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Jobmaker – Morrison’s Recovery Plan

The eagerly awaited government plan for getting the economy out of intensive care was revealed by the Prime Minister, Scott Morison to the National Press Club on Tuesday. As a blueprint for a surging revival of economic activity it was pretty underwhelming. There were no new big-spending initiatives nor any plans for ‘snap back’. Instead there was the outline of a steady building framework to set the economic policy agenda for the next five years.

Mr. Morrison warned that welfare spending could not carry on indefinitely. He said Australia had to get off the medication before it became addicted to it. Australians were capable of doing extraordinary things. People were ready for economic recovery because we have done so well in suppressing the disease. This has bought precious time.

The Government has started the process of economic recovery: Treasury estimates that this will create 850,000 additional jobs. Unemployment and underemployment will increase in the short term but the rebuilding will take three to five years.

He said the rebuilding would be based on five principles: good financial management; greater self-reliance within an open economy; more investment in skills; a better working environment and focusing on ‘what makes the boat go faster’ particularly improvements to the tax system and reductions in red tape.

In his address Mr. Morrison concentrated on two areas: skills and industrial relations. He said we need skilled workers who have the ability in the jobs that are going to be created in the new economy. At the moment vocational training is complex and incoherent. There are differences in fees and subsidies between states. Qualifications take too long to acquire. The Prime Minister wants skilled trades to be something that is aspired to.

There are three4 pilot schemes currently operating: human services; digital technology and mining. These have had spectacular results and will be models for the development of a new agreement between the Commonwealth and the states.

In industrial relations the PM has been impressed by the co-operation between the employers, the unions, and the government. The next step is to bring people together to develop an IR environment that can get people back into work. Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, will establish a group to examine award simplification, enterprise bargaining, compliance, and rules for greenfield projects. This process will have to deliver a jobmaker package by September.

Asked whether the accord 2.0 was supported by business and the ACTU, the PM said that he would allow the various groups to speak for themselves. The Commonwealth had booked the room and was waiting for responses. In relation to migration he said there would be a big gap in inflow which would impact growth.

Asked about the multilateral trade system, Mr. Morrison said that his government would work with anyone who wanted to strengthen the system. He said that Australia was working with China to improve the dispute settlement process.

The Prime Minister said the key to a strong economy was successful businesses and this should be the primary policy objective not increases in government welfare. One key to this is to have more people trained in the skills businesses want and the Commonwealth was prepared to spend more money on VET but not on the present system.

On tax reform he said this would be considered by the National Cabinet in due course and some changes will be reflected in the budget in October.

In response to a question about whether older people should have to pay off the national debt in order to protect the future of young people, the Prime Minister said that it was dangerous to try and divide the country rather than bringing people together.

His closing point was that younger people would be the major beneficiaries of the economic recovery and would find it easier to find jobs than displaced older people.

It is clear that the PM is taking things one step at a time. He doesn’t want to frighten the horses with big bells and whistles policy plans. It remains to be seen whether he can hold his motley crew of state governments, businesses, and unions together for the next three to five years.

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