Michaelia Cash, Minister For Employment: ‘Why Quibble Over 170,000 jobs?’


Senator Michaelia Cash is cashing in on Labor’s hatred of jobs and the Chinese, and loving jobs as she gets used to her new job as minister for jobs. Thom Mitchell explores.

The new Minister for Employment has stared down some teething problems in the Senate this week, with Labor catching her out grossly exaggerating the amount of jobs that will be created by the recent spate of free trade agreements Australia has signed with its Asian neighbours.

On Monday, Senator Michaelia Cash claimed that three recently inked free trade agreements — with China, Korea and Japan — will create 178,000 jobs when they come into full force by 2035.

It was a bit of an overstatement. Cash was out by more than 170,000 jobs.

But the Employment Minister — who rose to prominence in the cabinet reshuffle of the nation’s latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull — showed promising signs in her recovery from the gaffe. It turns out she really loves jobs. And she has gumption. Yesterday, she initially stood by the figure.

“I do and, certainly, that is what I was advised,” Cash told the Senate on Tuesday.

“You have got to love those on the other side, who continue to tell Australians that they are the great job creators, that they are the great protectors of the workers,” she said.

“They will come in here and quibble over the number of jobs that are going to be created by free-trade agreements.”

In this case, the chief quibbler was Labor Senator Deb O’Neil.

“Doesn’t the government’s own modelling show the North Asian free trade agreements will increase employment by 5,434 jobs in 2035,” she quibbled. “In light of this, hasn’t the minister misled the Senate?”

Let’s be real, O’Neill. We all know what the real question is: Why do you hate jobs so much?

“… You come into this place and instead of congratulating us, instead of showing a little bit of bipartisanship when it comes to the issue of job creation, all you do is come into this place and quibble,” Cash said.

The Shadow Minister for Leaners, Brendan O’Connor released a sniping statement yesterday in which he pointed out that “the difficulty is the figure [cited by Cash]had been totally discredited by an independent economist a month ago; so discredited that government members including the Trade Minister have stopped saying it”.

But look, the point is, Cash has a job to do. As a fresh-faced minister, she’s a busy woman. And she did get around to correcting the record later on Tuesday, the third time she spoke on the issue this week.

“I advise the Senate that yesterday I did quote a figure relating to jobs growth arising from the free trade agreements,” she said.

“In citing this figure, I was quoting a secondary source which had incorrectly added annual job creation figures to reach an overall cumulative figure. I have since been advised that the methodology was inaccurate.”

100,000 jobs [not]here, 70,000 jobs [not]there. Really, they’re missing the point.

As Cash pointed out: “If you look at the modelling by the Centre for International Economics, what does that show in relation to our three free-trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan? It shows they will create thousands of jobs, make households $4,348 better off and boost GDP by $24.4 billion between 2016 and 2035.”

Ironically, that’s the same modelling that shows the true number of jobs Australia’s free trade bonanza will create by 2035 is around 5,400.

Having revisited the document, Cash was able to “comfortably advise the Senate that these free trade agreements will still create many thousands of jobs that would otherwise not exist if the Opposition’s approach had been adopted”.

“I think the more appropriate question,” Cash said, “is why do those on the other side hate the China free-trade agreement in particular? Why have you indulged in… a xenophobic campaign that is solely aimed at ensuring that Australians going forward, young Australians, will not have the jobs….”

Hating China, hating jobs; it’s hardly a recipe for boosting employment. Let’s remember, folks, this government is all about hope, innovation, constructive dialogue. And it’s certainly not – and never been – about racism.

In fact, as New Matilda reported yesterday, the government loves creating jobs so much it’s even creating them for foreign workers. So much so that, in a process not too dissimilar from the much-vaunted free trade agreements, it’s decided to ‘liberalise’ coastal shipping.

According to the Maritime Union of Australia, the government’s own cost benefit analysis of the reform argues for a policy option that would result in the loss of 93 per cent – or 1,809 – of the Australian jobs in the coastal shipping trade. But let’s face it, like Labor, unions don’t really care about jobs. And who would trust their figures, anyway?

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.