Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — Sky News Live Afternoon Agenda with Kieran Gilbert

Ministers:

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

Topics: September Labour Force figures, The Morrison Government’s climate plan

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

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

And joining me live now is the Employment Minister Stuart Robert. Mr Robert, thanks so much for your time. Very interesting times we live in. We'll get to the jobs figures in a moment, because of course, as Employment Minister, I'm very keen to get your reaction on that. First though on the climate issue, we're only a few weeks away from the COP in Glasgow, yet the Government, it seems from what Andrew is reporting today, yet to work out whether it's going to set a firm target of net zero or just a plan to get there. Doesn't it strike you as leaving it a bit late in the piece?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

I'll let others speak on climate, Kieran. The Government's position on this as well known. We have a very strong statement to say that we want to get to net zero as quickly as possible, and preferably by 2050. That's been the Government's position on that. That position remains.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Are we going to see a target as the Prime Minister wants or just a plan to get there?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

I’ll leave that to the Prime Minister to speak to. It's important that Australians understand though, Kieran, we've already reduced since 2005 by 20 per cent our emissions. We are well and truly on track to meet our 26 to 28 per cent reduction targets by 2030. And of course, we obliterated our first Kyoto target as well. Australia is doing exceptionally well on this. We are bringing emissions down. We're increasing solar and wind three times faster than Europe.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

[Interrupts] So why not update the targets?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

What we do is responsible, it is transparent, and it's believable. So when we say we've reduced emissions by 20 per cent since 2005, the world believes us. We don't make things up. We are accountable for our statements and our actions. I think one of the biggest uptakes of solar in the world, especially in Queensland, where I'm calling you from. Almost one in three houses, Kieran. We've done exceptionally well in terms of what we're doing in concert with the rest of the world. And the government's policy remains unchanged. We want to get to net zero as quickly as possible, and preferably by 2050.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

And it's unchanged on the medium target, because there had been expectations you would up that. Is that going to remain where it has been for a number of years now at 26 to 28 per cent?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, right now, Kieran, the Government's policy remains the same. We are moving very strongly with a technology driven approach and roadmap towards net zero. We want to get there by 2050. We want to get there as quickly as possible, and preferably by 2050. That's the Government's position and it hasn't changed.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you see, though- and I'm not asking you talked about the specifics of what's on the table, but you know, as well as I do the international community, there have been- well, many countries have signed on to net zero. I think last check it was over 120 nations had signed committed to that target, including our key allies like Japan, Korea, United States, Great Britain itself. It's a lot of pressure on us to follow suit, isn't it?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, there's always pressure from countries overseas, Kieran. What matters is results. And I'll put Australia's results in emissions reduction against Canada, against New Zealand, against many of our peer neighbours. I'll put our track record against theirs any day in terms of what we've achieved and where the country is going.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

So in that context, would the PM still be happy to go to the climate talks in Glasgow even without a net zero by 2050 target?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Oh, it's a question for the Prime Minister, Kieran.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you think he wouldn't be a little- you know, given that pressure, that international sentiment, if he hasn't got a target to take with him, would he really show up?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Not too sure the Prime Minister appreciates his Cabinet Minister surmising hypothetically about what he thinks or does not think.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

[Interrupts] Well, you're close to him.

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Let me tell you what I know. I know the Government's position remains quite clear: with a technology driven approach is not taxation. The regions won't bear the burden. But technology will drive us towards our goal of getting to net zero. That's where we are. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of how. And we want to get there as soon as possible.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

But as I said, you're close to Scott Morrison. He's invested a fair bit in this. We heard his comment that Andrew played a moment ago. He's got to bring people together. If he can't bring them together and deliver on that net zero target, is his authority shredded?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

I think you'll see the authority of the Prime Minister who's led our nation through a one-in-100-year pandemic, with some of the best results of any country in the world in terms of what we've achieved. I don't think the Prime Minister's credibility or authority, Kieran, is in doubt on any issue.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

But does the Government, does the Coalition, have to provide the Nationals with, you know, a quid pro quo? How much has to be spent here to get the Nationals over the line? Are we talking about billions?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

The National Party can speak for themselves, Kieran, but as part of the Coalition, we are at one with our policy, which is we're getting to net zero and we're getting there as fast as we can.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Given the comments made in the last election, though, warning that the Labor targets would be economy wrecking, we've seen the road to Damascus sort of conversion from the BCA. The Prime Minister now also much more positive about those trajectories. How do you reconcile that?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

I'm trying to reconcile your opening statement, Kieran, which was a few quick climate questions, and then we'll move on to workforce numbers and figures. I think we're now at question number 10 on climate. I think we'll leave the Prime Minister to talk to the specifics of how he's leading the nation.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Well, you've been a patient minister. A good sport as always, so I appreciate that. Let's move on to jobs. Now, what do you make of these numbers, tens of thousands more jobs lost? Are we looking down the barrel of a recession here?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

We're looking down the barrel of New South Wales and Victoria being 57 per cent of the jobs market being locked up. So these numbers reflect that. In Queensland, where Queensland hasn't been locked up, you've seen over 1 per cent increase of employment, over 30,000 Queenslanders employed.

So it's a tale of locked up states versus unlocked up states. And the numbers reflect that. You are going to see next reporting period the same set of numbers because again, the next reporting period will deal with the end of this month and the beginning of next.

November, December, you'll see the economy coming screaming back, and you've seen that in terms of Fitches increase of our Triple A rating. You've seen that in every time we've come out of a lockdown, the country has roared back. It’s like a racehorse, Kieran. It is just waiting to race. We just need to hit 80 per cent and get the borders unlocked. Numbers until then will be all over the place. They're artificial because of we’re locked up.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Okay. The participation rate, unfortunately, and this is a sort of sad underlying element to the headline rate of 4.6 per cent. The participation rate down 0.7 per cent, basically the equivalent of 140,000 people who've given up looking for a job during this period. That's a sad number, isn't it?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

It is because when you're locked up, you can't participate. That's the long and short of it. The participation rate falling 0.7 per cent is a direct reflection of lockdowns in the two most populous states. Interestingly, you saw an increase of full-time employment but a substantial decrease in part-time employment. Again, it is 100 per cent linked to those lockdowns. Let's get our borders open. Let's get New South Wales hitting 80 per cent, hopefully within the coming days. Victoria to follow. Let's get these borders down. Let's get certainty and confidence from all the state premiers, and then, our country will quickly move into a very strong employment growth, then we'll be faced with the next challenge, which is a skill shortage challenge. And that's something you and I will be speaking about very shortly after all of those borders open up.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Indeed. And just finally, has the clarity of the roadmap, say, in New South Wales, contrasting to what we've seen in Victoria, there's been a bit more detail in terms of where they're going at certain thresholds. Has that helped businesses keep on as many people as possible, according to your analysis of these numbers?

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Absolutely. Clarity gives confidence. It means you can plan. So in Victoria and New South Wales, they know what's going to happen when this milestone is reached. For example, in New South Wales, they've said when 70 per cent is reached the following Monday. Therefore, businesses could plan. They could plan their stock, they could plan their rosters, they could get their training regimes put in place. All of these things you can do when you know what's going to happen.

And if you compare that to where we sit right now in Queensland, we're living press conference from press conference. I've got no idea what's going to happen in Queensland at 70 or 80 per cent. Businesses can't plan.

Right now, when New South Wales and Victoria borders come down, 80 per cent of the tourists in the Gold Coast come from those two states. Occupancy in the Gold Coast is 15 per cent now, Destination Gold Coast tells me.

How do those businesses plan? How do the businesses in Cairns plan for inbound tourists when we've got no idea if they're going to be allowed in?

Right now, small business is looking to recover strongly in Victoria and New South Wales.

Small business is currently blind and lost because there’s no clarity in Queensland.

 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Employment Minister Stuart Robert, thank you, as always. Appreciate it.

 

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk Kieran.