Article – Abbott pledges jobs incentive

August 9, 2013
Nick Clark and Helen Kempton
Hobart Mercury
As new figures revealed Tasmania’s unemployment at a decade-high 8.4 per cent, with 21,000 people out of work, the Opposition Leader yesterday announced a $6.5 million pilot scheme to create 2000 jobs in the state, by paying businesses $250 a fortnight for six months if they employ a long-term dole recipient.
Campaigning in Devonport, Mr Abbott said his plan would be available to Tasmanians who had been on the Newstart Allowance for six months or more. He said the employer would be paid $250 a fortnight after the first six months, giving workers greater job security.
“We don’t want them just to be taken on and dumped once the subsidy ends,” said Mr Abbott.
“That’s why we have said you have got to employ them for six months before the subsidy starts and then the subsidy will continue for another six months.”
“By the time they have been employed for 12 months … they are fully trained, inculturated and part of a team in a particular business.”
The national unemployment rate was stuck at an almost four-year high of 5.7 per cent.
Earlier in the day in Launceston, at a function with State Opposition Leader Will Hodgman, Mr Abbott raised eyebrows when he said Tasmania needed to be made a “special economic zone”.
“Will and I know that Tasmania really needs to be made a special economic zone, because we have got to lift this state from being one of the economic also-rans to being an economic powerhouse in our nation,” he said.
The statement was interpreted as meaning the introduction of tax advantages and the relocation of Federal Government departments, as Mr Abbott proposed when he announced his plan for a northern Australia special economic zone in February.
By mid-afternoon, however, Mr Abbott was back-pedalling, saying he had meant a “special effort to recognise Tasmania’s special circumstances”.
“When I say that I want to put a special effort into boosting Tasmania’s economy, it has got nothing to do with anything which might have been proposed for northern Australia,” he said.
Labor yesterday described Mr Abbott’s Tasmania plan as a “Band-Aid”, saying the Federal Government’s Wage Connect scheme would offer more money and more opportunity for long-term job creation.
Regional Australia Minister Catherine King queried Mr Abbott’s commitment to Wage Connect and initiatives such as the forest peace deal.
Braddon MP Sid Sidebottom accused the Coalition leader of trampling on the state’s reputation.
Mr Sidebottom said references to it being an economic also-ran were insulting.
“The Rudd Labor Government understands our state faces economic challenges and is already working hard to help diversify the local economy and help to create jobs,” he said.
“This state has a great future as an equal member of the Commonwealth of Australia.”
Economist Saul Eslake said last night Tasmania’s latest jobless figures indicated the state was in recession-like conditions.
Mr Eslake said the participation rate — the number of people in work or actively seeking a job — at 55.4 per cent was the lowest since November 2004.
“The position is not good but the decline in the currency may be of some assistance to trade-exposed manufacturing, agriculture and tourism,” he said.
“There are some signs that the falling interest rates may be filtering through to the housing sector.”
Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey said measures proposed at this week’s Jobs Forum would help employment if immediate action was taken.
“We require long-term strategies that will make it easier to do business and ensure we are productive,” Mr Bailey said.