Interview with Monique Wright, Weekend Sunrise

Monique Wright
Interview discusses pensioner workers; increased migrant capacity; women’s representation at the Jobs and Skills Summit

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Well, Anthony Albanese's two-day jobs summit has ended with pensioners to be allowed to work more hours without it affecting their regular government payments. They'll be able to earn an extra $4000. More on that with the Industry Minister in just a moment. But other big-ticket solutions include an increase in migration, up to 35,000. There'll be an extra 180,000 free TAFE places, and commitments for women, Indigenous and disabled workers.

But today, there is story after story on the Jobs Summit, criticising it as a talkfest where unions flexed their muscle, and groups representing employers sat on the sidelines, wondering if the bad old days of workplace disputes were making a return. Well let's bring in Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic, who is in his Western Sydney electorate this morning. Good morning to you, Minister. Thanks for being with us. First of all, let's start with the criticism that was just a talkfest and the unions have got their mojo back. Do those criticisms trouble you?

ED HUSIC: We haven't seen, for some time, people being brought together in a spirit of cooperation to deal with the big issues that face the country and I think what the PM wanted to do was just that. Bring people together to talk about how to build a healthier economy, stronger businesses, more secure jobs and better pay. And I think a lot of people remarked at the summit about the spirit that was there, the goodwill that was being put to dealing with some of these issues and they are really important issues that we want to see fixed, dealt with if we want the country to be better into the future.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: But we also haven't seen as much industrial action as we're seeing at the moment. How much are the unions really governing things at the moment?

ED HUSIC: I think if you look at industrial action, it's at historic lows. I think the other thing that has been at historic lows is wage growth. People having to hold countless -- having to go from job to job, holding more jobs per person in some cases just to make ends meet, and that's not the Australia we grew up with and we certainly -- not the one that we expect longer term that should happen. We want to have secure jobs, good pay, strong businesses. That's what we've really got to press for, and by working together we'll get that.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Of course, we want that. It is great to see everybody together. However, when you go through the detail, this announcement that pensioners are going to be able to earn an extra $4000, it's about $76 a week or three hours’ worth of work maximum. That's really not going to fill many vacant positions, is it?

ED HUSIC: I think there are a number of things that need to happen, one of which is to be able to have people that are about to retire, maybe work a little bit more and work with younger workers that are coming onto the job and needing to learn skills and be able to draw off that experience of older workers. So, it gives older workers the ability to transition, and that is, you know, get ready for retirement and after many years of working and contributing to the economy. But also, to make sure younger workers get the benefit of that experience. So, it's finding the balance.


ED HUSIC: We need to be able to train people up in different ways.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Okay, so you're thinking that it's not necessarily going to solve the crisis but they'll be there in a mentoring and a teaching role, as well as being able to do a tiny bit more work. Okay, let's talk about the 35,000 extra migrants, which again, sounds good. But will there be additional housing and services to cater for them? Because, Minister, we have got a housing crisis, a hospital crisis. So, are our infrastructure and services likely to keep up?

ED HUSIC: And that's why we made an announcement to be able to work, in particular, with super funds to help them invest in providing more housing. We've already got plans as a government to bring in more social and affordable homes and need to work with the states and territories to make that happen. So, again, that is another outcome of the Jobs and Skills Summit, another outcome of working together to be able to make that happen. And you are right. We need to make sure those homes are there, the infrastructure is there, and we've got to be able to work with states to make sure that infrastructure comes online when people need it. I'm in Western Sydney, and that's been a big issue of concern for people out here, states not keeping pace with growth.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Okay, so your colleague, Senator Katy Gallagher, said that women nailed it at the summit. How will we really see real action for women?

ED HUSIC: I think, importantly having, as what Katy Gallagher said yesterday, and reflected on, the number of women that were present at the summit. You know, back in 1983 when a similar thing [National Economic Summit] was held, there was just one woman. Over the last two days women had 50% of the representation there -- women putting forward the need for improved workplace participation, making sure, too, it's easier across things like childcare and also ensuring that the breadth of jobs allow for people to have a go and I think that was really important. So, being able to also include, for example, in the tech sector, where there are big skills shortages, Mon, widening the talent pipeline, involving more women, more people from different backgrounds to meet the needs of the tech sector that's growing really big in Australia. And it's also an important part of modern businesses as well having those skills available. So, again, we've been looking broadly at what needs to be done.

MONIQUE WRIGHT: Yep, okay. A way to go there. Great to talk to you. Ed Husic, thanks so much.

ED HUSIC: Thanks for your time.