SUBJECTS: Jobs and unemployment; wages; no difference in border protection policies; Scott Morrison has failed Australians over the last three years.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well today’s labour force numbers have come out, and what they show is that the unemployment rate is essentially unchanged in March. In fact, if anything, what the numbers show is that the amount of hours worked in the economy during the month of March marginally fell. We need to understand what that means. It means that there are still 1.4 million Australians in the economy today who are looking for work. We have an economy where there are half a million Australians who have three jobs or more just to make ends meet. And that’s because we are seeing real wages going backwards. In fact, the standout stat in the economy over the last decade is wage stagnation, record low wage increases. And that is what every Australian is feeling right now. So as this government surrounds itself in self-congratulation around the unemployment numbers, every Australian out there knows how difficult it is to make ends meet with low wages, and low wages is not bad luck. It is bad policy. Because this government has made clear that low wages are a design feature of the way they have managed the economy. So, after nine years of low wages, Australians now have a very clear choice about whether they want to risk voting for Scott Morrison and having three years more.
JOURNALIST: The unemployment rate for women is the lowest it’s been since 1974. Will a Labor Government drive that down even further?
MARLES: Well, we want to see the unemployment rate be as low as it can possibly be, and we want to see the unemployment rate be as low as it can possibly be for women as well. But what that requires is having a government which is continually focused on the jobs of the Australian people. And right now, we’ve got a government which is focused on the jobs of their own Cabinet and their own mates. It’s really important that we have a government which is focused on creating good jobs in our economy, which sees people being paid wages with jobs that are secure.
JOURNALIST: South Australia’s got the highest unemployment rate in the country. What would you do specifically here in this state if your government’s elected?
MARLES: Well, it shows that there remains work to be done. Again, this is a government which wraps itself in self-congratulation around the jobs numbers. There are still 1.4 million Australians looking for work. As you say, the number in South Australia is not as it is elsewhere in the country. There is more work which needs to be done in building an economy which generates well-paid secure jobs and that’s the vision that Anthony Albanese and Labor are bringing to this election, making sure that as we come out of the pandemic we build an economy which makes things again, which actually turns science into jobs and which generates the kind of secure well-paid jobs which our economy needs.
JOURNALIST: Does the Labor Party support offshore detention now? Albo made some confusing comments this morning.
MARLES: Well, firstly, we’ve got a desperate scare campaign on the part of the government right now. I mean, this is a government who is desperate to try and find division where no division exists. This is a government who no longer has anything positive to say to the Australian people having run an economy for a decade with low wages. So, let’s be really clear. There is no difference between Labor and the government when it comes to border protection policy. Labor supports Operation Sovereign Borders and every aspect of it. Indeed, Anthony Albanese was the Deputy Prime Minister when offshore processing was put in place and was amplified. Labor absolutely has the same position as the government in relation to this, Anthony Albanese’s made it clear that he supports these centres. And this is a desperate scare campaign on the part of the government to create division where no division exists at all.
JOURNALIST: With all due respect, it’s not a scare campaign, Anthony Albanese came out and said those words, and now he’s backtracking on what he said.
MARLES: Let me be really clear. There is no difference between Labor and the government when it comes to border protection policy. Labor believes in strong borders, Labor supports every aspect of Operation Sovereign Borders and Anthony Albanese has made clear his support for those centres, that those centres would remain open under a Labor Government.
JOURNALIST: Is his language too loose? I mean, just quoting him here, “we won’t need offshore detention centres because we’ll turn the boats back”. That’s what he said.
MARLES: This is a scare campaign from a government which is trying to create division where there is no division. They’re trying to create it where no division exists. And the reason they’re doing that is because they’ve got nothing positive left to say to the Australian people about what they are going to do to see wages grow again. That’s the real issue that coming out of today. That’s the real issue which is being faced by the Australian people now. The cost of living crunch which everyone is experiencing is because we have real wages going backwards. And that’s because it’s a design feature of this economy under Scott Morrison. That’s where Scott Morrison’s at and everything else is a scare campaign to try and get people looking at another direction from that fact.
JOURNALIST: You don’t think his language is too loose in saying those exact words? I mean, that’s not Scott Morrison, Albanese’s come out and said we won’t need offshore detention centres because we turned the boats back. That’s got nothing to do with Scott Morrison. That’s what Anthony Albanese said.
MARLES: There is no difference between Labor and the government when it comes to border protection policy, pure and simple.
JOURNALIST: I’ll ask you again, is he too loose with his language then?
MARLES: There is no difference between Labor and the government when it comes to border protection policy, all you are seeing here is a pathetic scare campaign on the part of the government to try and create division where no division exists.
JOURNALIST: Is he up for the job? Is he up for the job of Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese?
MARLES: Anthony Albanese is going to make a fantastic Prime Minister for this country. Tell you who’s not up to the job, Scott Morrison has failed Australians time and again over the last three years. Now the failure to roll out vaccines on time saw large parts of the country put into lockdown when we didn’t need to be. The failure to order RAT tests meant that there was chaos over the summer, where there didn’t need to be. The failure to manage our aged care system meant that the pandemic hit that system with real force in a way which should never have occurred. The person who is not up to the job here is Scott Morrison. And Scott Morrison has no vision for the future, which is why we are seeing the pathetic scare campaigns that we’ve got right now. Anthony Albanese sees a vision for this country coming out of the pandemic. He wants to make sure that we have a future made in Australia. We’re actually make things in this country again, where we turn science into jobs and see an economy which generates the secure well-paid jobs that our country needs.
JOURNALIST: Have you walked away from Australians struggling with the cost of living by ruling out an immediate increase to JobSeeker if you win government?
MARLES: If we are fortunate enough to win the next election, we will be inheriting a Budget which is a trillion dollars in debt and from a government which had doubled the debt before the pandemic started. Now we made really clear that NewStart is low and it’s very difficult to live on NewStart, we make no bones about that, and that is a number that we will continue to review in government. But right now, our focus is on making things more affordable for Australians and making sure that we can deal with the question of the cost of living and making sure that we can get wages going again.