Source: Australian Ministers for Employment Skills and Small Business
Subject: Sydney Jobs Fair
CHRIS KENNY: For now, I want to cross out to Homebush and catch up with Federal Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash. Thanks for joining us, Minister. You’re out there at a training event, training very important, of course, in the employment sector; but the news we’re getting from the Treasurer today, Josh Frydenberg, your colleague, is that Australians ought to be expecting to be longer into their life and working longer.
MINISTER CASH: I think our reality, Chris, is, as you know, we are actually living longer. Medical technology also means that we’re now able to live longer and live healthier and that, of course, then presents opportunities for people to say, you know, ‘I choose to stay in a workforce for a longer period of time,’ and, as a Government, we need to ensure that we then put in place those opportunities and those programs to up-skill or re-skill you.
In your introduction, you said ‘I’m here today at Homebush, Sydney Olympic Park’. This is a very practical way the Government can connect employers with job seekers. We’ve got almost 3,300 jobs and apprenticeships on offer today and in the first three hours alone, Chris, we have had 3,000 people through the door. We are turning opportunities for work into real outcomes and that’s what I’m all about as the Minister for employment.
CHRIS KENNY: When it comes to extending our working life, I agree, so many people are going to want to work longer of they’ve got the capability to do so. Who wants to be retired for 40 years? You might love your work, but you might not have the financial means to do that. The trouble is there the expectation, though, that people are being expected to work longer, especially if they’re in work that’s physically demanding.
MINISTER CASH: Okay, I don’t think there’s the expectation, I think there’s the reality. We are living longer. Medical technology, advances, etcetera, mean that we can live healthier lives.
So many people are opting to stay in the workforce for longer, so we now need to look at what are those up-skilling and re-skilling opportunities? And certainly, when you look at what technology can now do in the workforce or in the workplace, people who have been in undertaking jobs that are manual labour, technology itself now can transform those roles, you can choose to be in the same industry or, like so many people who’ve come here today who are above the age of 50, they’re actually looking for a career change. They want to be completely retrained into another industry.
A lot of them here today it’s all about the services, in particular, health services and aged care because of the opportunities available and we as a Government need to ensure we have in place those programs that can allow you, at whatever age you choose in fact, to up-skill or re- skill and potentially enter a new career should you choose.
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, you say that you’re not going to force anyone to work longer but, of course, you’re raising the pension age to 67 and the Coalition did have a policy of raising it up to 70. Do you think you need to look at going to 7… eventually or is 67 going to be the peak for the retirement age?
MINISTER CASH: No, I think the Prime Minister has made it very clear today there will be no movement in the retirement age. He’s made that very, very clear. But, again, so many more people are choosing to stay in the workforce for longer because we are living longer, we’re living healthier. People understand the benefits of work and, in particular, having that reason to get out of bed every day.
Talking to so many people here today, the social interaction that it provides and, as a Government, we do have, as you know, in excess of $585 million invested in our skills package. I have my Commonwealth Skills Ministers’ meeting in Brisbane this Friday; we’ve got the National Training Awards in Brisbane on Thursday night where we will see who is awarded the Apprentice of the Year.
I’m working really well with the States and Territories on looking at how we can really improve our skills and training system in Australia so that we are meeting the demands of industry so we’ve got a really positive story to tell for people who want to stay in the workforce and want to stay in longer.
CHRIS KENNY: I mean, it’s great that people can get training and retrained and look at updating their skills. You’ve got a big job, though, to convince a lot of employers to take older Australians. They often say they don’t get a decent look-in when applying for jobs. Just on that, though, we saw the jobs market shrink in the last statistics. You still concerned about wage growth not being as strong as everyone would like to see. To what extent are our higher levels of immigration impacting on this, keeping wages low and preventing people from actually taking advantage of a tighter jobs market?
MINISTER CASH: Look, the jobs figures from last week were off the back of, as you know, record job creation over I think it is now 16 months. The number of jobs that have been created in the last year alone, 250,000. The majority of them are actually full-time jobs. We have near record participation in the Australian workforce. Australians out there putting up their hands and saying, ‘I am ready, I am willing and I am able to participate.’
Just look behind me today. Almost 3,000 people through the door in three hours and the people who are here today, they want to work. Our job as a government, though, is to ensure that we put in place the right framework so that employers can continue, prosper, grow, create more jobs for Australians and that’s why we are so heavily invested in our Defence Force capability. We are so heavily invested in our infrastructure investment and just a few days ago we saw the Prime Minister in South Australia talking with the South Australian Premier, Premier Marshall, about what infrastructure projects we can bring on even earlier. So, as a Government, we are committed to putting in place the right policies, whether they are policies to ensure that the economy is able to create jobs or, alternatively, policies that ensure that Australians, regardless of your age, have the skills that employers are telling us they need.
Just in terms of the age issue, as you raised, can I tell you the employers I talk to, you know, many of them are older people. They understand the benefits of having wisdom and having experience in the workforce and we do a lot of work with Kay Patterson as the Aged Care Commissioner, formerly, in terms of the BCA to ensure that we do educate employers as to the benefits of having older people in the work force.
CHRIS KENNY: But just on the question there, Minister, and that is the interaction of immigration with the jobs market and a lot of people feeling that the reason we’re not getting jobs… wages growth, sorry, wages growth, is the high level of immigration. What’s your read on that?
MINISTER CASH: Well, as you know, the Government actually lowered the immigration number. We’ve done that. We changed the 457 system. We’ve done that. But employers do need people to undertake jobs. Where you don’t have a person, who is able to undertake a job, you do need to be able to bring in a person and, in particular, a skilled person because of the value that they can then add to your business, the job is able to be done but also it is the training opportunities for others in the workplace to up-skill from that person who has been brought in.
And in relation to wages growth, you would have heard our Minister for Finance say the Prime Minister on a number occasions now, wages are growing in Australia. They are well and truly above inflation. The issue is they’re not growing as fast as we would like and as a government we acknowledge that so what do we then have to do as a government? You need to look at other ways that you can actually put money in Australians’ back pocket and that is why as a government we are committed to tax cuts. Tax cuts for the Australian people. Because we believe it’s in our DNA. The Australian people know what is best for their income and that is why we are committed to giving them more of their hard-earned money.
CHRIS KENNY: Michaelia Cash, thanks so much for joining us.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks for coming down here today, Chris. Really appreciate it.