Employment Minister Michaelia Cash talks about their internship program in conjunction with the Australian retailers Association
Introduction: real jobs or slavery
Ross Greenwood: First up on Monday News right around Australia, the scheme today which basically comes into an existing policy the government’s got which is called the Prepare-Trial-Hire scheme, the PATH scheme. What this does is offers young job seekers money, if they go out and become effectively interns inside other organizations. This was launched today by the Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash along with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to try and secure up to 10,000 jobs for young people through the Australian Retailers Association. Let’s try and find out exactly what this means: whether those young people, as the unions claim, are being exploited, or whether it genuinely is a pathway to a job in the future. The Minister for Employment is on the line right now. Michaelia Cash, many thanks for your time.
Interview: Michaelia Cash: Minister for Employment
Michaelia Cash: Fantastic to be with you, Ross. Thanks for having me on the show.
Ross: 10000 jobs, how many of those people will keep them once they’ve been through this scheme?
Michaelia Cash: Well, the whole intent of the program is that we would hope that 10,000 do. It was fantastic to announce for the prime minister today that the Australian Retailers Association has pledged to offer 10,000 PATH internships to support our Youth Jobs PATH program which you and I have discussed before. It’s all about getting our youth ready, giving them a go and getting them a job.
Ross: What this does it gives employers a $1,000 upfront payment for taking on these young people, but it also offers the young job seekers $200 a fortnight on top of their current employment benefits. Does it cost the government? Or does it take money away from the government?
Michaelia Cash: The government is actually invested at last year’s budget in this program over the next four years $850 million to get our youth off welfare and into work. It’s a $760 million investment in the Prepare-Trial-Hire program, but I think it’s an absolute investment. Ultimately, it’s a benefit to society because if we can get our youth off welfare and into a job, they stop receiving, no benefit and they become tax paying citizens with all the benefits associated with work.
Ross: Doesn’t it go back to the whole point as to how many of them ultimately when they come through this, the employers obviously take them on. They’re going to take a look. Some are going to get thrown back in the pond. Some are going to be taken on. Of course, there’s already the current situation that many people are looking at saying, “82 people or 15% of those in the current internship vacancies has advertised have actually got permanent jobs”, so it’s only about 15% of people. Now, is there really 10,000 jobs there, or are there 15,000 jobs there?
Michaelia Cash: What the program is, is the government’s funded up to 30,000 internships each year for four years so a 120,000 internships. The program, for the benefit of your listeners, only commenced 12 weeks ago. Many of our youth are still completing their internships. But in the very short period of time that the program has been up and running, we’ve already had 1,235 unique internship vacancies have been advertised. That’s fantastic. In the very short time that the internships have been available, we’ve already had 82 young people get off welfare and into a job, but many of them are still obviously completing the internships.
I’m just delighted that to date in the very short time the program has been up and running, we’ve already had 82 young people get off welfare and into a job. With the announcement today over the next four years of 10,000 PATH internships and with the funding that the government’s providing every year to fund 30,000 internships, I hope that it only goes from bigger and better things because when we say as a government the best form of welfare is a job, we really do mean it.
Ross: I genuinely agree with that, but the question is if you’ve got a 120,000 internships over the next four years and you’ve got 10,000 jobs. These 10,000 jobs are real jobs. I do understand that. That’s about one in twelve. That’s about 8 1/2% of those who do it. Is that a bit right?
Michaelia Cash: Yes. We’ve already had commitments also from other associations which we announced during the election. For example, the Motor Trades Association, they came on board and pledged 5,000 internships. The Australian Hotels Association, they came on board and pledged another 5,000 internships. Small businesses, as you can see, 12 weeks the program has already been up and running, and the majority of the 1,235 unique internships have been offered by small businesses.
Certainly the program is now starting to ramp up. It was always going to be that slow start because people have to know the program’s here. I’m really excited that we’re now starting to get them really large pledges from an associations which is fantastic.
Ross: We should also explain to people that you’ve got the Australian Retailers Association here, which is good. It generally represents smaller retailers, not the giant retailers which is the Australian National Retailers Association, which as calls were expanding to have Norman and all the rest of them. Is there any push to try and get them on? Because if they come on board, there’s potentially many more tens of thousands of internships that could be put out there.
Michaelia Cash: Absolutely. I’m happy to have any conversation we can with Mark Brodie. You are right; he’s head of the National Retailers Association. The announcement today was with the Australian Retailers Association and Russell Zimmerman, the smaller end of the market, the small and medium. I’ve always said we would love to work with any employer, big or small, who wants to put their hand up and say, “We would love to give a young person who’s on welfare an internship and a job”. That’s what we are looking for.
Ross: Today, Jude Carney has come out and said that, “This is akin to slavery”. That say, for example, Bakers Delight a quarter are paying workers as little as $8 an hour. Under the PATH deal, it’s the employees will be paid $4 an hour which will be paid for by the government but it will also receive a $1000 per PATH worker. Explain to Jude Carney why she’s not right.
Michaelia Cash: I’ve already explained this to get Jude Carney. In the first instance, I’d say to Jude and the Labor and the party, if they’re so opposed to the program, why do they keep on having unpaid interns throughout the Union Movement and Labor party offices. I find that very interesting. They’re prepared to criticize a government program that is not unpaid, but they quite happily put their hands up and take on people in an unpaid capacity through the Union Movement and Labor party offices.
This is all about young people who are looking down that tunnel, Ross, of welfare. This government makes no apologies for putting in place programs that will get them off welfare and into work. As you’ve rightly put out, they continue during the intention to be in receipt of their welfare payments. That does not change. But the government’s also incentivizing them by giving them a $200 per fortnight top up to assist them whilst they’re in the internship. In relation to the $1000 payment, look this is a government that gets business. The closest most Labor people have ever come to a business is to proudly look at closing them down. Quite frankly, that’s shameful.
As a government, we recognize that in particular small and medium businesses, they are going to have cost associated with taking on a young person, and in particular a young person who does not necessarily have the skills that they ultimately require. We made a very conscious decision that we would help defray those costs, and that’s the $1000 upfront payment to business to help them defray the cost of taking someone on. Because after all, this is a partnership. It’s working with business to get them to open up the places to get the young people off welfare and into work.
Ross: Okay Machaelia, it sounds to me like after all the internal reactions over the past little while that the government itself has decided to get back to work. Is that pretty much what’s going on?
Michaelia Cash: Look, very much. I-
Ross: You’ve had a conversation about this. Haven’t you? The whole the cabinet’s got together and said, “Listen, we’re going to put all that stuff with Tony Abbot behind us. We’re going to get on the front foot. We’re going to get out there and start getting back to work ourselves”.
Michaelia Cash: Look, I was in Melbourne last week. I was in my home state of WA last week. I’m in Sydney today. I was in Canberra over the weekend. I’m in Canberra tomorrow. I’m just talking to people about the government’s achievement but also what more we can achieve for the almost 24 million Australians. I was with the prime minister this morning and that was the message he had: we’re a government that, in the last 12 months, we have shown that we can deliver for all Australians. The other conversation I’m having, I’m focused on delivering.
Ross: Employment Minister Machaelia Cash, it was good to have you on the program.
Michaelia Cash: Great to be with you. Thanks for having me.