11 September, 2009
Transcript - 2SM Mornings Program 10:10AM
Julia Gillard with Leon Delaney
(ISSUES: Labour force figures, stimulus package, BER, award modernisation)
LEON DELANEY: Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, good morning.
JULIA GILLARD: Good morning.
LEON DELANEY: How are you today?
JULIA GILLARD: I’m good thanks. I didn’t hear you humming.
LEON DELANEY: Well that’s reassuring to know. Yesterday’s unemployment figures, 5.8 per cent holding steady, in some respect a good result and a little bit of a pleasant surprise but it does hide the darker secret of under employment doesn’t it?
JULIA GILLARD: You’re right Leon, you would have to say by the standards of the world with Australia at 5.8 per cent that shows we are weathering this economic storm well. You look at the United States for example, 9.7 per cent and we are holding steady at 5.8, but there are some troubling signs in these figures. Number one, we have seen the participation rate go down so the number of people who say they are looking for work has decreased and people are therefore being discouraged from looking for work. We’re continuing to see in these figures too, the substitution of full time jobs with part time jobs.
Now in some ways that means that, I think, employers and employees and unions are working together to keep people in part time work rather than losing their jobs all together, but it does mean that people want more work than they are getting now so that’s also a troubling sign in these figures. We have seen the number of part time jobs go to record levels so I think that’s part of the story here of the substitution of part time work for full time work.
LEON DELANEY: If we are seeing so much part time work and a reduction in hours for people in casual positions can we really have that much to be celebratory about? Obviously people will still find it very difficult to make ends meet.
JULIA GILLARD: Well to use a phrase that’s becoming common parlance, I think what it shows is that we are not out of the woods yet.
LEON DELANEY: Not out of the woods yet.
JULIA GILLARD: Look, we have always said that the global recession was going to hit our economy, we needed economic stimulus, we continue to need that economic stimulus and that’s what our school buildings program is all about. Real jobs doing real work building the school buildings we need for the future so we need that to keep rolling out to support jobs in our economy today. But we said to the Australian people as well, even with economic stimulus we are expecting the unemployment rate to go up.
Economists have this term where they say unemployment is a lagging indicator. That means you get a big economic shock like the global recession but it takes some time for it to show in employment and unemployment numbers. We are preparing people for the fact that we expect unemployment to continue to rise. What we do know is it would have been a lot worse without economic stimulus in the form of school buildings and investments in roads and rail and port and of course in the national broadband.
LEON DELANEY: Well the stimulus package is no doubt important but there is still quite considerable suggestion, quite considerable criticism that perhaps it could be better targeted with, not just the Opposition, but now a delegation of QLD mayors, the council of mayors of South East QLD, apparently coming forward and suggesting that it’s all very well to spend money on school halls but they’ve got shovel-ready infrastructure projects of lasting economic benefit including rail and infrastructure projects. Why shouldn’t they be given priority?
JULIA GILLARD: This is a government that has invested, as part of economic stimulus and creating real jobs, protecting and supporting real jobs during the global recession, this is a government which has invested in roads, in rail, in local government infrastructure. My colleague Anthony Albanese has run a major program to work with local governments to build the community infrastructure they have been crying out for and as part of economic stimulus and supporting real jobs we have been there working with every school around the country so that they can get the infrastructure they need. Now I know people are using the terminology school halls…
LEON DELANEY: Well the actual terminology, the Julia Gillard memorial school halls and I’m sure that tickles you quite considerably.
JULIA GILLARD: I know people are using that terminology in a pejorative sense but when I go to schools and I see kids crowded in facilities that were possible new 50 years ago but are in really not very good condition now, when I go to schools where there is no spot in the school where you can bring the whole school together, you can’t have whole school activities, when I got to libraries that look exactly like the library that was in school when I was a schoolgirl, whereas all of the world has changed about libraries through information technology, then I think we have to say to ourselves we can do better by Australian kids in every school and having good facilities makes a difference to learning. It’s part of what matters and of course in our education revolution we are also delivering more resources to combat disadvantage in education, measures to improve teaching, more investments in literacy and numeracy. But whether you end up with a good education, reading and writing, whether you’re ready for work and ready for the rest of your life, things like school libraries, the ability to have whole school activities in school halls, modern classrooms with good facilities all matter.
LEON DELANEY: Was it a little bit cheeky to put signs up outside all those schools which have now been found to be something that would constitute electoral matter?
JULIA GILLARD: Well it’s perfectly standard practice for federal government funds to be acknowledged in construction projects and that’s what the signs are about. If the Australian Electoral Commission thinks that they should be authorised then of course they will be authorised.
LEON DELANEY: Very quickly before you go there is also a question today about aged care nurses in particular suffering potentially significant pay cuts as a result of award modernisation. Now they are not the only ones who have concerns but in their case they’re talking about income losses of up to $295 a week. Is it true that aged care nurses and others could well be disadvantaged by the award modernisation process?
JULIA GILLARD: We’ve got an award modernisation process in train at the moment. It’s happening over two years overseen by the independent umpire, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, so we’re certainly saying to people keep working with the commission to make sure that your modern award is right, and we’re also saying to people that we have legislated - it’s the law of this country - that if a worker at the end of the award modernisation process believes that they have been disadvantaged, they are able to get a take home pay order which will guarantee their take home pay.
What’s this all part of, what’s the broader picture? Well the broader picture is killing Work Choices which meant that people’s pay and conditions could be stripped away perfectly legally and there was absolutely nothing that they could do about it, and its part of making sure that we have an award safety net that is simple and there for the future. It’s not much point having awards if employers pick them up and can’t understand them and employees pick them up and can’t understand them and everybody is confused. We want an awards system where people can find the award that applies to them, read them and understand it and make sure that it’s really living and breathing in their workplace because it’s a document that is able to be picked up and understood.
LEON DELANEY: Nevertheless, it might be seen as having an undeliverable promise, a foolish promise, to suggest that no worker will be disadvantaged and no employer will have to pay more. You can’t satisfy both promises can you?
JULIA GILLARD: Well we said to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission when we started this at the start of last year, look we are going to get rid of Work Choices. That means that people are going to have safety net in work they can rely on. We want that safety net to be a modern one and so we want you, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, to modernise awards with two objectives in mind. We don’t want employees disadvantaged, we don’t want big cost increases for employers, we are going to make sure there is a full five-year phasing period for changes so this is all sensible and measured in the transition and then we have legislated an extra reassurance for working people through our take home pay orders.
LEON DELANEY: So they’re objectives now but they were originally promises weren’t they?
JULIA GILLARD: They were always objectives of the award modernisation process and then the law guarantees through the take home pay orders that people have got an ability, if they that think there is a problem, to approach the industrial umpire and get a take home pay order.
LEON DELANEY: Thanks very much for your time today.
JULIA GILLARD: Thank you.
LEON DELANEY: Thanks very much. Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for employment and industrial relations.