May 19, 2003

Nothing in federal budget for unemployed South Australians

NOTHING IN FEDERAL BUDGET FOR UNEMPLOYED SOUTH AUSTRALIANS

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 19 May 2003

Unemployed South Australians are facing another period of suffering after last week’s Federal Budget failed to invest any additional funds to assist them gain the skills and experiences that would improve their employment prospects.

South Australia’s unemployment rate is currently above the national rate.

This high level of unemployment comes at a time when South Australia is currently experiencing an acute shortage of skilled workers across a range of occupations including childcare, aged care, motor mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers and bricklayers.

This situation is nothing short of irrational.

The fact that we have high levels of unemployment at a time when business and industry in South Australia is crying out for skilled workers is not only a personal tragedy for the unemployed but undermines the economic performance of Australia.

The skills crisis confronting the South Australian economy has been caused by the financial incentives structure put in place by the Commonwealth Government and last week’s Federal Budget did nothing to rebalance these incentives towards the traditional trades and other areas of skill shortages.

Only 17% of South Australian participants in the New Apprenticeship scheme are undertaking apprenticeships in the traditional trades.

Most of the growth in the New Apprenticeship scheme has occurred in industries where there are no skill shortages such as retail and fast food.

On top of this failure to improve the training system, the Government is closing 52% of Job Network offices in South Australia. The Howard Government is closing more offices than it is keeping open. These closures will mean fewer services and help for the unemployed.

I will be meeting with the South Australia United Trades and Labor Council tomorrow to discuss these issues and the alternatives polices that would reform and refocus the Job Network on providing genuine assistance to the unemployed, and creating a training and apprenticeship system that equips job seekers with the skills necessary in today’s economy.