Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - ABC News Breakfast with Michael Rowland

Ministers:

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

Topics: September Labour Force figures; The Morrison Governments workforce programs; Australia’s climate change commitments

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MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Now, the unemployment rate has risen as nearly 140,000 jobs were lost last month, mostly in Victoria. We’re joined by the Employment and Skills Minister Stuart Robert. Minister, good morning to you.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Michael, how are you?

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

I’m very well. Thank you. So, the unemployment rate rose to 4.6 per cent but that was largely due to a lot of Australians simply giving up the search for work, the participation rate is down to a 15-month low. How concerning is that?

MINISTER ROBERT:

It’s a reflection of lockdowns in the two most populous states. In New South Wales and Victoria, you’re 57 per cent of the employment market. 

What we’re seeing is predictable, and we’ll see it again next month because next month's numbers will also take into account lockdowns in the next couple of weeks.

What’s important is that once the borders open, we see jobs flooding back. We saw that with Queensland, 1.3 per cent increase in employment because the recording period picked up Queensland coming out of lockdown. The numbers, Michael, reflect a story of states in lockdown versus states not.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Ninety per cent of the jobs that went, of those 138,000 jobs were in Victoria. This, this city - we’re broadcasting from Melbourne, obviously - has gone through a lot in the last 18 months. Do you, do you have sympathy with what Victorians are going through?

MINISTER ROBERT:

I think the whole world does. The most locked down city on Earth. The latest numbers show a loss of 122,000 jobs compared to Queensland where I’m speaking to you from, with a 23,000 jobs increase because Queensland’s not in lockdown. So, it is heartbreaking to see, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Is the Government considering, certainly for Victorians, perhaps extending the Emergency Support Payments? Given how bad the jobless situation here is compared to other parts of Australia?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Every time we’ve seen a city or state come out of lock down, we’ve seen the jobs roar back - it’s been a consistent pattern all the way for the last 12 months. And we’ve seen that in Victoria prior to the latest lockdown as well, Victoria’s unemployment rate got down into the low fours.

So we are highly confident that as Victoria hits 80 per cent on the national plan and opens up, in similar ways to what we are seeing this morning in the ACT, we’ll see those jobs come screaming back, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. And I read some economists are saying not only will the jobs come back, but there could be, in some industries, labour shortages next year, especially with our border still closed at the moment. It’ll open, there’ll only be a relatively small amount of international arrivals going through next year. Are the worried about labour shortages?

MINISTER ROBERT:

We are absolutely worried about skills shortages. That’s why we’ve put $2 billion into the JobTrainer Program and $3.9 billion into Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements. If you think about what we’ve lost over the last almost two years, down hundreds and hundreds of thousands in net overseas migration, down a couple of hundred thousand students who normally have work rights, down backpackers. And at the same time, hundreds of thousands of Australians have retired from the labour market. So, we are short somewhere between half a million and a million skilled workers within our economy. 

Now, there are 700,000 Australians on payment, hence the Government's great investment in skilling those Australians to give every Australian an opportunity. There has never been a better time to employ an Australian, Michael, never a better time right now. But we are concerned about those skills gaps emerging.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. Before you go, I want to talk about climate change. Is the Federal Government going to commit to net zero by 2050?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Michael, our position is, is well-known and very clear that we want to see, as a country, ourselves reaching net zero as quickly as possible - preferably by 2050. The key thing is not if - we’re absolutely committed to that - it is how, and our approach is technologically driven. And we’ve seen that. We’ve seen we’ve reduced 20 per cent of emissions since 2005 is the recording period. We’ve seen, as a nation, increased solar and wind three times faster than Europe. We are doing well and we should continue to do well.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Well, yeah. It’s clear the Nationals are still holding out and it could be the case, for argument’s sake, that if the Government agrees to net zero some Nationals may still oppose that. If those– we’re talking about National Cabinet ministers, do you expect them to leave Cabinet if they don't agree with the decision to endorse 2050, if indeed that is the decision?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, these are all amusing conversations, Michael. But the Government's position is clear and well-known. We’re going to hit net zero as quickly as possible and preferably by 2050. That’s the Government’s policy right now.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Would that be good enough- would it be good enough for the Prime Minister to go to Glasgow with- without a commitment - a firm commitment to a 2050 target?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, our current policy that the Prime Minister took to the Australian people, very transparently and very clearly, that’s what we’re working to. It’s a very technologically driven approach and it’s seen some superb results. Here in my state, Michael, in Queensland, almost one in three houses with solar, one in four houses across the country.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. We’ll see where those negotiations land. Stuart Robert, thanks for joining us this morning.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.