Avani Dias: Simon Birmingham, Federal Finance Minister, is here. And if you do have a question for him, text me. Minister, thanks for coming on Hack.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Avani. It’s great to be with you.
Avani Dias: All right, let’s start with jobs. It’s a big one for young people because the youth unemployment rate is still so high, you’re promising 250,000 Australians will be in work by the end of next year. But how many of those will go to young Australians?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Avani we would expect a good number to go to young Australians. We’re supporting a further 100,000 apprenticeship subsidies across the country that we’re investing in skills in modern high tech areas of the economy through our digital economy strategy. And overall, we’re seeing now a real growth in terms of the labour market, where in Australia we have more people in work today than there were prepandemic. And we’re the first country in the developed world to be able to get back to that level of pre-pandemic employment. We face many threats from around the world in terms of how we continue to manage COVID-19. But our plan has always been centred on how we preserve business capability, drive business investment to get jobs back. It’s working in terms of having that job creation underway now. And our forecasts show that with the continued measures that we’re putting in place through this budget, we can drive that extra 250,000 jobs across the economy.
Avani Dias: Minister, how many young people, though, have you cracked the numbers? Because we know jobs are coming back for the rest of the population, but young people are still really struggling. So have you broken that down and looked at those numbers and then decided on the programs you’re investing in?
Simon Birmingham: Well, that’s why we’ve driven indeed some of the investment in those target areas, such as apprenticeships, such as digital skills, which are areas in which we know we can get more young people into those sorts of roles. And so we are clearly focussed in terms of growth in those sorts of sectors. Our digital economy strategy has elements in relation to new investment in areas such as artificial intelligence. We have a strategy in terms of getting more work around gaming, development, design, production of those gaming applications in Australia into the future.
Avani Dias: Minister, to jump in there you’re obviously investing in skilling up a lot of young people, but we’ve heard on the show today and from our audience that, you know, they’re getting skilled up in these areas and then there aren’t jobs to actually apply for in those areas. So where are the jobs here for young people?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the gaming applications are just talking about is leveraging off success we’ve had in terms of creating a model for how we attract more film and movie production in Australia. And now we’re expanding that model because of its success into the gaming sector. Now we’re doing that as well. In other areas like artificial intelligence. I was saying we’re also making sure in areas of biotechnology, of medicines and medical products that we put in place now what’s known as a patent box to create a better tax incentive environment for businesses to grow.
Avani Dias: Minister to jump in. I do understand you’re investing in all those areas and that’s great.
Simon Birmingham: But these are the things that creates jobs, Avani.
Avani Dias: Sure, but how many jobs are there for young people who still haven’t been able to tell us that?
Simon Birmingham: Avani, our Forecasts are for 250,000 jobs across the economy now, 100,000 extra places for apprenticeships. As I said earlier, overwhelmingly, they will go to young Australians. We expect to see overall the unemployment rate come down below five per cent and we expect to see movement in the youth unemployment rate, as well as a function of that.
Avani Dias: Last year, you really came out guns blazing and said, you know, we’ve got 450,000 jobs that’ll be coming out of our JobMaker programme that resulted in only a thousand young people actually getting employment. So how can we trust that all these programs are putting money into are actually going to bring about jobs for young Australians?
Simon Birmingham: Well, because we’ve by far and away exceeded all of the employment forecasts from the last year.
Avani Dias: But not in terms of the JobMaker scheme, you promised for 50000 jobs for young Australians and only a thousand people got work.
Simon Birmingham: What we expected was that unemployment would still be tracking somewhere around seven and a half per cent when in fact we got it to below six per cent. And so we were expecting to be dealing with a far worse labour market with far greater demand and need for programs like the JobMaker one. Pleasingly, pleasingly, jobs came back a whole lot faster, half a million jobs coming back during that time frame. So crucially, we’ve seen real jobs, sustainable jobs without the need for those government subsidy programmes delivered. By overwhelmingly the private sector in that time,
Avani Dias: Minister, we don’t have too much time, but, you know, a big reason why young people were affected in the pandemic is because industries that they’re working in were really hard hit. A big one is the arts. We haven’t seen any money in this budget for the live music industry, for festivals and so on, which have basically been decimated. Why not?
Simon Birmingham: We announced only around the same time as our tourism and aviation industry support a couple of months ago, some further support measures in relation to the entertainment sector overall. And we’re certainly continuing to monitor impacts across those sectors. But let’s remember that across our economy, there is always some movement from one job sector to another job sector that occurs in any given month. Indeed, in any given month pre pandemic, we had hundreds of thousands of people who would shift across the economy, across jobs, just in the normal movement of things.
Avani Dias: Minister there isn’t support for the Arts here, is there?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve what we’ve been able to achieve in this COVID recovery is to actually get employment across Australia above what it was in pre pandemic levels. Now, as I said before, that’s something that we’ve done where no other country has. Yes. Sometimes people have had to work in different industries where the jobs growth is being generated rather than where there are pressure points. That’s part of the adjustment that occurs in the economy quite normally. We have funded millions of dollars of assistance through the pandemic and again, quite recently in the lead up to this budget for the tourism sector, for the aviation sector, for the entertainment sector, recognising the particular pressure points that they face.
Avani Dias: Minister really appreciate you coming on the show.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you. My pleasure.
Avani Dias: That’s all we’ve got time for. I’ll see you tomorrow.