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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: ABC Newsradio Breakfast: 6 October 2011 Jobs Forum, Graham Richardson

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Ministers' Media Centre Education, Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio

Jobs Forum, Graham Richardson

Thursday 6 October 2011 Transcript

Senator the Hon Chris Evans [link:/evans]

Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations • Leader of the Government in the Senate •

E&OE TRANSCRIPT Interview with Marius Benson ABC Newsradio Breakfast DATE 6 October 2011

Issues: Jobs Forum, Graham Richardson

MARIUS BENSON: Senator Evans, two days of talk on tax produced nothing definite, and some have dismissed it as just a talk fest. Others have said it was quite worthwhile. Will there be something more definitely today from what's been called a jobs summit?

CHRIS EVANS: Well, firstly, I don’t think talking to industry leaders, unions and academics about the future of Australia is a talk fest. I think it's an important discussion about the future of our country, be it on tax or jobs.

But today's focus is on jobs; particularly on how the patchwork economy and the transitions in the economy are impacting on jobs.

We have got a situation where jobs are moving north and west and people are being displaced from some industries and opportunities opening in others. This is about how we manage that transition; get the skills base right and manage the impacts on people; some of which, obviously, are quite severe.

BENSON: And would you expect those discussions to narrow down by the end of the day into some agreed position in the form of a communiqué or some agreed position on specific action to be taken?

EVANS: Look, I think there will be some outcomes - it's not a set piece. We are not getting people in to agree with a pre-agreed, set of decisions. We are actually having a really serious discussion about some tough issues.

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There are different views. The unions and employers have been out there putting their views, but from a Government's point of view we're engaging with the people that matter; the people who create the jobs; the people who represent the people who are going to work in those jobs; about how we take advantage of huge economic opportunity, but manage those transitions and - I'm sure there will be outcomes.

There will be areas of agreement et cetera, but it is not pre-arranged. It is not managed to the extent that we have got everyone in the cart for a set of outcomes. We are going to have a serious discussion about complex issues.

BENSON: The format's a bit different today. The tax forum was all in the open. Some of today's talks, as I understand it, will be behind closed doors. What's the thinking there?

EVANS: Well, I think it's just about trying to get people discussing some of those issues. I think some of the forum will be open and other sessions will be held in private. But I mean people will come out of those sessions and talk to the media.

I do not think there is any suggestion that it will not be an open discussion about what's occurring, but some of the sessions are closed. But, as I say, I think there will be a full discussion on what's gone on in the presentations and parts of it will be open.

BENSON: There is some specifics being put by some of the participants in today's talks in the press this morning: some unions calling specifically for the Government to wind back the level of skilled migration. Do you see merit in that?

EVANS: No, look, I don’t. I think we've obviously got to adjust the level of skilled migration annually. We have got in place - as a result of forms we have - this Government put in place - levers to allow us to manage that. I think the future for Australia is in a balance between educating and skilling our own people; giving them the first opportunity to take advantage of the new jobs in the economy; but topping that up with skilled labour where we need it. It's about managing that balance.

BENSON: Senator Evans, can I go to another topic briefly? Graham Richardson, the former Labor Senator, has given leadership speculation about Kevin Rudd a kick along by naming two Labor MPs he says are pushing for Kevin Rudd: Victorian MP, Alan Griffin, and Western Australian Senator Mark Bishop. To your knowledge, are they pushing for Kevin Rudd?

EVANS: Well, I have spoken to both of them in recent weeks and neither of them have raised it with me.

BENSON: Does that mean they're not pushing or they're not going to raise it with you?

EVANS: Not to my understanding. I think Julia Gillard's got very strong support in the Caucus. We are going through a difficult period. But the party's very united behind her, and I think we are starting to pull through some of those difficulties that we've been confronting.

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I think once we get the carbon price in place and out of the Parliament we'll get a bit of clear air to try and communicate the Government's messages more clearly, and we are getting on with the job.

BENSON: And Graham Richardson says there's a ring around on. Is anyone ringing you?

EVANS: No, I am too busy trying to make sure that we get the best job opportunities in Australia. And my colleagues, from my experience, are doing the same.

BENSON: Chris Evans, thank you very much.

EVANS: My pleasure.

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