Release type: Transcript


Doorstop – September 2021 Labour Force Figures, Brisbane Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices


The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

Topics: September Labour Force figures; the National Plan for reopening; JobKeeper; Australia’s vaccine rollout; COVID disaster payments



Good morning, thank you for coming out to discuss the release of the workforce numbers for September, which was a reference period from the end of August, 29 August to the 11th of September. 

The numbers tell us that the pandemic continues to impact the workforce extensively, and this impact will continue, whilst lockdowns are in force. The numbers tell us, the impact is very strong when lockdowns are imposed, and of course the impact is substantially lessened when lockdowns are ended. 

Unemployment, from August through to September, increased by point one percent to 4.6 per cent. Participation dropped 0.7 per cent down to 64.5 per cent. 138,000 jobs were lost in the month of which 122,000 of those were lost in Victoria and 24,800 were lost in New South Wales, this is not unexpected. This is a tale of lockdowns, when the lockdowns are in place, we see substantial job losses. 

At the same time though, we have seen job increases in Queensland. Employment is up by 1.2 per cent or up by 30,800 jobs. This is a reflection of the previous jobs figures coming out when Queensland had a degree of lockdown and these numbers are showing what happens when lockdowns are finished. Queensland for this period saw an increase in hours worked, of 5.4 per cent, and a decrease in zero hours by over 120,000. These are the sort of numbers we expect when the lockdowns finish. 

We will see, for the next period which is on the 26th of September, to the ninth of October, similarly difficult numbers coming out of employment, because the lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria will still be reflected in those numbers. But from November to December, we will see a very strong recovery, because every time a state and territory has come out of a degree of lockdown and we're seeing that with Queensland’s figures today, we are seeing substantial increases of employment 1.2 per cent increase in Queensland, 5.4 per cent increase in hours work, it's those degrees that we'll continue to see from November and December, as we move through our economic recovery. 

But that recovery is conditional upon states and territories, sticking to the national plan, of states and territories, all outlining exactly what they'll be doing at 70, and 80 per cent to give the certainty, we need, that businesses need that citizens need. New South Wales and Victoria have started to roll that out, so the citizens of those states and territories can get the certainty that they need to operate. We're looking forward to that certainty, also being provided across other states and territories.


Just in reference to lockdown and JobKeeper a question for my colleagues in Canberra, Qantas outsourced 2000 jobs last year, mostly ground crew jobs but received $1.6 billion in federal funding, funding isn't this an abuse of the JobKeeper system?


Remember JobKeeper’s been shown and recorded by numerous economists as one of the great policy achievements the Government has put in place to keep workers connected with their employees. The vast majority, over 90% of JobKeeper went to small to medium enterprises. Over three and a half million of our citizens got connected to their employees, which allows our recovery to come out strongly and Qantas has shown that as well. They are preparing to come through strongly when we open international borders from next month because we need our national airline to have that degree of strength. 


But $1.6 billion though? 


The program was put in place across three and a half million employees to keep them connected with their workforces, and the opportunity was there for those companies that could demonstrate they had substantial drop off of revenue, and it was quite clear when we used our biosecurity orders to close the borders that Qantas had a substantial drop off, and they've been shown to have used their program, as have hundreds of thousands of other Australian firms. 


On another issue, with the AstraZeneca vaccines, the Health Minister is saying that CSL will not be manufacturing additional vaccines for other nations. Do you think this is a missed opportunity to help our neighbours say in the Asia Pacific and strengthen diplomatic ties?


The Health Minister has outlined exactly the degree to which we're rolling out across our Pacific family the amounts of vaccines we need. The Prime Minister, further committed with President Biden to further support a vaccine rollout, and the Health Minister can add to that, but in terms of our commitment to our Pacific family and to our ASEAN family, we've detailed extensively what that commitment is. 


In regards to the Queensland border, how important do you think it is that the premier gives a timeline as to when Queensland will open both its state borders and international borders?


It's fundamental that all states and territories provide that certainty to their citizens. 

Right now in New South Wales, citizens knew exactly what would occur at 70%, and they'll know what happens at 80%, as in Victoria, right now in Queensland where we're standing we are surviving press conference by press conference. 

I've got no idea what's going to happen, I’ve got no idea where the citizens of New South Wales can pop in, I’ve got no idea whether we can plan for Christmas, whether we can see relatives. No idea at all. 

There is absolutely no certainty. 

How do all the businesses on the Gold Coast where 80 per cent of all tourism is from New South Wales and Victoria, how do they plan? How do they recruit? How do they employ staff right now? How do they train staff? How do they do forward bookings? How do they take forward bookings?

None of these questions can be answered until there's a degree of certainty.

It's quite a simple question for Premier Palaszczuk. 

At 70% Premier, what happens? 

At 80% Premier, what happens? 

The two other large states can answer those questions. Why can't Queensland?


When Commonwealth COVID disaster payments stop restrictions will still be in place and workers won’t have work did you know how many people will be without an income?


Well the Government's policy is that at 80% COVID disaster payment will then for the next week drop down to $450, the following way drop down to $320 and then the automatic stabilisers of government will kick in, but 80% economies will be open. And if economies are open, there's no need for those COVID disaster payments, because the disaster at 80% as per the national plan is coming to an end. 

The step down of those two payments is designed as an off ramp. In the same way we did an off ramp a JobKeeper in March and the automatic stabilisers are there to assist people should they need support.