Unemployment in our region


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (10:55): Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, can I say how delighted I am to have you in the chair when I advise the House that next week, on Tuesday, you and I are hosting a jobs forum in the Illawarra at 10.30 at the Illawarra Regional Airport. We will have with us the shadow minister, Brendan O'Connor. I also want to advise the House that shortly thereafter he will be in Nowra for a jobs forum. That is a region recently visited by the Prime Minister to run a political stunt, not a jobs forum, and I think you have there in a nutshell the different priorities of Labor versus the coalition. I am not surprised that the Prime Minister does not have unemployment and jobs on his agenda, because the world he lives in, Deputy Speaker, is very, very different to the world that you and I live in and the places that we represent.

Unemployment is typically three times higher in our region than it is in the area that the Prime Minister is surrounded by. In some areas it is even worse. According to the Department of Employment, during the September quarter of 2016 there were some terrible unemployment hotspots in the Illawarra: 13.7 per cent in the Berkeley-Warrawong-Windang area; eight per cent in the Dapto-Avondale area; about 8.2 per cent in Albion Park; and 12.3 per cent in Warilla. Youth unemployment rates, tragically, were significantly worse.

This parliament and this Prime Minister need to focus on policies which are going to turn this around. It is about equality. It is about ensuring that every Australian kid has the opportunity to get a start in life and to get a job which will help them meet their life potential. We need action, and we need a government that is going to do something about it.

We understand that small business is always the engine room that is creating job opportunities. I want to say a few harsh words about some small businesses in our areas which are doing the wrong thing by their employees and thereby putting those small businesses that are doing the right thing by their employees at a competitive disadvantage. The Fairfax media outlets in New South Wales have been running an expose over the last few months which has shone a spotlight on the problem in the Illawarra. Young people are being exploited on unpaid internships, underpaid and treated atrociously at work. It is not the majority of small businesses but a minority, but, where they do it, they put the good businesses at risk of going out the door because they cannot compete with those businesses that are exploiting their workers.

We are all for jobs. We are all for small-business employers doing the right thing. But we have to ensure that we are creating opportunities in the right way for our young people, not exploiting them.