Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2020
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Now you’ve been hearing that criticism that women and older workers have missed out from this Federal Budget early this morning. I did put that criticism to the Federal Finance Minister, WA Senator Mathias Cormann, and I started by asking him whether the Federal Government has with this Budget sent older workers to the back of the job queue?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No, it won’t. This is about providing support to a segment of the population that has been most severely impacted by the economic hit from the Coronavirus pandemic and it’s also the segment of the population, which based on past experience in previous recessions, is most at risk from extended periods on welfare support and a complete lack of capacity to come back into the labour market. Those over the age of 35 will be able to receive training support or retraining support if and as required, to get into a new job, but they by and large overwhelmingly have a track record of performance in the workplace, a connection to the workplace, and will find it easier as the economy recovers to get back into work.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: There is also concern that this JobMaker scheme promotes casual employment rather than full-time employment, most people want full-time work, but given that you only have to supply someone a minimum of 20 hours, there is concern that it might prompt somebody to say, ‘Well I’ll hire three people casually and just give them that minimum 20 hours as opposed to one or two people full time’.
MATHIAS CORMANN: This is about getting people back into work. Clearly on an ongoing basis there are integrity measures in place. So the business that wants to access this subsidy has to demonstrate that their payroll overall is increasing as well as the number of employees in their business is increasing. We are not going to put handcuffs on businesses forever and a day, in terms of what they do in terms of running their business, but the usual workplace relations laws of course will apply in that sort of circumstance.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: There’s been some strong criticism there isn’t enough for women in this Budget. Now lots of big money is going towards construction, to infrastructure, which are typically male dominated industries, $240 million dollars to get women back into work, what does that money do?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, in fact more than $9 billion dollars, a record amount of more than $9 billion dollars in this 2020-21 financial year is committed to support affordable access to childcare. So that is of course what we are focused on. Before this crisis we had the highest level of workforce participation by women on record, the gender pay gap was the smallest it has ever been. We were hit by this pandemic, which hit young people and women disproportionately hard, and as the economy recovers, the opportunities for women and young people are disproportionately better.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Ok, but just on that $240 million, what are the specifics?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Well, that funding goes into providing the appropriate level of preparedness, and indeed the incentives, but in the end it’s going to be businesses…interrupted
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Specifically, what though Minister?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Specifically, individual businesses and individual women will make decisions on what opportunities they want to pursue. That is of course the way it should be. We’re not going to be prescriptive in terms of what career people should pursue, but as I say we are providing record amounts of funding. For example, the Paid Parental Leave work test period will be temporarily extended to 20 months, 600 days, also to ensure that parents whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19 are supported, that women can remain connected to the workforce. We are also investing $50 million in the WomenAtWork Program to help restore and exceed the pre-COVID-19 record levels of women’s workforce participation, including women from diverse backgrounds. There is a further $35.9 million which will be invested into Boosting Female Founders Initiatives to support up to 282 additional start-ups and 4,300 women entrepreneurs. The Government has also announced $14.5 million to extend and expand several existing women in STEM programs, including the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship Grants Program, the Girls in STEM Toolkit and the Women in STEM Ambassador Role.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: The Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is my guest this morning on ABC Radio Perth and WA. The Budget is based, Minister, on the assumption that WA will lift its hard border in April of next year, where did you get that from? Is that a guess on your part, or is that something, information, that you received from the state government, and also you seem to be getting increasingly frustrated that that hard border is still in place. Why?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We do not have clarity from the State Governments on what their objective, predictable criteria are going to be to open state borders, at least towards those jurisdictions that are COVID safe. I’ll tell you why I’m so frustrated. When I hear of a business in Kununurra that has a long track record of servicing people just across the border with the Northern Territory, which is being prevented from selling their products and services into the Northern Territory when the Northern Territory has been in a safer, stronger, better health position when it comes to COVID than Western Australia consistently all the way through, I do get frustrated on behalf of businesses like that that are being prevented from getting into the Northern Territory when there is no good proper public health reasons for that. Of course that’s frustrating, and what I think businesses in that circumstance rightly expect is some indication from the Government that, if zero active cases for months on end, and if zero locally acquired transmission for months on end, that in jurisdictions like the Northern Territory and South Australia is not enough, then what is going to be enough to allow people in Western Australia to enjoy their freedoms, their constitutional freedoms as Australian citizens moving forward? What are going to be the objective, predictable criteria on a pathway out? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: We appreciate your time Minister.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Thank you.