Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — 5AA Mornings with Leon Byner

Ministers:

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

Topics: Job opportunities for Australians under the Morrison Government

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

LEON BYNER:

The Prime Minister has issued a message to hundreds of thousands of people ahead of summer and Christmas in the hope of a big anticipated change where people are going to apply for a whole stack of job. We are told - this is an amazing number - that about 280,000 positions could be filled before the end of the year if post-lockdown jobs growth experienced last year end up being repeated. But let’s talk to the Federal Minister for Employment, Stuart Robert. Stuart, Merry Christmas.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Leon, indeed. Goodness, Christmas is almost upon us.

LEON BYNER:         

Yes, it is. Now, this 280,000 number, that’s huge.

MINISTER ROBERT:

It could even be higher. The Internet Vacancy Index, which is an Index we use for the National Skills Commission to just go through the online job ads, talks of 250,000, but we know so many jobs are never advertised. Yep, there's a lot of work out there available, Leon.

LEON BYNER:         

So are we saying there is a shortage of workers, or is there a disinclination for people to do those jobs?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh, I think there's a few things. One, there’s a disinclination for Australians to do jobs in hospitality unfortunately. Fifteen per cent of all hospitality jobs have been done by visa holders. But, of course, with borders closed, those visa holders aren't available. There's also a bit of a skills mismatch in terms of people looking for work. But I can tell you right now, as the Minister responsible for those on payment, there are 350,000 Australians right now with either a university degree or a vocational qualification post Year 12. So that's a lot of skilled staff looking for work.

LEON BYNER:         

So, are they looking for work? Or they kind of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for something that suits them?

MINISTER ROBERT:

That is a complex one, but the mutual obligation that Australia as a nation has with those on some sort of working age payment, like JobSeeker or Youth Allowance, is that those people have a mutual obligation. They need to be looking for work. So the jobactive providers need to be taking those Australians, connecting them to work, and if people are turning up and are not serious, we've also got an employee reporting line where employers can call it in and say, hey, this Australian is not taking their mutual obligations seriously.

LEON BYNER:         

So, right now, what would you estimate the shortage of inclined people to work, to do jobs, is? Because I know that we've been relying a lot on people coming into the country on visas. We are less able to do that now. Where does that leave us?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It leaves us with enormous demand. Because if you think through, we’re 200,000 students down from what we normally would have been, give or take.

LEON BYNER:         

200,000. That’s a lot.

MINISTER ROBERT:

And those students would normally work 20 hours a week.

LEON BYNER:         

Yeah.

MINISTER ROBERT:

They're short tens and tens and thousands of backpacking seasonal workers. We would have normally had well over 300,000 net overseas migration. In the last two years, it’s well over that number. And so many of them are spouses or dependent children who can also work. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of Australians leave the workforce every year, through retirement, or other developments. So you're looking at a workforce that is down north of half a million workers at the very minimum. So that demand is still there. Remember in July, pre-Delta if you like when lockdowns finished, we saw jobs market scream back. The only nation in the world to have more of its citizens employed at that stage than in pre-COVID, pre March 2020. So we know the economy wants to roar back, we know demand is there. We know that overseas workers haven't come through. 

All of that says a huge demand for Australians. There has never been a better time to get a job.

LEON BYNER:         

So if you were looking for work, now would be the time to go and find it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Perfect time. There will not be a better time than right now. And, of course, the expectation of everyday Australians is that if you're on a primary payment or working age payment, JobSeeker, Youth Allowance, that you'll be getting out there and getting a job.

LEON BYNER:         

So how’s the economy looking at the moment?  Have we got record numbers of people employed in work at the moment?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The numbers- or the last set of the job numbers that came out were reflective of the October period when everything was still in lockdown. So it’ll take a month or two to really wash through these numbers so we can actually get a realistic view. But we know the Internet Vacancy Index shows us at least a quarter of a million - remember that's just a guide for the National Skills Commission.

We know in real terms, there’s at least 280,000, if not more, positions available right now. And we know anecdotally that employees are screaming everywhere for unskilled labour as well.

LEON BYNER:

So when you say unskilled, what sort of jobs we talking about?

MINISTER ROBERT:

An unskilled is where you could learn on the job. So you can turn up with no skills, knowledge, or experience. Great example is hospitality.

Where you can be taught everything you need in terms of cleaning or tourism, or service types of jobs. Many of those where you can turn up, you don't need a vocational qualification, like a Certificate 2 or 3, so post-school qualification. Turn up on the job training. What people are looking for is a good, strong, positive attitude of willingness to work and there is work there.

LEON BYNER:

All right, I've got a question from Don of Walkerville. Don, What's your question?

CALLER DON:

Yes, good morning. I was just wondering, I've been looking for employment for the last few months, and I’ve seen a bias against mature aged employees. So what’s your view on that sort of situation against all these jobs you say are out there?

LEON BYNER:         

Good question. Stuart, what’s the answer?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Don, get down to your local jobactive provider. Because if you're a mature age, and let's say you were over 50, Don, and been unemployed for a while, there is a wage subsidy, if you like, if an employer takes you on, of $10,000 that the jobactive provider will pay through to the employer out of the employment fund. So not only is their demand for workers, especially experienced workers like Don, but there's also wage subsidies to take on longer term unemployed, especially over the age of 50. Get down to that jobactive provider.

LEON BYNER:

So if- if an employer goes to the wage subsidy and gets it, how long will they need to do the quid pro quo to employ the person? 12 months? Six months? Nine months?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It varies. A jobactive provider, of course, is paid on completions on numbers of weeks to ensure Australians can get into work. And the employment fund is there to provide wage subsidies and other support including, for example, getting your driver's licence. You know, 50 per cent of Australian who are on a working-age payment don't have a licence.

LEON BYNER:

Is that right?

MINISTER ROBERT:

So we’ve increased the subsidies up to over $8000 to assist people to get a driver's licence.

LEON BYNER:         

Eight grand to get a licence?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, you’ve got to do 100 hours in terms of training and support and so on. So we're just removing all stops, Leon. We want no impediment to Australians to getting work. If they need the support, they need the skills we support their transition to work, and if they need a driver’s licence all that support is there through the Federal Government to get people into jobs, because there's never going to be a better time than now.

LEON BYNER:         

Okay. Now, on that point, and Don of Walkerville raised this, and we often get people calling about it, if there is a perceived, oh, you're knocking me because I'm mature-aged and I won't get the gig, what do you say to them?

MINISTER ROBERT:

A) it'd be disappointing; B) it would be unlawful. The Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, will have something to say about that. And people have always got their right to issue a report through to the Age Discrimination Commissioner, if they believe they have been discriminated against. But my experience right now is employers are so desperate for hardworking Australians with a great attitude. They’ll be lining up to take them.

LEON BYNER:

All right. Stuart Robert, thank you. That’s the Minister for Employment, Stuart Robert.