Transcript – press conference, Melbourne
TONY BURKE MP, MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS, MINISTER FOR THE ARTS: Hi, everyone. First of all, I’ve come today straight to here from Simon Crean’s funeral. And just before I start on the employment figures, I’ll just mention what a giant of Australian politics and for Australian working people, the life of Simon Crean represented. In most of the portfolios I’ve represented in Australia when I was Minister for Agriculture, as Minister for the Arts, as Minister for Employment, as Minister for Workplace Relations, everywhere I go, the footsteps of Simon Crean have been there beforehand. He was truly a great Australian and working people throughout this country, people in every region of Australia, and certainly our arts workers as well, are all in a better country and having better careers because of the strong legacy of Simon Crean.
Today we’re announcing some wonderful, wonderful jobs figures, and we are now millimetres shy of half a million new jobs since this Government came to office. The official figure now that we’ve got 13 months of data is 498,300 new jobs. And what’s extraordinary of that nearly half a million new jobs in the time that we’ve been in office, is that 85 per cent of them have been full-time jobs. 85 per cent of nearly half a million jobs have been full-time. Added to that, female full-time jobs alone are 54 per cent of the growth in jobs [in the past 12 months]. What does that mean? It means when you have a government that is committed to creating more jobs, but making sure we believe those jobs should be secure, believe those jobs should be better paid, and believe that women should be able to get a better deal in the workplace through pay equity, you end up with more women going to work and being able to find themselves in full-time work where that’s what they want.
We’ve made sure that we have workplace relations systems now, that provides security where it’s wanted and flexibility where it’s needed. We are now seeing that change the lives of people being able to get full-time work in Australia, where that’s what they want and that’s what they require for their lives.
If you go state by state, the only other – the participation rates remain steady. The other figure that’s of interest to the people of NSW – in the whole history of these figures, since 1978 when the monthly series started, this is the first time the unemployment rate in NSW has had a two in front of it – as being 2.9 per cent. But around the country, they are good results all around and we now have a year and a month of the Albanese Labor Government, and we are just shy of half a million new jobs in that time and 85 per cent of them full-time. Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Burke, do you agree with Michele Bullock’s opinion that the economy would be in a more sustainable position with an employment rate – unemployment rate of around 4.5 per cent? Or are your colleagues in the union movement right, that raising unemployment is not the answer to temporary inflation.
BURKE: There’s some summarising of different positions there that I’m not going into. What I will say is this: as far as the Albanese Labor Government’s concerned, when somebody wants a job and gets a job, that is a success. When you have nearly half a million people, where that’s happened for them, that is life-changing for them. Where people previously – it’s not that long ago we were having the discussion about employment figures, as to what proportion of people we were talking about were only actually getting an hour a week. Here, 85 per cent of the figures are people in full-time work. I’m Australia’s Employment Minister, when someone gets a job, we see that as a success.
JOURNALIST: But do you admit that it could be hampering the fight against inflation or is that not [indistinct]?
BURKE: The Reserve Bank has a particular remit, particular rules that they need to work to. I’ll leave it for them to be able to explain that and to deal with that. As far as the Government’s concerned, we want people to have jobs, we want people to be in work. We also want where people previously wanted more shifts and couldn’t find them, now, increasingly, people who want full-time work are able to find it.
That’s not to say there aren’t people out there who want to work and are still finding it hard because of other barriers that are there in the workforce. Barriers that might be there because of disability, barriers to the workforce that might be there for a range of factors, and the Government is still working to try to make sure that we can get a better deal for those individuals as well.
JOURNALIST: Do you have the same definition of full employment as the ACTU?
BURKE: We work on the basis – for me, I try to make sure that people who want to find work, that we’re removing barriers and getting them into jobs. Today’s figures show that that’s happening and changing lives for people.
JOURNALIST: What do you think these figures show about how hard Australians are working? Many families are doing more hours to try and cope with increased cost of living pressures. Do you think it’s sustainable?
BURKE: Insecure work has been a huge problem for people and the Government’s been talking about that for a long time. The other side of politics believes insecure work is a good thing. If people are working more hours and being able to move to the security of a full-time job – the previous government viewed that as a problem. They always favoured what they would call flexibility, in favour of job security. More Australians now who want job security are finding it, and the Government welcomes that.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that these figures will influence next month’s RBA decision?
BURKE: The RBA will always look at all the data available within its remit. This is one of the many issues that they look at. But let’s not forget, behind all of these statistics is somebody who wanted a job who has now found one, and that makes a huge difference for them.
JOURNALIST: Will the unemployment rate have to start rising to get inflation down?
BURKE: As I say – these figures that we have today have happened at a time that inflation is coming down. That’s what the data’s told us.