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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 650


Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (21:10): I rise tonight to talk about a matter of the utmost importance in the Petrie electorate, and that is the issue of unemployment. This was the No. 1 issue raised with me by business owners, employers, employees, youth and seniors in my electorate in the lead-up to the election last September. I have inherited an unemployment rate in the Petrie electorate that is well above the national average. This simply is not good enough. I want people in my electorate to have jobs and to be able to contribute to the community through meaningful employment.

This month I hosted an unemployment forum at the Golden Ox restaurant at Margate. It was the second such forum I have hosted in the Petrie electorate, and I invited the Assistant Minister for Employment, the Hon. Luke Hartsuyker, so he could hear firsthand the issues affecting people in my community. We wanted to hear their suggestions on how the government can help create an environment that supports the business community, because business people are the ones who actually create jobs and employ people.

My employment forum was well attended, with representatives from job service providers such as Max Employment, Help Enterprises, Moreton Bay HR solutions, Employment Services Queensland and Red Cross College Employment Service. There were owners of local businesses—cafes, pharmacies, furniture manufacturers, even a McDonald's franchise—who shared their views. Most of these businesses employed five, 10 or more staff and, in some cases, up to 100. Job seekers also attended, including young people and some older Australians who are looking for work. There was a robust discussion that was contributed to by a lot of those who attended. I would like to mention a few of the things that were raised at the forum.

Seniors certainly have a great deal to offer employers and can bring a wealth of experience, life skills and loyalty to any workplace. They can pass on what they have learnt to the younger generation. A lady named Kay Gillat, who lives in my electorate and is 69 years old, was at the forum. She is looking for work but unfortunately she found when she went to DHS that they are unable to offer her help because she is over 65. I believe that whatever your age, whether you are over 65, whether you are 30 or 40, we should be able to help you find meaningful employment.

The owner of a construction business who was at the forum was concerned in particular about intimidation tactics that he and his staff have been subjected to by the CFMEU, all because he and his staff are not part of a union. I think if you want to be part of a union then you should be able to be a member of that union, absolutely. But if you choose not to be part of the union then you should not be intimidated into joining. Unfortunately, this is happening, particularly in the construction industry, according to that person from my electorate who was present at the forum.

We also heard from a number of hospitality businesses who are concerned about weekend penalty rates being a little bit too high. Their concern is that casual staff are not getting the hours on weekends because some small businesses are not opening on Saturday afternoons or on Sundays. There is talk now about possibly charging consumers a surcharge for Saturday and Sunday in order to pay for those higher rates. This needs to be looked at. It is obviously an issue for the Fair Work Commission to deal with.

A local business owner named Sarah Holland from Select Lifestyle Services Scarborough attended the forum. Sarah runs a business that provides lifestyle support, holiday, leisure and recreational opportunities for people with a disability. Sarah identified the need to encourage more local businesses to employ people with disabilities.

It is my goal to not only reduce the unemployment rate but encourage small business growth by attracting new investors to the Petrie electorate. In order to create these new jobs, we need to abolish the carbon tax, reduce red tape and taxes and provide support to small- and medium-sized businesses. I will continue to work over the next 2½ years with small businesses, service providers and local people to create more jobs in Petrie. Thank you.