One month on from the Federal Election, the campaign spin has given way to some hard-economic facts.
The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that WA lost 4,000 jobs in May. Everywhere else but Tasmania showed increased their employment numbers.
WA’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has increased to 6.3 per cent. Only Tasmania can claim to be doing it tougher right now.
Underemployment continues to increase; those who have jobs want to work more but can’t find the hours. The data also shows that Australia’s participation rate, the proportion of working age people either currently employed or seeking employment, has reached an all-time high of 65.9 per cent.
Put simply, it’s tough for workers right now.
That’s why it’s such a shock to hear that in the very first interview Minister for Population Alan Tudge gave following the Morrison Government’s re-election, Mr Tudge was spruiking skilled migrants as a solution to our problems.
Mr Tudge said a plan to create five “Designated Area Migration Agreements" across the country, including Kalgoorlie-Boulder, would use skilled migrants to address skills shortages in regions that were “crying out for workers”.
Are we seriously to believe that the Federal Government is claiming business can’t find enough workers at the same time we’re experiencing the highest participation rate in our nation’s history?
What happened to “those who have a go, get a go”?
The Morrison Government’s obsession with immigration as a solution to supplying the skilled labour we need to build our emerging industries and keep our states running is beyond belief.
It’s been left to the states to come up with real solutions to give our local workforce a fair go. To the State Government’s credit, they have taken this issue seriously.
Since being elected in 2017 the McGowan Government has recognised that if our economy is to really turn around, we can’t look overseas or interstate for solutions.
Initiatives like the WA Jobs Act have required companies bidding on government projects to submit participation plans around how they will use WA workers and WA content.
That’s already having a direct impact on jobs; Stage 2 of the New Museum project has delivered for 358 WA-based workers and 32 apprentices, while using 82 per cent local content.
The creation of specialised TAFE campuses at the Naval Base in Henderson, backed with partnerships between industry and Edith Cowan University, has created a direct pipeline of talent with the skills our growing shipbuilding and defence industry need. A similar specialist METRONET Trade Training Centre will be coming online next year.
All of this is having an effect but as the economic data shows, it’s still an uncertain time. We can’t afford to get complacent.
If the Federal Government isn’t going to look to locals first for national projects, we have to advocate hard to ensure they aren’t left behind.
The State Government must continue to push the Morrison Government to ensure WA get our fair share of federal projects. With defence spending set to increase over this term of government, WA needs to secure the shipbuilding projects it rightly deservers.
We have to fight to secure new opportunities to create jobs in strategic industries. Bringing national hubs for research and development like the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre to WA will position us as a world leader, creating long-term jobs around 21st century manufacturing and processing industries.
If we’re really going to turn the economy around, we have to look within and continue to back WA workers by creating WA jobs. The cost if we fail is simply too high not to act now.