How the new jobs minister will help keep you employed
There aren’t many things that are more important than making sure someone has a job. If you want to fix inequality and social disadvantage in a community, if you want to give someone a leg-up in life, you find them a decent job.
For the Labor Party, jobs are in our DNA and that’s why it is such an honour to be sworn in today as the Federal Minister for Employment Participation.
Sadly we are confronted with the reality that this week a new set of unemployment figures will come out and they will probably show more Australians are out of work.
I will be working day and night with every level of government, employers and workers, small business, unions and industry, to keep people in jobs.
We are in the worst global downturn since the Great Depression, and unemployment rates are soaring around the world. While Australia’s unemployment rate is currently 5.4 per cent, unemployment in the US is almost 9 per cent, 8 per cent in France, Germany and Canada, and 7.1 per cent in the UK.
The global recession has a long way to go, and no country is immune from it and its effects.
What governments can do, and what the Rudd Government is doing, is cushion the blow of the global recession on the community.
The key response from the Government has been the Stimulus Plan. There have been three phases. In the first phase we introduced an immediate economic stimulus to support business and jobs through cash payments to families, pensioners, veterans, and low income earners. We also increased the First Home Owner Grant and provided a tax deduction for small business.
The second phase invested 70% in infrastructure to support jobs, including the largest school modernisation in Australia’s history, the construction of more than 20,000 new social and defence homes, road and rail upgrades, and free ceiling insulation for up to 2.9 million Australian homes.
The third phase was the Budget’s Nation Building Program to support jobs over the longer-term and set Australia up for the future.
Stimulus construction projects are already underway, and we are seeing a war-time like effort: federal government working with state government, working with local councils and industry working with unions to roll-out around 35,000 Stimulus construction projects.
Yesterday I visited an insulation manufacturing plant in Western Sydney to see firsthand how the Stimulus Package is supporting jobs.
In December last year, as economies around the world were collapsing, this insulation manufacturing plant was feeling the pinch too – operating at only 50% capacity. They are now operating at 100% capacity, running the plant 24/7 to keep up with demand, meaning extra shifts and extra workers.
The demand has been created through the Stimulus Package, which includes free ceiling insulation for households. It means workers whose jobs may not have been certain last year, now have some job security. That means a lot to those workers and their families. The insulation industry has estimated that around 4000 jobs will be created as a result of the Stimulus.
The Stimulus is also providing work for small business, which employs almost 4 million Australians. These work opportunities, combined with the tax breaks the Rudd Government has introduced, allow small business to keep people employed during these tough economic times. Already many small businesses have told me that if it wasn’t for Stimulus projects they would have little work, and might have been forced to cut workers’ hours or even let people go.
During these difficult economic times, some people will lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
We will support these workers – providing training, assistance to find a job, and work opportunities that have been created through the Stimulus Package.
I am determined to make sure we don’t see a generation of children growing up in this country with unemployed parents, because their parents lost their job during the global recession.
And during these tough times, we can’t take our eyes off long-term employment goals either. We must also continue to extend opportunities to Indigenous Australians by providing training and support to prepare people for work.
There are no silver bullets here. This Government cannot stop unemployment from rising during a global recession – no government can.
But through the Economic Stimulus we will do everything we can to keep people in work, and find work for people who have lost their jobs because of the economic downturn.
This is what Government can do, this is what the Rudd Government is doing, and this is what we should be judged on.
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