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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11833

Mr CIOBO (2:17 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer advise the House of the January labour force figures released this morning by the Australian Bureau of Statistics?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Moncrieff for asking a question about the economy. I do not think we have had a question about the economy from the opposition this year and they are apparently not all that interested in employment and the labour force, so I appreciate the fact that the member for Moncrieff does take an interest in the future of the Australian economy and jobs. I can inform him that the labour force figures for January showed that in the month the number of jobs in Australia rose by 111,000—that is, an additional 111,000 people were able to obtain a job in the month of January. The unemployment rate declined again to 6.1 per cent, and most of those jobs were in fact full time—there were about 72,000 of them.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics also announced that it was changing the sample size, so we must note that a sample change is going on and will have to work its way through the system over the forthcoming months; there may be some statistical quirks. But the last three months have shown sustained employment. Given that the international economy is weak and we are in the middle of probably the most severe drought in 100 years, the fact that employment is still rising shows that there is an underlying strength in the Australian economy. In fact, growth in employment over the year to date has already exceeded the government's forecast for the 2002-03 year.

Since the coalition was elected in 1996, there have been 1.2 million new jobs created in Australia. That is the benefit of good economic management. We are now coming up to the May budget, and the Expenditure Review Committee is already meeting and putting together that budget. Whilst we are putting together the budget for this May, the measures from last year's budget have still not passed the Senate. The Australian Labor Party still refuses to pass key measures from last year's budget. Even worse, it refuses to pass welfare reform measures from two budgets ago. We are now in the seventh year of Labor in opposition, and over those seven years the Australian Labor Party has not stood for one new policy—other than oppositionism, other than Senate obstructionism, other than a desire to try and prevent this government from giving better opportunities to young people and to people who are looking for jobs. There may have been a worse opposition in the history of the Federation, but it is hard to name what it was. This is an opposition which is mindlessly opposing for the sake of it, which stands for nothing, which has no leadership, which cannot even determine last year's budget as we come up to this year's budget and which, if it had had its way, would have stood in the way of all of the economic advances that have been made over the last six or seven years. This side of the House believes that strong economic management is good because it gives people job opportunities—1.2 million new jobs in Australia since 1996. If the Labor Party would get out of the way in the Senate, there would be more opportunities for more Australians.