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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21480


Mr PRICE (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind the Prime Minister of his description of the recent unemployment rate as a wonderful number. Is the Prime Minister aware that in the 12 months between June 2002 and June 2003 the unemployment figure in my electorate of Chifley rose by a whole two per cent to 7.9 per cent, with 603 constituents—or one per cent—thrown out of work between March and June this year? What is the government doing to address this sharp increase in the unemployment rate in Chifley? Does he still consider Chifley's unemployment figure of 7.9 per cent to be a wonderful number?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have not checked the unemployment figure for the honourable member's electorate but I have always found him to be a fairly straightforward bloke and I do not think he would have deliberately misrepresented it in the question. It is true that even in circumstances of sharply lower unemployment in this country there will be some areas where the rate is higher than in other parts of the country. That goes without saying. What a government has to do is to enact economic policies that are successful.

If the honourable member is interested in an intelligent debate about this issue he has to accept as a given that unemployment in Australia now is dramatically lower than what it was in March 1996. We have created 1.2 million more jobs. The rate, for the first time in 13½ years, has for two successive months remained below six per cent. We do have that golden double.


Mr Crean —Golden.


Mr HOWARD —I notice that the Leader of the Opposition has kept interjecting, repeating the expression `golden'. It must have struck a chord. Every interjection from the Leader of the Opposition has now got `golden' in it. I will have to try this a bit more often and I will give him a few more lines.

We are a government of more jobs, lower unemployment, lower interest rates and lower inflation. The honourable member for Chifley asked me what specifically the government is doing in relation to the unemployment rate in his electorate. My understanding of his electorate, which is quite reasonable, tells me that there are a lot of small businesses in Chifley. One of the things we are doing for Chifley is trying to get the ridiculously cumbersome unfair dismissal laws off the back of small business. So let me turn the question around: ask not what the government can do for Chifley; ask what Labor can do for Chifley. Labor can do a lot for Chifley by getting out of the way and letting our unfair dismissal changes through the Senate.