Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview, 2HD Radio with Richard King and Shanna Bull

Ministers:

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

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RICHARD KING:    

Our Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert’s going to be in the Hunter Valley today to- well, he will be visiting local businesses and obviously, spruiking the Budget. But, interestingly too, we just mentioned a moment ago, that job ads are up astronomically, something like 19 per cent in the last month and people, particularly in hospitality, are really struggling to find work. 

SHANNA BULL:      

They’re crying out for workers, aren’t they? I mean there’s jobs there. 

RICHARD KING:    

Yes, yeah. And joining us now is our Federal Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, who's on the line. Good morning, Minister. 

SHANNA BULL:      

Good morning.

MINISTER ROBERT:        

Richard, Shanna. How are you both?

RICHARD KING:    

Very well indeed, thank you. What's the purpose of your visit here this morning?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

Well, budgets are a great opportunity to show to the Australian people what the strategy for the Federal Government is for the next 12 months. So it’s an opportunity just to pop on down here, connect especially with job trainers, with apprentices, share what the Budget’s doing, and also get some good feedback.

SHANNA BULL:      

As we know, Minister, there are a lot of jobs out there. Do you think it's just a case of just there are some lazy people who aren't willing to work?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

It's an interesting dynamic where in at present, Shanna, in that respect, there is an enormous amount of work out there. Everywhere I'm going, coffee shops are closing earlier and restaurants not opening on certain nights because of that lack of employment. I think there is a skills shortage with some people and billions of dollars in the Budget to train an extra 170,000 trainees and an extra 160-odd thousand apprentices. But also there's no immigration and that's been 50 per cent of the growth of employment for the last five years. So we really need to encourage, and in some cases insist, that 1.1 million job seekers out there on benefits get into that workforce.

RICHARD KING:    

Minister, you’ve said in the past that you believe that small and family businesses are the engine room or the backbone of our economy. You still genuinely believe that?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

They’re 99.2 per cent of businesses, Richard, and they employ 50 per cent of all Australians, 50 per cent, it’s half the workforce is small and family businesses and family enterprises so believe it passionately.

RICHARD KING:    

Look, one of the things you're obviously going to be talking about today is this, well, the Local Recovery Fund and the Local Jobs Program, which is – which I believe is a training program specifically to get hospitality job seekers back into work. How will that operate, Minister?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

We’ve actually doubled the Local Jobs Plan. We were running it in 25 regions of the country. We've divided the country into 51 regions. We're now expanding it nationwide. And, of course, there's always been a region here in the Hunter and a Local Recovery Fund is simply a bunch of grants for innovative organisations. And today there’s a cracker of an organisation here, they’re Smart Training and Consulting Group. They're starting a very, very local program, just what we call or what they call Jobs in The Valley and Vines. And they’re starting today, first batch of young people, up to 30 young people, six-week intensive training, 30-hour actually work placement in the area of their choice, hospitality, with the intention of then of getting them into work. And if you're an employer, if you're a small business and here’s someone who's had intensive training, they’ve got a 30-hour work placement, you can see whether they're going to fit into your culture or not. So it's very hands on and very practical.

SHANNA BULL:      

Minister, what are your thoughts on that new hotline encouraging bosses to dob in people who do reject work?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

Well, as one of the decision makers for it, you’d to expect me to say it is superb. It's about saying to job seekers, look, you have a responsibility, an obligation to your neighbours who actually pay your welfare payments to get out there and look for work. And there is far too much evidence of Australians not interested in looking for work, treating their mutual obligations as if it's a joke. You can't have someone turn up to an interview dressed as Superman and be expected to be taken seriously. So the reporting line is simply there to say to employers, if people aren't taking you seriously, give us a call and we'll have a quiet chat to see if we can adjust their attitude and get them more focused on work.

RICHARD KING:    

Another one of the, well, the Budget messages was the extension of the small business cash write-off, which is obviously for small businesses a real bonus, that extension, Minister.

MINISTER ROBERT:        

It's huge, the – an extra 12 months of doing a loss carry-back, so if you've actually made profits and losses previously, you can bring your losses forward which is superb. But more importantly, you can instantly write-off any asset that small business has got as opposed to depreciating it over time. And that will be huge. Absolutely huge. Just like something like 135,000 residents across here, Hunter and nearby [inaudible] enjoying tax cuts here. Well and truly over 25,000 businesses and just enjoying the opportunity for their tax to drop down to 25 per cent from 1 July and to expense everything. So all of these things add up into some real capability for businesses to start employing Australians and growing.

SHANNA BULL:      

Minister, you’ve spoken about the Government's commitment to outlawing wage theft. Is that still the case?

MINISTER ROBERT:        

As you know, we took to the Parliament at the end of last year a bill to make wage theft illegal. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the support we needed for that. But our resolve remains, you can’t not pay Australians and get away with it. Australians have a right to a good workplace, a workplace that’s safe and a workplace where you’re properly paid as per the law.

RICHARD KING:    

Right. Look, you're in a world of pain coming from the Gold Coast. Your NRL team, the Titans, are a bit like the Newcastle Knights, not exactly performing. Can you expect some – well, look, the Knights are playing again up in Queensland on Thursday and well, like your Gold Coast Titans, hopefully turning things around [laughs].

MINISTER ROBERT:        

Well, we live in hope. It was a great weekend of footy. I think eight matches all up there at Suncorp Stadium, which was extraordinary. But also the Gold Coast Suns, the AFL team, just got flogged. So, it's a disappointing sporting weekend. So I've left the balmy Gold Coast, arrived in Newcastle – it was eight degrees last night. It's sort of bad all round really, isn’t it?

RICHARD KING:    

Not all bad. Not all bad. And look, you have – quite public about the fact that your Christian belief and you're like our Prime Minister and you're a close friend, a Pentecostal Christian. Do you believe, like our PM, that you're doing God's work, Minister?

MINISTER ROBERT:    
    
We're all doing God's work. No question about that. The – it's important that we use our hands to do what's in our heart. And if we can all do that, I think we're going to build a far better place to live and work.

RICHARD KING: 
   
Thank you very much for your time this morning and enjoy your time in the Hunter today, Minister.

SHANNA BULL:      

Thank you. 

MINISTER ROBERT:
     
Looking forward to it. The weather looks fabulous 

RICHARD KING:    

And it will be sunny all day. Thank you again. Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert on 2HD.