Thursday, 3 September 2020
2020 has been a year like no other. First there was the summer bushfires, then the floods and now the virus. Yesterday we had confirmed what so many Australians already knew: Australia is in the deepest recession our country has faced. More than one million Australians are now unemployed, with another 400,000 expected to lose their jobs between now and Christmas. These are devastating numbers, but what sits behind the numbers is worse: the human consequences.
This recession is exposing entrenched inequality across Australia by age, income, gender and geography. The coast was hit hard when non-essential services were shut down. This crisis has impacted everyone. Over 10,000 locals have lost their jobs during COVID, over 47 per cent of local businesses have applied for JobKeeper and 10,649 local jobs are supported by JobKeeper. Support has been important during this crisis. However, the government is rushing to withdraw support. Surely this is the worst time to be cutting JobKeeper and JobSeeker. People want to get back to work and businesses want to reopen their doors, but it's not easy to get back on your feet in a recession—harder still when there are 34 jobseekers for every job vacancy on the Central Coast.
Many of the problems in our economy have not been caused by the pandemic but accelerated by it. We've seen this on the coast. Before COVID-19, underemployment of women was the highest in Australia at 34 per cent. Youth unemployment was stubbornly high, sitting at 14.6 per cent. People on the Central Coast and across Australia are doing it tough. We can't afford a generation of Australians lost to long-term unemployment. What Australia needs is a plan, a plan for new and better jobs.
Investment in infrastructure should be central to the post-COVID recovery, instead the coast has been excluded from the Liberals and Nationals' infrastructure list. The Central Coast hasn't had a major infrastructure project since the M1 upgrade when Labor was last in government, under the last Labor minister for infrastructure, Anthony Albanese.
COVID has exposed the vulnerabilities of global supply chains. The coast has a proud history of manufacturing, a strong presence in food manufacturing and the capacity to grow. We need strong investment in local manufacturing on the Central Coast to lead to quality local jobs; investment in the care economy, in aged and disability care, to provide for the 1,226 older people on the coast waiting for home-care packages; and quality jobs for local people seeking work close to home.
Regional communities like ours on the Central Coast and across the country need a plan from the government to protect jobs and to create new jobs. The Central Coast is a proud hardworking community, and with the right support we'll have the best shot at a strong recovery and a better future for our region.