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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1647


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (14:03): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is returning to surplus vital for supporting jobs and managing the economy in the interests of working people?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:03): I thank the member for Parramatta for her question. She—like other Labor members in this place and like the members on the crossbenches—understands that the ability of working people to build their lives and support their family is defined by their ability to get a job. There is nothing more important to a family than making sure family members can access the benefits and dignity that come with work. As a Labor government we are determined and remain determined to run the economy in the interests of working Australians. That means you always focus on jobs.

We focused on jobs during the global financial crisis and saved 200,000 jobs. As a government we are proud that since our election more than 700,000 jobs have been created. Today we see statistics that I believe that Australians will take pride in when they look around the world and see how many nations and how many working people—millions of them—are suffering with unemployment. Let me repeat: today the unemployment rate went down; 46,000 jobs were added to the economy in January. This is at a time when the number of people who were looking for work—the participation rate—went up. This means we saw over 15,000 people who were looking for work find a job. That is a remarkable thing. Just think about it: over 15,000 Australians who were without the benefits of work have found a job.

This reinforces that our economy is in a very different position to economies around the world. We are determined to return the budget to surplus and we will, because that is the right thing to do by jobs and growth at this time. Our economy is backed up by a AAA credit rating and our nation can take pride in that. Yes, there are industries where people are feeling the pressures of change. Structural change is happening in our economy and it is particularly pressing on industries like manufacturing. However, we should note that today's figures show that the male unemployment rate has dropped below five per cent. That still means that we have to keep managing the economy for working people. That still means that we need to be working with those industries under pressure and we will. That means too that we need to be building tomorrow's economy so that working people can have opportunity in the future as well as the ability of finding a job today. That is our mission as a Labor government and it is what we will continue to do. (Time expired)