House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020


Tasmania: Employment

7:39 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors) Share this | | Hansard source

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on the labour force in Tasmania was incredibly concerning. Tasmania now has the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 8.2 per cent. More alarmingly, Tasmania also has the lowest participation rate in the country, just 61.4 per cent. We also have the lowest employment-to-population ratio, with just 56.3 per cent of Tasmanians in the workforce. We have the second highest underemployment rate after Victoria, at 10.4 per cent, based on the latest ABS data. There is only one job vacancy for every 27 Tasmanians currently looking for work.

We know, of course, that it is since the government cut some of the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments that unemployment in Tasmania has, clearly, got worse. What is very concerning now is that Tasmanians are expecting more to come, with the government currently planning to cut the coronavirus supplement, from the end of December, to over 36,400 Tasmanians who currently receive that payment, and then the JobKeeper changes and cuts coming at the end of March. We also know that many Tasmanian businesses will not be eligible for the new hiring job credit that is supposed to come in to replace this wage subsidy.

What is really alarming is that the Tasmanian state budget, which was brought down just a couple of weeks ago, predicts that unemployment in Tasmania will stay at over eight per cent until the end of 2022. That is two more full years of an incredibly high unemployment rate in my home state of Tasmania. And the participation rate is expected to drop even lower. There will be fewer Tasmanians looking for work and more Tasmanians unemployed. It is incredibly concerning that the state budget documents actually state in black and white that employment is expected to decline by 1¾ per cent in 2021 in year average terms, reflecting the effect of the JobKeeper payment program tapering. That is what the Tasmanian state budget says. It shows that the level of unemployment in Tasmania is due to the current federal government withdrawing too soon the support the Tasmanian economy needs.

Tasmania has recently reopened its borders to other states and territories in Australia, and I say to everyone who has always wanted to visit Tasmania: please come on down in the coming weeks and months. It is an absolutely beautiful place. I know that many Australians have never had the opportunity before to visit Tasmania. So I say to them, 'Come down'—because the data released late on Friday shows that the occupancy rates for our hotels in southern Tasmania, where I live and where the capital, Hobart, is, are over 50 per cent down on what they were in October last year. That's over 50 per cent down. That is not sustainable for the Tasmanian economy. We know that we need to encourage more Australians to come to visit Tasmania; obviously, there are no visitors coming from overseas. But, more importantly, we know that the federal and state Liberal governments need to have a proper jobs plan for Tasmania.

The fact that the Tasmanian state budget says that unemployment is expected to stay at over eight per cent for the next two years is simply not good enough. It shows that the federal and state governments are not doing enough to keep Tasmanians in jobs and to create more jobs in our island state. The HomeBuilder changes on the weekend were simply the federal government trying to fix a program that it had already mucked up. It is not enough. We need more Tasmanians in work. We need the state and federal governments to understand that Tasmania is suffering particularly badly. We are going to see much worse, come the end of some of these payments in December and March, and I'm incredibly concerned about what has happened in Tasmania.

Tasmania did well for a brief period because of those supports, because of the stimulus, but also because of the huge amount of money through the early release of super that Tasmanians used to support themselves. Indeed, if you look at the funds that were injected into Tasmania between May and September, there was $1.5 billion in COVID supplements, stimulus and payments, but there was $600 million from Tasmanians' own super accounts—at least $600 million in that time. So that's $2.1 billion that went into the Tasmanian economy in five months to prop it up. That is being withdrawn, and the Tasmanian economy is going to suffer without a proper jobs plan. (Time expired)