Politics with Michelle Grattan: Labor's Julian Hill on employment, AI, Julian Assange and TikTok

The federal budget gave a much-needed, but very modest, increase to those on JobSeeker and associated payments. However, it didn’t address that other important issue of the unemployed: how to help as many JobSeekers as possible to get into work, whether full- or part-time.

This will be canvassed in the government’s coming white paper on employment. It’s already, however, before a parliamentary inquiry into employment services.

In this podcast, Julian Hill, the Labor member for Bruce, who chairs that inquiry, joins us to discuss the job market and getting people into work. Hill has also been actively working for Julian Assange’s release from London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison.

And he boasts a huge following on TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform, which is banned on official government devices.

In April, there were 528,000 unemployed people in Australia and 830,000 people on JobSeeker. Hill reiterates that “in simple terms, not all JobSeekers are unemployed and not all unemployed people are JobSeekers.”

“There’s a significant percentage of people receiving JobSeeker who may have their participation requirements paused. For example, there’s around 10% of people on JobSeeker at any point in time who are actually just sick. They’re there because they’re doing chemo, or recovering from a traumatic accident.”

“And there’s a very large percentage of people receiving JobSeeker, about 28% of people, who are engaged in part-time paid employment. So they’re not counted as unemployed, it’s just their income is low enough that they’re receiving a partial payment.”

Hill says the sentiment towards unemployed people and those on JobSeeker needs to change. “For too long this national debate about long-term unemployment has been driven by the stereotype of the ‘dole bludger’. If we’re going to actually try and resolve these questions in a better way and make an impact, we’ve got to drill down into the characteristics of people who are unemployed.”

The parliamentary inquiry “is a first principles review, not a Band-aid and sticky tape patch up. There is a "red hot labour market” with employers crying out for workers, but many people are having trouble getting jobs.

“A lot of that is due to a fundamental mismatch between people who are unemployed and the skilled jobs that employers are looking for. 53% of people who are unemployed have no post-school qualification. Around 40% haven’t even finished year 12. So there’s at least two, probably three, entry level JobSeekers applying for every job that is actually available.”

Read more: Word from The Hill: On the Voice, the Quad, and Indian PM Modi's visit

In February, Hill delivered a speech to the chamber co-written by himself and ChatGPT. Hill spoke about both the negative and positive impacts we face with artifical intelligence, and what kind of potential it has.

“I did use the gag back in February to frankly draw attention to a serious policy point […] AI is set to transform developed human societies and impact swathes of developed economies and as well as government service delivery.”

“It’ll be non-traditional jobs [that go], in many cases knowledge jobs, graphic designers, journalists, artists and others, but it’s also an enormously positive thing and we should be expecting governments to deploy the best technology to free up resources for other things, make better decisions, better targeted services.

"It has the potential to unleash a wave of productivity across the economy.”

“There are negatives that we need to focus on. Loss of jobs in some areas, discrimination, bias. We need to be worried about the use of AI for things like hiring and lending and even renting. I’m worried for people trying to apply for a house. They’ll never get their application on the desk of the real estate agent.”

Read more: The day after the night before - Chalmers and Taylor on the budget

Earlier this week, Assange’s wife, Stella, addressed the National Press Club and called on the prime minister and the government to do more to bring him home. She stated: “This is closest we’ve ever been to securing Julian’s release”. Hill, a part of the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group, believes there will be more progress in the near future.

“There are more positive signs, as Stella’s reflected. I’ve been outspoken on this for years, and my view has always been that this was a political decision to bring this prosecution, and it needs a political resolution led by the US government.”

“I organised and facilitated a meeting with US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, and I thank her for that meeting. It was a good discussion, an honest, robust discussion and we got a good hearing.”

“There’s a lot of ongoing dialogue at the moment, and it can’t happen soon enough. Whether it’s an end to the prosecution, as I would call for by the US government, or whether it’s a negotiated resolution. There is, I think, a willingness to try and resolve the matter, and that’s incredibly welcome.”

“I’m actually planning to visit London near the end of June, and I’ve spoken to Jen Robinson, his legal counsel, about seeking to visit Julian in Belmarsh.”

“I hope that he’s not there then and then I can’t make and don’t have to make that visit.”

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

Read more:

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.