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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney, New South Wales: 17 January 2013



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TRANSCRIPT THE HON JOE HOCKEY MP SHADOW TREASURER

DOORSTOP - SYDNEY 17 JANUARY 2013

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

JOE HOCKEY:

Today’s unemployment data for December confirms a trend that we have seen throughout 2012. That is, a drop in the number of job ads and a significant increase in the number of unemployed. Australia now has 50 000 more people unemployed than at the beginning of last year and the Government has no strategy to deal with it. The Government has no economic strategy. It has no budget strategy. It has no taxation strategy. We now know that the Government is refusing to release further information on exactly how much their handcrafted mining tax is meant to raise. You will never get confidence in Australia whilst you have got a Government that is determined to confuse and bewilder Australian business with its direction. The Government is not committed to generating confidence in business and consumer fields. They are more interested in the short term political fix to get Julia Gillard’s own leadership through to the next election and to get to the next election.

I would say to you, these are disappointing figures. They come on the back of, not only recent job ad announcements and retrenchment announcements, but they also come on the back of statements from business leaders saying that Australia continues to disappoint when it comes to the sort of stability you would expect from a Government that gives hope to business and encourages more jobs growth. I would just add, the most telling figure out of December is the fact that there was a loss of over 1.1 million hours of work. That is the most telling figure. Of course the figures bounce around from month to month but it is a very telling figure. There are a lot of Australians that are underemployed. There are a lot of Australians that are refusing to declare themselves as being unemployed. The fact is, the trend is going in the very wrong direction.

JOURNALIST:

So you think this is part of a continuing trend?

JOE HOCKEY:

Certainly it is. You would think that the employment levels in Australia would increase substantially on the back of substantial rate cuts from the Reserve Bank but the bottom line is business has no confidence. I was amused at the crocodile tears from Paul Howes from the AWU yesterday about manufacturing jobs. The worst thing you can do for manufacturing is increase input costs and the most obvious input cost over the last few months has been the carbon tax. Since the carbon tax has come into play tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in Australia. Overwhelmingly, manufacturing is doing it tough because of the high Australian dollar but not only because of the high Australian dollar. Unquestionably there is less demand for our products because our input costs are higher, and one of the most significant input costs is electricity.

JOURNALIST:

Joe, this was only a slight rise in unemployment. Craig James, the Commsec chief economist, was interviewed by AAP and he said “the job market has defied the doomsayers again” and “we are not seeing a huge drop in jobs, the unemployment rate has been holding at the 5.25/5.50 per cent mark for quite some time.” It is not that bad, is it?

JOE HOCKEY:

It was around 5.1% at the beginning of last year. It is now heading towards 5.5% and 13 800 full time jobs were lost in December. That is on the back of significant interest rate cuts. I think Australians are disappointed. Business has no confidence - it is as simple as that. Retail hasn’t got the confidence boost it was expecting from Christmas, manufacturing hasn’t got confidence, the tourism industry hasn’t got confidence and between the three of them they are amongst our biggest employers. It also says something that Western Australia has the lowest level of unemployment - particularly because of the mining boom and it has a Liberal Government. Tasmania has an unemployment rate of over 7% with a Labor/Greens Government. Quite frankly, the only thing that is going to get confidence back is a change of Government.

JOURNALIST:

It sounds like some of the experts were expecting that the figures could have been worse than they are?

JOE HOCKEY:

No. I think the market consensus was 5.4%, and the expectation is that the trend is going to continue to increase.

JOURNALIST:

But business confidence is down across the world.

JOE HOCKEY:

Well it is not down in Asia. I was in Asia not too long ago and there is a lot of confidence there. The Government keeps saying that we are focused on the Asian century, well, why is unemployment going up? Look at Germany. The German Government managed to deliver a Budget surplus whilst it is surrounded by the most volatile seas in the world, with a European economy that is basically on a heart start defibrillator. I would say to you - there is a message here. The message is that the Government is doing nothing to generate confidence that will encourage business to take the risk of employing more people. It is as simple as that. There is not the confidence there and there won’t be while the Government continues to act deceptively - particularly when it comes to the surplus. They promised “come hell or high water” “guaranteeing” that there would be a surplus. They misled the Australian people. We are going to see all of that come home to roost this year.

JOURNALIST:

What about the things that the Government can’t control like the high Australian dollar and the global economic gloom?

JOE HOCKEY:

The high Australian dollar - we are victim of a currency war. I have long argued that if the Government gets to surplus it takes further pressure off interest rates. Now, in some degree, that has played out. But the Government has failed to deliver a surplus. I think many Australians will be very disappointed that we haven’t started 2013 on a more positive foot for the Australian economy; for those workers that have lost their jobs in the last few days there is no justification that is going to satisfy them - and understandably so. I fear that it is just going to be a lot tougher in 2013. The Government has no plan to deal with it.

JOURNALIST:

You are not worried that you are talking the economy down?

JOE HOCKEY:

Unemployment just went up. 13,800 people lost full time jobs in December. I am reflecting on what the data says. I think that is pretty much it.

[ENDS]