Joint press conference with Minister of State for Employment, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP (U.K.) and Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez (USA), as part of the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting

  • Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Tasmania

E&OE TRANSCRIPT   -  *Check against delivery*

SUBJECT/S:   Joint press conference with Minister of State for Employment, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP (U.K.) and Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez (USA), as part of the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, Melbourne, Australia.
Minister Abetz: Australia’s absolutely delighted to be able to host the G20. With the presidency comes the great privilege of being able to host a number of ministerial meetings, and this week in Melbourne, the Labour and Employment Ministers are meeting and combining to see what we can do together to assist in the targets that have been set for economic growth, which we believe need to also translate into jobs growth, so with economic growth will come the jobs growth.

I’m delighted with the commencement of this Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting to be accompanied by the Minister of State for Employment in the United Kingdom the Right Honourable Esther McVey and also the Secretary of Labor from the United States, Mr Perez.

We are all agreed and hopefully at end of this meeting of the Labour and Employment Ministers, there will be a communique which indicates a collective commitment, a joint commitment, to seeing economic growth being translated into jobs growth especially from a female participation point of view and also youth participation point of view.

The overwhelming good of employment is there for all to see in the social data. If somebody is gainfully employed, their physical health, their mental health, their self-esteem, their social interaction, they are all enhanced and therefore it is an overwhelming social good to have people in employment apart from the economic good that flows from it as well.

And that is why governments worldwide and especially with the G20 are so determined to ensure that with the economic growth that we hope will come in the aftermath of the global financial crisis that that will create more job opportunities,  reduce the unemployment levels and if we can work together as a G20 which represents 85 per cent of the world’s economic activity and two thirds of the world’s population, we will have achieved a very, very good social good for a large section of the world’s population and of course individually in our own countries.

With those introductory comments I’d be delighted to pass over to the Minister for Labour from the United Kingdom and then to the Secretary for Labour.

Minister McVey (UK): It’s a real pleasure to be here, a real honour to be here, because we all are facing in the same direction.  As you say we’re wanting growth, we’re wanting employment and we want when that growth happens, that everybody is brought on board, that’s why we’re really focusing on youth employment and I think what we are doing as well is sharing best practice.

In the UK what we have found is the biggest fall in youth unemployment since records began, so what is it we are doing there…through work experience;  through something known as sector based work academies; fundamentally working with employers to say, ‘what do they need, how do we gather that support, enable people to get a job’ and not just a job, but actually career progression is what is key for everybody there.

And as you said, how do we liberate people to have meaningful careers, something they want to do, that develops them, supports their family, the local community and of course on top of that, the country as a whole.

And women greater engagement there, we have got a greater rate now of women going into work, but how are we doing that, how are we engaging young girls, how are we providing sufficient role models so they can think a career in politics is attractive, a career in engineering or science is attractive and how do we drive that forward, so together we are going to listen to what other people are doing, how they are supporting people and again share in what we do best.

But as I said it really is a privilege to be here. I arrived late last night, so I’m just finding my feet but really looking forward to whatever everybody’s got to say.

Secretary Thomas Perez (US): Good afternoon, my name is Tom Perez and I have the privilege of serving as the Secretary of Labor in the United States.

Minister Abetz, thank you for your leadership, thank you for your country’s leadership during its term as presidency of the G20.

I know President Obama looks forward to coming here later this year to Brisbane to continue this dialogue. And Minister McVey, an honour to be with you and so much of our shared values in this room relate to the notion of the dignity of work.

As we dig out from the great recession – the deepest hole in our lifetimes – there are so many people who continue to struggle, and what brings us here today is to share our success stories so that we can learn from each other, whether it’s how we address youth unemployment, whether it’s how we expand female labour force participation, how we ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to realise their full potential in all of these sectors.

We are here today, and we are here over the next few days, to listen and learn, and to redouble our commitments to make sure that as we recover from the great recession that we recognise that every country in the G20, and really across the planet, we work best when we field the full team. And we’re making progress toward that end but we have so much more work to do.

And so in the days ahead we look forward to dialogue, we look forward to, again, setting goals and then moving forward so that, again, the dignity of work – which means the ability to punch your ticket to the middle class, the ability to have that career ladder, the ability to sustain your family and sustain your community – is the reality for everyone.

So thank you Minister Abetz for your leadership.

Minister Abetz: Alright, any questions for me? Any of the three of us.

Question: I have a question for all three of you. Where are the jobs going to come from, what industries? Obviously you’re all representing developed countries and are under pressure from developing countries who are taking on labour, jobs… what industries are going to grow in your countries?

Minister Abetz: Well I think the question you’ve asked is absolutely right.
Where within your particular country? Because every country will have its own specific areas.

For Australia, you may recall we went to our last election talking about our five pillar economy. We believe the resources sector, agriculture, services, education – all those are very important sectors for the Australian economy to grow.

We want to play to our natural advantages and that is why in Australia, for example, we have been pursuing Free Trade Agreement and we’ve just been able to execute successful ones with South Korea and Japan, we are working on one with China.

And we believe that that will see a capacity for jobs growth and the other aspects, of course are: what can we do to enhance our economies, and in the Australian context, it was getting rid of what we considered as unnecessary tax burdens with the carbon tax, a mining tax, getting rid of red and green tape, re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, getting the budget back in to shape. And that is the Australian context where we see jobs growth being able to be on the horizon—or not indeed on the horizon, that sounds too far away—but within close proximity, something that is genuinely achievable.

But we recognise the roadblocks to jobs growth and we have to remove those roadblocks. That’s what we’ve been doing in Australia.

Minister Esther McVey (UK): Well we’re seeing growth in all of our key sectors, so whether that’s manufacturing, whether that’s service, whether that’s construction.

Each one of those will require a different workforce, different support, different training, different growth, a different career progression. So we’ve got to work with all of those.

Particularly for the science, the manufacturing…what are we going to do there to help young people? Whether it’s getting to the chemical industry sector, the car manufacturing industry sector, to get in there and have training during the course of their job.

So looking at real apprenticeships, working throughout their electronics, robotics, or whatever that might be. So we’re really seeing a drive there and obviously we’ve been now a net exporter of cars for the first time since 1974, so you’re seeing a key growth there.

And if you look at what’s happening on the high street looking at what’s going for the construction growth, the drive there, again mapping that out, what are the jobs you need there now, in five years, 10 years, 25 years? That really is what is key, and then from there, driving that knee down into the schools.

So looking at, what are the core subjects that are being taught there? What is on the horizon?

Technology obviously is a key. They’re there having a real push in the UK on the stamped subjects, signed subjects and greater engagement with young girls, and really pushing out what we foresee and what we’re mapping going forward where we see those areas of growth and just making sure everybody can have a foothold within that.

So that’s what we’re doing at the moment.

Question: <inaudible> Competing with higher skills, jobs…?

Minister Esther McVey (UK): Yes, but across the board some of them will be higher skills, but there is always a need for all kinds of skills, entry level jobs going right the way through and as you see a sort of key shift as well in the ageing population, extra support there for carers, for hospital work, for caring work – so right across the board there is just working with, engaging with, and just providing the right support.

Secretary Perez (USA): In the US we’ve now seen 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth to the tune of over 10 million jobs. That’s the longest consecutive streak of private sector job growth on record, and we’ve been keeping record since about 1940.

We’re seeing growth in a number of critical sectors, including, but not limited to, manufacturing.

Auto sales are at their highest level since 2006, and the fact that the United States is now the largest oil and gas producer in the world is transforming the economy.

Manufacturers who had been making things overseas are now bringing that back home, so insourcing is becoming the order of the day as opposed to outsourcing in that sector.

The largest growth sectors over the last year have been business and professional services, over 640 000 jobs created over the last year. These are very well paying jobs – architects, IT consultants – jobs of that nature, because as our businesses continue to grow then these high skill, high growth jobs continue to grow as well.

The health sector has been a growth sector throughout. It was recession proof when you look at the data, even during the depths of the great recession in the United States we saw growth in the health sector, and in part, as the Minister points out, with the ageing of the population—present company excluded ¬—we will continue to see growth in that area.

And so moving forward, what we’re doing in the United States, we are taking what we call a very demand driven or industry driven approach. We have a really good understanding of what the growth needs are in various sectors, and then what we’re doing is managing or matching those growth needs with our community colleges, our other education providers, our non-profit providers so that as we move forward and grow in the cyber security area which is a huge growth area, we are producing credential programmes and other similar degree programmes that will enable people to get these jobs of the future which are really tickets to the middle class.

Question: There’s a new report out today by the OECD and the ILO in terms of labour market outlook which has been released this afternoon, which talks about if growth continues as it is there will be a growing jobs gaps, there will be a lack of quality jobs, and it calls on the G20 to incorporate the national employment plans into the broader strategy. What’s your view about that? Is there a concern that if growth remains the same, there won’t be sufficient quality jobs created?

Minister Abetz: Look that is why the finance ministers committed themselves to a two percent plus growth above the trajectory, because business as usual will continue to see that jobs gap and that is in nobody’s interest economically or socially.

And so that is why the finance ministers have identified that need and we as a labour and employment ministers coming together over the next few days are seeking to ensure that for our each individual country we will have a programme that will ensure that once we achieve that economic growth that that economic growth does translate into job creation.

And indeed I had a bilateral meeting with the Minister from South Africa, Minister Oliphant earlier today and Nelson Mandela talked about the jobless economic growth that South Africa experienced. That there was economic growth but did not translate into job creation. And so that has occasioned some difficulties for South Africa and so they are just one example, very interested in learning and gleaning from others here at the conference over the next few days as to how they can actually harness jobs growth out of their economic growth so that is clearly something that we as a world community in the G20 need to deal with.

Secretary Perez (USA): Sure, I mean I haven’t read the report yet and I look forward to reading it. It’s undeniable that one of our challenges I know in the US and across the G20 is to pick up the pace of growth. 

We had very good second-quarter GDP numbers; we want to sustain those numbers.  And so in the US we are debating a number of things including how do we stimulate consumption because consumption is roughly 70 per cent of GDP growth, and transportation, infrastructure investments which I think are very real issues in all three of our countries and really across the G20. Those not only address critical infrastructure issues, but they create good middle-class jobs and those are the sorts of things that we are debating in the United States that will again, help put money in people’s pockets, address critical needs and help make sure that we employ more people in middle class jobs.

Minister Esther McVey (UK): Well, what we have seen since 2010 has been an increase of over two million private sector jobs. One of the key things that we said when our Government came into power is that we really needed to look at rebalancing the economy, we really had to get it going. That’s exactly what we have done and that is jobs right across the board.

You’ve got to have an entry level job but from there you have got to have progression going right the way through. We’ve seen growth in the services industry, growth in the pharmaceutical, growth in agriculture, growth in construction. So all of those things going forth but I think what is key is that sophisticated mapping now of what are the jobs here, what they are going forward and how do we enable our young people to get a foot on the door there, foot on that career path and move right the way through which will benefit the businesses as well as reaching forward into new markets.

So we have successfully, as I said, rebalanced our country. Still lots more to do but that was the mission that we set out on and we’ve done.  Therefore, as I’ve said in the last month we saw the largest drop in youth and unemployment since records began. In the last year we’ve seen record rates of unemployment falling. We’ve also seen the biggest fall in long-term unemployment across the board and that is a combination of the training we are doing, the change to the welfare system that we’re doing and also getting growth in the country too.

Question:  Do we have a jobs crisis in Australia?

Minister Abetz: As far as I’m concerned and I’ve said this a number of times, for every individual that doesn’t have a job, for them it is a crisis.

And so, we can look at figures and say that one percent, six per cent, seven per cent and deal in figures, let’s never forget the humanity that we’re dealing with when we’re talking about unemployment and for that individual and his or her family unit, if they are the breadwinner in particular, it is a genuine crisis.
And so as governments, we should never rest just because of these three, or a four, or a five percent, or six percent figure in front of our unemployment situation. So we should never underestimate the task that is in front of us.

Question: Senator, would you take one more question?

Minister Abetz: All right one last. Done.

Question: Just on penalty rates, do you agree with Alex Hawke’s views that we should reduce them?

Minister Abetz: I was asked about that last week and the context in Australia always has been, and it is the Government’s view, that the Fair Work Commission determines what people’s rates of pay should be and anybody that has an argument in relation to penalty rates ought to take that argument to the Fair Work Commission for determination by the independent umpire.

Question: Is it something that other backbenchers have been lobbying you about though?

Minister Abetz: Look Martin Ferguson, a former president of the ACTU, whilst he was Minister for Tourism in the previous government recognised that penalty rates, was to quote him, the key issue facing the tourism sector.

So people in the Labor movement, including a real doyenne of the Labor movement, a former president of the ACTU, recognises the issues of penalty rates in certain sectors. So it’s not surprising that if an ACTU President and former Labor minister recognises the issue that a Liberal backbencher might also recognise that issue. But having said that, both gentlemen would be aware that in the Australian context it’s the Fair Work Commission that makes the determination as to when a penalty rate ought to apply and at what level and we have no consideration at all before us to change the methodology of how those matters are determined in Australia.

Alright, thank you very much.


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