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Tuesday, 15 August 1972
Page: 17

Mr BERINSON (PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Taking up the Minister's invitation with pleasure, I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that Western Australia has now had a higher rate of unemployment than any other mainland State for over a. year? Is it also a fact that, unlike most other States, Western Australia's unemployment is concentrated in the metropolitan area where no assistance at all is received from the Commonwealth's only emergency employment measure, the rural unemployment grant? Has the Commonwealth ignored or rejected at least 3 requests from the Western Australian Government for unemployment relief directed specifically to the metropolitan area? If so, why?

Mr McMahon - I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service to answer.

Mr LYNCH - The honourable gentleman queries the position in relation to unemployment in Western Australia. It is certainly true that it is running at a much higher level than the national, average. It is also true that the Western Australian unemployment figures have been running at a much higher level than the national average for a long period of time. The honourable gentleman concurs; I see him nodding his head. The facts are that in the labour market in that State a deterioration has taken place during the course of the past 2 to 3 years. The factors which have been responsible for that position are simply these: Firstly, there has been the turndown in the number of major developmental projects and this has reduced employment in that area from 10,000 to - as I recall it - approximately 3,000. This has had an effect on associated manufacturing, supplier and engineering firms. Secondly, there has been a turndown in mineral activity because of trading conditions which will be well known to the honourable gentleman as he comes from that State. Also I recall the downturn in primary industry from about 1969. But there are some encouraging factors in

Western Australia. Firstly, farmers are reporting better seasons. Secondly, there are signs of increased optimism in the building and construction industry. Finally, the goldmining industry is expected to reach this year its highest production level for many years.

I discussed this matter with the Western Australian Minister for Labour during a recent visit to that State. Naturally, the substance of my conversation with him is a matter for the Minister concerned and is not subject to comment in this House. The problem which faces Western Australia is not new and it is not due to any factors generated by the recent economic circumstances. In making that statement I am thinking of the past few months and the unemployment picture I have painted. The fact remains that the Western Australian Government must go out and sell that State. It must bring into Western Australia new and more broadly diversified industries of a labour intensive nature. Specifically, the answer to any question of special grants is no.

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