Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer
14 September 2010 - 5 March 2012
Luke Grant Drive Show, MTR
16 February 2012
SUBJECTS: Unemployment figures, leadership, carbon price
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan has told Parliament today the latest employment data means a great start to the year for the Australian economy and I think you'd be a tough marker to disagree. The jobless rate fell to 5.1 per cent in January; 46,300 people have joined the workforce in the month. Even economists had expected unemployment to rise. Mr Swan says it's the largest monthly increase in over 12 months and more Australians are employed now than in any time in our history. It's a good news story for the Government. David Bradbury is the Federal Member for Lindsay and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, he joins us on the line. Parliamentary Secretary, good afternoon.
BRADBURY:Good afternoon Luke, how are you?
I'm well. It's good of you to give us some time. I know it's tough just to say on one month things are fantastic but, as you know, we all hear the news of Qantas jobs today; we've heard about banks and other manufacturers letting people go. With all that bad news, it is a bit of a sigh of relief today, don't you think?
BRADBURY:Look, it certainly is and I acknowledge your point that we need to remember that this is one month's set of figures and we've got to keep things in perspective, but as you said earlier these are really strong figures. If you look at what's occurred here, in the last month we've had the strongest jobs growth in the last 12 months, and that, as you say, takes us to a position where we now have more Australians employed than at any other point in our history.
I think it's challenging for people when they see the high-profile job losses and that's something that can have a negative impact on confidence generally throughout the economy, but it's important to remember that every day in our economy there are some jobs being created and there are some jobs being lost. Now, obviously as a Government we want to create the economic conditions that will encourage as many jobs created and as few being lost, but the overall picture of what is occurring, and this is what comes through in these figures, we are still growing quite strongly and our employment growth is good.
And when you have a look at that against the backdrop of what is happening elsewhere in the world, it is a very good story that we have to tell. To put it in an international perspective, since we came to office we have created over 760,000 jobs in this economy. Now, through that same period, post-GFC, we have seen in the United States that they have lost 6 million jobs. And had they been growing their jobs market in the same fashion as we had, then they would have, rather than losing 6 million jobs, they would have created 15 million. So, it's a dramatic difference.
It is, they're very impressive numbers and you must often want to, in the still of night, rip your hair out when these good news stories about the economy don't get the same attention that, for example, Kevin Rudd v Julia Gillard gets. But let's not spoil a good news day with talk about leadership. We had two Reserve Bank interest rate wind-backs leading into this, do you think there's a bit of that in the results today?
BRADBURY:Look that may well be the case. I think that the important thing for us all to focus on is the strength of the underlying fundamentals of the economy, and I think this is something important for people to look at because it does impact on confidence generally throughout the economy.
The decision that the Reserve Bank took in not reducing interest rates was actually a very strong sign of support and endorsement of the strength of the Australian economy.
So, whilst there are very few people who have a mortgage who would say they don't want to see the Reserve Bank cutting rates, the other side of the picture is that the stronger the economy is, the less need there is for them to cut those rates, so I think that both the Reserve Bank decision and now, following on from that, these jobs figures are really painting a picture of an economy that is starting to grow strongly as the rest of the world continues to improve as well. There are concerns around Europe, certainly some of the jobs data in the United States is also giving us a sense that there's some encouragement so far as to where the global economy is heading.
When you hear about, and there are plenty of experts, firstly, who predicted that the unemployment rate would go up today and, secondly, that the Fair Work Australia system is causing a bit of a lack of flexibility there, and I guess to some extent, looking back to what you would call the bad old days of WorkChoices but some of those experts in industrial relations think there was great flexibility there. Are you concerned that Fair Work Australia will play a role in making employment growth grow in the future? The lack of flexibility that we're hearing about, the lack of productivity, perhaps, that unions are not involved. What's your take on the future of FWA?
BRADBURY:I think you've got to have a look at the evidence and the evidence suggests that since we made changes to the industrial relations laws to make the system fairer, we continue to make jobs at a rate that's not matched by anywhere else in the developed world. So, I think it's a very big call for people to come forward and say the changes to the industrial relations framework have affected our capacity as an economy to grow jobs, because the evidence suggests the contrary.
But, the point that I make is that, the Labor Party, we've always taken the view that it's about getting the balance right on this. We've got to make sure that we have both minimum protections in place for workers so that people can earn a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, but at the same time we want to make sure that businesses have sufficient flexibility to do what they need to do to go on to build businesses and make money for the economy.
You make the point that over the term of, well since the election of Kevin Rudd I think, there's been 760,000 jobs created, which, again, very impressive numbers, but I've heard the Opposition refer to the fact that in the last year, there wasn't any net improvement in job numbers and that was the first time in 20 years. What do you put that down to?
BRADBURY:Well, there's that old saying, there's lies, damn lies and statistics but let me counter it with another statistic that actually gives you a fuller picture of where we're at. One of the things that's been happening in recent times has been that our population growth has slowed and over the last year in particular, it has slowed. There are a range of factors for why that's been the case, but if you strip away population factors and you look at the unemployment figures in the following way, and that is to say for every hundred people there are in the population, how many people are in work, then that was 62.2, and it's gone up to 62.3 in the last year, so we've actually improved our position, and against the historical context of where we were, say back in 1992, we've actually increased that figure by about six percentage points. So, I think you can tell whatever story you want to with statistics but the overwhelming evidence is that, at a time when all around the world jobs are being shed and have been shed, in Australia not only have we managed to ensure that our unemployment rate hasn't skyrocketed but we've been able to create jobs and that's a story I think we should be very proud of as a country.
Fair enough. Before I let you go, I can't help myself, are you in the Gillard or the Rudd camp?
BRADBURY:I don't accept the characterisation that there are 'camps' like that -
You don't accept the premise of my question?
BRADBURY:Well, no -
BRADBURY:I support the Prime Minister. I think she is doing a very good job in very difficult circumstances and I think that some of the very difficult, challenging decisions that we've taken, and we've taken them because we do believe they are in the nation's best long-term interests, they haven't been popular. We understand that, but I do believe that over time there will be a grudging acknowledgement that the things that we've done have been the right things for the country and it's against that record that we will be judged at the next election.
That's a massive call. I respect the fact that you're prepared to make the call but it just seems that the evidence from the people I talk to, who ring this show daily, that the thing that a lot of people don't get past is the carbon tax and the promise, but you're kind of stuck with it now, aren't you? You can't do anything, it's just got to go through, it's just got to happen.
BRADBURY:It's coming in place and one of the things that people don't often focus in on is when you've been through a big economic event such as the global financial crisis, coming out the back end of something like that gives economies, not just ours but economies right around the world, the opportunity to innovate and to rebuild in a way we saw, say for example, post-Depression. The sort of innovation and creativity that drove business development back then presents real opportunities. Combine with that the opportunities of people restructuring their businesses for a low carbon future and I think there are some real opportunities and we are well-placed to take advantage of them.
Alright, appreciate your time, good to talk to you.