Press Conference - Labour force figures
- Minister for Employment
- Minister for Women
- Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
- Senator for Western Australia
MINISTER CASH: We have just had the release of the job figures for January, and as you know these figures do jump around on a month to month basis.
What we’ve seen today is an increase in the unemployment rate from 5.8 per cent to 6 per cent. I think it’s important though that we look at the overall trend in relation to job creation in the economy under this Government. Certainly the unemployment trend which sits at—as at January—5.8 per cent. So in terms of the trend, we are still heading in the right direction.
Again, full-time and part-time employment remain at all-time high. In terms of job creation under this Government, since we came to office in 2013 we have seen in excess of 400,000 jobs created.
And in the last 12 months of this Government we have seen the creation of just under 300,000 jobs created, which is well above the decade average of around 1.8 per cent.
But I think the actual comparison that interesting is when you compare it to the number of jobs created by the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government in their last year, which sat at 87,000. So, certainly the Turnbull Government is a government that knows what its core business is, and that is of course to focus on growing our economy, ensuring that business has the framework in which they can grow and prosper so that we foster an environment in which we create jobs.
QUESTION: Six per cent is the highest figure since Malcolm Turnbull took over though, is there concern that the optimism has ended?
MINISTER CASH: The participation rate still remains high, and in fact it ticked up slightly to 65.2 per cent. As I said, when you look at the overall trend, we are still heading in the right direction. The trend as at January sits at 5.8 per cent. If you look at overall job creation under the Coalition Government, in excess of 400,000 jobs have been created since we came to office. Again, this is a government that knows that it needs to focus on jobs and growth. We have a plan for jobs and growth, and that is exactly what we are doing.
QUESTION: How can you say you are still heading in the right direction when the trend has reversed?
MINISTER CASH: The trend hasn't reversed. What you’ve seen—and every month when figures are released - certainly economists say these figures jump around. And in fact last month they went down against market expectations. What we are seeing today is just really the jumping around of those figures. But as I said, when you look at the overall trend—and certainly that's what the Australian Bureau of Statistics would say you look at—the overall trend remains strong and it's heading in the right direction.
QUESTION: But Senator Cash, the unemployment level has gone up. So are there any fears perhaps that this is the beginning of a new trend of higher unemployment?
MINISTER CASH: No, not at all.
QUESTION: In particular what’s been happening in this State, where we have higher unemployment than usual?
MINISTER CASH: Except in this state this month you've seen a decrease in the unemployment rate, which is obviously positive news for Western Australia and certainly for me as a Senator for Western Australia.
But again, the figures are volatile; they do jump around on a month to month basis. And that is why it is important to look at the overall trend statistics. And certainly in terms of jobs growth, under the Coalition Government, as I said, if you just look at the last 12 months, under this Government what you've seen is almost 300,000 jobs created. If you compare that to the last 12 months of the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government, there is around, as I said, the 87-88,000 jobs created. So less than two thirds the number of jobs were created. And since we came to office, in excess of 400,000 jobs have been created.
But, again, as a Government we know what we need to do. We need to focus on growth. We need to focus on job creation. And that's why when you look at the policies that the Government has implemented or is looking at implementing; they are all focused on how we grow our economy, because when we grow our economy, we create jobs. So free-trade agreements, huge investment in innovation. In terms of us focusing on getting the unemployed into work we have an investment of in excess of $6 billion to ensure that we are not just focusing on those who can work, we are also focusing on those who don't have the skills at this point in time and investing in them. So, again, core business of this Government; jobs and growth.
QUESTION: That six per cent figure was really softened by part-time jobs, a boost in part-time jobs. So is it a concern it would have been higher if not for part-time work? Is there a need for more full-time jobs?
MINISTER CASH: Again, when you look at the trend, you have full-time and part-time employment at all-time highs. So we again, we are heading in the right direction. But is this Government about to sit back on its hands and say we have done enough? Absolutely not. And that is why when you look at our policies, these are policies which are going to grow Australia into the future. You look at the success of Andrew Robb as the Trade Minister —the most successful Trade Minister on any analysis—you look at the free-trade agreements that he has signed and, in particular, the free-trade agreement with China. The opportunities that are now being opened up for Australians, both in China and here, that is only going to create more jobs going forward. That's a good thing.
QUESTION: You seem to be dismissing this increase as a one-off aberration, but then you say the decrease in the WA figure is good news - don't you have to take both? You can't take one and dismiss the other.
MINISTER CASH: As I said, the figures jump around. Today we have seen a slight increase, but if we look at the overall trend it is still 5.8 per cent in January. It is heading in the right direction. In terms of Western Australia, they have had a high unemployment rate. It is of course pleasing today to see a drop in that. But, again, let's wait until next month to see where it's going. But getting back to what is the overall job creation figures under this Government, they are very, very positive and, in particular, when you compare them to the last 12 months of the Labor Government. You have got a massive, massive differential there. Almost 300,000 under us, and around the 86-87 thousand mark, under Labor. So we know what our core business is, it's growth and jobs, and that is what we are focusing on.
QUESTION: With this rise in unemployment will the Government be easing off on spending cuts?
MINISTER CASH: I think the Treasurer made it very clear at the Press Club yesterday that we are looking at being a fiscally responsible Government, as we have been since we were elected to office. There is not going to be a fist-full of dollars announced in the May Budget. We are not a high taxing and high spending Government. We are a Government that understands that if you are going to spend, you need to offset all of those new spending measures. And we are also looking at opportunities to reduce tax where we can, because we know at the end of the day the Australian people need a taxation system that is going to back them to grow. So no fist-full of dollars, made very clear by the Treasurer yesterday.
QUESTION: While we are talking about the Treasurer, are you disappointed to see that the rise in the GST has been taken off the table?
MINISTER CASH: Look, unlike Labor, we were prepared to have a good look at it. Unlike Labor we were prepared to talk to the Australian people and put it on the table. We did our homework in relation to the GST. The increase in the GST to 15 per cent was proposed so that we could offer tax cuts to Australians. But once the modelling had been done, it was obvious that it was basically a zero sum net gain. And so if that was the case, we determined that there was no reason to go ahead with it. It is now off the table, as both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have stated. We will not be taking a rise in the GST to the next election. We are now looking at other ways to ensure that we can have economic growth.
QUESTION: Where does that leave Team WA in Canberra fighting for a fairer share of GST?
MINISTER CASH: Oh Team WA, I can assure you, every single day are out there fighting for a greater share of GST for Western Australia. Doesn't always thrill our federal colleagues, but certainly we are a very strong team, the Liberal Senators and the Liberal Members in Canberra!
QUESTION: And just on Labor in WA, three Federal Labor MPs, three resignations, what do you make of that?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely astounding! Three very good members who have decided to leave. And you saw what Gary Gray said yesterday, pretty much he's written off the next election for Shorten and they are well and truly getting out before they lose the election. In saying that, though, we still know what we need to do. We need to be out there every day fighting, showing the people of Australia and in here the people of Western Australia that we have good policies that are going to benefit them, and we certainly know what we need to do and we will be out there every day in the lead-up to the election explaining our policies to the Australian people and seeking their vote.
QUESTION: Senator Cash, on the plans to change the voting measures in the Senate, are you worried that talk of Senate voting reform might hamper chances to get support from the cross-bench to reinstate the ABCC?
MINISTER CASH: Well that is something that you will need to speak to Senator Cormann on, because he's the person looking at voting reform. In relation to the ABCC, I have made the position of this Government very clear: we remain committed to the restoration of the ABCC. There is no doubt that when the laws are not strong enough, and clearly they are not strong enough within the building and construction industry to stop this unlawful behaviour, something needs to be done. This is an industry whereby not just the Heydon Royal Commission but the Cole Royal Commission, Julia Gillard's own person, Mr Wilcox, who looked into the ABCC itself, they all found a need for an independent regulator because of the bullying, the intimidation and the thuggery within the building and construction industry.
This is an industry that employs millions of Australians. We need this industry to grow, and the current state of unlawfulness within this industry; quite frankly, it is a dampener on productivity. And we need to remove that and get some lawful behaviour back into the industry so it can grow for the benefit of all Australians.
QUESTION: Are you concerned by micro parties’ claims to run a marginal seat campaign against the Government if it goes ahead with Senate voting reform?
MINISTER CASH: Again, that is something that you will need to talk to Senator Cormann about. But you know, post the last federal election there was a committee that looked at Senate voting, and the committee has handed down its recommendations. We are considering those recommendations. In terms of my role as the Employment Minister, I know what I need to do. We are committed to the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Industry. We are committed to strengthening legislation or to strengthening regulation in relation to registered organisations. I mean we saw what happened there, in particular, with the Cleanevent and the AWU scandal, and Bill Shorten. That type of behaviour I think is absolutely abhorrent to all Australians and needs to be stopped. This Government is going to put an end to those types of dodgy deals, which do nothing to benefit our employees. And also at the moment you'd be aware that we are consulting on the Productivity Commission review.
QUESTION: But as a Senator, you have to deal with micro parties, do you support I guess the general idea of better measures to better reflect voting intentions in the Senate so you don't have these groups with a very small vote getting in and making decisions that affect the entire country?
MINISTER CASH: The Australian people have the Senate that they voted for under the system that is currently in place. Again, we have a report from a committee which we are reviewing. But any further questions you would need to take to Senator Cormann as the Minister responsible.
Thank you all very much.