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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 980

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that the rate of unemployment in the State of Queensland is well into double figures and is the highest for any State in Australia? Apart from the general economic incompetence of the Queensland Government, is the Federal Government aware of any specific factors in Queensland which might be contributing to the unacceptable rate of unemployment in that State?

Senator WALSH —The answer to the first question is yes. It is a fact that unemployment in Queensland is well into double figures and is the highest of any State in Australia. On the most recently available figures-the figures for February this year-unemployment in Queensland has reached 11 per cent. That is even higher than it was nationally when John Howard was Treasurer. When John Howard was Treasurer the national unemployment rate was 10 1/2 per cent, but in Queensland now it is 11 per cent-the highest in Australia. At the end of January this year, there were more people receiving unemployment benefit in Queensland that there were in Victoria-123,000 in Queensland against 113,000 in Victoria-notwithstanding the fact that Victoria has a labour force in total 65 per cent larger than Queensland.

The Bjelke-Petersen machine tries to defend itself by repeating the southern dole bludger myth, but that will not work any more because there was a net loss of nearly 3,500 people in the key job seeker group, the 15- to 24-year-old age group, in Queensland during 1985 and 1986. It is true that 12,500-I am using round figures-people in that age group moved into Queensland, but nearly 16,000 moved out, so the young people are voting with their feet. They are, on balance, moving out of Queensland because the employment prospects are so bleak. The most obvious explanation for young people leaving Queensland-perhaps they might regard it as a geriatric State as well-is that the unemployment rate in the 15- to 19-year-old age group in Queensland is almost 30 per cent. It seems that Queensland is only a land of opportunity if one is a prominent member of the National Party, a member of the white shoe brigade, or has friends in the Queensland Cabinet. I note for the record that the way things are shaping up at the moment there might be an addition of one to the unemployed in Queensland after about the middle of next year, after the Premier turns up the heat on the soles of Senator Colston.

Senator Colston —Collard!

Senator WALSH —Senator Collard, I am sorry. My apologies, Senator Colston. Just as well I said that under privilege; it could have cost me a lot of money.

There is a front page story in the Courier-Mail of yesterday which underlines the lack of opportunity for young people in Queensland. Queensland spends only $2.40 per head on employment and training incentives, despite the fact that the unemployment rate in the 15- to 24-year-old age group is almost 30 per cent. By comparison, Western Australia spends around $5.30 on the same programs, Victoria spend $5.80, South Australia spends $7, New South Wales spends $8, and so on.

Senator Chaney —I ask the Minister to table the paper from which he has been quoting.

The PRESIDENT —Will the Minister table the document?

Senator WALSH —Yes. It is not a document; it is a couple of pages of notes. There is a Press clipping there too, if the honourable senator would like to read that.

The PRESIDENT —The Minister has tabled the documents.