Bill's Transcripts

Interview with Jon Faine

Interview with Jon Faine, 774 ABC Melbourne
13 August 2012

SUBJECT/S: Australian employment projections, TAFE cuts, immigration

 JON FAINE: The front page of today’s Australian newspaper has a report based on some figures obtained through the office of Bill Shorten, Federal Employment Minister, saying the Australian economy over the next five years will need to find 800,000 skilled workers. I'll say that once more because the headlines are always about people losing their jobs at the moment: 800,000 workers; 180,000 of them will need to be found in Victoria, Queensland a few more than that, but the big states continuing to grow and the mining boom driving just a small part of it. So it's clear these people are not going to work in the manufacturing industry, so what are they going to do and where are we going to get them?

 Bill Shorten is on the line from Canberra. Minister for Employment and other things in the Gillard Government. Good morning to you.

 BILL SHORTEN: Good morning Jon.

 JON FAINE: What are they going to be doing these people?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well research by my department shows that in the five years to mid-2017 there will be a projected – it’s a forecast – 830,000 jobs nationally. The largest areas will be healthcare and social assistance - quarter of a million jobs to come there. Construction we believe will employee more people than it does now. Scientific, professional, technical services and mining will keep contributing as well.

 JON FAINE: Healthcare is the single largest area of growth in the economy then?

 BILL SHORTEN: It has - and it has been for the last five years in terms of jobs and it'll continue.

 JON FAINE: What sort of jobs? Are the high end or low end?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well many of the jobs will require in this area more qualifications than less, so Bachelor degrees plus.

 JON FAINE: As I'm looking through the material that the Australian have published, Bill Shorten, it seems that in fact the bell tolls for the unskilled worker in the Australian economy?

 BILL SHORTEN: There'll still be jobs growth for people with fewer skills but the fact of the matter is that we need all governments, all political parties, the community needs to be focusing on skilling people up because that’s where the jobs will be created in the higher skilled areas.

 JON FAINE: And yet we're making it harder for people to get further training and qualifications particularly with the changes to TAFE funding.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well nationally we've supported 340,000 apprentices to complete their training last year. But I do believe that the Victorian Government's $300 million cut to TAFE is just short sighted. I was quoted in one newspaper as saying cutting TAFE funding does for productivity what burning books does for literacy.

 JON FAINE: Well that's a good line for the newspapers but…

 BILL SHORTEN: It's just a bad idea…

 JON FAINE: … well …

 BILL SHORTEN: … cutting TAFE and what's worse is that in the western suburbs of Melbourne where there's proportionately more people relying on TAFE as opposed to university, they're feeling the brunt of the State Government's cuts.

 JON FAINE: It's forcing people to fund their own training rather than it being provided through the state isn't it?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well no, it's more than that. It's discouraging people from doing further training and…

 JON FAINE: Well that puts them on the scrap heap.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well it does and, you know, the conservatives in Australian politics like to talk about productivity and that's fair enough, but you can't have a more productive workforce and workplace and a more productive society if we're making it harder for people to get more skills. So the actions - you know, I understand governments at all levels have to make their budgets meet, but for Victoria to think it's going to compete - and in Victoria we don't just compete with the rest of Australia, we compete with the rest of the world and no jurisdiction, no society, no community ever dumbed it's way to greatness.

 JON FAINE: 800,000 workers over five years. Is that going to come from immigration entirely?

BILL SHORTEN: No. I think that there are great opportunities for us to skill up our own young ones, but also lifetime education. This idea that once upon a time you could get your apprenticeship or finish school or indeed just do one degree and that was the end of the matter I think that's going to increasingly become a thing of the past. What I foresee is that the future workforce will come from a more diverse background.

 We've got lots of migrants who are already Australian citizens who are underutilised. I also think that employers, if they want to be employers of choice, are going to have to start being more flexible in terms of the opportunities for women returning to work. Older Australians - older Australians - I think some employers are going to have to get over their attitude that if the job applicant, job seeker's got grey in their hair that somehow they're not as good as someone who's young.

 And I also think there are big opportunities and we need to have a really big push on providing people with disabilities the opportunity to work. If you don't have a disability your participation rate - that's if you're an adult seeking work - is 83 per cent of all adults get to work. But if you have a disability it’s more like 54 per cent.

 JON FAINE: But why are we making it so hard for people to come here if - I mean there's no way we're going to find the bulk of these people internally. No matter how much extra training, no matter how many disabled people…

 BILL SHORTEN: Migration is part of it.

 JON FAINE: … or women returning to the work force. We’re going to be importing, we're going to be opening up the doors to meet this need in order to drive not just the mines but also the nursing homes, the hospitals, the healthcare sector, all the other things. In which case why are we making such a fuss about a couple hundred people coming in on a boat?

 BILL SHORTEN: Well first of all you are right. But the whole history of Australia has been immigration. And I know that there are some on the far left and some on the fair right who over-argued from a, you know, the Australia's is already full up, you know, from environment reasons or from other, you know, just perhaps more anti-people who look different reasons. But these arguments don't hold water. Migration generates jobs and you're quite right as we age as a society we will need more people to help fill our jobs.

 In terms of the issues around people coming here on boats and that point, the Parliament this week's probably set to debate this contentious issue. The attitude of the Federal Government, and there will be more said in the course of the next couple of days as a result of people digesting the Houston report - this is the report commissioned by the Prime Minister…

 JON FAINE:  Being handed down at lunchtime today, yes.

 BILL SHORTEN:  That's right. Well what the Federal Government's interested in is that people aren't drowning at sea. So I do think that there's a humanitarian life is the most important issue proposition, which is top of the tree in terms of the dealing with the boat people issue.

 JON FAINE: Okay. Now the bottom-line then just finally is that we are - as the economy continues to grow we do need workers, they need more to be skilled…


 JON FAINE: … and there are more workers needed for the healthcare and looking after people kind of industries than for instance the mining industry. The mining boom doesn't create of itself a lot of jobs.

 BILL SHORTEN: No that's right. In the last five years mining would have created about 130,000 jobs of the 810,000 that have been created and in the next five years it'll create another 100,000 jobs. So out of 1.6 million jobs, mining will contribute 200,000.

 But you're quite right healthcare will contribute half a million jobs. What is exciting…

 JON FAINE:  So there are twice as many jobs in healthcare as there are in mining?

 BILL SHORTEN: Two and half times, that's right. What is most exciting for me as someone who lives in the north-west of Melbourne is that where you look at where jobs are going to grow, the area according to my department where the jobs growth's going to be greatest in Australia - in just sheer number - is the outer western suburbs of Melbourne. So it's really important that we keep ensuring that people there are getting skills, that there's good infrastructure there. That's everything from level crossings in the west - not just Brighton Beach which is the Victorian Government's preferred beauty pageant winner of level crossings to be fixed. But the skills - it's skills - whatever the question - education and skills is one of the answers.

 JON FAINE: All right. Now Bill Shorten this is coming off the back of another strike resolved at a car parts components factory in outer Melbourne over redundancies. So this is actually you're seeing a - what was it? A couple hundred workers there losing their jobs and the - this is the economy in transition. These are people who are losing jobs in a factory making parts for the car industry, need to go off and re-skill, and from what you've just told us the best thing they could do is go off and pick up skills in the health or human services industry.

 BILL SHORTEN: Well couple of points. One is…

 JON FAINE: Which is a big push for someone who's worked in a car parts factory.

 BILL SHORTEN: Absolutely. I'm not saying that every auto component worker should learn to become a healthcare professional. I'm just saying where the fastest growth in jobs is going to be. I'd still think - I still believe that manufacturing has a future in Victoria and nationally - that's why we need to have sustainable policies for manufacturing. In terms of this - but it does involve adult education. Adult education, people need to be encouraged to broaden their skills.

 I would say to you that people who work in auto components are people capable of working in a problem solving environment which is - they've got a lot of what one would call soft skills which people don't initially look at. But they're capable of working to time pressure, to quality standards. So yes, I don't think everyone has to go and change what job they do. Yes I think that people in the auto component industry are skilled and hard working, but yes I also know where the fastest - you know, the new frontier of jobs is going to be - it's in the services sector.

 But what I'd also say about that industrial dispute is in fact no one's lost their job. It was a dispute, you're quite right, about redundancy - it was concern that employees at that company have four different redundancy agreements applying to people there. In other words you can be working alongside someone else who had a different set of conditions and people are concerned about their job security. The company compromised, the workers' initial position - they compromised. It was a bargaining dispute.

 What wasn't helpful was - again I have to say - the conservatives come out saying just stop the strike it's all wrong. People, parties, different sets of interests are capable of negotiating and this was negotiated. I think sometimes the role of Government isn't to just automatically bag the workers, say the workers are wrong, get back to work. It's about saying well what's the middle ground of the argument, which is what I and Fair Work Australia were able to help do yesterday.

 JON FAINE: All right. Now you're back in Canberra?


 JON FAINE:  The Olympics are over, the mid-winter break is over for politicians and are you best friends now with Kevin Rudd after your trip together to the United States?

 BILL SHORTEN: I have a very positive and professional relationship with Mr Rudd as I do with all of the Labor colleagues. I know that what unites us is a determination to see as the Australian economy and Australian society deals with change that we have a fair dose of social justice in it. We want to see a resolution on the boat people issue very soon. I think it's…

 JON FAINE: Okay. But the uplift in the opinion polls for Julia Gillard last News Poll, if that doesn't continue, are you prepared - do you want to have a wager over whether or not she's still Prime Minister at Christmas?

 BILL SHORTEN: First of all on opinion polls they go up, they go down, they're volatile. What I think Australians want is positive long-term decision making. In terms of speculating about the leadership, I'm just not going to do that. I don't want to sort of feed that 24-hour news cycle frenzy.

 JON FAINE: Such a shame. It's a battle we've got to go with at the moment.

 BILL SHORTEN: No, there are other good things happening. Let me put to you the proposition. We're looking at legislation to deal with payday loans in the Parliament, in the Senate. I know I'm working on a couple of propositions to deal with reform of the workplace and how do we get the balance right in workplace relations. I know in superannuation we're keen to keep making sure that the system's working in the best interest of people so they've got retirement. There's a lot of good things happening which don't always make the front pages of the newspapers. But I guess that's not as interesting as personalities and conflict.

 JON FAINE: Well it is an undercurrent and it's always there.


 JON FAINE: As always I'm indebted to you for your answers and thank you for discussing the job growth, twice as many - more than twice as many jobs in health in the next five years than from the mining boom.  Thank you for your time.

 BILL SHORTEN: That's right. Thank you. Bye.

Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804