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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 4944

Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to questions without notice asked by Senator Lines, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong) and Senator Cameron today relating to the unemployment rate and to penalty rates.

I think Senator Abetz had a slip of the tongue today when, in answer to a question from me about the government's record on jobs growth, he talked about the government's record on employment. I think what he really meant to say was the government's record on unemployment. We have in this country the highest unemployment record for decades, at 6.4 per cent, and those opposite—who live on some parallel universe—think they have some record on employment. The facts and figures are there—800,000 Australians out of work and people becoming unemployed every day of the week—yet this government tries to pretend that it has some record on employment. History will show, and the statistics show, that the only record it has is one of unemployment, the highest employment records in history—the highest for many, many years. What a shameful, disgraceful record that is for the Abbott government to have. To try to pretend that it is somehow about growth and employment is just a fabrication.

Again today, for the second day in a row, we asked the Minister for Employment to rule out or rule in what the government's intention is on penalty rates. We know this government's record when it shifts around and avoids the questions, because we have seen it before. That means it will do what it has wanted to do from day one, and that is reduce penalty rates. This fabrication where the Prime Minister is on the public record as saying that reducing penalty rates creates more jobs is an absolute myth. No economist would suggest that. I do not know how you make people poorer by taking their penalty rates off them and you create more low-paid jobs.

But I want to focus again on the seat of Canning and the town of Mandurah. The government's record in that area is an absolute disgrace. Perth, we know, has higher than average rates, but Mandurah, in the seat of Canning, consistently falls behind. The latest ABS stats show that Mandurah has an unemployment rate three per cent higher than the Perth metro area, and the youth unemployment rate is four per cent higher.

How can the government say it is committed to jobs and growth when, in an electorate it has held—and with due regard to the passing of Don Randall—the unemployment record is higher than anywhere else in Perth, and youth unemployment is higher than the national average and quite a disgrace at 14.3 per cent? What we know about Mandurah is that, unfortunately, the unemployment rate has consistently increased since the Abbott government came to office. In fact, since the coalition came to office, a 1,000 more people in Mandurah are unemployed. That is not a record of employment; it is a record of unemployment. Labor reduced unemployment rates in Mandurah when we were in power, but this government has let that slip.

The Abbott government will not give a straight yes or no answer on penalty rates. In Mandurah, we know that 25 per cent of the population rely on penalty rates—penalty rates that the Abbott government want to cut. There are 63 per cent more people on Newstart under the Abbott government. That is not a record of employment; that is a record of unemployment in the seat of Canning. That is disgraceful and it stands well and truly on the Abbott government's record—a record where the people in Mandurah are relying on penalties that the government want to take off them and where there are a 1,000 more people out of work since the Abbott government came into power in Mandurah. That is not any kind of record to be proud of and the government need to be held to account. (Time expired)