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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23428

Address to the Woolworths/News Corp Generation Success Breakfast, Sydney

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2014

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23428

Location: Sydney

Thank you so much. It is a thrill to be here this morning and it’s terrific to be amongst so many people who are making a difference to the lives of millions of Australians, but hopefully are going to make more difference over time to the lives of millions of young Australians by helping them, inspiring them, giving them the work that they are all looking for.

Now I looked at my programme this morning, it said Keynote address - Prime Minister, 20 minutes. Well I’m not going to talk for 20 minutes; you can rest assured that the purpose of today is not to listen to a politician. The purpose of today is to hear a whole range of individuals, a couple of them who happen to be CEOs, one of them who happens to be a politician talk about jobs and what jobs and what might make them happen.

I used to be the employment minister, I spent a lot of time talking with people who were looking for work, providing work and facilitating the provision of work, and this idea that we sometimes get when we’re discussing the subject of employment that it’s something that happens ‘out there’, that jobs are things that government or the economy is responsible for is a little misleading because employment happens when an individual employer gives an individual person a job. So it’s basically about two people and yes, those two people operate in an environment, in an economy, but essentially employment is about two people: the person who says yes, I’ve got a job and the person who says yes, I’ll do the job.

That’s what it’s about and as employment minister I spent a lot of time with people who were part of my signature employment programme Work for the Dole. Now it wasn’t always a popular programme Work for the Dole, some people thought that it was a bit demeaning to be in a programme called Work for the Dole, but the great thing about Work for the Dole back then under the Howard government was that it was about giving people a chance, not to show the world what they couldn’t do, but to show the world what they could do. That they could actually do something rather than doing nothing and that’s very important because Grant was saying a moment ago that our greatest commodity is optimism. You are so right and life crushes the spirit and the optimism of so many people and there is nothing that is more spirit crushing than the sense that you have something to give, but nowhere to give it.

Life ends up programming too many of us to fail and we have to try to ensure that we change the programme. Program people to succeed because everyone can be good at something, it’s just a question of finding what that is. I’m still looking myself! I have to say it’s been a pretty different journey. I dare say everyone in this room could talk about his or her journey to this point this morning and it’s different for every one of us and there’s probably been some pretty surprising twists and turns for every one of us.

My first jobs was building a fence for a friend of my dad’s when I was 16 years old. I did it for three weeks, I got paid two dollars an hour and I hope the fence is still there. I’ve been a labourer, a bartender, I’ve been a handyman, I’ve written case notes for CCH, I’ve picked up glasses in the Charlton Bar at Manly. I’ve done all those things before finally becoming a journalist and then a Member of Parliament. You know it was interesting, not long after becoming a Member of Parliament someone gave me a piece poll data that purported to rank the ethics and honesty and standing of various occupations and there was doctors and nurses up there at 80 per cent for ethics and honesty and standing, and judges and lawyers at 50 per cent and there were bankers and stockbrokers at 30 per cent and there were politicians down there at 10 per cent. I thought that’s pretty dispiriting, but then I looked further down the list and I thought – geeze I’m a social climber – because journalists are only five per cent for ethics and honesty.

But all of us have been on a journey and I think the message that we have to give to our young people is that it doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start. It’s not where you start, it’s where you’re going and where you end up which matters and yes, we have a responsibility as leaders in our society to try to ensure that everyone gets a fair go, but what we need to encourage in others is the readiness to have a go because that’s the magic combination that we here in Australia are so good at: giving everyone a fair go and encouraging everyone to have a go.

Now I want to congratulate and thank all of the employers in this room. Obviously I want to thank News Limited because News Limited were good enough to employ me for a period of time. Thank you Julian and the others at News Limited who have been my friends and sometime bosses. But I particularly want to thank Woolworths. Grant, terrific initiative. This really is a terrific initiative and the interesting thing about Woolies is you employ the number of people that as far as I can work out, it exceeds the entire workforce of Tasmania. One company employees more people than the entire workforce of Tasmania and as you told us today, everyday 87 youngsters start their first job at Woolworths - what a marvellous social service that is. The general view of big business is you’re out there gauging people so that you can pay yourselves big salaries and enrich already wealthy shareholders. Well, wrong, wrong, wrong; companies like Woolworths are providing a service every day that helps us to live, helps us to live better and one of the services is of course keeping people in work.

So I want to thank all of the employers of our country, particularly the small business employers because if you go and work for Woolies all you can lose is your job, but if you are a small business employer you not just might lose your job, but you could lose your house if the business goes bad. So I thank all of the employers of our country, but I particularly thank the small business employers of our country. Now I want to assure you all, workers, employers, would-be workers and would-be employers that the Government I lead is determined to create the best possible environment for you to provide work and for you to find work .The best way to do that is to try to make our economy as strong as possible and everything that this Government is doing is designed to make the economy stronger. We want to get unnecessary taxes off, because the lower the taxes the more creative activity there’ll be in our economy. We want to get regulations down for exactly the same reason. We are currently, as you all know, wrestling with the challenge of the Budget and trying to rein in what we think is unsustainable spending and we’re not doing that just to keep the headline writers at the Financial Review happy. We’re not doing that just to win plaudits from economists, we’re doing this because in the end it produces more jobs and more prosperity because if spending is out of control, sooner or later taxes will be out of control and that makes it bad for everyone.

Yesterday, you might have noticed we announced a commitment to an airport for Western Sydney. This is essentially a jobs package for what is the third largest urban economy in our country. This is about growth for the great city of Western Sydney. Last week - Grant was kind enough to recall - I was in North Asia; that was all about jobs. Yes, we were talking about Free Trade Agreements, but trade equals jobs and more trade means more jobs. So that’s at the heart of every single thing that this Government is doing, but it doesn’t matter how well you do, you can always do better. There is always more to be done; you are never finished. There’s always something else to have a go at. That is my message to everyone in this room. That is my message to myself every morning: it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, there’s always more to do; it doesn’t matter how well you’ve done, there’s always more to have a go at but it’s incredible what we can achieve if we do have a go.

Just think everyone of us here, the most marvellous day of your life, the best thing you’ve ever achieved, I am sure there would have been so many times when you thought, I can’t do it, it isn’t going to happen and yet it did because people had a go.

Thanks.

[ends]

Transcript - 23428