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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11782


Mr TURNOUR (4:03 PM) —I rise today to talk about the ongoing challenge we face in dealing with unemployment in Cairns and to welcome the report released last week by Advance Cairns, a peak economic development organisation in my electorate of Leichhardt. We are working on building a strong partnership with Advance Cairns to tackle the unemployment challenge we face. The report, by Cummings Economics, provides a very useful input into that discussion and ongoing planning.

The report found that unemployment had increased significantly in Cairns, which we already knew, and that it had come off a higher base compared with the north-north-west region, obviously based on Townsville, the Mackay-Fitzroy-Central West region and the Northern Territory. The report makes very interesting reading and found unemployment over a three-month average in 2009—July, August and September—to be 12.3 per cent in the Far North compared with the north-north-west over that same period of 3.7 per cent. Interestingly, the majority of unemployment increases had been due to a drop in construction in Cairns and the Far North, and the vast majority of those people became unemployed as a direct result of a downturn in the construction industry hard hit by the global recession.

Interestingly too, although the north-north-west had a lower unemployment rate, they had also had a significant reduction in unemployment but, because their labour force is not growing like that in Cairns—people still love to come and live in Cairns—their actual unemployment rate had not increased significantly as compared to Leichhardt’s. It highlights the need for us to continue to work in partnership with the business community to very much deliver on the economic stimulus program. Between Leichhardt and the neighbouring electorate of Kennedy we have $460 million of economic stimulus going in to support jobs today while we build the infrastructure we need for tomorrow. There is construction going on in schools. We announced recently—and I had the Minister for Housing up in my electorate last week to confirm this—300 social housing units to be built in my electorate, and we are looking at some National Rental Affordability Scheme houses. Thirty of them have already been built. All of these projects are creating jobs today and are going to support employment, particularly in the construction industry, which, as I have said, has been particularly hard hit and is the reason for unemployment growing by almost six per cent.

I am looking forward to next week, when we have members from Advance Cairns coming down. As I have said, we are building a strong partnership with the local business community. I would like to thank Russell Beer, the Chair of Advance Cairns; Bill Calderwood, the Chair of Tourism Tropical North Queensland; Jeremy Blockey, the head of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce; and our local mayor, Val Schier, for the work they are doing, in partnership with me and the Minister for Employment Participation, Mark Arbib, so we can really focus on the unemployment challenge we face, be confident about the future and make sure that we come out of this recession in better shape than we were in previously.