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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20138

Mr ORGAN (2:51 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Minister, with recent figures showing an unemployment rate in Wollongong of around 10 per cent and a youth unemployment rate of around 24 per cent—one of the nation's highest—what initiatives are being undertaken by the government in Wollongong to bring these persistent and unacceptably high figures down to the national average of 5.8 per cent?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I am surprised that the member for Cunningham did not address that question to the Minister for Education, Science and Training, who has just done a lot to help the University of Wollongong, which is doing a great deal to boost employment in that region. Obviously I regret the fact that unemployment in the Illawarra is still high, but I point out to the member for Cunningham that unemployment in the Illawarra, while consistently in double digits from the late eighties through to the mid-nineties, has at different times in recent years been as low as about seven per cent. This government is doing the right thing by the people of the Illawarra by putting in place economic policies which are going to deliver benefits to all Australians.

While, as I said, I certainly take no pleasure at all in the fact that there are still too many people unemployed in the Illawarra, I am pleased that overall we have created more than one million new jobs, we have delivered very substantial sustained increases in real full-time average weekly earnings and we have gotten strikes down to the lowest level since records were first kept in 1913. Thanks to the Job Network, we have more employment service offices in more locations than ever before. I am confident that with a combination of continued good economic management and continued good delivery of employment services through the Job Network we will, in the future, do better for the people of the Illawarra than we have so far.