ABS March labour force press conference

  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister for Women
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Western Australia


SUBJECT/S: March labour figures, PaTH Program, penalty rates, Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia condoning domestic violence.

MINISTER CASH: Good morning. We’ve had the release of the March labour force figures this morning. And I am pleased to say that our total employment has risen by 1.2 per cent over the year, and we now have a record high number of Australians in employment. The figure is now in excess of 12 million- 12,059,600. In terms of the unemployment rate, it remains steady in March at 5.9 per cent, and this is in part due to the increase in the participation rate from 64.6 per cent to 64.8 per cent. So Australians are encouraged, and they are out there putting up their hands and saying I am ready, willing and able to work.

In terms of the job creation figures this month, or for last month, they have well and truly exceeded market expectations, in particular in relation to the creation of full-time jobs. In terms of the creation of full-time jobs for March we have seen the creation of 74,500 full-time jobs. And as I’ve said, the Government is very pleased with this. It shows that employers are out there, and they’re doing exactly what the Government wants, and that is creating full-time jobs. But I’ve always said the employment figures jump around from month to month. But when we look at job creation, in particular full-time job creation over the past six months, we have seen 158,700 full-time jobs created over the past six months. That is 26,000 full-time jobs being created each month. And in terms of the level of full-time job creation in March alone, that is actually the largest increase in the last 30 years.

So in terms of the unemployment figures that we’ve released today, the Government is obviously very pleased that we now have a record high number of Australians in employment. In terms of course of youth unemployment, I have always said that the number of youth unemployed in Australia is unacceptably high, and this month’s figures show that it remains unacceptably high. Though I am delighted that in April, just a few days ago, the Government’s youth unemployment program – our huge $850 million dollar investment in getting our youth off welfare and into work – has formally commenced.

And that is of course our PaTH program. It’s all about getting our youth ready, giving them the skills- the soft skills in particular they need so that someone, an employer, can take them on. It’s all about giving our youth a go, and that is of course the internship phase. So many employers want to take a young person on, but they just can’t because they don’t have the necessary skills. And so many young kids, they just want a foot in the door but because the employers can’t take them on, they don’t get that. And that’s why I’m really excited that up to 30,000 young Australians each year are now going to be able to undertake between a four week and twelve week internship, and they’re going to be able to get that foot in the door that they need. And at the end of the internship, the expectation is they will get a job. And of course, to assist employers, they can access the Youth Bonus Wage Subsidy of up to $10,000 so they can continue to invest in that youth. So, the PaTH program has formally commenced, and it’s all about getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job. Any questions?

QUESTION: I’ll just get you to put your West Australian hat on.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely.

QUESTION: So, correct me if I’m wrong, but unemployment’s gone up to 6.5 per cent in Western Australia. How is that good news?

MINISTER CASH: In terms of Western Australia, I have always said as a Western Australian Senator it is always disappointing when the unemployment rate in Western Australia goes up. Of course, though, as Western Australians we probably understand more than anybody else in Australia that we are part of a transitioning economy. So we’ve gone from that massive investment in the mining boom, and now we are transitioning into a more services-based economy. There is jobs growth in Western Australia but it’s not in the mining industries. It’s now in the service-orientated industries. Interestingly in Western Australia though, we still have the highest participation rate than any other state in Australia. So whilst yes, we are a transitioning economy, whilst yes, we do have a high unemployment rate, Western Australians are still encouraged. They are still out there actively putting up their hands and looking for work.

But I’d also say this from the federal Government’s perspective: that is why every single lever that we pull as a federal Government goes towards job creation. And the most recent example of that are our tax cuts for small and medium business. I have been travelling around Western Australia last week and this week, in particular talking to small businesses in shopping centres. They are delighted that the Government is backing them. So, three million small businesses-

QUESTION: Are you able to say how many jobs would that create?

MINISTER CASH: Well, three million small businesses in Australia that employ in excess of six million Australians will now get a tax cut courtesy of the Turnbull Government. All of the small business owners that I’ve spoken to this week, they look forward to reinvesting that additional money back into their business and growing their businesses. I spoke to one gentleman who has a fruit and vegetable store. He’s got three of them. I asked him what he’s going to do with the money he’s will now save with the tax cut. He said “Michaelia, I have been wanting to open a fourth store, that is now on the cards, and that is what I want to do. I want to be able to employ more young Western Australians in particular.” And then we talked about the youth employment program.

But you know in relation to the tax cuts, Bill Shorten and Labor, they fought us every single step of the way. As a government, we understand you’ve got to put in place a framework in which business prospers and grows, and that’s what we’re all about, because when business prospers and grows, it creates more jobs for all Australians.

QUESTION: But how does that convert into jobs for Western Australians? How many Western Australian jobs will that create?

MINISTER CASH: Well, in terms of the number of jobs, obviously that is what we will wait and see. But I mean anybody who would understand what a tax cut ultimately means, and when I talked to businesses this week they know, that if you give small businesses in particular a break, you are backing them. Small businesses want to grow, and all of the feedback that I have received this week is that they will reinvest in their businesses and they will grow their businesses. In fact, the particular gentleman I was talking to, he employs between 40 and 50 Western Australians in each store, and he now wants to open a store of a similar size in the Northern Corridor. Again, it’s all about backing business, and that’s what we’ll do so they prosper and grow.

QUESTION: Unions WA and the ACTU put a release out on penalty rates. Obviously people will be getting penalties over the Easter break. They’re saying this decision by Fair Work to make rates less generous will cost people to the tune of $30 million over the Easter period, and $1.5 million in Western Australia. What do you say to those workers who next year won’t be getting what they’re getting this year?

MINISTER CASH: Well, obviously as you’ve correctly stated the penalty rate decision hasn’t taken effect yet, so any suggestion that it is taking effect over this weekend is clearly wrong.

QUESTION: No, they’re not saying that, they’re saying that this is what these people won’t be getting next year over the same period.

MINISTER CASH: But again, what they might be getting though is additional jobs. Certainly, the decision of the independent Fair Work Commission acknowledged the additional employment benefits of a modest cut in a penalty rate. But I have to say, when it comes to the ACTU and in particular the CFMEU again, they criticise everything. They condone big businesses and big unions doing deals to cut penalty rates on a Sunday. They couldn’t care less that that’s what’s being done by big business and big unions, because we know that happens every day of the week. But when it comes to the small business owner, the small retailer, the chemist who would love to open on a Sunday but can’t, they refuse to acknowledge that we need to level the playing field. So until the unions and Bill Shorten in particular, come out and say they are going to honestly own up to the fact that big business and big unions already slash penalty rates on a Sunday, anything quite frankly they say is for politically opportunistic purposes and nothing more.

QUESTION: What’s your message to workers who might not be getting the same next year?

MINISTER CASH: Well, as you know, the Fair Work Commission is looking at the transitional arrangements it is going to put into place. It is currently taking submissions and a hearing will be held on 8 May, at which point in time the Fair Work Commission itself will put in place appropriate transitional arrangements.

But again, in terms of what the CFMEU, the ACTU, and Bill Shorten - who has made his lifetime, literally, in cutting the penalty rates of those lowest paid workers in Australia. You only have to look at what he did at Cleanevent. You only have to look at what he did at Chiquita Mushrooms.

QUESTION: Can I just ask- but what is your view on the transitional arrangements, though? Should these cuts come in in one big [indistinct].

MINISTER CASH: Well, that is obviously a decision for the Independent Fair Work-

QUESTION: So you don’t have a view?

MINISTER CASH: Oh no, the Government put in a submission, but governments put in-

QUESTION: [Inaudible question]

MINISTER CASH: Governments put in factual submissions to the Fair Work Commission, because obviously the Fair Work Commission, like it did in the penalty rates hearing over two years, in excess of 5000 submissions, it needs to factor in all of the responses it is given and then come to a decision.

QUESTION: Now with your other hat on, for women’s issues, yeah?


QUESTION: The video that’s emerged today; can we just get your response to that please?

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. I would think, like any Australians who have either watched the video or who have read reporting on the video, I am absolutely abhorred that there are, in particular, women out there who are saying that it is alright for a man to hit a woman. And then they outline the circumstances in which this is okay. Let me make it very, very clear to all Australians: it is not alright to hit a woman in Australia. We have one law and that law prohibits violence against women. We all get to comply with that law. As far as this Government is concerned, violence is violence; murder is murder. It does not matter if you put the word domestic or family in front of it. So, on behalf of the Turnbull Government, I absolutely condemn the statements made and the video that has been made by these women. It is absolutely abhorrent that in 2017 in Australia anyone would be condoning violence against women.

QUESTION: As one of the women is a teacher…

MINISTER CASH: A primary school teacher. That is my understanding. That is certainly what I have been advised. And, as I expressed in my statement to the media, I really do question whether a person who openly condones violence against women and children, given as a primary school teacher the position of influence that they hold, should continue to hold this position.

QUESTION: So would that be something for the state authorities to pursue?

MINISTER CASH: Certainly one would hope that the relevant state authorities will look at that, yes.

QUESTION: Sorry, just one more question. This is from Canberra on-

MINISTER CASH: We’ll allow Canberra one question.

QUESTION: Cashless welfare trials. Do you have a view on whether they should be expanded?

MINISTER CASH: Well certainly- that is actually for Minister Tudge and his portfolio. I believe that we should always look at policies that are going to have the best interests and the best outcomes, in particular for those who are on welfare. But it is Minister Tudge’s policy environment.

QUESTION: But you’ve seen them operate in Western Australia, though, do you have a view about whether or not there are benefits there?

MINISTER CASH: In my own personal opinion, and certainly not detracting from anything that the relevant minister, Minister Tudge, might say, I have spoken to a number of people who have outlined to me the benefits of such a system. They have been very positive that these are in communities that have openly welcomed working with the Government in relation to this program. They have said to me that there are multiple benefits from such a program.

Thank you very much.


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