Interview with Drive, 2GB

Jim Wilson
Latest unemployment data

JIM WILSON: Now, the latest jobless figures are out today. The unemployment rate in September rose from 6.8 to 6.9 per cent. Now, the number of people in work fell by 29,500, with the total number of people out of work above 937,000. But economists have been tipping a worse result. So Michaelia Cash is the Federal Employment Minister, and she's on the line this afternoon. Minister, welcome back to Drive.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you Jim.

JIM WILSON: What do you make of the figures?

MINISTER CASH: Well, the figures released today, as you said, showed that employment fell by 29,500 in September. However, the decline in employment in September was due entirely to a 35,500 fall in Victoria. So, unfortunately, you've got the COVID cases, the ongoing restrictions, they continue to dampen labour market activity, not just in Victoria, but it's a reflection in the figures. In New South Wales, on the other hand, you had an increase in your participation rate. It actually went up quite substantially, 65 per cent to 65.4, and you saw 3300 jobs created, which really says, in New South Wales, you're living with the virus in a COVID-safe economy and the jobs market is responding.

JIM WILSON: Well, interestingly, I thought with the lockdown, Victoria would have the worst figures, but in fact Queensland did.

MINISTER CASH: When you say the worst figures, you mean in terms of the unemployment rate at 7.7 per cent?

JIM WILSON: [Talks over] Correct. Correct. Yeah, that’s right.

MINISTER CASH: Yeah. Absolutely.  They did. But in saying that, in Queensland, what you did see was a rise in employment over the month ,of 32,200. And you actually also saw a jump in- actually there was a decrease in the participation rate in Queensland, which is a little unusual. But look, the fall in employment and the rise in unemployment, is due entirely to 35,5000 jobs gone in Victoria. And again what it shows is COVID-19 cases, ongoing restrictions, they continue to dampen labour market activity.

JIM WILSON: Okay. So, what are the messages here, in particular for Queensland and Victoria, with those numbers as far as learning to live with the virus, as you alluded to as what’s happening in New South Wales? What’s the message for the Palaszczuk Government? Is it a concern ahead of the state election? And also the message for Daniel Andrews in Victoria?

MINISTER CASH: Well, in terms of Daniel Andrews, look at the number of cases in New South Wales, and the similarity in relation to the number of cases in Victoria. Then look at jobs created in New South Wales this month. Jobs continue to be lost in Victoria. There were jobs lost last month as well. New South Wales people, New South Wales businesses, open, minimal restrictions. Victoria absolute lockdown, devastating for businesses and Victorians. And what does it come down to? Testing, tracking, tracing. And without a doubt, Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales has got it right. And I wish my own home state of Western Australia and the McGowan Government, would have a bit of a look at what's gone on in New South Wales, because what we have in WA is a had border closure equals a COVID-safe economy. And Jim, as you know, that is far from it. We are living with the virus until there’s a vaccine, and that is why when you look at what you guys are doing in New South Wales, you're doing just that. You are living in a COVID-safe economy.

JIM WILSON: Well these other states are going to have to look to learn to live with the virus. That's the bottom line here.

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. And the Commonwealth Government has been very clear on that. The virus is with us until we get a vaccine. And until we get a vaccine, you need to live in that COVID-safe manner. In Victoria, you're not going to see any jobs growth. You're only going to see job losses as long as Daniel Andrews continues to impose the restrictions that he does. What you’ve seen in Queensland, it is improving as it opens its borders. So you have that direct correlation: you ease restrictions, businesses re-open, people go back to work.

JIM WILSON: Okay. The Government has wound back JobKeeper this month and will wind it back again in January. What impact are you expecting that to have?

MINISTER CASH: Well, look, you would have seen the Budget last Tuesday night, under our plan, the economy is forecast to grow, I think it’s by 4.5 per cent next calendar year. Unemployment is expected to peak now at 8 per cent at the end of this year. And if you recall, Jim, at the beginning of COVID-19, Treasury were actually estimating unemployment could peak at 15 per cent, but because of the measures that the Morrison Government has put in place, it is now expected to peak at around 8 per cent in December. And then with our projection, it's expected to fall to around 6.5 per cent by the June quarter at 2022. So in terms of our projections, peaks at 8 per cent in December, and then starts to progressively fall until June 2022, where we expect to see it at around 6.5 percent.

JIM WILSON: Before I let you go, Minister, if we're still dealing with this health crisis – it looks like we will come March when JobKeeper is due to end – surely, in some capacity, it has to continue, in some form.

MINISTER CASH: Well, I think the Government has made it very, very clear, we are now looking at obviously that next phase of support, and we’ve put in place the JobMaker Plan, the $74 billion, and in particular the JobMaker hiring credit, but also the work that I'm doing, the 100,000 new apprentices and trainees that we're looking to take on. The fact that last Tuesday night, we announced tax cuts for 11 million Australians. We’ve brought forward stage two of our tax cuts, and we legislated that on Friday night. So well and truly, we have a plan to get us through COVID and then emerge stronger on the other side. But I think what we've also shown, as a Government, we monitor this situation very, very carefully, and as the circumstances change, we will adjust our policy settings accordingly.

JIM WILSON: Minister, as always, thanks for your time this afternoon.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you Jim.

JIM WILSON: That's Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.