Interview with Laura Jayes

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


SUBJECTS: Jobs figures, effects test, passing of the ABCC bill and double dissolution, safe phones, funding for domestic violence victims

LAURA JAYES: Welcome back to Newsday. The Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, and also the Minister for Women, joins me here in the studio this afternoon. Thanks so much for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you as always.

LAURA JAYES: Jobs figures.


LAURA JAYES: … I’m going to ask you about first. The participation rate is down, what does this tell you? Does this show that they- perhaps job seekers are losing a bit of confidence in the Turnbull Government?

MINISTER CASH: No. Basically over the last 12 months what you’ve seen, today’s figures show there is still an increase in the participation rate. So that is a good thing. Australians have confidence in the jobs market. What we’ve seen today in relation to the headline data is that for February the unemployment rate has dropped from 6 per cent to 5.8 per cent. If you compare us to where we were 12 months ago, the unemployment rate was 6.3 per cent. So what we’re seeing is a downward trend, which to me says this Government’s plans for growing our economy so that business and industry can create jobs is working.

LAURA JAYES: But for a Government whose mantra is jobs and growth, is this really a good result? Because South Australia certainly aren’t seeing that, the unemployment rate in that state is 7.7 per cent.

MINISTER CASH: Okay. So let’s look at the figures over the last 12 months, because I think even the commentators acknowledge that looking at the month-to-month statistics doesn’t necessarily give you the full picture. So if you look at the last 12 months, February to February, under this Government we’ve seen the economy create 240,000 jobs. That’s an increase of 2.1 per cent. Now compare that to the long-term trend of 1.8 per cent, and again, the economy is creating jobs, we’re heading in the right direction.

LAURA JAYES: Are we heading in the right direction in South Australia though? Because the trend wouldn’t show that.

MINISTER CASH: Can I just give you one more figure very quickly though. Compare the last 12 months of this Government to the last 12 months of Labor, because that’s the real comparison. They created 85,000 jobs. So we’re creating three jobs for every one job they’re creating. So again, this Government has a plan – investment, innovation, infrastructure, open markets. Getting the opportunity to implement that plan is allowing business and industry to create jobs.

LAURA JAYES: But what about South Australia? What is going on in that state?

MINISTER CASH: Well you’d probably have to ask the South Australian Premier unfortunately. But also, you know, we do acknowledge, we are a transitioning economy, and in particular my home state of Western Australia. In South Australia you have seen obviously some major players close down. Now when that occurs what the Federal Government does is assess the situation, and often we can step in and provide a structural adjustment package to help workers get back into employment as quickly as possible. But then you look at what’s the Commonwealth Government’s longer term plan for South Australia? And certainly from our perspective investment in road infrastructure; give money to the South Australian Government to build to build roads, because building roads creates jobs. You look at also, say the opportunities created by the China free trade agreement, in particular for the South Australian wine industry. Huge opportunities going forward. This is a Government that understands. We ourselves don’t create jobs, that’s what business and industry do; but we create the right policy framework, and that’s what we’re doing.

LAURA JAYES: Can I ask you about the effects test. This is something that the Nationals have pushed quite strongly for. Christopher Pyne, a South Australian Minister, has also pushed quite strongly for, but there are some views within Cabinet that didn’t want to see this pushed through. It was blocked from going to the Abbott Government’s cabinet. Where do you sit on this, are you comfortable with the effects test being implemented? Barnaby Joyce says, for example, we should be paying more for milk. Do you agree with him?

MINISTER CASH: I don’t quite think that’s what Barnaby has actually said. But look, we had a review into competition law – the Harper review. It was a huge review and it had many, many submissions. Based on all that evidence we then had a series of recommendations, and one of those recommendations was in relation to Section 46. I also come from a state where we have a lot of small businesses, so I have had many representations …

LAURA JAYES: So you’re comfortable with the policy direction?

MINISTER CASH: We are backing small business here, and very much I do believe that this will encourage more competition. But in particular it says to small business we’re prepared to back you. And I’m comfortable with the decision, and in fact not just comfortable I believe it’s a good thing.

LAURA JAYES: The front page of The Australian, again the CFMEU once again in the headlines. So this, I’m sure you will say, again bolsters your argument for the ABCC legislation. So are you pushing the Prime Minister to go to a DD on this?

MINISTER CASH: Can I just say, two weeks ago 73 CFMEU officials were before the courts. Two weeks later, front page of The Australian, 100. I mean, this is a militant union that is quite literally thumbing its nose at industrial law in this country. And Bill Shorten …

LAURA JAYES: [Interrupts] You won’t get this through unless there is a double dissolution, you’d agree?

MINISTER CASH: I would like to see this get through. We still have an opportunity to debate the ABCC …

LAURA JAYES: [Interrupts] There’s no hope of that though from seeing what the crossbenchers are saying.

MINISTER CASH: Well certainly based on Labor, Bill Shorten, you know, what is it? Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil when it comes to militant unions.

LAURA JAYES: So DD is the only way to see this bill go through?

MINISTER CASH: Not necessarily. We could go to a general election. The Senate may or may not change. But certainly are we committed to this legislation? Yes. Why? Because of the impact on productivity in Australia, the impact on jobs. But more than that, why is it that a particular set of individuals are able to go into workplaces every day, bully, intimidate, and be thugs, and the law allows that to occur? There is something wrong with the law, we need to change the law, and that’s what this Government is committed to. And I’ll be honest Laura, I am beyond believing that Bill Shorten can continue to deny, defend, and distract in relation to this. Enough is enough. Let’s bring back the ABCC and let’s clean up the building and construction industry in Australia.

LAURA JAYES: Okay one more question. As the Minister for Women …


LAURA JAYES: … we’ve seen an announcement today from Telstra, the Government also committing money to these safe phones. Just expand on that a bit, what kind of phones are they?

MINISTER CASH: Really exciting announcement. Government’s providing $2.5 million to WESNET. Telstra has really stepped up and are providing 20,000 smartphones over three years. Basically, when a woman flees a relationship often the one thing you take with you is your phone. But as we know, technology now means that perpetrators can track you, they can email you abusive texts et cetera. So this enables us to give them a clean phone that is not able to be tracked, because the perpetrator won’t have your telephone number, but at the same time upload all of the important information onto the phone that you need, and Telstra also provides $30 of pre-paid credit.

LAURA JAYES: Just one final question before we run out of time.


LAURA JAYES: We did have Moo Baulch on the program a couple of days ago, she’s calling for a fund, a dedicated fund to be set up from the Government to make sure there is enough funding for services that women fleeing violence need. I know the Government’s position on extending the funding for some of these crisis services, but they’re talking about certainty well into the future – can you provide that?

MINISTER CASH: Certainly the Government is a major source of funds for the sector, but the services are provided on the ground by the state governments. I acknowledge all the work that people like Moo do. She is absolutely outstanding. And certainly, we’re in a budget process at the moment, and all things will be considered. But the Government does provide a huge investment into this. But I acknowledge that this is a sector that is always under pressure. But that is why we need to work very closely with the state and territory government, who also have a role to play in terms of funding.

LAURA JAYES: I’ll take that as not ruling out, perhaps still on the table. Michaelia Cash, thanks so much for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Always great to be with you, thanks for having me.

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