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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11526


Dr SOUTHCOTT (3:33 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Social Inclusion. I refer the minister to the OECD Economic Outlook, which has forecast that there will be 200,000 more Australians out of work by 2010. Is the minister aware that it has taken more than six years to reduce the number of unemployed by 200,000? What is the government’s comprehensive strategy to keep unemployment as low as it was under the coalition government?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for his question. I think the member would be aware that a global financial crisis has occurred and it is having, as the Prime Minister outlined comprehensively in his statement to the House, implications for economies all around the world, including implications for our own economy. As a result of the fact that this nation is not immune, when we published the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook we did publish a new prediction for unemployment. I know that the OECD prediction that the member points to is slightly higher, though I would ask him to note that it is for the calendar year and not for the financial year. So it is a prediction made on a slightly different basis.

In the face of the global financial crisis and its implications for the Australian economy, this government’s first and foremost priority has been to protect the jobs of working Australians. That is why we acted decisively with the economic security statement—to stimulate the economy, to make sure that we were doing what we could to be in front of the curve, keeping the economy moving and growing. The estimates of the jobs impact of that fiscal stimulus is around 75,000. In that package, we committed to 56,000 new productivity places—new training places for jobs. This was against a backdrop where our new training places for jobs had been oversubscribed because there were so many Australians who wanted access to those training places. So we invested in 56,000 more. That was coming off the Liberal government’s track record of failure to invest in training, leaving this nation with a skills crisis and leaving us underprepared to meet the needs of the future, including the training of Australians.

The member may be aware that the government has moved the employment services model so that it will be a more responsive model that will provide people with services when they need that assistance. As the Prime Minister outlined in his statement today, our foremost priorities are protecting jobs and keeping our economy growing. That is what the Prime Minister’s statement was about. That is what we are aiming to do. That is why we are investing in places such as our productivity places to assist those Australians who need that assistance. I would also say to the member that he ought to be aware that those productivity places are aimed at giving people the skills that they need to get into those sections of the labour market where employers are still crying out for skilled labour. It is consequently a very important assistance for those Australians.