6 March 2015
Transcript - #2015046, 2015

Interview with Patrick Condren, 4BC

CONDREN:

Joe Hockey is the Treasurer of Australia. Mr Hockey, good morning. Welcome to Brisbane.

TREASURER:

Good to be here Patrick, although I’m not sure about it being overcast…

CONDREN:

Well, we had the good weather here yesterday. You should’ve been here yesterday the fish were bitin’ then.

TREASURER:

Yeah, it would have been a pleasure to be out of Canberra yesterday, so there you go.

CONDREN:

Now, you want older people to continue working;  how do you overcome the prejudice against them by employers who won’t employ older people?

TREASURER:

Well, firstly can we go back? I don’t think by 2055 – I’m not as (inaudible) or pessimistic about 2055 as you might be. From my perspective and from the Intergenerational Report perspective…

CONDREN:

Maybe it’s the overcast weather that’s getting me down!

TREASURER:

Well it might be, but we are going to be healthier, we are going to be wealthier, and we are going to have longer lives. And, the question is how do we pay for that? How do we make sure that the quality of life that we have, in the years ahead, is as good if not better as what we have now. Now, one of the ways to do it is to encourage more people to participate in work. We’re not forcing anyone to do it. We are encouraging it, and that’s not just about people who are living longer continuing to participate in work. In fact, I think, didn’t Wayne Bennett just sign up for another three years?

CONDREN:

But he hasn’t been out of work…

TREASURER:

Well no, but you don’t have to be but sometimes you might be, and during the course of our lives we might be out of work at 40, we might be out of work at 30 or 50, but we might choose to go back into work, we might want to go back into work. So, we’ve got to think about lives that are longer, where people are having many different careers – are having many different periods of training, and new periods of education, and how we need to start to build a society that copes with that.

CONDREN:

Okay. Again, I come back to my question, how do you overcome the prejudice of employers? We get plenty of people who ring into this programme when we talk about older people working longer, and or going back into the workforce saying, you know they’re over 50, they can’t get a job, no one will take them on. So, how do you overcome that prejudice from employers to fulfil this ageing Nirvana that you’re talking about?

TREASURER:

Well, there are three things that are going to overcome that prejudice. Number one is necessity, because we’re going to have fewer and fewer people aged under 65 of traditional working age in Australia. So, employers are going to have to turn to people over the age of fifty, and if you look at Bunnings, one in four of their workers are over fifty. In fact, I made the mistake the other day of asking an eighty-three-year old Bunnings worker how many days a week he worked, and he chided at me and said, ‘well, five days a week of course’. So, you know things are – this is happening. There is a change.

CONDREN:

Do you see yourself ending up at Bunnings at some stage?

TREASURER:

Well, Bunnings or Masters or maybe [inaudible] a farmer, or whatever the case might be, but I don’t see myself as retiring at 65, and sitting on a beach and, I just don’t see that happening I see…

CONDREN:

Well, what do you see at 65? What’s in your future at 65 then?

TREASURER:

Oh Lord knows, but I know that that you know like many people I know, they want to still be very active in one form or another, and as I was about to say, the second area that’s going to change our attitudes to business is technology because, now there’s less manual labour even in manufacturing – there’s less physical or manual labour. There’s more robotics, there’s more technology, and that’s very important. And then the third thing is we need to put a better value on the wisdom and knowledge of experience and these days everyone seems to think they’re re-inventing the wheel or inveting the wheel for the first time, but what they’re actually doing, is missing out on the opportunity to access the wisdom and knowledge of people that have had good and long lives.

CONDREN:

And I get what you’re talking about, and I applaud it in fact, in terms of getting older people back into the workforce or continuing in the workforce, and utilising that experience. But again, you know not every older person is going to be okay with technology, they’re…

TREASURER:

Sure.

CONDREN:

Some of the stuff that you’re talking about is motherhood sort of stuff. It’s not… There are no practical solutions to the questions coming from Government, as to how to get older people who might not have the technological skills for example, to engage in that sort of aspect of the workforce. So…

TREASURER:

Well, I think you’re right, I mean there are points you made. I mean number one, in the last Budget I announced a program called ‘Restart’, where we will pay employers $10,000 if they employ someone over the age of fifty who has been on a welfare benefit. And, we will pay them over the two year period $10,000 to give that older person an opportunity to go into the workforce. Now, that program needs some tweaking, but we want to make it work because we want to provide incentives where we can, for employers to change their own attitudes towards older workers. But you know, there are also lessons for mums coming back to work, and lessons in female participation. Australia has a comparatively low rate of female workforce participation compared with say, Canada and New Zealand, but the interesting thing is, Queensland is 50 per cent better than the rest of Australia in terms of that difference.

CONDREN:

Well Mr Hockey that doesn’t surprise anyone living in Queensland because, despite the views of some southerners, we are in fact a forward-looking state. We had the first popularly elected female Premier, and in fact the leadership team here in Queensland now is both women.

TREASURER:

Well I can’t speak for southerners [inaudible] and I know Queensland is a [inaudible] state and I know that what you say is right, but it’s not just about you know… I mean at various points other states have had female Premiers and…

CONDREN:

Sure, but Queensland has led the way in electing, you know, female political leaders, certainly on a state level, and in fact over half the Cabinet of Annastacia Palaszczuk are women – I don’t think that’s the case in the Federal Cabinet… I’m happy to be corrected.

TREASURER:

No, no, you know it’s not the case. But, but, the interesting thing is the high level of female workforce participation in Queensland – I’ve just been thinking about it on the plane from Canberra. I mean, I’d love to try and get some data on exactly why this is the case. I have a feeling that it is associated with a large tourism industry here in Queensland when you think about it, and the flexibility of the tourism [inaudible] Also, I mean Queensland is the state of small business too, and small business is a great tool to empower individuals, particularly women who want to start up their own home-based business.

CONDREN:

Could Federal Cabinet, you know, set the standard here? Appointing more women to Cabinet?

TREASURER:

There are always – I always support that sort of initiative. You know, I’m surrounded by very, very strong and very experienced women in my life, and you know whether you’re a woman or a man, I think the wisdom of experience from life is very valuable.

CONDREN:

Okay. Now, in The Australian today, Alan Kohler has written that there is one barnacle that the Abbott Government needs to get rid of immediately, the rule that any director of a government board who was appointed by the previous Labor Government will not be reappointed. Are you aware of that rule?

TREASURER:

No there is – that’s not a rule.

CONDREN:

Is it more a guideline than a rule?

TREASURER:

It is more about making sure that if people have been here for a while, that we give others and opportunity. Now, there have been a vast number of people that – who we have been appointed by the previous Government that we have actually reappointed. So, I’m not quite sure where that suggestion came from.

CONDREN:

So, there’s no rule that’s been issued by either the Prime Minister or his Chief of Staff that previous Labor Government employees not be reappointed?

TREASURER:

No, no.

CONDREN:

Okay…

TREASURER:

Again, it comes back, to the end of a lot of government appointments, and it comes back to giving you know people a chance, who have not been involved, and giving them a chance to be involved in various positions.

CONDREN:

Dave sent me an email while we’ve been on air: Hi Patrick we need jobs for our youth, as they will carry the economy forward in future. Too many oldies staying at work deprives the youth of jobs. Our older people are valuable but many have nice nest eggs and they are at the end of their lives. Mr Hockey needs to wise up, or face a huge youth unemployment problem that will decimate the economy. Regards, Dave.

TREASURER:

Well Dave, I don’t agree. I think,  you’ve got to understand that we are going to have more jobs over time than can be accommodated by employees of different age groups. What we’ve got to do is make sure that we keep the momentum going in the economy. Now, when I say that we are going to have more jobs, the forecast is, over the long-term, that we are going to have an unemployment rate of around five per cent, get back to five per cent.

CONDREN:

Because it’s significantly higher than that at the moment. It’s…

TREASURER:

Correct, it is.

CONDREN:

[Inaudible]

TREASURER:

That’s right. When we were last in Government, the Coalition got it down to around 4.1 per cent, when I was Workplace Relations Minister. It’s back up at the moment, we want to get it back down.

CONDREN:

But you can’t live on old victories, Treasurer.

TREASURER:

No, you can’t. You have got to look for new ones and that’s why we are working damn hard to create jobs. We are particularly focused on young people, giving them the opportunity to earn or learn, and that’s one of the reasons why we have put a lot of money into apprenticeships, particularly in providing, you know loans to apprentices so they can finish their full apprenticeship and also why we are putting a lot of money into a loan scheme for people that undertake sub-diploma courses. Previously, those loan schemes were only available to university students. We’ve opened up the door to people who are undertaking sub-diplomas and various other training programmes, and as a result we are very focused on how we can lift the skill set for the young people and to help them be better qualified. But, it’s not a war between the generations. It’s not a war between the generations; the Intergenerational Report is a compact between the generations, because I’ve had a better quality of life than my parents, and their parents before them. I want my children, and those that follow to have an even better quality than me.

CONDREN:

Two more quick things before you go, Treasurer. Tony Abbott, still safe in the top job?

TREASURER:

Oh, come on Patrick…

CONDREN:

Well, I’ve got to ask the question.

TREASURER:

Well, no you don’t.

CONDREN:

Well then forget I asked that question. Let me go, I’ll go to an easier one then.

TREASURER:

Yeah.

CONDREN:

A student at an all-male Brisbane school, Churchie, has been advised to keep with school tradition and bring a female to his year 12 formal, despite asking to bring a male date. What do you think about that? It’s a big deal – lots of people want to talk about it.

TREASURER:

Well, you know, I don’t think we should discriminate in any way, under the law, or in various forums, against people who have same sex partners. On the one hand there are different clubs and various other organisations that have rules but I think as a general rule, I think it’s wrong to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexuality.

CONDREN:

Okay. Mr Hockey, thank you for your time this morning. Next time you’re in town, perhaps we could get you into the studio and we could do this face to face?

TREASURER:

Well, I’d like to do that.

CONDREN:

I’d love to do that.

TREASURER:

It would be great. I’d like to speak to the management of this station and try and encourage them to employ older workers.

CONDREN:

Hang on, don’t be trying to get me the sack!

TREASURER:

Well, you said you wanted to retire at the beginning of the interview. Come on, you can’t have it both ways.

CONDREN:

Fair enough. I’m off, you’re in.

TREASURER:

Well, that’d be a pay rise for me, Patrick.

CONDREN:

You are kidding! Joe Hockey, thank you for your time.

TREASURER:

See you.

CONDREN:

Treasurer of Australia Joe Hockey – good sport as always.