Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — 5AA Adelaide Mornings with Leon Byner

Ministers:

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

E&OE-------------------------------------

LEON BYNER:
Good morning and thank you for being with us today. The first thing I’m going to talk about today is the plight of 62,200 people, because that's the magic number of those who numerically do not have a job. In other words, they're unemployed. Our unemployment rate in SA is around 6.8 per cent. But the Federal Government is saying that in their Budget, which of course, we had in the last 24 to 48 hours, is securing Australia's recovery through protecting jobs and making it easier for Australians to get a job or hire somebody, like, now. Let's talk to the Employment and Skills Minister, Stuart Robert. Stuart, thanks for joining us today. 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Leon, great to talk as always.

LEON BYNER:

So, 62,200 people haven't got a job in SA. Your reaction to that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We're going to get the economy roaring back. We need to get as many people into work. Now at the national level, Leon, you know we're the only country, or the only advanced country in the world that has more people employed today than pre-COVID. But we need to get that unemployment rate down further – nationally at 5.6, higher in South Australia. And that’s why the Budget...

LEON BYNER:

[Interrupts] Why do you think it is higher?

MINISTER ROBERT:

In South Australia?

LEON BYNER:

Yeah.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Good question. There’s a range of factors that feed into that, I suppose, in terms of population growth and economic activity. It varies right across the board – 4.8 per cent in WA, lower than that in the ACT. And, likewise, in the Northern Territory for example, the nationally participation rate is at 66.3 per cent, in Northern Territory it’s 72.7. So, every state and territory is different. But the key thing is, is we make skills, traineeships and apprenticeships open to every Australian, and that's what the Budget does for South Australia.

LEON BYNER:

So how many more people are we going to train that we previously weren't? Do we know?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The – if you look at the current apprenticeships, there's 147,000 across the country doing Australian apprenticeships through Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements. Of that, 8,700 are in South Australia. We’re going to continue that program. We’re [indistinct] in September right the way through to March, so all school leavers can pick that up. And I'm hoping that'll pick up another 100,000. In terms of JobTrainer, which is looking at the top 300 skills, there’s 6,800 South Australians on that right now. I want to see that go up to something like 450,000 Australians getting skilled, either fully subsidised or majorly partially subsidised, so they can get into jobs.

LEON BYNER:

Tell me, do we still have this anomalous situation, Stuart, from your perspective, and you'd be just the man to ask, which is why I'm asking you this, are we in a situation where we really don't have enough skills locally, so therefore we have to rely on immigration?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yes, in short, 50 per cent of all of the growth in employment in Australia in the last five years came from immigration. And you look at what Mr Rudd did after GFC, probably his singly most effective thing he did was to increase skilled migration to well over 300,000 for a couple of years. He brought in over half a million skilled migrants to stimulate demand and bring skills in. Well, we can't do that because we can't open our borders safely yet. So the only option we've got now is to train and skill Australians, 1.16 million on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance other, and then we need to ensure they take up those jobs, and if necessary, use the mutual obligation areas we've got to ensure that people accept their responsibilities, not just their entitlements.

LEON BYNER:

It sounds to me the way you're explaining this, is there is a reluctance of people within Australia to actually do the work.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It varies. So there's 177,000 Australians now been unemployed for more than 12 months. There’s 350,000 Australians over the age of 50, many of those would love to work, they’re super, super keen. And I'd really encourage employers to take on older Australians. And we've just increased all of the subsidies up to $10,000. If you take on an older Australian who is unemployed in the Jobactive program, there is a subsidy up to $10,000 for the employer to assist them. There’s 450,000 Australians with a partial disability that are also looking for work. So it varies across the board, but there is certainly a cohort that needs to be encouraged to enforcing mutual obligations, that's for sure.

LEON BYNER:

Do you think there's an age discrimination by employers on certain age groups, to employ them and hire them to do things?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The data would suggest with 350,000-plus over the age of 50 looking for work, the data would suggest, maybe not a bias, but that it is more difficult if you're older to find a job. I think that's a reasonable statement, hence why one of the wage subsidies of $10,000 is to employ older Australians. And the great thing about older Australians, and I’m, hey I’m 50, so I’m there, Leon, is that that they come with great knowledge. They come with great skills. They come with a fair bit of wisdom. All the research I’ve read says you’ll get greater loyalty out of an older Australian than you will out of a younger Australian in terms of longevity in work. And I think a safe bet for employers is to employ older Australians, frankly.

LEON BYNER:

Alright. I've got an email from Patsy. She says, I've got a small business and I'm looking for staff and I'm finding it a very hard task. And often I get people coming into my shop asking me to sign a letter or a form that they've been to my business to apply for a job, when I've actually offered them one, they’ve said I'm not looking for one, I just want you to fill this out, which I've refused. What's your reaction to that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah, I hear that story all too often. It's one of the reasons we put in place the Employer Reporting Line, which is to say people have got responsibilities, as well as entitlements. And people looking for work, well, the money you're getting from our welfare system is from your neighbour. Not from the government – government collects it from your neighbour – the lady across the street who works hard. And you've got a responsibility, and I’d encourage any Australian employer that faces that, call the Employer Reporting Line, 1300 361 241. And just let us know so that we can engage and use the mutual obligations component to ensure Australians are holding up their end of the bargain when they look for work.

LEON BYNER:

I can tell you, and I've had this from a number of great employers out there, in fact, one just text me now. He said – and he's not the only one – hospitality industry cannot find staff, and in his view, people are just looking for handouts in many cases. What do you say to that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Yeah, I was in Adelaide last Monday. In fact, last week I was in Adelaide, Darwin, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, speaking with small businesses, employers, speaking with Minister Pisoni down there in South Australia, who's a cracker of a bloke and he gets this. A bloke who’s previously done a VET course to his credit. The – we've got to now strengthen mutual obligations, which we're doing, we’ve got to ensure Australians have all the opportunities to get a skill or get an apprenticeship.

LEON BYNER:

[Talks over] What are you going to do to strengthen mutual obligation? Because that's not something that's been out there. What are you going to do that's different?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, mutual obligations right now is you need to look for 15 jobs a month, it’s going to 20 on 1 July. We're now in the process of starting to look through in communities what jobs are available, what skills are needed, who is on JobSeeker and Youth Allowance? What skills do they have? Can we more strongly match them? Can we more strongly skill them? And if people are within X amount of distance for jobs, start asking questions as to why they're not taking them. A lot more proactive approach because immigration is not here to save us this time. For the first time in living memory, we're going to have to really drive our economy forward using only Australians to find work, which is a wonderful thing. I think it's great, the opportunity there for Australians only and with little immigration. But with that comes a responsibility for Australians to jump up and step up and employers to give Australians a go.

LEON BYNER:

Stuart, thank you for coming on the program today. That's the Employment and Skills Minister, Stuart Robert.