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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12772

Mr BAIRD (11:26 AM) —It is my pleasure to rise today to speak on the issue of unemployment in my electorate. I am very pleased to say that the Cook electorate has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the country. In the statistics that have been provided, the latest census ranks electorates in terms of employment levels in 1996. The electorate of Cook had the eighth lowest figure for the whole of Australia.

Since that time, the unemployment levels have continued to decrease. The unemployment figure in 1996 in the electorate of Cook was 4.5 per cent. Since that time, the figures that we have available for the Sutherland Shire, which includes my electorate, indicate that unemployment has reduced to 4.1 per cent in June 1997 and, in 1998, to 3.1 per cent. The latest figures that we have available for September 1999 are 2.6 per cent.

That is a great credit on several levels. The great people in the electorate of Cook have shown their hard work and dedication. Their work ethic is strong and vibrant in the electorate and so is their dedication. It is about responding to the opportunities created by the coalition government. There is no doubt that this government has created many new jobs. The government's primary approach to job creation is through sustained economic growth. It is generally accepted that, without such a long-term sustainable improvement in employment, this would not be possible.

Since the government came to office in March 1996, there have been 574,000 jobs created in Australia. To put that in perspective, in the last six years of the previous government, there were 396,000 jobs created. There are now a record 8.878 million Australians in work.

In trend terms, the current unemployment rate is 7.1 per cent equalling the lowest rate since July 1990. Obviously, there are many factors that come into this. It is not by one factor alone; it is by the government's sustained reforms of our economy. In terms of economic management, over the last several budgets, the government has brought us into a sustained period of surplus budgets. This is in contrast to the last two years of Labor government when we had $24 billion in deficit budgets. That creates a lot of confidence in the economy. The measures of surplus budgets, low inflation, a low interest rate environment and structural changes to improve the economic efficiency in the labour market and the economy are all very significant.

The employment reforms themselves are very significant. The coalition has moved for the retention of junior wage rates, which will do much to provide young Australians with a chance to obtain their first job. This will play a very significant part. If it had not been enacted, it would have had an impact on the jobs for 300,000 young people. Unfair dismissal legislation which changes the requirements in relation to unfair dismissals has been important. Much of the reform has been blocked by the opposition but the changes that have been made have been significant.

The Job Network we established last year is proving to be a very effective system in helping people to gain work, particularly those who are most disadvantaged in the labour market. Job Network has clearly outperformed the old CES. In its first 16 months of operation, Job Network, through intensive assistance, placed more than 126,000 of the most disadvantaged job seekers in real jobs. That is an improvement of 50 per cent on the old case management approach, and that is very significant. The Work for the Dole scheme has received enormous support throughout Australia, and the recent announcement in terms of indigenous employment policy is significant for our indigenous population.

It is my pleasure to say how proud I am that the unemployment figures in the electorate of Cook continue to go down and that we are in the forefront of the nation as a high employment area and electorate. (Time expired)