Melbourne press conference on July labour force figures; Victorian Government’s TAFE cuts; Qantas
- Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation
BILL SHORTEN: One of the reasons why we’re here at this motor vehicle services business, this mechanic’s workshop, is to discuss the labour force numbers which have been released today for Australia, for this month.
The unemployment rate has fallen slightly to 5.2 per cent. The numbers are probably a little better than expected.
It shows that Australia, despite the difficulties in the global climate, Australia and Australians are hanging in there in the world economy. It’s not just in London at the Olympics that Australians are fighting to do their best. We’re seeing that in the unemployment numbers.
The news out there in the economy is mixed – unequivocally mixed news. Mining is doing well, other sectors are doing well and some sectors are doing hard. Within particular industry sectors some businesses are doing well, and other stories have got a fall in revenue.
So it’s a mixed bag, but the Australian economy in terms of employment is operating at a more resilient level, I think, than some in the market expected.
When you compare Australian unemployment numbers to those oversees, in North America – the United States unemployment is 8.3 per cent, in the Euro zone it’s 11.2 per cent. In Australia, 5.2 per cent. The participation rate is steady; we’re seeing more people work in part-time employment than we’ve ever seen in Australia’s history before. There’ve been 810,000 new jobs created since the global financial crisis hit.
But on balance it’s mixed news. The news is slightly better than I think the markets were predicting.
I think the other story in all of this, though, is the strength of the services sector within the Australian economy. Hats off to the mining sector and the new jobs that have been created there, but what is also remarkable is that a lot of the new jobs that have been created in the last 12 months, and indeed the last four-and-a-half years – which have helped keep Australia afloat – have in the silent revolution of the services sector.
We are seeing a long-term change in the way Australians do business. We are seeing a gradual change from Australians purchasing goods as a proportion of their total spend, relative to services they’re buying. What we’re seeing now is Australians compared to five years ago are buying a lot more services than they are goods. We think this is a long-term trend, but Australia’s small and medium sized enterprises across a whole range of areas from health care to financial services to education to aged care, to small business like this which retain family values, we see that there’s some good news in amongst the gloom.
I might just ask my colleague Ben Carroll to give a perspective on the unemployment numbers and some of the implications for Victoria.
BEN CARROLL: Thanks Bill. The employment figures are welcome today. What the employment figures do show is the importance of education, particularly post-compulsory education. And under the current Baillieu Government we’ve had $290 million ripped out of the TAFE system, and before that we had $48 million ripped from the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.
These are two critical post-compulsory pathways for young people to get into businesses like Maccora Motors, to become an apprentice or to become a plumber and to become an electrician.
I think it’s critical that education is invested in Victoria to keep employment growth strong, and I’d like to see more investment in education – in particular out in the north-west where we are today. We have the Kangan Batman TAFE and we also have Victoria University. Both of those institutes have had to cut their TAFE courses and cut their funding.
So I think it’s important that education, which is what the employment figures show today – particularly post-compulsory education – needs to be invested in and not cut.
BILL SHORTEN: I might also just invite Sal to make a few comments just about his business, and thank him yet again for providing the opportunity to talk about the employment numbers.
SAL: Just in regard to business and everything else, business with us has always been pretty busy. Being a family run business, we know all our customers on a name to name basis. So it’s always pretty consistent. Always new customers coming through with recommendations from our customers and that type of thing. But good to keep it in the local area, customers in the local area do look at us as a number one repair shop.
BILL SHORTEN: Sal was saying one of the things which is important to him in a family operated small business, is the ability to get apprentices, they’re looking to put on an apprentice, very hard to find apprentices which does seem to contradict the strategy of state conservative governments, who some are bizarrely trying to wind back the training dollars, when what we need is people moving into new industries and moving into service industries.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What did you think about Jeff Kennett’s comments that the car industry was not worth propping up with [inaudible]?
BILL SHORTEN: I think Mr Kennett’s going into some sort of withdrawal symptoms, having been premier. I think he’s frustrated by the pace of change by his Liberal successors in the current State Government. Mr Kennett is not right to abandon the car industry.
The automotive industry is important in Australia. It generates real jobs. It generates not just jobs at the big car plants but generates the seven jobs which work at Macorra Motors. There’s many suburbs across the industrial belt of Melbourne who have these sort of mechanic shops providing contemporary up to date diagnostics and scanning, who are capable of dealing with the latest European motor vehicles. I think we need to be very careful to engage in a Conservative trap of constantly trash talking the Victorian industry, trash talking Australian manufacturing. No one needs to hear from Jeff Kennett that the times are tough. What we’d rather hear is positive creative optimistic solutions, not just some sort of negative sour rant.
JOURNALIST: Federal funding for some big projects [inaudible] regional rail link there’s really nothing on the drawing board is there?
BILL SHORTEN: The national Government has spent more on rail across Australia than our predecessors ever did, something in the order of ten times has been spent on rail. Regional rail still has a fair way to go, that is a significant project, we’re also seeing Brendan, I have to say, the widening of the Western Ring Road, which is terribly important to all of us who live in the west and north of Melbourne. We’ve committed to spend billions of dollars and that process is underway as anyone who drives on the Western Ring Road knows with the road works that are there. So we are getting on with the job, there is no doubt about that and we’re investing in the Western Ring Road, the Regional Rail network. I think what we need to see is positive talk from our opponents not just phony promises. They’ve got to explain where the money will come from because infrastructure generates jobs. Melbourne is the largest port in Australia. We are the largest sources of imports across any port in Australia and we are a net exporter to the rest of Australia. What that means is where good at logistics and freight and transport and roads and rail. Only the Gillard Government is proposing clear costed plans on maintaining Melbourne’s advantage as the preeminent port, logistics hub.
JOURNALIST: Will Federal Labor support the proposed east west freeway tunnel?
BILL SHORTEN: We’ve got a number of priorities, that’s not our top priority. I have to say though that one drilling machine in Collingwood does not make a tunnel. And hats off to the marketing people at the Victorian State Government who hire a drill rig – I don’t know if they got it off some TV set - but that’s the tiniest portion of a tunnel construction. It’s a $10 billion dollar project. In Canberra, the Conservatives have said they’d pay for 15 per cent of the tunnel. I think that there’s a fair bit of smoke and mirrors in that proposition. I certainly don’t see the case for building of the Doncaster railway when we don’t even have a light railway to the airport, and I think if the Victorians wanted to seriously get the attention of the Federal Government what they should do is put their money where their mouth is and put that money into the east–west tunnel rather than hiring a few stunt-doubles and a drill rig to plant at the Collingwood off-ramp of the Eastern freeway.
JOURNALIST: What do you have to say to Tony Abbott [inaudible] ... the job losses [inaudible] ... carbon tax?
BILL SHORTEN: Well Mr Abbott’s got himself in a bit of a contradiction. If you say that all job losses are caused by the carbon tax then how does he explain an increase in job numbers? Listen I think that what’s important is that politicians in Australia across the political spectrum have got to stop trash-talking the Australian economy. What small business want in Airport West, and they want it in Bankstown, and they want it in Rocklea in Brisbane, and they want it in Elizabeth in Adelaide, and they want it on the Kwinana strip in Perth – what small business want is a sense of confidence and positive direction and a bit of vision for this country. Labor stands for manufacturing; Labor stands for 810,000 new positions since the Global Financial Crisis; we’re the ones who are making sure that taxes get spent on training our young people and indeed our adults. The Opposition have to explain how they cost their promises because it’s one thing just to say we’re not the other side, but as I think state governments are finding you can say anything to get into power but actually running a Government – that’s a serious day job – and I don’t see that there are results at state level across Australia with the Conservative governments. And I think the Federal Opposition, they are a worry, because they can’t explain how to pay for things, they just arrogantly assume they’re going to win the next election, and they’ll say don’t bother us with our policies, give us a ring after the election.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible] job losses at Qantas, across engineering and maintenance, any comments on that at all?
BILL SHORTEN: The job losses flagged by Qantas yesterday are disappointing. A lot of people who live in this part of Melbourne work in aviation maintenance. Qantas has prided itself on the quality of its maintenance performance over many years. We accept that Qantas is doing it hard on its global routes; we accept that there are lots of economic challenges; but I certainly hope that the people running Qantas are not making short-term decisions based around the next 12 months of share market reporting and in doing so scrapping needlessly thousands of skilled jobs which one day as business takes off again we will need here rather than exporting our maintenance overseas.
JOURNALIST: Given that their competitors get to do maintenance overseas though, aren’t you putting unfair pressure on Qantas?
BILL SHORTEN: Qantas is an Australian brand, it has Australian values. Qantas has got a proud tradition of being a very big employer of Australians. I think Australians, one of the reasons I like Qantas is because of its strong Australian identity. Now that Australian identity remains, but I also think that people expect and hope that Qantas will respect its Australian workforce. It doesn’t matter if they’re pilots, flight attendants, licensed engineers, maintenance workers, the people at the checkout, or the ticket collection, or indeed the people cleaning up in Qantas, all of them, what makes Qantas a strong Australian brand is its Australian identity, and with that Australian identity comes a responsibility to have a practice of employing people in Australia, which Qantas do.
JOURNALIST: [inaudible]...your concerns about the safety, if they are swallowed by minors, and teenagers?
BILL SHORTEN: A family friend of mine, and her son had to go to hospital. Little magnets, which are very powerful of course, are invaluable in science, they’re invaluable perhaps, in adult toys, but the children’s wards across Australia too many cases of children ingesting little metal magnets and if you get two of them ingested they can rip through the tissue of your body. It’s been a major scandal and issue in North America. You can’t ban these products I don’t believe but I do think we need to have better warnings, so children are not ripped apart by these magnets inside their bodies, so better warnings are necessary so that more parents don’t spend sleepless days and nights at children’s hospitals around Australia because of unsafe toys, poorly marketed.
JOURNALIST: So the Federal Government can’t ban the import but states, through their consumer laws can have [inaudible]?
BILL SHORTEN: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission can do something about this. As can state laws. One thing that governments should do, no matter what the politics, is protect children. There are dangerous adult toys which kids are getting. And just the argument that we should change children’s behaviour, doesn’t get the point. Children are children and will act like children, we’ve got to make sure that there’s better safety for kids and adults, and parents, from these dangerous magnets.