Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with David Oldfield, 2UE Mornings, 2 April 2012

Subject: Jobs compact between Australian Government and Woolworths to support 10,000 jobs for disadvantaged job seekers

DAVID OLDFIELD: The Government and Woolies have entered a job compact which we’re told will see 10,000 jobs created all around Australia—2,500 of which are said to going to be in Sydney. The long-term unemployed people with disabilities, Aboriginal Australians and older workers are going to be given pre-employment training and be matched up with Woolies, and the 10,000 jobs. To tell us exactly how this is all going to work, Minister Bill Shorten, the Government ‘s employment and workplace relations minister, joins me on the line. Thanks for your time Minister.

BILL SHORTEN: Good Morning.

DAVID OLDFIELD: Good Morning. Now, will Woolies have to guarantee to accept disadvantaged job seekers? How exactly will this work? 

BILL SHORTEN: Woolworths said they are going to create 10,000 retail jobs in financial year 2011-12. What we’re saying is that the Government will provide a one-stop shop to ensure that Woolworths has streamlined access to the full range of jobs, skills and training services that the Government has to offer.

In plain English, if they are willing to employ a lot of people from disadvantaged backgrounds and say ‘listen, we think there is potential in these people’ ... what we can do on our side is make sure that they have a one point of entry when you’re dealing with all the various government programs for older workers, or disabled workers or Indigenous workers. So we try and cut out...if you’ve got an employer who wants to try and do the right thing and source their new recruits from amongst the more disadvantaged sections of the community, what we’ve got to do is make sure it’s not a red-tape nightmare for them to find the people and the programs.

DAVID OLDFIELD: So obviously the Government is going to make it as easy as possible to connect Woolies with the 10,000 people in need of employment....


DAVID OLDFIELD: ...I understand that. But is it specifically going to be the disadvantaged, the disabled, Aboriginal Australians, people who generally fall into the category of generally seen as disadvantaged and long-term unemployed?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, is the short answer. We want to make sure that if you’ve got a company who’s willing to give some priority to some very long-term unemployed—that’s defined as people who have been unemployed for two years or longer— people with disabilities, older workers, Indigenous Australians...these are all groups who the numbers show us miss out on getting jobs. Well that’s a good dent into that group of people. We want to reduce that number of people. We think there is potential in everyone. And if Woolworths is willing to take the time and not just pass them at the job interview, that we are actually consciously looking for people from certain backgrounds...well that’s great. We should make it as easy as possible for them to do that.

DAVID OLDFIELD:  So will Woolies essentially say ‘we have these positions to fill, this is the criteria of skills that we need for those jobs, please train them and present them to us’?

BILL SHORTEN:  Yes, that’s exactly right. In New South Wales they have undertaken to take 2,642 people, which is good.  In Victoria, 2,900 people. So they are saying that they want to take people from a certain background. And what’s good is Woolworths have a lot of HR capacity and human resource management capacity. So they believe they can absorb these people...some of who mightn’t have worked for a while, some of whom mightn’t have held down a job and give them an opening in the retail industry.

DAVID OLDFIELD: I mean, is this essentially like philanthropic work on behalf of Woolworths?

BILL SHORTEN: No. I think what is it is it’s smart business. Recognising that your customers come in all shapes and sizes so why not your workforce. I think it is community minded but they’re not doing it to make a loss. I just think they think they can take people from disadvantaged backgrounds and help mould them into employees. Which is great.

DAVID OLDFIELD: No, I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s wonderful these sorts of assistances are going to be given to try and match up people who are so much in need of this sort of help. But I suppose there’s an isolator. We’re saying that these 10,000 jobs are isolated specifically to that area of people. 

BILL SHORTEN: I think there is plenty happening in the jobs market for other people...

DAVID OLDFIELD: Well actually, could I ask you about that? Because reports that we have very clearly in all of the papers this morning are in areas if western Sydney, the unemployment rates are very, very high and that there are significant disadvantages in some areas and a lot of people who probably don’t actually fall into the categories that we are talking about here are indeed finding it very, very hard to find work. 

BILL SHORTEN: Well experience shows and I’ve been Employment Minister for just over three months but what I’ve discovered is that groups that we’re talking about are the ones who blow out the unemployment numbers in parts of Australia, like western Sydney that you’re talking about. 

Experience shows that if you’re younger, of if you’ve got skills or got some skills background, whilst you may have periods of unemployment, you do tend to find work more quickly than the long-term unemployed. Serious discrimination is rife against older Australians. If you’ve been in a job for a long time and then if you get bounced from that job through no fault of your own, your period of unemployment is longer. I’m relieved that a company that has a got a large number of employees and Woolworths goes into tens of thousands of people...if they’re saying that they are willing to take onboard people from more disadvantaged backgrounds who perhaps normally wouldn’t get a look-in at an interview. That’s good for those communities that you are talking about.

DAVID OLDFIELD: Indeed. There’s a suggestion also that you’re talking about people will be relocated. How will people relocate from Sydney and from other places?

BILL SHORTEN: Relocation is one of the hardest issues, I think. I don’t think there is a simple solution to relocation because people don’t relocate just for a job. And I’ll use the example of working in the mines because that’s the sort of most contemporary example. Well if you haven’t got a job in Melbourne of Sydney, just go and work in the mines.  It’s not quite that simple. If you’re away from your family for two weeks at a time, that’s hard on the family. If you want mum to move with the kids, say if you’re a bloke who’s going to work in the mines, not a lot of schools up in that part of Australia; the social amenity is not that good, your family is not around you. Australians are not the most mobile people when it comes to looking for jobs. That doesn’t mean I think they’re lazy, I think when we talk about people moving to new areas of Australia we’ve got to put some thought into the towns and suburbs and communities that we are asking people to go and live in, as well as the jobs. The job is important, it’s fundamental, but if you want to bring the whole family, there’s got to be something for everyone else to do.

DAVID OLDFIELD: Is there an issue with Woolies simply advertising these jobs themselves and going through applications in the normal way?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, if Woolies are willing to have a look at people from more disadvantaged backgrounds...I think the job of the Government is to help those people who are not doing so well at helping themselves get a leg up and so if Woolies is ...we’ve got job programs and training programs but what I think Woolworths presents is the end of the journey destination for people.

This is a large private sector company, most jobs in Australia are in the private sector. It’s one thing to train people and make them job-ready but you’ve still got to have a job to put them into.  And this is where if Woolworths is willing to source the jobs, we can at least make it easier for people to connect up to Woolworths and make it easier for Woolworths to not have to do a lot of the running around between government departments, and different government programs.

DAVID OLDFIELD: It’s impossible to imagine that there will be an easy connect of 10,000 people, 10,000 jobs. How many people do you think will start in this funnel, to be trained to finish up with the 10,000 at the end? 

BILL SHORTEN: Well, we know that unemployment in Australia is about 5.2 per cent. We also know that a proportion of these people fall in those categories I just mentioned. Though I think there is many more than 10,000 potential applicants for these jobs.  I think you’re better off picking a number and working to it, rather than over-promising and under- delivering. But Woolworths have got a clear view about their expansion and they clearly have a view that they think this is a target that can be done.  Some people don’t like setting targets, they say “Oh well...”...

DAVID OLDFIELD: No I mean in the sense that I am presuming reasonably that as sad as it might seem in all circumstances, whether it might be whether a person is disadvantaged or not, not everyone is going to be suited, regardless of training for a particular position, so to get 10,000 disadvantaged people into the 10,000 jobs, how many might you start with and train?

BILL SHORTEN:  Oh well listen, I couldn’t give you a hard number on that. I could try and find out for you. I see your point. For me, part of it is we’ve already got these people on the books. We pay them NewStart or we pay them other pensions. So we’ve got far more than 10,000. My aim is if we can get in the next 12 months, 10,000 people out of the cycle of unemployment and into work, that’s a good outcome in anyone’s language.

DAVID OLDFIELD: Yes.  It certainly sounds that way to me. Thank you for your time Minister.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks David.