Federal Government’s heavy lifting helped WA tackle virus

Mar 17, 2021 | Federal News

I’ve always loved the spirit of my fellow West Australians. We are strong, innovative, entrepreneurial and independent-minded people.

We work hard and have high aspirations for improving the lives of our families and our community.

When things get tough we put our shoulders to the wheel and get on with tackling issues in our path with determination and a sense of purpose.

All of these qualities have been on display in WA over the past year as we faced our greatest challenge since World War II — COVID-19.

Our State has weathered this crisis better than most other States. Our country has come through the crisis in better shape than most other developed countries around the world.

No doubt these issues were front of mind when West Australians went to the polls last weekend and re-elected the McGowan Government with an unprecedented majority. As I said a number of times in the lead up to the State election, the unique circumstances due to COVID-19 meant it was almost assured that an incumbent government that managed the State well during the global pandemic would be re-elected.

The WA Liberal Party will now do some serious self-examination, regroup and do the hard work required to be in a position to offer a genuine alternative at the next State election in four years.

What is clear is that the Morrison Government did much of the heavy lifting which helped WA and the rest of the nation reach the enviable position we now find ourselves in.

At the outset, it was our aim to save lives and livelihoods. That is what we have done and will continue to do. From our early and prescient decision to close our national border to mainland China and then the rest of the world, to the billions of dollars of unprecedented support we put in place for individuals and businesses, we have had the backs of all Australians.

As of the most recent fiscal update the Morrison Government has committed $267 billion in support to the Australian economy. We have provided more than $13.4 billion of direct economic support to WA residents and businesses.

The centrepiece of our support has been JobKeeper, with over $90 billion provided across the nation. WA has benefited with over $7 billion in JobKeeper payments keeping West Australians in their jobs.

As the Minister for Employment, Skills and Small Business I was involved at the outset of the pandemic in looking for ways to keep Australians in their jobs.

The Prime Minister was particularly focused on protecting the jobs of apprentices, often some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce when things get tough. We quickly put in place the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy which kept 122,000 apprentices in their jobs across the country. In WA nearly 9000 apprentices were kept in their jobs by the SAT program. Their wages have been subsidised to the tune of almost $70 million. The support has been across a wide range of industries and include people who are apprentice bricklayers, carpenters, joiners, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and hairdressers.

The people of WA know very well the importance of apprentices. As the engine room of the national economy, WA relies on apprentices, particularly in the crucial mining and construction industries to keep this State operating.

Without the SAT program we would have lost a generation of apprentices who had already started their training — an outcome that would have been devastating to our economy and devastating to the lives of those individuals who had embarked on their skills-based career journey.

But we didn’t just want to keep those who already had started an apprenticeship in a job, we wanted to get more new apprentices into the system. To do this we launched the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program.

We’ve seen 100,000 new apprentices signed up in just five months.

In WA more than 13,200 apprentices have entered the program, with nearly 40 per cent of them going to small businesses.

This has been such an outstanding success that last week the Prime Minister and I announced a $1.2 billion extension of the program.

We expect a further 70,000 or more apprentices to start under this program by September.

Thousands of them will be in WA. This is on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars the Morrison Government already provides to WA in skills and vocational education and training funding. This includes $656 million over four years through the National Skills Workforce Development special purpose payment and over $92 million from 2017-18 from the Skilling Australians Fund.

Under the JobTrainer Fund, WA will also receive an additional $51.7 million for an extra 22,470 free or low-fee training places. We also provided $4.13 million to WA for infection control training.

Our Government’s support for WA also includes about $900 million a year for infrastructure since 2013, $2.33 billion support for Metronet and the $1.5 billion Perth City Deal. And don’t forget our Government fixed the GST to make sure WA finally got what it deserved.

My WA colleagues and I who represent you, as part of the Morrison Government, are proud to stand behind our record of support for this great State.

Michaelia Cash is Employment, Skills, Small Business Minister
As seen in The West, 17 March 2021.