Television interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Thursday 13 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Lower unemployment rate; Commonwealth Prac Payment; Peter Dutton’s inaction on climate change.

KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go live to the Education Minister, Jason Clare joins me. So, good news on the, on the jobs front. Is this a sign that the soft landing, in an economic sense, might actually be achievable Jason Clare?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: It is good news, mate. Low unemployment is critically important. There’s nothing more important than a job. We’re seeing inflation coming down. There’s more work to do on that front, but inflation is coming down, wages are going up, we’re getting real wage growth. That’s important too, so that your money buys more. But unemployment remaining low as well. And that’s the sort of trifecta we need. Inflation down, wages up and low unemployment.

GILBERT: Indeed. And as Ross said, we always welcome that. We cheer that on. And a resilient labour market is what we, we want to see. But there is that complexity, and I don’t guess you’ll go there, Jim Chalmers won’t, you won’t, on the RBA. That’s their deliberations. But it’s part of the mix, isn’t it? They look at this number when assessing the overall strength of the economy and where to move in, trying to get that inflation back within the band.

CLARE: I won’t pre-empt anything that the Reserve Bank would do, but they look at a whole suite of different indicators in which to make the decisions that they make. Our job is to make sure that we’re making the right investments in the budget, to make sure that we’re getting inflation down. But we’re also helping to get wages growing and keep unemployment low. And you’re seeing evidence of that in that data today.

GILBERT: You’re providing some cost-of-living support to students. This is going to, from memory, it helps about 70,000 odd nursing and teaching students in higher education, whether it be universities or the other tertiary institutions like TAFEs and so on. Can you give our viewers a sense, will this help boost the number studying? Will people, more people, young people, sign up to be a teacher or a nurse as a result?

CLARE: We’re hoping that this will encourage more people to want to be a teacher, want to be a nurse, want to be a midwife or want to be a social worker, but also to help more of the people who are doing the course now, to complete the course. Lots of evidence that people, when they have to do the prac as part of their degree, have to give up their part time job. And that can mean that sometimes they delay finishing their degree or don’t finish it at all. We need more people to enrol. We also need more people to complete their courses and, in the budget, for the first time ever, the Commonwealth has committed to providing a financial payment to support teaching and nursing and social work students while they do their practical part of their degree. 

To give you a real-life example, I spoke to a nursing student the other day who said she’s at uni about 20 hours a week and then she works at the local hospital, being paid as an assistant in nursing when she’s not at uni. Now, when she does the prac part of her degree, which is about 800 hours over three years, she works at the same hospital but has to give up the paid work as an assistant in nursing because you can’t do both at the same time. She’s working 40 hours a week in an unpaid role doing prac and said to me, “look, that’s the difference between whether I drive the car to pay for the petrol and the parking at the hospital or whether I can pay for food that night.” There’s lots of evidence that there’s students that are dropping out or not completing or delaying completing their nursing and teaching degrees here, and that paid prac can be a really important aid in helping to encourage more people to be a teacher, to want to be a nurse and then to finish their degree.

GILBERT: Yeah, well, they are life changers, aren’t they? Such a crucial career choice. And just finally, before you go, we’ve seen the Opposition Leader, a real shift in terms of his approach, in terms of, you know, saying he’s not going to honour that 2030 target that your government put in place. They voted against it in the Parliament. Was this really a surprise when it eventuated from the Coalition this week?

CLARE: It’s just a mess, mate. They’re telling us that they’re going to put nuclear reactors around the country, but they won’t tell us where they are. And now they’re saying that they’ll have a different 2030 target, but they won’t tell us what that is until after the next election. What I would say is we always knew that Peter Dutton didn’t take this seriously. Scott Morrison pretended to. Peter Dutton is pretty clear here that he’s not taking this seriously. But how can you trust somebody, how can you trust them enough to vote for them to become the Prime Minister of Australia if he won’t tell you what he’ll do until after the election? 

We had a referendum last year where Peter Dutton said, where’s the detail? And he said, “if you don’t know, vote no.” The hypocrisy here is pretty rich. Now he’s going to an election saying that he’s not going to tell the Australian people what his targets are going to be or what it will mean for jobs until after the election. I put the question to Peter Dutton and say, if you’re serious about this, then do what you said we should do last year. Give us the details. Because if the Australian people don’t know, then they won’t vote for you.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

CLARE: Good on you. Thanks, mate.