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    The Honourable Anna Bligh
    The Honourable Andrew Fraser

    Unemployment public enemy no 1 as Premier announces jobs safety net.


    The Honourable Anna Bligh

    The Honourable Andrew Fraser

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Unemployment public enemy no 1 as Premier announces jobs safety net.

    Premier Anna Bligh has declared unemployment to be public enemy Number one announcing a multi-million package of job ‘safety net’ initiatives.

    The package will support vulnerable trainees and apprentices, intervene to prevent long term unemployment, increase financial counselling for families and support unemployment in mining communities.

    Ahead of Tuesday’s economic statement the Premier and Treasurer Andrew Fraser confirmed that employment growth would be hit by the global financial crisis.

    Mr Fraser said slowing employment growth in the economy would lead to rising unemployment.

    “The nation’s unemployment rate is now predicted to be 5% this year – in Queensland the forecast is for a rise from current generation-low of 3.75% to 4.25%,” he said.

    “Rising unemployment will be our number one challenge in 2009 and that’s why we are so focussed on preserving our $17 billion capital program.

    “We are prepared to put the Budget into deficit to keep the program moving, to keep supporting growth and supporting jobs.”

    Premier Bligh said she was determined that the government would get ahead of the trend to protect Queensland jobs.

    “Normally initiatives like the jobs package I am announcing today wouldn’t be rolled out until the budget but there’s no point in closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

    “We are acting now to make sure we save every job we can.”

    The Premier said up to $20 million would go to fund a ‘safety net’ program for apprentices and trainees who may be let go because of the economic downturn.

    “We have seen a significant increase in the number of completed apprenticeships and traineeships over recent years,” said the Premier.

    “Apprentices and trainees are often the first people to be let go in an economic downturn.

    “Industry sources are saying that we could see more than 10,000 of these positions become vulnerable next year.

    “These are young people just starting to make their way and to have the rug pulled out from underneath them can be devastating.

    “This plan is about working with industry partners on measures that will provide a ‘safety net’ to support apprentices and trainees to complete their training.

    “For example through the scheme they can be placed in alternative training and employment or temporary pool employment while they continue technical training.”

    Ms Bligh also announced a doubling of the allocation to the Worker Assistance Program – to $10 million.

    The program kicks in where firms close and provides assistance to retrenched workers, with payments of up to $5000 per employee for help with getting a new job, including training subsidies and assistance in preparing for a new job.

    As part of the package the Queensland Government will provide a grant of $3 million over the next two years to support the expansion of Lifeline financial counselling services.

    “Lifeline Australia is the largest provider of financial counselling services in Queensland and they will use this money to facilitate an expansion of services in Queensland,” said the Premier.

    “This is about giving people the information that could just help them keep their heads above water when times get tough.”

    Finally the Premier announced a realignment of the $100 million package for a Sustainable Resource Communities initiative she announced earlier this year to protect jobs in these communities.

    “This initiative is designed to upgrade community and supporting infrastructure in mining communities to enhance liveability,” said the Premier.

    “$25 million of this fund will now be earmarked for the projects that provide the maximum amount of jobs in these communities such as housing construction.

    “These communities need housing and the building industry needs support. We will sit down with the local councils and the Queensland Resources Council, who are our partners in this program, to plan these works.

    The Premier said that Queensland’s record on employment generation over the last decade had been exceptionally strong.

    “Our economy has outperformed the national economy in job creation in eight of the past ten years.

    “Our unemployment rate has fallen to near 30 year lows and has been below the national rate or unemployment for the last 4 years.

    “In 1997-98, there were approximately 40,000 long term unemployed in Queensland – by 2007-08, this number had fallen to less that 10,000.

    “But the next 18 months are going to be hugely challenging for our economy and we must do everything we can to protect jobs today.”

    Media contact: Treasurers office: 32246361