Peter Costello

Media Transcripts

Labour Force Survey, December 2004 - Press Conference, Waterfront Place, Brisbane


Mal Brough MP, Acting Treasurer

Waterfront Place, Brisbane

Thursday 13th January


SUBJECTS: Labour force survey


Well the ABS labour market figures for December were released today and they’re very good news for Australia with the unemployment rate falling to 5.1%, down from 5.2% the previous month, with some 29,000 more Australians employed in the month of December.

Now this is the 17th month in a row that Australia has recorded an unemployment figure below 6%, and of course this means that the best Christmas present that many Australians got was getting a job. And it’s good news for both those families and it’s good news for the economy.

What I would say at this point is that, whilst these are good figures and are a reflection of a strong economy, there is still more to be done if we’re going to lock in these low unemployment numbers.

And throughout this year the Government will be ensuring that our workplace relations initiatives get into place so that we can protect small business, so that we can encourage businesses to employ more people, remove the problems that have been caused by the unfair dismissal laws being blocked by the Labor Party over many years and more than 30 separate occasions.

So these are very good figures for the Australian economy. They’re good news for Australians but there is more to be done and the Howard Government will continue to work throughout 2005 to ensure that we get an even lower number of – in the unemployment numbers, more Australians into work and continue to build a strong economy on the back of productivity growth.

QUESTION: How low can they go?

MAL BROUGH: Well that’s a good question. I mean it wasn’t that long ago that they were saying that six and seven percent were in fact going to be fulltime – full employment in this country. And here we have now 5.1. I mean we really have to strive to get a four in front of this number and I think that’s achievable. We know that the unfair dismissal laws, there’s any number of surveys of business that says that tens of thousands of Australians would get work, be in jobs, if the Labor Party and the minor parties would get out of our way in the Senate.

And of course we know that takes effect from 1 July, but we hope to be able to put those fair dismissal laws into place before then. And of course there are a range of other measures there which are built on productivity which can drive the unemployment figures even lower.

QUESTION: What will the Government be doing to get [indistinct]?

MAL BROUGH: Well it hasn’t been for want of trying. I mean we’ve spent over 30 times now and we’ll continue to work with the minor parties in particular and try and overcome their objections to this legislation. But we remain steadfast in the knowledge that the laws, as they currently stand, are in fact an inhibitor to employment. We hear it all the time on the ground. It’s what all the major business associations tell us so we will not for one moment rescind from our position of ensuring that we have decent laws in place to protect both the employer and the employee.

QUESTION: Summer is traditionally a time when there’s a lot of casuals put on in the retail sector. Would you expect to see January continue to drop when those figures come out the next time?

MAL BROUGH: Well we’ve seen that the job ads in fact weren’t as strong but then of course both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fell on a Saturday which of course is the big day for advertising jobs.

Look, the indicators are that the labour market is continuing to grow and grow in a sustainable fashion. We’ll have to wait and see next month’s figures but our aim is to continue to produce the economy and the confidence in the economy and with interest rates remaining steady, with the free trade agreement now in place with the US which means that obviously there’s more opportunities coming in place, with the reduction in our marginal tax rates coming into effect from July, I think throughout 2005 we have the very real opportunity to see further inroads to the unemployment numbers.

Whether that’s January specifically or not, let’s just wait and see.

QUESTION: Are you making any predictions at this point?

MAL BROUGH: Look we don’t make predictions. What we do is say that the one thing we know for certain is that the Howard Government will continue to maintain a strong economy. We’ll do everything we can to produce jobs growth in our economy that is productivity-based, with wages that are productivity-based so that we get more people into work that is sustainable.

QUESTION: More people with more money in their pocket as a result of working means more money going around in the economy which has got to put pressure on interest rates though, doesn’t it?

MAL BROUGH: Well look, obviously the housing position has come off the boil a bit, which is good news. The Treasurer has been saying that for some time. It means that we have now a sustainable position in housing, so that it’s still growing but not at the rates which and the growth particularly in prices which I guess were unsustainable in the long term.

So look, I don’t comment specifically on interest rates but what I would say to you is that everything that this government is doing is ensuring that there is a strong economy, there is a balanced budget with a surplus which means that ultimately we are not putting any external pressure on interest rates.

Media Contact: Carlie Hogan 6277 7360

13 Jan 2005

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