- Prpoerty developer Tim Gurner has said unemployment needs to rise in Australia.
- He was speaking at a business event.
- He has been criticised by politicians and workers for his comments.
Property developer Tim Gurner has faced criticism from internet users and politicians from Australia and abroad, for comments he made about construction workers being “paid a lot to do not much” and the country’s economy needing economic “pain”.
Gurner, who is the CEO of luxury building company Gurner Group, was speaking at The Australian Financial Review’s Property Summit on Tuesday.
“I think the problem that we’ve had is people decided they didn’t actually want to work that much through COVID, and that has had a massive issue through productivity,” he said.
“Tradies have definitely pulled back on productivity. They have been paid a lot do not much in the last few years and we need to see that change.”
Gurner said people need to be reminded they work for the employer, “not the other way around”.
“In my view, we need to see pain in the economy. I mean, there’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around.”
He said there needs to be a 40-50 per cent rise in unemployment.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has acknowledged that in its plan to bring inflation down businesses will be squeezed and unemployment will rise.
The bank said in February: “the central forecast is for the unemployment rate to increase to 3.75 per cent by the end of this year and 4.25 per cent by mid-2025”.
It has repeated similar claims throughout the year, as it hit Australians with ultimately a 4 per cent rise in interest rates since May last year.
Gurner conceded: “there are definitely massive lay-offs going off and people might not be talking about it, but people are definitely laying people off and we’re starting to see less arrogance in the employment market and that has to continue, because that will cascade across the cost balance.”
Asked at the summit how housing supply could be improved, Gurner said the planning system needed to be “fixed” and said Sydney’s planning system was “fundamentally broken”. He also said “we absolutely have to have migration” to supply tradespeople in key areas.
US Democratic Party politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared a video of Gurner’s comments about unemployment online and said they were a: “reminder that major CEOs have skyrocketed their own pay so much that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is now at some of the highest levels ever recorded”.
Australian Medical Association President Steve Robson labelled Gurner’s statement on unemployment: “breathtakingly irresponsible.”
“Unemployment is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes including suicide. I say this with some confidence having studied suicide and unemployment,” he said.
Labor MP Julian Hill slammed Mr Gurner as “self-interested”.
“A billionaire property developer calls for higher unemployment and higher migration all at once,” he said.
“He’s right about productivity and the need to speed up planning and building approvals, but his views on unemployment and industrial relations can go where the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.”
NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg said productivity growth was a much better objective than increasing unemployment.
“The government for vested interests only wants to pursue economic policies which reduce productivity such as destroying labour hire and pattern bargaining,” Bragg said.
“They should pursue policies to help all Australians not just unions and super funds.”
Greens senator Nick McKim said it was rare the “hatred felt for working people by the capitalist classes be displayed in such stark relief”.
“Mr Gurner’s comments are disgusting, but unfortunately, his willingness to cast people into destitution for the sake of some grander economic project is not limited to CEOs,” McKim said.
He also said higher unemployment was part of the Reserve Bank and the Albanese government’s plan to tackle inflation.