Constituency Statement – Unemployment

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (10:09): I am angry. I am absolutely fed up with people who are talking down my region. Confidence breeds confidence. As far as I am concerned, I am raising my family in the greatest region in the greatest country in the world. I am fortunate to represent a region that has a perfect climate year-round. Hinkler is a place where loggerhead turtles come to nest each year. Humpback whales play in our waters when they make their annual migration. We are one of the largest producers of fruit and vegetables in the country and we are renowned for our fresh seafood. We are also home to some of Australia’s most iconic brands. Housing and land are affordable.

Now, I acknowledge there are challenges. Our local unemployment rate is historically high. Earlier this week, though, national media reported that Wide Bay has the worst unemployment rate in the country at 10½ per cent. Some local media followed suit. They referenced other media reports as their source. They quoted local commentators who were willing to add their two cents worth without first checking the figures themselves. Was it a 10½ per cent increase? Was that an increase or a decrease? The reports did not say. If only headlines reporting a decrease in the local unemployment rate attracted the same level of interest as headlines like ‘worst in the country’. But good news does not sell—and shame on our national broadcasters.

Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of data collection understands that small sample sizes can result in substantial fluctuations month to month, making the data unreliable. Using the more reliable three-month average to October 2015, what the ABS data actually showed—if they had looked—was an unemployment rate of 8½ per cent. That is an annual drop in unemployment of 2.4 per cent compared to the same three-month period in 2014. Out of the 87 ABS statistical regions, this puts Wide Bay in 11th position. That is still unacceptably high, but it is not first.

I am angry about this because unemployment is the single biggest issue in my electorate. It is an issue that I am passionate about. Attracting investment to create jobs and helping people to find work is my No. 1 priority. I have written countless letters to the editor. I have pointed out that unemployment is too important an issue to be used as a political football. As a community, we need to work together. Media outlets have also called for the blame shifting to stop, and yet, in their selective reporting, they are effectively doing exactly the same thing. The coalition government is doing everything it can to help through incentive programs, relocation systems, wage subsidies and training. Hinkler has been prioritised for programs like Work for the Dole. But the bottom line is that there are not enough jobs locally. That is the bottom line.

Together, as a community, we need to attract investment to the region by telling everyone how great it is. We need to shop locally and support businesses so that they have the confidence to create new jobs. That is why I am trying to create a military dive wreck. It will attract more tourists to the region. It is why I have launched the hashtag bundybayandbush for a local campaign, and in January next year I will host a community jobs forum in Hervey Bay. Together, with positivity, we can make Hinkler an even better place to work, raise a family and do business.

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