Unemployment at a four-year low but what about wages?

Ross Greenwood speaks to the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, about the latest unemployment numbers.

Introduction: Unemployment at a four year low

Ross Greenwood:  Well, Australia’s unemployment rate today has seen an astonishing turn around over the last period of time. Right now, the Australian unemployment rate is at a four year low. It’s five and a half percent in September. Better than expectations, but not only that, it’s the number of jobs that have been created over the past 12 months. Around 335,000 jobs have been created.

Now, you might sit there and say, “Oh, yes. People can’t get enough work.” Well, actually, of those jobs 271,000 are full-time jobs, since September last year. Now, this quite clear is good news. The bad news, if there’s bad news out there, is that your wages still aren’t growing. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the capacity in the employment market is being taken up. The second part about this that is really encouraging to me, when I look at this, is that female participation in the workplace is at an all-time high.

Now, I would suggest that’s partly because of very high house prices, mortgages taken on by families, which really is compelling more families to have two incomes into those families, to afford their mortgages. Let’s now go to the Minister for employment, Michaelia Cash, who is on the line right now. Michaelia, as always, we appreciate your time.

Interview With: Michaelia Cash, Employment Minister

 Michaelia Cash: It’s fantastic to be with you Ross, and good afternoon to your listeners.

 Ross Greenwood:  Okay, first up, I want to get a reaction from New Zealand. When Winston Peters just a short time ago said that he would endorse the Labor Party of New Zealand, and also Jacinda Arden, as the new prime minister there, what was your reaction?

 Michaelia Cash:  Well, my reaction was that history shows that unfortunately, the last time the Labor, Greens and Independents formed government, it didn’t end well. Obviously, it is a decision for the New Zealand people, but certainly, I would say that Bill English and John Key did an absolutely outstanding job in turning New Zealand around.

 Ross Greenwood:  Okay, let’s come back to Australia now. These labor force numbers, quite clearly, they are strong. There is no doubt about that, you can see the jobs coming. The question is, are the jobs coming in the right place? Are families actually getting the benefit of those jobs?

 Michaelia Cash:  Look, and in relation to the jobs figures, obviously the government is very pleased that we now have a record number of people in employment, and as you’ve also said, a record number of females in employment. In terms of jobs growth, it is 3.1% over the year, and that’s well above the decade average rate, Ross, of 1.6%. In terms of jobs growth and full-time employment, we’ve had in the last year alone, 315,900 jobs for full-time.

Can I just give you the comparative figure though, because this is really interesting. In the last 12 months of the former Labor government, full-time jobs growth went backwards by around 23,000. In terms of the policies that are creating jobs and certainly creating full-time jobs, I think the trends are now in.

 Ross Greenwood:  All right, so then the next part about this that it’s needed is going to be wages growth, because that’s the key. Today the Parliamentary Budget Office has come out, put out a big report and analysis of our debt, and also of the budget. It says the thing that’s holding back Australia’s journey back into surplus to start to repay down the big national debt, is a lack of wages growth in Australia. Do you believe that that wages growth will ultimately start taking pressures off families?

 Michaelia Cash:  Well, certainly we would now expect employers they have the opportunity they’ve got an economy that is certainly growing stronger. They are now creating full-time jobs. I would say that the next part of the process is for them to look at the economic benefit and to start passing them on to employees.

 Ross Greenwood:  Okay, the other point also is talking about those pressures inside families, as I was before, and talking about the number of women in the workplace. It is important, but there’s no doubt that there are pressures inside families, not only because of near-record low wages growth, but on top of that the mortgages that many families are feeling, electricity and energy prices, your private health insurance premiums rising, these types of things. Do you believe that that is really compelled many families to try and seek those two incomes?

 Michaelia Cash:  Look, certainly I’d say that the government itself has had a real focus ever since we came into office on getting more women into employment, and certainly business itself is very much focused on getting more women into employment. I’d say, one of the policies that we’ve really focused on and certainly, the feedback that I received as I’ve travelled around Australia for many years now, is in relation to childcare.

We have fundamentally turn the childcare system on its head, we’ve made some of the biggest changes to childcare that the system has ever seen. Certainly, that is starting to have a very positive impact on families being able to make the choices they want to make, in relation to participating in the workplace, as opposed to the changes that they have to make because of structural barriers that still exist.

Life is also expensive, I’m not going to deny this. You often see now both parents have to work, but then you go back to the policies of the government and certainly, our policies are creating the opportunities for men, for women and for families to make those decisions, that if one or both want to work the jobs are there, so that they can.

 Ross Greenwood:  Okay, just one other thing, and of course the issue of the CFMEU and its power has been something that’s been in your focus since you’ve been the minister in this particular area. Today, it’s been fined more than $300,000 after it was found to be liable for the conduct of the former state president Dave Hanna. Now, this is in regards to a threat by Hanna at the Broadway on a construction site in February 2015, when he basically stuck his middle finger up when he was asked for a permit saying, “I can do what I like.”

Then sprayed water at an employee filming him on a mobile phone, and shouted, “Take that phone away or I’ll bury it down your throat.” It was said today that the CFMEU was liable for the conduct of its former employee.

 Michaelia Cash:  The CFMEU, yet again have been shown to have complete total and utter contempt for the law, but what is worse than that is– These are people who are intimidating and bullying normal people who just want to go to work. Ross, in any other workplace in Australia this would be condemned outright, but because the CFMEU have the 110% backing of the Australian Labor Party and Bill Shorten, they can quite literally get away with blue murder.

I have to say, if a labor were ever to be elected to office– Brendan O’Connor has made it very clear. They’re getting rid of the ABC seat and they are going to reduce the penalties that the coalition is putting in place. Basically, what he’s saying is “We condone the behaviour of the CFMEU because the policies they’re going to put in place are certainly going to do that.”

 Ross Greenwood:  Just a final one for you, in regards to New Zealand. Do you imagine that after the next election here in Australia, that the Independent are members of the House of Representatives and we’re talking here Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter, to a certain extent, and others could find themselves in the same position as Winston Peters, having to determine who will be the next prime minister of Australia?

 Michaelia Cash:  Well, I would certainly hope the in particular, based on the record numbers of jobs that we’re seeing the economy now create, Australians know they have a government that is absolutely committed to them, we are committed to growing the economy, because when you grow the economy and you stimulate business, you create jobs. And that’s what we want for all Australians. The jobs of today, the jobs of tomorrow, let’s keep Australians working and certainly based on the statistics that we’ve seen today you’ve got a government that’s implementing policies that are doing exactly that.

 Ross Greenwood:  The only problem is a bit like wages growth, the actual poll results have been a bit slow for the government.

 Michaelia Cash:  When I’m out there talking to people, do you know what they say to me they say, “My job, my job, my job.” When you look at what this government is delivering in relation to jobs, and in particular in relation to the creation of full-time employment over the last 12 months, we have now seen 371,500 jobs created since we came to power. Almost 850,000 jobs– It’s 825,000 jobs have been created.

Certainly, when you compare that to the former Labor government, job creation under this government, in the last 12 months, is now outstripping job creation under the former Labor government in excess of four jobs to one. That’s what matters to the Australian people, a government that is going to ensure that ultimately they’re putting in place the right policies to allow job creation.

 Ross Greenwood:  Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, as always, we appreciate your time.

 Michaelia Cash:  Fantastic to be with you, Ross.

Quicklinks to similar interviews

19-10-2017 Interviewed  Michaelia Cash, Employment Minister titled ” Unemployment at a four-year low but what about wages? .”

16-08-2017 Interviewed  Paul Dales, Chief Australian and New Zealand economist for Capital Economics titled ” Household real wages aren’t rising .”

20-07-2017 Interviewed  Andrew Ticehurst,   Nomura Australia rate strategist   titled ” Do the employment numbers point to an improving economy? .”

05-07-2017 Interviewed  John Barilaro, Deputy Premier of New South Wales titled ” Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro: Youth Employment is one of my top priorities .”

03-07-2017 Interviewed  Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment titled ” Employment – Real jobs or slavery? .”

29-05-2017 Interviewed  Bernard Salt, Demographer titled ” Will your job be there in 10 years? Bernard Salt .”

18-05-2017 Interviewed  Besa Deda, Chief Economist St George Bank titled ” Unemployment falls but the only jobs created are part-time .”

18-05-2017 Interviewed  Paul Dales, Chief Australian and New Zealand economist for Capital Economics titled ” Wage growth stalls – Paul Dales Capital Economics .”

13-04-2017 Interviewed  Paul Dales, Chief Economics, Capital Economics titled ” Surge in full-time jobs – Paul Dales .”

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