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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr KEENAN (2:10 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Treasurer, would you outline to the House the results of the January labour force survey?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Stirling for his question. I think all members of the House will be pleased to know that in January unemployment fell to 4.5 per cent on a national basis. That is the lowest unemployment rate in Australia in 31 years. It contrasts, for example, with the electorate of Stirling, which back in 1996, the member would recall, had an unemployment rate of 9.4 per cent. That is around double the 4.5 per cent we are currently experiencing. Full-time employment went up, part-time employment went down and, overall, unemployment went down.

It is important to note that the unemployment rate in Australia has now been below five per cent for nine months, and five per cent was once considered to be full employment in this country. Importantly, 300,000 new jobs were created in Australia in the last year. Of course, the bulk of that period was after the introduction of the government’s Work Choices industrial relations changes. We were told that changes to industrial relations would destroy people’s jobs and livelihoods. Yet, over the period of the year that the Work Choices legislation was introduced, we have seen 300,000 new jobs created in Australia. Since the government was elected in 1996, two million new jobs have been created in this country. Two million of our fellow Australians have been able to find work during the period of economic management by this government.

I want to compare a 4.5 per cent unemployment rate with the unemployment rate in Queensland between 1991 and 1995. I think the House is going to hear a lot about the years between 1991 and 1995 in Queensland, because that is the period when there was a staffer in the Goss government who, we are told, ran everything. During the period 1991 to 1995, unemployment in the state of Queensland averaged 9.5 per cent. Undoubtedly we will hear during the course of debate: ‘What could one expect from somebody who was merely a staffer in the state government? We could not expect a staffer in the state government to be responsible for unemployment.’ But when it suits the Leader of the Opposition, and when he wants to establish his credentials on experience, he portrays his position as a staffer in the state government as one of enormous power, of significant influence—in fact, enough to qualify him for the prime ministership of the country.

When it does not suit him to be held accountable for his record and he does not want to emphasise his experience, the position and its influence are demoted to being merely that of a staffer in a state government. You cannot have it both ways: either he has no experience and no record or he has experience and responsibility. It is up to him to choose which one of those two he is going to emphasise. If he claims to have experience he has a record, and his record is one of high unemployment.