The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:18 :28 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills a question about regional skills and regional unemployment.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The agrifood industry is the biggest contributor to the state's economy, and it counts for almost a fifth of the total workforce in South Australia. The state depends upon agriculture for both food security and export earnings, and it is in need of a robust, intelligent and thriving workforce. In recent years, however, there has been a significant drop in agricultural enrolments, despite a large number of employment opportunities in the sector. The decline in applications for agriculture courses is a long-term national trend and the problems need to be faced by government.
With an ageing workforce, both on and off the farm, the agriculture industry is in desperate need of an injection of young, fresh and intelligent workers. Unfortunately this is not happening, and young people are increasingly not choosing agricultural careers. The University of Adelaide, for example, was forced to merge its Bachelor of Agriculture and Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science) due to declining enrolments, and around Australia there has been a 40 per cent decline in agricultural graduates; this is despite there being around four full-time jobs for every graduate, with significant opportunities in a dynamic range of rewarding careers.
I noticed today the ABS figures for regional unemployment and regional employment in South Australia. In May this year, there were 1,400 jobs lost in regional South Australia, there were almost 4,000 people unemployed in regional South Australia, and South Australia's regional unemployment rate increased from 6.1 per cent to 8 per cent in May 2014. This was the worst jobless rate in all the nation. My questions to the minister are:
1.After 12 years of a Labor government, why does regional unemployment continue to rise?
2.Again, after 12 years of a Labor government, why are young people not choosing careers in agriculture or food and wine, given that the government has a strategy of premium food and wine from a clean environment?
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) (14:20 :36 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. Indeed, the employment figures for regional Australia came out earlier today and they are disappointing for South Australia, I have to say. It is not surprising given that there was a slight increase in the unemployment rate for South Australia in last month's figures and now, with the regional figures being released today, it is not surprising that they too are following suit. There has been a small deterioration there, as well.