Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview, Sharri with Jenna Clarke, Sky News Australia

Ministers:

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

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

JENNA CLARKE:   

Now, recovery and rebuilding was the message from this year’s Budget, and the main way the Government plans to reboot Australia from the COVID coma is by firing up the jobs market. The Treasurer wants to see the unemployment rate getting down to a figure to below five per cent, but is that just a pipe dream with our international border shut until at least mid-2022 and industries now crying out for skilled and seasonal workers? To discuss, I was joined by Employment Minister Stuart Robert, who I spoke to a little while ago.

Minister, thank you so very much for joining us. Firstly, your government’s message has consistently been the best form of welfare is a job. All good in theory, but exactly how are you going to get more of us Aussies back into work?

MINISTER ROBERT:         

Well, look, I can certainly subscribe to the fact the best form of welfare is indeed a job, Jenna. It gives people pride, it gives them hope, gives them opportunity and choices. And right now, we’re seeing the unemployment rate come down because demand for labour’s so strong, and one of the reasons is our borders are closed. There’s no immigration, and 50 per cent of all increases in work, or decreases in unemployment, came through immigration in the last five years. So, 1.16 million Australians who are looking for work, and they’re the only choice that employers have got. So we need to focus on skills, training, and connecting people to those jobs.

JENNA CLARKE:   

And how do you think that you’ll do that? I guess, we’re hearing – specifically hearing WA, we’ve got a housing boom at this point in time. There’s a lack of brickies and apprentices and stuff like that, people not wanting to get into seasonal work down in the regions and out in rural Australia. How are you going to encourage those people to go out into those sectors that they may not otherwise consider?

MINISTER ROBERT:         

Well, three broad streams across numerous policy areas. For a start, we’ve – we’re investing multiple billions of dollars in skills and training, rolling over the boosting apprenticeship commencements to – which was finishing in 30 September, through right through to March, and that’s seen 143,000 new apprenticeship starts, and we think another 170,000 will start between that end of September and March next year. We’re putting another billion dollars with the states and territories on JobTrainer to see another 163,000 training places. So that’s 330,000 training opportunities right there for Australians. We also want to connect individually 122,000 young Australians, 16-22, who aren’t working, aren’t being trained, and I’ve asked my department to give me a plan on how we connect individually with each of those Australians to connect them to skills and work. And of course, there’s $10,000 on the table to relocate if you need to for work, and right across a job-active network, the wage subsidies we’ve increased to $10,000. If you take on an older Australian right now who is unemployed, there’s a $10,000 wage subsidy from the Commonwealth. So we’re pulling out all stops as we seek unemployment to get a four in front of it.

JENNA CLARKE:   

Indeed. I guess, when would you like to see international borders open, considering this will have a massive impact on your portfolios of employment and small business and like you say achieving an unemployment rate that has a four in front of it?

MINISTER ROBERT:         

We'd love to see the international borders open as soon as it's safe to do so, Jenna. Our priority, of course, is keeping Australians safe, their lives safe, and of course, their livelihoods safe and advancing. So we've always acted in response to medical advice, and we'll continue to do that. The Prime Minister has consistently said the first priority is to allow Australians who are vaccinated to come in and out, moving on to international students, and then opening our borders when it's safe to do so, when we're confident that we can secure Australian lives and livelihoods. But in the interim, we've got a wonderful opportunity to focus just on Australians, not to use immigration to cover some of those gaps that we've done for hundreds of years almost, but to actually focus on Australians, long-term unemployed Australians, Australians over the age of 50, Australians with a disability. The Government will step up in line with the states and territories to train those great Australians. But we also need businesses to take a shot and employ a long-term unemployed Australian or employ someone, especially over the age of 50, that brings a lot of skills, knowledge and experience to that workplace.

JENNA CLARKE:   

Yeah. You say – you mentioned immigrants, and that's one thing that stuck out for me in the Budget this week, seeing that there are plans to streamline the visa process to attract highly skilled workers to Australia. How are you going to get them out here, considering they may be worried that there may be a housing shortage, the cost of living could be sky high? How do we want to get those highly skilled individuals out to Australia?

MINISTER ROBERT:         

Because Australia has done so well, the – one of the greatest nations to – well, on Earth, because we live here, but one of the nations that has performed the best so far. I mean, look at our employment – 13.1 million Australians in work, 100,000 more than before the pandemic started. The only advanced nation to be able to quote that sort of increase. So we've got an opportunity to show Australia to the world as green, as clean, with more jobs than literally can be filled at present – hence encouraging Australians into them – and just a wonderful place that has managed the pandemic so well. That credential alone has got great merit. So the Immigration Department is working on how we use our significant investor visas, our distinguished talent visas, and all of our other highly skilled visa structures to attract people, noting that when the borders open, that's when we'll start to see large rushes of immigrants coming through. But between now and then, it's about training, skilling, connecting Australians right here, right now.

JENNA CLARKE:   

Indeed. Look, Minister, I’ve got a bit of a curly one for you, because I think one of – some of the best times of my life was working in regional Australia, picking fruit or training vines in vineyards around regional WA. It was a highlight. I learnt so much. If you weren't in your job right now as Minister for Employment and Small Business, what would you like to be doing out there and getting out there and doing?

MINISTER ROBERT:         

If I wasn't doing it – my first job was picking strawberries as a young tucker, 13 or something, and then I graduated to picking tomatoes. And then at 16, when I finished school, I was doing 12 hours a day mixing and pouring concrete before moving into the military academy in the military. But if I wasn't doing what I'm doing now, I'd probably go back to the firm I was running previously, which was a consulting and recruitment firm, which was getting people into jobs and solving complex problems in industry. I really enjoyed that.

JENNA CLARKE:   

There you go. So who says that you are – you can start in strawberries and end up in the Ministry. It’s fantastic. Minister, thank you so very much for joining us tonight.

MINISTER ROBERT:         

Great to talk to you, Jenna. Cheers.