Andrew McKellar interview with Ross Greenwood, Business Now Sky News.

12 Apr 2022 |

Event: Andrew McKellar interview with Ross Greenwood, Business Now Sky News.

Speakers: Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ross Greenwood, host Business Now Sky News.

Date: 12 April 2022.

Topics: ACTU casualisation scare campaign, strength in labour market, Coalition job’s pledge, skills investment, workforce participation, Australian Building and Construction Commission, enterprise bargaining agreements, productivity.

E&OE 

Ross Greenwood, host Business Now Sky News: So, let’s bring in here Andrew McKellar, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s biggest business network. Andrew, many thanks for your time. There’s a big editorial in the Financial Review, for example, today, belling this cat, talking about the way in which casualisation is working in our economy right now. The reality is some workers work this way willingly and indeed employers employ those people willingly and with flexibility.

Andrew McKellar, chief executive Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Good afternoon, Ross. Indeed, that’s exactly right. I mean the first thing to note is that we are in a very strong labour market. Unemployment is currently at four per cent, so actually job security at the moment is very good. If you want a job, by and large, you can get a job. There’s the greatest labour shortage that we’ve seen in nearly 50 years. Casual employment is part of that employment mix. Many people do want to take a casual job, and right now there are protections in place so that if you are a casual employee, after 12 months you have the right to ask your employer to review your position and consider whether or not it should be made part-time permanent, or full-time permanent. So look, I think it’s a false premise.

Ross: Yeah, I was going to jump in there and just say the Prime Minister today pledged during the next term of government, if he gets in, he’ll create some 1.3 million jobs. Where are the workers going to come from? There’s a shortage of workers right now and surely if those jobs are created, it’s only going to add to the wage inflation. The wages bill is going to keep going up.

Andrew: I think that’s one of the important details in the government’s announcement today. Where are those workers going to come from? We have to continue to invest in skills. That’s got to be an important part of the equation. We’ve got to see what the major parties both put forward in that regard. We’ve got to encourage stronger participation and I think there’s a lot more that can be said on that. And the other thing that the major parties have got to start talking about is the role of immigration. So look, there’s important detail here. If we’re going to create that many jobs, exactly, where are they going to come from? But we can’t be sending the economy backwards. We can’t be curtailing casual employment, it is something that many people do choose to do. They get paid more and, in turn, there is a trade off in terms of some of the other conditions in terms of leave entitlements.

Ross: But are you concerned about things such as the opposition wanting to roll back the Australian Building and Construction Commission? This whole issue around casualisation. The fact you know there are big wages claims coming down the pipeline when enterprise bargaining agreements are up for negotiation. You know this is coming down the pipe if labour is elected. Does that fill you and your members with some dread?

Andrew: Well, I think there is a lot of detail in what Labor is saying that really will cause business to think twice, and certainly there can be no assumption that these things will just sail through or come to pass. I think there does have to be scrutiny on these points. We have to look at where the real reforms that are required in our labour market are going to be, and simply saying that we’re going to roll back, or we’re going to reduce flexibility, or we’re going to introduce more regulation, the very real risk is that if you go down that pathway, you are going to end up destroying jobs, not creating jobs. We have to have a real debate about what’s going to create productivity, otherwise the situation we’re going to be in is that wages pressure will grow, but it will also be matched by price pressures.  That will just lead to a situation where prices and wages are chasing each other, interest rates are going up, and it won’t deliver real increases in real wages.

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