you’ve told us about what the challenges are ahead from your perspective, but there’s got to be somewhere in Australia where Australian workers, with their boss, are enjoying the workers’ utopia. Now, she said to me: comrade, when you find it, let’s go together. Between now and when you meet with Sally McManus, do you reckon you can dig up a couple of examples of an Australian workers’ utopia where it’s a perfect condition for them, working together with the boss, they’re growing the business together and they’re growing opportunities. You know they’re out there and I know too. But the challenge is that she doesn’t believe there is a workers’ utopia, she wants me to go and find it. Should we go and have a look together?
MINISTER LAUNDY: Tim, I can- I’ll quote you one, I can quote you- I mean, your show’s not long enough for me to quote you them. I’ll tell you one right now – and I spoke about this in Parliament – we have a program called the Youth Jobs PaTH. So far that’s got in the vicinity of 22 to 23,000 long-term unemployed youth into work.
And I’ll give you a grassroots example, again, because I like them. Teneile(*) is an 18-year-old young lady in Russell Broadbent’s electorate in rural Victoria. Teneile was long-term unemployed, left school, dropped out of school at, I think, the end of Year 10 – I’ve spoken to Teneile. She went on to the Youth Jobs PaTH program, originally in another capacity. She ended up taking a placement in a panel beating shop. It was run as a family business; they had five employees. Teneile came on through the Youth Jobs PaTH program and learnt how to spray paint. She has become that business’ sixth full-time employee. She is over the moon. She has had a sense of purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning – and these are her words to me. And the owner of that business, and her family, are overwhelmed at how well Teneile has done.
And, Tim, here’s the irony – and Sally McManus, she’ll never get it because she’s never done it – but the reality in small and family businesses is your most important asset is your staff, because you can’t open the doors and trade without them. And guess what, Tim: they ultimately become a quasi part of your family. If I had a dollar for every wedding, christening, birthday, and staff funeral I’ve been to in my lifetime, I could retire today. They become a part of your family. Utopia exists in everyday mainstream Australia. I don’t doubt that Sally’s never seen it, because she knocks around with big business and big unions. But in small and family business land, Tim, right throughout the ACT, it’s existing today.
TIM SHAW: Great pleasure to talk to you, and I appreciate your time this morning. Now, you and I have pulled beers in our time. I used to do it down at the Mona Vale Bowling Club. Do you reckon we need a beer pulling competition here, and we’ll get a couple of class acts from the house down at one of these great pubs in Manuka?
MINISTER LAUNDY: Mate, I reckon. And just a little interesting segue for you: my grandfather actually built The Statesman Hotel in Canberra. So, I do have a tie back. My family’s pubs are in New South Wales but at one stage in the late ‘60s there – or mid ‘60s – my grandfather actually built The Statesman in Canberra. But, Tim, I’m very happy to come down there and pull a beer with you anytime, mate.
And also, an interesting ‘nother segue, you mentioned the Mona Vale Bowling Club, my father actually owns the Mona Vale Hotel. So, there you go, mate. We’ve got a lot of tie ups but let’s get in there and see which one can pull the best beer sometime soon.
TIM SHAW: I reckon Sally, you, need to sit down with Teneile and let Teneile tell Sally McManus her story. Thank you for sharing yours with us today, and look forward to catching you on the hill soon.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Good on you, Tim. Take care, mate. And the best to your viewers- listeners I should say, they’re not viewers, are they?
TIM SHAW: [Talks over] Thank you, happy Easter.
MINISTER LAUNDY: Thanks, mate, to you too.
TIM SHAW: Thanks, Craig. Craig Laundy, straightshooter, Minister for Small and Family Business, Workplace, and Deregulation. Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Jobs and Innovation said this: the greatest welfare of all for an Australian is a job; 420,700 jobs delivered in the last 12 months by the Turnbull Coalition Government.