Wednesday, 26 November 2008
There are many crises facing Australia at the moment but I have a view that is very clear on what is the single most important issue that the parliament should face and Australia should face. That is employment; it is jobs. Yes, whether there is going to be a deficit or not is important to think about, where inflation is going to go is important to think about it, but I think the top priority has got to be the jobs of our people. Further evidence has emerged overnight that the job security of many Townsville families is in doubt. The latest casualty of the collapsing world metal prices in the resources sector has been OZ Minerals flagship Century mine in Queensland’s north-west minerals province, which is currently the world’s second-biggest open pit zinc mine. It is a significant employer of Townsville workers and has announced overnight that it is cutting zinc concentrate production for next year, as the slump in zinc prices crimps the company’s margins. The strength of the mining industry, which has led economic boom times in the north, is now very much under threat. This in turn threatens the jobs of workers in many other sectors of the North Queensland economy. Families in the north should not underestimate the impact of many factors on the security of their jobs.
Before the current world financial crisis hit Australia, the Rudd government’s May budget cruelly planned to put 134,000 Australians out of work. That has now been revised and it is looking like there are going to be 200,000 additional Australians out of work under the Rudd government by the end of this financial year. Unemployment and providing job security is the biggest challenge facing our economy. More importantly for people and families across the country, the government’s handling of the financial crisis has made things worse, not better. Household wealth has declined. Prices continue to rise and, importantly, job security has evaporated. The reality is that after only 12 months of Rudd Labor Australia is less prosperous, our economy is rapidly getting weaker and the outlook for Australian families and businesses is more uncertain than ever. As a parliament leading the Australian community, we need to make sure that we have a strong economy with jobs secure and families able to plan for the future with certainty. At the moment there is no sign of any of that. I appeal to the government to make jobs their No. 1 priority.