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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 382

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. What information does the Minister have on the recent performance of the Queensland economy? In particular, has he examined the latest Queensland jobless figures? If so, how does the labour market position in Queensland compare with the position for Australia as a whole at present?

Senator WALSH —I do not have any figures on economic growth rates in Queensland. If one looks at what has been happening to employment, it is reasonable to assume that growth is either stagnant or maybe even negative. In the year ended February last Queensland achieved what had not been achieved in Australia since the unhappy days of the Fraser Government, that is, an absolute fall in the number of people employed. For the year ended February 1985 the number of people employed in Queensland actually fell, whereas in the rest of Australia, of course, total employment increased at a very rapid rate. Indeed, some 360,000-I think the figure is 360,000-additional jobs have been provided in less than two years since this Government has been in power.

Senator Evans, of course, mentioned a couple of weeks ago that bankruptcies in Queensland were up by 27 per cent in the last calendar year, whereas in every other State they were falling. A year ago Queensland had 15 1/2 per cent of the unemployed in Australia, which is about the same proportion as it has of the population. That figure has now gone up to 19 per cent. Queensland now has a vastly higher proportion of the nation's unemployed than it has of the total population. Because of that it follows, of course, that Queensland's unemployment rate presently is 11.3 per cent, compared with a national average of 8.2 per cent or 8.3 per cent. At any rate, there are three percentage points difference between the Queensland rate and the national average rate of unemployment.

In addition, Queensland has the highest per capita debt of any State. Queensland has been going down the Argentinian road under the Bjelke-Petersen Government for some time, recklessly accumulating debt and managing to conceal for a considerable time the consequences of that Government's economic mismanagement because of the natural resources of the State and the demand for them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The wild spending spree has now come to an end. The consequences of the Bjelke-Petersen Government's economic mismanagement are catching up with it, which might not disturb anyone very much. What is unfortunate is that the real sufferers are the unfortunate people of Queensland who have the most unfortunate distinction of having an unemployment rate of above 11 per cent, going upwards, when the rest of the country has an unemployment rate of just over 8 per cent, going downwards.