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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1656

Employment


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, and Minister for the Arts. What is the government doing to create sustainable and long-term growth and to support jobs in regional Australia?


Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:39): I thank the member for her question.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The minister will not commence his answer and the clock will not start until members are able to listen to the minister. The minister has the call.

Mr CREAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the member also for her question, because she has been a champion for job creation, and in the first round of the Regional Development Australia Fund, important initiatives were a gain for her electorate, particularly the Ballina airport and the Lismore cultural centre, which will see significant job opportunity.

I am asked this question in a broader context, and today's figures are unequivocally good news on the employment front: 46,000 additional jobs created, 760,000 since this government was elected, with Treasury projections that say that, by 2020, we will more than double that—in other words, that amount twice over. Unemployment has come down and the participation rate has gone up. But the question that I am asked goes to what we have been doing to facilitate this fantastic outcome, and that is, we have been investing in those things that drive economic growth and create jobs. We have been investing in the infrastructure of the nation, not the least of which is the broadband rollout for the nation which, at its peak, will be employing 37,000 people. In addition to that, we have invested heavily in the skills base and education base of this nation, with the biggest infrastructure investment ever in the history of the country, driven when the Prime Minister was the education minister, and that is a fantastic legacy upon which we have to build.

We are in the middle of the greatest economic transformation the world has ever known. The opportunity that is growing in Asia—in India, in China, in South-East Asia—is what we have got to capitalise on. And the infrastructure that we put in place helps us do it.

Mr Laming: Lucky we've got you to help us through!

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Bowman will contain himself—

Mr Tony Smith interjecting

The SPEAKER: as will the honourable member for Casey.

Mr CREAN: But we also have to find the way in which the regions of the country, the patches in the patchwork economy, take advantage of those opportunities.

Earlier this week I was responding to a question about development in Tasmania. I announced what we had done for the dairy industry. Let me just say what that means in job terms. With the Harcus River Road development, 200 jobs in construction, 135 ongoing in the dairy industry; and, in the aquaculture industry, 40 in construction, 160 ongoing, with the potential to double from 800 to 1,600 the number of jobs in the Huon Valley. That is what the Labor government is doing, by working with communities at the micro level as well as putting in the place the initiatives at the macro level. All we get is opposition from the other side. They should get on board if they believe in the future of this country. (Time expired)