Oct 15, 2003

PM’s “Golden Economic Figures” an illusion


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 15 October 2003

Today in Question Time the Prime Minister’s arrogance was on full display when he claimed that his Government had delivered a set of “golden economic figures”.

This claim is nothing short of gratuitous self-gratification and shows the Prime Minister has no understanding of the situation confronting disadvantaged jobseekers.

Here is the reality.

Long-term unemployment:

Data from Department of Family and Community Services shows that the number of people receiving benefits for more than 12 months is today (364,000) higher than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in 1996 (350,000). Furthermore, the number of people on the dole for more than 2 years has doubled from 135,657 in 1996 to 281,289 by 2003.

Workless families:

More than 860,000 children, or 17.4% of all dependent children, now live in households where no parent has a job. This is the third worse rate in the developed world.

The ghettoisation of unemployment:

Unemployment has become increasingly concentrated in particular regions giving rise to communities in which worklessness is no longer the exception, but the norm. While areas such as Pittwater in New South Wales, enjoy an unemployment rate of less than 2%, communities such as Hervey Bay in Queensland are enduring limited job opportunities and unemployment rates of over 20%.

These statistics clearly show that the benefits of economic growth are not being shared equally across our society and that the Government’s cornerstone labour market, the Job Network, is failing to improve the employment prospect of most disadvantaged jobseekers.

While the Prime Minister’s gloating about “golden economic figures” may give Treasury economists a warm inner-glow, it is insulting to the 600,000 Australians currently languishing on the unemployment queues; it offers little hope for the nearly 400,000 people who have been relying on the dole long-term; and it provides little comfort to the 860,000 children who now live in families where no parent has a job.