Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - Sky News Live with Kieran Gilbert

Ministers:

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

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

KIERAN GILBERT: 

Now, on the program, I’m joined by Employment Minister Stuart Robert. Thanks so much for your time. There are a lot of initiatives in the Budget, $17.7 billion in terms of aged care; you’ve got childcare, $1.7 billion – sectors where there are already labour shortages. And we know there’s no migration happening. How do you plug those gaps?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great question. Fifty per cent of all jobs in the last five years, Kieran, have come from immigration, and of course, that's not going to happen in the short term. So there's 1.16 million Australians on JobSeeker payment or Youth Allowance other that we need to skill and encourage into work, and if necessary, use mutual obligations to ensure people accept their responsibility, not just their entitlements.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

How are you going to ensure, though, that young people get the opportunity to take up the care jobs in disability, aged, child care?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, there’s 122,000 young people right now on Youth Allowance other, which means they're 16 to 22 and they're not working and not in training. I intend to contact them all directly and individually to say here's the training opportunities, here's the job opportunities, and to encourage them into those work, and also to remind them of their mutual obligations. And of course, we're reframing, for the first time in 20 years, the entire Jobactive network, which is about how do we actually help people get into work. This is going to be a serious endeavour for the next 12 months.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

A lot of regional areas where there's high youth unemployment, sometimes upwards of 14, 15 per cent in the same areas, have those high care needs…

MINISTER ROBERT: 

Yeah, they do.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

…So it seems like a good fit if you can make it work.

MINISTER ROBERT: 

It's going to be a bit of a national endeavour. Let's take Northern Territory. I was with Chief Minister Gunner last week. Participation rate of 72.7 per cent. Remember the national average is 66.3. A lot of people in work, but they're desperately short of workers. And on the back of that, of course, we announced that student visas can work more than 20 hours as a short-term measure. But getting Australians into a job is our absolute focus.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

I spoke to the CEO of YMCA, the Y, as they call it now, on the program earlier in the week, and she explained to me what seems to be a very, well, promising plan that – it's called the Y Career Agency, where they essentially employ young people and then find the various – they train them and then find the various care jobs and link them up. So that sort of initiative sounds like it's got some promise, does it not?

MINISTER ROBERT: 

It does. I also met with the CEO of the Y last week and have encouraged her on Y careers to send me an unsolicited proposal, because I think it's got merit. I mean, the Y employs thousands and thousands of Australians, quite an extraordinary organisation. And if they can be part of the solution and part of how we move forward, superb.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

Well, that's encouraging to hear. What about in terms of aged care, that sector? Because like child care, I guess, it's an area where wages are so low. What are you going to do to drive wages up [indistinct]?

MINISTER ROBERT: 

[Interrupts] Well, Minister Hunt, in Question Time, spoke about subsidies over $3000, over $2000 bonuses, if you like, to assist the aged care sector, especially in nursing in that area. But one of the key initiatives is the billion-dollar JobTrainer Fund, which provides fully subsidised or mostly subsidised training positions for Australians – 33,800 of those will be guaranteed for aged care. So we can get Australians with a guaranteed training, a Cert 3, in that discipline and then get them into the aged care sector.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

One of the challenges is that wages issue, though, isn’t it? You could hear Labor targeting that in Question Time, saying real wages are going backwards for the next few years. That's a massive challenge, particularly when the labour market is as tight as it is.

MINISTER ROBERT: 

Wages are always linked to inflation and productivity, and that's the challenge for us to drive forward. And we'll see wages growth substantially move when we really start to hit full employment. Full employment used to be five per cent and the estimate is we'll hit that by December. But the Reserve Bank's now talking about full employment at 4.5 per cent or even lower. So our job is to skill Australians, drive that unemployment down to a four in front of it, and that's when we'll start to see the dial move.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

Labor's going to announce this plan tonight. There's been a bit of – I heard the Prime Minister and a couple of other ministers niggling Anthony Albanese because it's a bit of a reheated plan. But the fact is, this idea of having incubators, start-ups, young people to get a kick along in terms of tech ideas, why is that not a good idea? And why shouldn't Anthony Albanese reheat the idea if it's got merit and the Government hasn't done it?

MINISTER ROBERT: 

We announced $129 million for what's called the NEIS scheme. It's all about entrepreneurial and incentive schemes to get thousands of Australians unemployed into running their own business. And we've been doing this for a while and it's got enormous results. The problem with Mr Albanese, he picked up a policy from Labor, it’s six years old. He picked it up word for word. He re-badged his self. And he's got form. Remember in 2012, Kieran, at the Press Club, when he rolled out some lines from Michael Douglas out of The American President. What else is Albo going to resurrect? What else will he take from Mr Shorten? $485 billion worth of taxes for an election, is that what comes next? Is that the next resurrection piece from resurrection Albo? Come on.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

But if it's a Labor policy and they think it's got merit, the Government hasn't done exactly this sort of thing with the incubators, using accelerators at university to get kids’ ideas commercialised. It makes sense.

MINISTER ROBERT: 

We've got enormous commercialisation in the Budget, including $129 million for the entrepreneurial incentive program. But if Bill Shorten's idea from six years ago was so great, why didn’t Bill Shorten use it three years ago? Dumped his own idea, Albo’s resurrected it from the dead. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't stack up.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

Why have we – on a serious note, though, why have we been so bad at commercialising our technology? Because the research is always fantastic. We’ve got great ideas. Bit of the brain drain, no doubt, doesn't help with people going to Silicon Valley and elsewhere. They can't do that at the moment. But why have we been not effective in commercialising science breakthroughs?

MINISTER ROBERT: 

I think you're ostensibly right. Look at Israel, which commercialises through eight universities, something over a quarter of a billion dollars of IP per annum. Numbers in that sort of order. And we haven't been able to hit those levels, and that's what the Industry Minister is now very much focused on in terms of commercial programs. We had Commercial Ready, of course, in the Howard days scrapped by Labor when they came back in. So I'm glad they're now starting to focus on it. But the Industry Minister has got commercialisation well and truly in the forefront of his mind, and you see that with the $200 million patent box, which is all about tax differential for those who develop IP so we can commercialise it.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

So you think that our universities, our academic sector, does have scope to achieve the sorts of Israel results? I mean, that Israeli example is incredible.

MINISTER ROBERT: 

[Talks over] Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a great book called Start-Up Nation written about Israel and what they've done to produce those incredible results. Australia has the same resilience, the same sense of entrepreneurialism, the same spirit, the same can-do attitude. Absolutely we can do it. And initiatives like the Morrison Government's patent box is designed to back that initiative in.

KIERAN GILBERT: 

Okay. Stuart Robert, thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.

MINISTER ROBERT: 

Thanks, Kieran.

[ENDS]