The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

1 April 2008

Joint Press Conference with
The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Acting Prime Minister; Minister for Education; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Social Inclusion

Canberra

1 April 2008

SUBJECTS: 20,000 training places online, discussion paper, National Employment Standards, Budget, Reserve Bank, Tax office, Opes Prime, Prime Minister's trip, Brendan Nelson, major banks, grocery inquiry

JULIA GILLARD:

I am here today with Treasurer, Wayne Swan and with my parliamentary colleague the Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O'Connor. And we are here today to make two important announcements which are about Australia's prosperity today and for the future. In order to be a prosperous nation we need to be a productive nation and we need to have the maximum number of people possible in the work force. That's important in the short term because skills shortages are one of the factors putting upwards pressure on inflation and interest rates. And of course we know the Reserve Bank of Australia warned many times that skills shortages, indeed the current skills crisis was part of what was putting in upwards pressure on inflation and interest rates.

For tomorrow we need to make sure that Australian workers have the skills that they need, that we've maximised the number of people in the workforce and they've got relevant and appropriate skills. At the moment employers are short of labour, short of skilled labour to do jobs like the one we've just looked at because this nation under the former government dropped the ball on education and training.

We didn't invest in education and training its given us the skills crisis of today. We want to take the pressure off as quickly as possible and we want to ensure for the future this is a nation with a world class education and training system. The government is committed in delivering 450,000 training places to make sure Australian workers have the skills Australian employers are crying out for. 275,000 of those places will be for existing workers. 175,000 will be for people who are outside the labour force now and who need training to get back into the labour force. Of these 450,000 places some 65,000 will be apprenticeships. Today, with my colleagues I'm announcing the delivering of our first 20,000 places of this 450,000.

In March we asked Registered Training Organisations to come forward, to be the organisations that delivered these 20,000 new training places. We've had more than 300 Registered Training Organisations contact us and say that they're interested in delivering the places and more organisations are coming forward all the time. The 300 registered training organisations that have already come forward are able to offer up to 1200 different sorts of qualifications.

Today contracts are being sent to a number of those Registered Training Organisations to commence the delivery of the new 20,000 places. And for Australians out there who are out of the workforce and desperate to get into the workforce, they can go into their employment services agent today and start the process of being one the Australians who has the benefit of one of these 20,000 training places. We are deliberately pitching these training places to help resolve skills shortages in those parts of the economy where we are most short. So these places are dedicated to mining and construction, to health and community services, to the motor mechanic area where we are desperately short and to a number of personal and other service occupations.

On the question of mining and construction, we know we are short all round and that's why the places we are offering today are across the suite that mining and construction need. There are more than 22 mining, well there are 22 mining specific qualifications that these 20,000 places apply to and there are of course a wide number of construction trades that these places are relevant for. So whether it's building a roof, whether it's doing the concreting, whether it's doing the tiling, these places are there to help people get the skills that they need to get into the workforce, to get into the workforce where employers are crying out for labour.

Secondly and for the future, today I am launching this discussion paper which we will be circulating to businesses and industry. This is about a road to reform for the future. It's about business and industry working with us to ensure that in the delivery of 450,000 training places that we are meeting industry's need. We want a skills system that's focused on delivering for industry we want a skills system that works with the people that participate in it. Having industry and business in partnership with us is an important part of that process and this discussion paper is to get their ideas about the delivery of these places.

Both announcements today, the commencement of the 20,000 places and this discussion paper are an important part of our agenda to make sure we fix the skills crisis, we give Australians access to education and training and we give Australian businesses access to the skilled workers we need. That is about prosperity today and it's about building prosperity for tomorrow.

Are there questions? I suspect there will be.

JOURNALIST:

You say that there is lot there for mining the mining industry has expressed its disappointment already, 22 courses are mentioned but most of them are variations on drilling. Why isn't there more for mining and the mining sector?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well I can I say when you look at full list I think you can see a number for the mining sector. The mining sector needs workers who can engage in construction. Obviously a lot of construction happens in mining, its call building the mine and building all of the things that associated with the mine. Just looking down the list carpenter, joiner, bricklayer, general plumber, gas fitter, drainer, roof plumber, stone maison and the list goes on, vitally needed skills in the mining sector for the associated construction. Then directly for the mining sector there are a number of occupations. You point to some in drilling and they are certainly there. There are occupations that are associated with being a geologist, with being an engineer, all of those skills mining industry needs. So the full list is about delivering to shortages in mining and construction as well as the industry segments that I referred to earlier. We know employers are looking for people with these qualifications because these qualifications were selected from a survey of employers who are advertising and have job vacancies.

So we've gone to the horses mouth we've said to employers who are looking workers, who are you looking for and this is the list of qualifications and skills that they need that they have sent back to us.

JOURNALIST:

What makes you think that you are going to have people who actually want to participate in the program if there is already a skills shortage how are you going to (inaudible) be part of the program?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well I think that there would be Australians outside the labour force today looking at these 20,000 places and saying, I want to build a future for myself and I want to build a future for my family. And the best way of doing that is to make sure they get access to training that gives them the skills employers are crying out for. That's a pathway to a good job, it's a pathway to a secure job and its one way of making sure that they've got their place in Australia's future and its future prosperity.

JOURNALIST:

The miners are also saying that they'd like to see themselves kept exempt from the employment safety net. Do you have any response to that?

JULIA GILLARD:

The National Employment Standards that the Government is developing are employment standards we're committed to and we want to get all the details right. And because we want to get the details right we've engaged in an exposure draft process to give everyone including the mining industry the maximum ability to comment and to express their views and we will work through their views. The day I launched the exposure draft of the National Employment Standards I specifically said here it is for your comment; this is a genuine consultation process; we want to hear what you've got to say and this is your opportunity to tell us about it and we will weigh all of that feedback. And this is a stark contrast if I can remind people, a stark contrast to the system engaged in by the former government which not only gave us the skills crisis we are dealing with today but when it published its Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard, created a myriad of technical problems for people because it hadn't adequately consulted on it.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

JULIA GILLARD:

The system, the National Employment Standards will be for everyone so it will be for all Australian employees. We are engaged in the process of getting the drafting of them right. We are doing that in a consultative and collaborative way. We have deliberately said to everyone, including the mining industry, this is your opportunity to be at the table for a genuine consultation process and I am very interested in gathering up and then responding to their views.

JOURNALIST:

There have also been other concerns from the mining industry expressed today about your IR reforms and how they might affect fly-in-fly-out employees particularly in the Pilbara and Kimberley. Can you give a guarantee that your IR reforms won't curtail that usage of fly-in-fly-out workers?

JULIA GILLARD:

Absolutely. Fly-in-fly-out is vital for the mining industry. People work on historically accepted roster patterns; that's part of the mining industry. Workers work those patterns, they are use to working those patterns; many of them enjoy working those patterns and those patterns of work will be available to the mining industry under our workplace relations reforms.

JOURNALIST:

You are only sending out the contracts today, that's going to take time so people going into RTOs to apply. When are you going to have 20,000 people in training because clearly it is going to take a little while yet?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well we've got the Registered Training Organisations, 300 of them that have come forward. Contracts are going to a number today. What we need is we need Australians to walk into their employment services agent and say I'm interested in that and then the system will put that person together with the right training opportunity through a Registered Training Organisation that as indicated an interest in delivering these places.

JOURNALIST:

Won't there be any benefit from today's announcement for the Canberra economy will be overshadowed by public sector job cuts in the budget in 6 weeks?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well we're working on a budget, of course we're working on a budget and we're working on it very hard and we've been very clear that in this budget we will be delivering the Government's election commitments beyond that it's going to be a tough budget.

We've inherited a high inflation environment from the former Liberal government. As the Treasurer routinely says the highest inflation environment we've faced for 16 years. Inflation puts pressure on working families, drives up the cost of their mortgage through putting pressure on interest rates, it means every time they go down the shops they're confronted by increasing prices. We want to deal with inflation. Having a fiscally disciplined budget is part of our plan to deal with inflation. We have said on the question of public service job cuts, our aim is to deliver our election policies. We will be doing that. We will be regearing as necessary to deliver our election policies.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer just on the budget no doubt you, the process is going ahead and you said you'd try and find administrative efficiencies. Just wondering whether you have found a lot of fat in the administration, whether you were surprised by that amount if you did and can you give us some examples?

WAYNE SWAN:

Well we've been meeting around the clock in fact we have come straight from an ERC meeting and we met all day Sunday, most of Sunday night and we will continue to do that and we have been doing that for many months Matthew. So as the Acting PM said it is going to be a tough budget but it's going to be a budget which will be fair and it will deliver for working families but there will be tough decisions. I am not going to outline those decisions today because we are still going through our budget process but on budget night the answers will be there for everybody to see.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, the Reserve Bank Board is meeting today and most economists are tipping that rates will stay on hold but does that really make a difference given that the major banks seem to be lifting rates independent from the Reserve?

WAYNE SWAN:

I don't comment on Reserve Bank decisions, I never do. But I would make this point that dealing with the inflationary challenge is our central responsibility; to get the pressure of the Reserve Bank. What has been happening is all the weight has been put on monetary policy from the previous government. Our objective in this budget is to take the weight on monetary policy, to bring down a disciplined budget, finding savings in the budget, we've already announced $10 billion worth of savings, we're looking for further savings. And most importantly putting in place the investments for the future through programs such as the one we are announcing today to make sure we lift our productivity and therefore take pressure off inflation and take pressure off interest rates.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, are you concerned about any wider market implications of the Opes Prime collapse?

WAYNE SWAN:

Look it's a very serious issue, it's being investigated by ASIC at the moment. I don't intend to comment any further but I'm assured by the regulators that it will not necessarily have wider market implications.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, have you got the Tax Office cracking down on wealthy individuals?

WAYNE SWAN:

Yes I certainly do. There are about 1200 wealthy individuals that have been targeted in this program from the Tax Office. All Australians who have worked hard to make our economy strong and pay their tax want to see everyone in the community, including wealthy Australians, pay their fair share which is why we have put additional resources in the budget for compliance, particularly for wealthy individuals.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) that maybe tax advisers need to be a bit more closely regulated if there is this grey area were they're taking advantage?

WAYNE SWAN:

Well I think the program from the Tax Office suggests that it will not be an excuse for those that are so affected to blame the advice that they have received. Look people go into these things with their eyes wide open. What the Tax Office is doing at the moment is providing substantial information to all of those people that may have been participating in schemes which may not necessarily be lawful. It's putting that out there for everybody to see for both the advisers and those participating in the schemes.

JOURNALIST:

And just on Opes you've given a lot of reassurances before, as has the regulators about the fact we are pretty protected from the global crunch. Doesn't the collapse of Opes put a bit of a question mark over those reassurances?

WAYNE SWAN:

Well we are not sure what's happened with Opes Prime so I wouldn't want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation. But we're not immune from the fall out of US sub-prime crisis; everybody knows that and its also impacting on domestic interest rates for all borrowers and certainly for business as well. So we're certainly not immune from the fall out of the US system but be assured of this, we do not have the same problems that they are experiencing in the United States. And while there may be some examples of low doc loans being given to people here who should not have received them, there may be examples of practices from mortgage brokers that are less than ideal. But we don't have the same volume of problem that they have in the United States. And it's very important that we learn the lessons of what has occurred in the United States, just as it is important that we learn the lessons from programs and examples that were on television last night. And I make this point, last week at COAG we transferred responsibility, we transferred responsibility from the States to the Commonwealth called mortgage lending and some forms of consumer advice and also consumer credit.

That's very important because we saw examples last night were there does need to be better regulation and certainly much better business practice from some people involved in lending.

JOURNALIST:

Ms Gillard, any last minute push to get Mr Rudd to Japan on his current overseas trip?

JULIA GILLARD:

Mr Rudd has made his itinerary very clear. He's also made it very clear that he is there discussing the global economy with world leaders. He had made his travel program and meets with Japanese leaders also very clear.

JOURNALIST:

Julia, what do you think that Brendan Nelson will be hearing on his listening tour based on your movements around the country? What do you hear when you listen?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well I think Dr Nelson's tour is going to be dismissed by the Australian people as a gimmick unless he's out there apologising to the Australians he meets for being an Cabinet Minister in a government that delivered to working Australians the high inflation environment that we are grappling with now and its consequences for interest rates.

I also think Dr Nelson's tour will be dismissed as a gimmick if he doesn't come clean on his future plans for workplace relations. Everyday Dr Nelson is interviewed he says something different. He is prone to say that Work Choices is dead and then in the next brief he says they believe in the thing that gave Work Choices its heart, its blood and its life and that is Australian Workplace Agreements. Now those two positions are complete contradictions and working Australians are entitled to know what does he really stands for.

JOURNALIST:

Dr Nelson said this morning on radio that he handed the Labor Party a great economy.

WAYNE SWAN:

He is just completely out of touch, isn't he? I mean Brendan Nelson doesn't think there is a problem with inflation, he simply doesn't get it. And if he is out there sitting around the kitchen table with Australian families he'll find out that inflation is a very big problem when it comes to the family budget.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, have you talked to St George, NAB and Westpac about their decision to lift rates over and above the Reserve and do you think their moves have been justified?

WAYNE SWAN:

No I haven't spoken to St George but I've spoken to most of the banks on numerous occasions and pointed out to them their responsibility to be mindful of the impact of their decisions on families who have eight official cash rate rises, to be mindful of that on the one hand and of course on the other hand they've got the interest of their shareholders. I think it's very important that the banks behave as responsibility as they possibly can in this environment.

JOURNALIST:

One area of skills you haven't mentioned today is the motor trade industry. I was just wondering how important the car industry is as an incubator of trades in Australia and would that be a reason for keeping the car industry here when it might not be viable on other basis?

JULIA GILLARD:

Well I always prefer not to contradict the Financial Review but I believe I did say that one of the areas that the packages are dedicated to is the area of motor mechanics because we are critically short in that area. So for Australians all around the country who care about keeping their car on the road in a safe condition, being able to access a motor mechanic is very important…

JOURNALIST:

I am talking about the industry…

JULIA GILLARD:

Yes I just didn't want you to walk away Laura thinking there wasn't anything in this package for things associated with cars. There most certainly is. On the long term future of the car industry, we obviously have Mr Steve Bracks inquiry into that for the government at the moment. That is a matter that has been reported on including in your newspaper as I read it. You would be aware Mr Bracks will deliver his final report to government in the middle of the year and we will respond to it at that point.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the inquiry into grocery prices what difference is it really going to make to families that are trying to manage the household budget and how long will it be before the start to notice a difference at the checkout?

WAYNE SWAN:

Well the grocery inquiry is very important because it goes to the core of price pressures that are affecting families around the kitchen table. And there have been a lot of concerns in parts of the supply chain in particular about what's been going on. So we'll get to the bottom of that and when we get that report we will react accordingly, we don't have that report yet.