Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate



13 June 2024

Topics: Labour force data, government weak on John Setka threats to AFL


Senator Cash

Well, we’ve seen the labour force figures for May 2024 released today. And whilst, of course we welcome a slight decrease in the unemployment level from 4.1% to 4%, what the figures today show it in particular the trend figures, they cannot mask the pain that Australians are feeling because of the cost of living crisis under the Albanese government in particular.

If you look at the trend figures in relation to the number of hours worked over the last 12 months, you’ve seen an increase of 17 million hours worked by Australians. And the latest quarterly labour accounts figures, what do they show, they confirm that more and more Australians are having to take on an additional job just to make ends meet.

So the only thing that is keeping Australians heads above water at this point in time is the fact that they have a job. But in having that job, they are having to work more hours. In other words, they have to work harder and longer just to pay their bills, and more and more Australians are having to take on an extra job, but we all know why.

It’s because of the decisions of the Albanese government that have seen, since they were elected, prices increase by in excess of 9%. Anyone who walks into a supermarket, they understand the impact of the cost of living crisis under Labor on their food prices. You walk out of a supermarket and you know you have paid more.

You talk to people about their electricity price, their gas price, and they’ll tell you they see it – a 20% increase despite Mr. Albanese telling them prior to the last election they would decrease their power bills by $275.

And then of course you have the ongoing issue with interest rates. You talk to anyone who has a mortgage, a person who has a mortgage around $750,000 – they are having to find, under the Albanese government, an additional $24,000 per year.

And again, this has all happened in the last two years because of the decisions that Mr. Albanese and the Labor Party are making. Of course we want a decrease in the unemployment figures for May – 4.1% down to 4%. But again, when you look at what the figures actually show Australians, they need jobs. They need jobs because they’ve got to pay their bills under this government.

But more Australians are working longer hours. They’re working harder and they’re still not making ends meet.

But more than that, they’re having to take on an additional job under Mr. Albanese so that they can pay their bills.

Could I also make some comments in relation to Mr. Albanese’s continued failure as the prime minister of this country to properly condemn the bullying the thuggery and the intimidation that we have all witnessed in the last 24 hours by John Setka as the head of the CFMEU.

John Setka is out there, threatening to delay major sporting infrastructure projects if the AFL don’t sack their head of umpiring Stephen McBurney.

Bullying, intimidation and threatening behaviour and who will ultimately pay for this? Well, that is the Australian people. And what does Mr. Albanese do? Well, yesterday he failed to condemn Mr. Setka.

Mr. Albanese has just done a press conference in Adelaide. And what did we see again? A failure by the prime minister of this country, the weak and insipid prime minister of this country to condemn the bullying, the bullying the thuggery and the intimidation by Mr. Setka.

But we all know why. Mr Albanese is beholden to the union movement in this country. $4.3 million donated by the CFMEU to the Australian Labour Party in the lead up to the 2022 election.

And we all know what the result of that was the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Mr. Setka criticizes the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Well, let’s look at their record. The courts of Australia in 91% of the cases brought by the Australian Building Construction Commission to the courts they were successful.

In other words, Mr. McBurney as head of the ABCC was successful in securing in excess of $16 million in fines for bad behaviour. But what he also prosecuted was employers who failed to properly pay employees. Mr McBurney secured in excess of $5 million on behalf of 8000 employees. So he didn’t just go after unions. He also went after employers who failed to do the right thing. But ultimately, it is the courts of Australia who decided, based on the evidence, that penalties should be imposed against the unions.

But quite frankly, the silence from Mr. Burke, as the relevant minister, and the failure now for two days in multiple press conferences for the Prime Minister of Australia to call out this behaviour and to properly condemn, bullying, bribery and intimidation, that should send a very, very clear message to all Australians. Here’s a weak Prime Minister, who won’t stand up for Australians, but my God, he will stand up for the bad behaviour of the unions in this country.


Peter Dutton said this week there is a growing expectation the country will be recession by the end of the year. Do you think that’s right?

Senator Cash

Certainly when you talk to households, and when you look at the GDP figures, you know, one might say as Angus Taylor has said this morning, we are already in a household recession.

You look at those latest GDP figures, the slowest annual GDP growth outside of the pandemic since 1991. And the problem that we have is there is no plan by Labor to do anything to arrest this. You need to look at the spending decisions of Mr. Albanese since he came to office. He has added $315 billion in additional spending.

We all know that does nothing to tame inflation. As I said. the GDP growth – the figures are now there for all to see – the slowest GDP growth, annual GDP growth on record since 1991, outside of the pandemic.

Productivity in this country has decreased now by around 5.2%. Employers are out there telling the government with the industrial relations changes that you have made the complexity, the added costs, the confusion that does not bode well over the coming months and years in terms of employers prospering growing and creating more jobs for Australians.

So you talk to households, we’re in a household recession, but you look at the actual figures, the GDP growth. You can see what they’re suggesting. You look at where interest rates are. You look at the unemployment figures, but more than that, you’re looking at the decisions of Mr. Albanese and his government and they are doing nothing to arrest where the economy is.


The unemployment figures continue to hold right now. Does that make the RBA more likely to raise interest rates?

Senator Cash

Oh well you just have to see the response from the commentators. In particular, since the unemployment figures came down today, I mean, all credible economists and I look at Adam Boyton, the head of the ANZ economics team. I mean, he is saying they cannot see rates going down until at least February of next year? So all the credible economists are saying that the next decision by the RBA is a tough one. Do they hold rates or do they increase them. But again, they are having to do the heavy lifting because the Albanese government, despite all of their rhetoric, despite every time their ministers stand up, and they tell you how good it is in Australia, the figures and the evidence now show the RBA itself – they have admitted inflation in this country ss home grown, and it is home grown because of the decisions of the Albanese government. It’s as simple as that.


Some say the low unemployment shows a resilience in the economy which could lead to another interest rate rise. Do you think rates will go up? Before they go down?

Senator Cash

Oh, well, again, you look – what you’ve just quoted is a credible economist. And that is what all credible economists are currently saying because of today’s figures. Mr. Albanese and his economic team refuse to do the heavy lifting to tame inflation. The Reserve Bank itself has admitted inflation is now home grown. What that means is decisions of the Albanese government, one of those decisions is $315 billion in additional spending since they came to office. That is what is putting the pressure on inflation. So what is the RBA have to do? They have to make really tough decisions because the Albanese government is failing to make those decisions.

And again, you look at the credible economists over the last week but in particular in the last hour since the labour force data was released who have said this just made the decision of the RBA a lot harder. And then Adam Boyton, an incredibly well known economist, now with the ANZ, who said his expectation of the ANZ’s expectation is potentially not until February of next year.


Do you think all these Australians piling into jobs, working longer hours just delays the inevitable? Do we need to have an Australian recession for the economy to contract?

Senator Cash

What you actually need is decisions by the Prime Minister and the treasurer that are in in the best interests of Australians. But today what you are seeing is they are structurally changing the way we do business here in this country. The $315 billion in additional spending, the economists have said to them, that you have an impact and a negative impact on inflation. You look at what employers are saying to them in relation to the industrial relations changes, many which have still not commenced. They have said you add additional cost, additional complexity and additional confusion to what is already anyone who’s read the Fair Work Act, is already an incredibly costly and complex system. It does not bode well for job creation in this country in the long term.

So again, you look at the decisions that the Albanese government is making, continues to make, and you can see the impact it ultimately has on inflation – it’s home grown. But it also then does put pressure on the RBA to do the heavy lifting. When I’m out there every day like so many of my colleagues talking to people it is heartbreaking when you sit down with someone who has their own home, who has a job, who is now having to work additional hours or take on a part time job to pay their bills. And they look at you and they say where do I find the additional, in some cases, $24,000. And the answer is under Mr. Albanese I don’t know, because there is no answer.


The Prime Minister says John Setka and the CFMEU should back off on its campaign against the AFL. Is that strong enough or not?

Senator Cash

I watched the press conference. He was asked a question and he gave a one word answer. That is it. Where was the condemnation of this type of behaviour. Where was he calling Mr. Setka out and saying that is utterly disgraceful behaviour. I condemn it on behalf of all Australians, and I’m calling for Mr. Sitka to basically cease and desist. But we know he can’t do that. When you receive money from the CFMEU and it’s serious money – $4.3 million in the lead up to the last election. That is a lot of money. You are beholden to them. But not only that, actions speak louder than any words. One of the first acts of the Albanese government was to abolish the tough cop on the beat, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Mr. Albanese handed on a silver platter, over to Mr. Setka, our third largest industry in Australia, contributing to about 9% of GDP. He said to Mr. Setka – here is the building and construction industry. So the behaviour we are seeing by Mr. Setka is quite frankly, a direct result of Mr. Albanese his decisions. But let’s face it, he was merely saying thank you to the CFMEU for the millions and millions of dollars they have donated to the Australian Labor Party.


But the Prime Minister booted John Setka out of the Labour Party in 2019. It’s a but of stretch to say he’s taking money from John Setka?

Senator Cash

What is voting Mr. Setka out of the Australian Labor Party got to do with Mr. Setka’s actions today? He booted him out of the Australian Labor Party – they still accept their money – $4.3 million in the lead up to the last election. They still delivered. Mr. Setka’s number one demand – the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, one of the very first acts when they came to government. They defend the CFMEU. They refuse to condemn them.
So, quite frankly, hollow words from a weak Prime Minister, that do not reflect the behaviours that we are seeing here today in 2024. I spoke to Master Builders yesterday and they said to me about the cost imposition on the Australian taxpayer today in 2024 terms because of the actions of the unions, and they said they’re currently estimated between an additional cost of 20 to 25%, because of the actions of unions. So do you know what that means? Australians, pay more for their roads. Australians pay more for their hospitals, and Australians pay more for their schools. And what does Mr. Albanese say? Quite frankly, nothing. And I watched his body language – weak and insipid in that press conference, and could not move off the topic fast enough. Thanks a lot.