Employment Figures

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:27 :37 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question about the latest unemployment rate in South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: This morning the ABS released the latest figures for South Australia and, very sadly for the state, we are now the highest in the nation at some 7.3 per cent. Just to put that in context, it is 6,240 people unemployed more than last month, 7,420 more than this period 12 months ago, 18,080 more than when Jay Weatherill became Premier, 21,980 more than when Labor made the promise and committed to 100,000 extra jobs, and 11,070 more than the election less than 12 months ago.

Given those figures, my question to the minister is: given the government promised the people of South Australia it would create an additional 100,000 jobs, can the minister outline her plan for delivering the additional 999,400 jobs required to meet this target?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 15:28 :45 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. Indeed, the employment figures were very disappointing, the ones that came out today. It was very disappointing to see a sudden increase in unemployment to 7.3 per cent after the unemployment rate had actually declined over a six-month period. We know that these figures are highly volatile, these headline figures month to month.

Obviously, youth unemployment was of deep concern to us; that also rose. However, I have to say that we were treating that youth figure employment with a high degree of caution, given that it was a 10 per cent increase in just one month. Although we know that those particular figures for that month capture the summer holiday period when students are looking for work, we know that historically this figure has been highly volatile from one month to the next.

The pleasing trend to note was that full-time employment increased over the past year. If we compare the number of people who are employed now with 12 months ago, there is an increase. It was also pleasing to see that part-time employment increased this month.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: There are more unemployed today than there were 12 months ago.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Well, that's just not so. The honourable member is not right there. In fact, I think the figure is 1,800. What the honourable member says is just not true. The full-time employment increased by, I think, 6,500 over the past year. We know that full-time employment certainly has increased over the past year; there are more people employed now than there were 12 months ago. Also, part-time employment increased this month, and we note that the participation rate remained fairly steady. When we look at those figures that show trend data, we can see that in the longer term there are some stable aspects to our employment and a level of confidence in our economy.

We know that these headline figures bounce around quite a lot from month to month. They tend to go from one extreme to the other and then back again from one month to another. For instance, in one month South Australia can have one of the nation's best unemployment figures and then the very next month the figures can be the worst. These figures keep bouncing around. What we must do is keep our eye on trend figures and watch them carefully rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to volatile month-to-month headline figures.

Indeed, we have a strong economic plan to help South Australia grow prosperity and grow jobs. We have established 10 priorities that include unlocking our potential in relation to resources, energy and renewable assets. We have our premium food and wine produced from a clean environment and exported to the world. We have a priority that is recognising the work we do in health research, ageing and looking at advancing that.

We have a priority around the knowledge state, which is about trying to attract diverse student bodies, particularly to increase our international student rates. We also have a priority around growing our destination of choice for international and domestic travellers, priorities around innovation, business and a vibrant city heart of Adelaide, and also priorities around small business and global markets.

We have a clear plan, and that plan has been articulated clearly. We have set key performance indicators for each of those targets in terms of the time frames in which we have committed to achieve them. We have set both short and medium-term goals. Of course, we have seen just recently—this very week—the Premier announce some major initiatives that will have significantly huge potential for this state. They involve the tax reform, the time zone changes and they also look at potential in a nuclear industry.

Those announcements around further investigation and consideration of those three areas alone are likely to have huge economic potential at a later date. So, we have a clear plan. We work very hard with businesses and industry to increase our prosperity and to grow jobs to transform and diversify our economy so that we remain a robust and vibrant state.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is one person on their feet.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:35 :35 ): Supplementary, Mr President: is the government still committed to its 100,000 jobs target by 2016?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 15:35 :44 ): I have answered this question several times in this place. The target remains in place, and it remains a commitment of this government. Clearly, I have indicated in this place that it is aspirational.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Maher, it is very rude to be having a discussion across the chamber while your leader is standing there giving a speech, so please refrain from that.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: I think it is also very disrespectful to the minister to be bantering across the room while the minister is on her feet. Minister, could you please finish your answer.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thank you, Mr President. Indeed, the government takes employment very seriously. As I have said, I have indicated in this place on several occasions that we maintain that commitment to that particular target. Although we recognise that it is aspirational, we still continue to strive to do the very best we can in relation to improving employment in this state.

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