Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Friday, 12 February 2021
Nadia Mitsopoulos: It's a pretty firm message from the federal government today for young people who are out of work, there are jobs available for you if you're willing to take them. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham says there that many employers are actually crying out for workers and there are opportunities right across the economy. Now, obviously context I think is important here. JobKeeper, remember, will finish up at the end of next month. And the government is trying to argue that now is the right time to do that. And yet in WA, there are still more than 90,000 people unemployed. There are many industries, tourism, obviously the events industries as well. They're all still struggling. So is it as simple as saying get off your backside and take the jobs on offer? I'm particularly keen to hear from you. If you've been trying to hire workers as well, why can't you get the people you need? Senator Simon Birmingham is the Federal Finance Minister who is giving a speech about this very topic later today. Good morning to you,
Simon Birmingham: Minister. Hello, Nadia. Great to be with you.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Thank you for your time. Are you saying that if people can't find a job, they're just being lazy?
Simon Birmingham: No, not at all. And Analia, the points that I'm making today are that our circumstances have changed dramatically from the time 12 months ago when JobKeeper was created and when we put emergency response measures in across the economy, we've ploughed some $250 billion worth of economic support in across the economy. And compared to the rest of the world, that has served us very, very well. And we've now got a position where more than 90 per cent of the jobs that have been lost or where people's hours have gone to zero at the height of the pandemic, they're now back at work. And that's great news. We see employment stats going very strongly. And indeed, the well regarded ANZ Job Vacancies Index shows that we actually have more job vacancies being advertised across Australia now than there were pre pandemic. So it's a change in circumstances. That's why we're taking the next steps in terms of the well foreshadowed end of some of the temporary support. There's plenty of other stimulus activity occurring that we're supporting across the economy. And of course, yes, there are employers who are saying it's hard to fill certain vacancies right now. And so we want to make sure that people know those vacancies are there and think about taking actions to fill them.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Minister these these jobs, these new jobs that are coming online. What sort of industries?
Simon Birmingham: Well, in terms of employers talking about immediate vacancies, there's a mix of those. You're right. Some of them are regional roles. Some of them are more seasonal, but but not all in their nature. Some of them exist in in sectors like mining in the NT and WA, where there are calls for extra people to work in areas like drilling and so on. Some of them exist clearly in agriculture, where regional movement might be required and the government stepped up its $6000 relocation allowance available for people. There's more on top of that available. Should somebody be seeking to move with children or otherwise and a point that I'm making today is that within the JobSeeker cohort, there are a significant number who are single, don't have children, don't have impediments necessarily to work. And so we do want to make sure that they're thinking about those immediate roles, as well as the ongoing growth sectors. We know in areas like aged care and disability services that there are continued pressures for new staff to come into those sectors. And that's why we're also stepping up what we invest in skilling and training to equip people to fill those sorts of emerging jobs too.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: And those people that you single out in your speech, those on JobSeeker who are single have no children and largely, as you said, have no impediments to work. That could be seen as a criticism. Are these people not taking up jobs that they should be. Is that is that your point?
Simon Birmingham: I think what we want is for people to really be thinking about if you're struggling to perhaps find work where you are in the sectors that you're looking at right now to encourage you if you don't have any of those impediments to look more broadly and to look at other regions, to look at other sectors, because there are businesses, employers and parts of the economy who are saying they're finding it tough and the national data is backing that up with that strong growth in terms of jobs, job advertisements out there to.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: But skills or the lack of certain skills will be an impediment for some people. There are there are a lot of these jobs that require certain skills that not all these people that you singled out would necessarily have.
Simon Birmingham: No, that's right. And that's why we are increasing the investment in skills and training and seeking to work with the states on new agreements for how some of those skills and training are delivered. It's also why we're continuing economic support in other areas to the significant subsidies of up to 50 per cent for apprenticeships, a crucial part of ensuring employers have incentives to keep apprentices on, take more apprentices on and provide that skilling and training support.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Ok, we are speaking this morning to Senator Simon Birmingham is the Federal Finance Minister at five minutes to nine. And I'll get to your texts in a moment. But if you want to share your thoughts on this and how hard it is to find a job, I want to know if you are on JobSeeker, if you are single, have no children and largely no impediments to work. Are you working yet? And if not, maybe could you tell me why not. Minister in your speech today? You also say that not every job has or can be saved. Does that mean that if you are still on JobKeeper at the end of next month, it's just bad luck? You'll have to find something else?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it's not a case of bad luck, but we do have to face some of the realities that some parts of the economy will probably change forever out of a pandemic like this. And this is a globally altering event in terms of things like aspects of corporate travel, for example, where businesses have become far more accustomed to using technology for communications rather than necessarily putting people on planes. And while things will come back, they may not come back to the same degree or in the same ways as they did before. And businesses will have to make some difficult decisions in that regard. But other parts of the economy are growing, and that's what we've seen through the different step downs in JobKeeper to date, that even as we have, as we always said we would do, proportionately withdraw, reduce the rate of support, tighten the eligibility for support in terms of some of those unprecedented levels of economic intervention. We've still seen the employment rate continue to grow through those times. And so what we need to do is keep encouraging that innovation across the economy, that growth in other sectors where some businesses may not survive. That's always been the case in point times of transition. We need new ones to come about. And that's why the budget last year didn't just include bringing forward of tax cuts for households to create extra stimulus in the economy, which is putting more than one billion dollars a month extra through households, but also included significant support for businesses to invest in new technology and new capital equipment that can make them more innovative. And indeed, our manufacturing strategy, significant funding committed to that to help to grow and create new jobs as others change.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Okay. But, Minister, there are specific industries which will continue to suffer badly this year, tourism and events, but specifically tourism. Now, what happens when their workers get kicked off JobKeeper? Is it just too bad? Because the Tourism Council of WA says there needs to be something else put in place to assist that industry when JobKeeper ends and there figures out today show that around a third of tourism businesses are still on JobKeeper and will need support beyond the end of March to keep operating, he says, WA's domestic tourism has declined by two point six billion dollars, that's 40 per cent from March to November 2020. How can you keep ignoring those people?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we're certainly not ignoring those people. And the scale of support that has been ploughed in across the economy is it's completely unprecedented.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: But will there be any more? When will there be any more?
Simon Birmingham: Nadia, just to be clear, this year's federal budget deficit is the largest in our peacetime history. So it's the largest share of the economy outside of world wars, one and two. So that's the degree of federal government assistance that we've been putting in.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Okay, I've only got a minute left before the new senator. I'm sorry.
Simon Birmingham: So we are very careful in looking at individual sectors and individual regions where there may be calls for more targeted assistance to see what can be done to back those sectors in? And we're looking carefully at that. I would also encourage the states and territories to look carefully where assistance needs to be really carefully targeted at what more the states and territories who've done a lot less in terms of economic support than the federal government can do in the future.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: Okay. And are you talking and again, we've only got about 30 seconds, but are you talking actively with the tourism industry about more help, financial help?
Simon Birmingham: Our Tourism Minister was within some of the most affected parts of the tourism industry nationally over the last week. And he is actively talking and feeding back to cabinet intelligence from the tourism industry. Clearly, some tourism businesses are actually doing very well out of out of the changed behaviour of people in seeking holidays. But we know that others are doing it quite tough and that's where far more careful. Targeting is is necessary in how we drive growth back into that sector [INDISTINCT] even the broad measures like JobKeeper.
Nadia Mitsopoulos: We'll leave it there. Minister, we're coming up to the news. Thank you so much for your time.