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No seat at jobs summit for nation’s biggest non-government employer

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Accompanied by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, Sydney Catholic Schools Director Tony Farley, left, National Catholic Education Commission chief Jacinta Collins, Cathedral College Principal Michael Kelleher and federal Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese visits his old school on 9 May, the final Monday before the election. Photo: AAP, Lukas Coch
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with Sydney Catholic Schools Director Tony Farley, left, National Catholic Education Commission chief Jacinta Collins, Cathedral College Principal Michael Kelleher and federal Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek at St Mary’s Cathedral College on 9 May, the final Monday before the election. Photo: AAP, Lukas Coch

Representatives from the Catholic Church and Catholic agencies have not been invited to the Federal Government’s jobs summit, despite the Church being the largest non-government employer in Australia.

The Catholic Weekly understands the list of attendees is yet to be finalised for the 1-2 September summit, and that neither the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference nor key Catholic agencies like Catholic Social Services Australia have received invitations.

Yet the Albanese Government has reportedly invited at least two billionaires – mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar – alongside business lobby fixtures like Jennifer Westacott of the Business Council of Australia and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar.

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Representatives from the Australian Banking Association, Minerals Council of Australia and National Farmers Federation have also reportedly been invited.

According to 2017 research from the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations (ACCCER), the Church employs approximately 220,000 Australians in a variety of sectors, including health, education and aged care.

In 2017 ACCCER calculated the size of the Church’s jobs footprint, finding it employed a workforce nine-tenths of the size of the Commonwealth Government, bigger than the Woolworths Group, or the “Big Four” banks combined.

Their report, Our Work Matters, also found 77 per cent of the Catholic workforce were women—a key talking point for the jobs summit, which will investigate ways to bolster women’s workforce participation.

The Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia, Francis Sullivan, told The Catholic Weekly that representatives from the Catholic social services sector should be present at the summit, and have traditionally been invited to consultations at this level.

“The jobs summit – as far as the media is concerned – seems to boil down to big business and the unions,” Mr Sullivan said.

He said that the cost of living crisis could not be left to markets alone to solve, and that Catholic social thought did not support a “one trick pony” approach to economic matters.

“Clearly governments need to come back and intervene, grab hold of levers, so that cost of living pressures can be ameliorated quickly rather than letting it play out, as they always do, by pointing towards market solutions,” Mr Sullivan said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ office declined to comment in response to an enquiry from The Catholic Weekly.

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