I wish to exercise my right of reply as the person who moved this very important motion on the unemployment crisis in this state in the last parliamentary sitting week.
What have we learnt since that time, which was only some 10 days ago? We have learnt that 25 jobs have gone from the Target headquarters in Geelong.
We have learnt that 483 jobs have been announced to go at the Coles headquarters in Melbourne. We have also found out that Alstom, a company based in Ballarat, is now going to have to fight for its survival.
This government is not committed to local procurement; it is not committed to local jobs for local people. These are the things that concern us.
It is not just the current level of unemployment, whether it be in the adult or the youth sector; it is also the ongoing rampage happening in terms of our economy and the flow-on in respect of what is happening in our communities right across the state. Whether it is in small communities, regional centres or metropolitan Melbourne, unemployment is a major crisis facing this state.
What have we learnt about those opposite from this debate? What have we learnt about government members from this debate? We have learnt a few things, but none of them is an enormous surprise.
What we have learnt — and it has been reinforced today as well as last sitting week — — is that this government is in absolute denial about the situation that confronts most people wanting a job in this state.
This government is even questioning the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data. It is refusing to acknowledge those statistics and inferring that every time someone from this side of the house wants to talk about unemployment statistics they are simply making them up.
The government will not even accept the authority of the ABS. It is very difficult to deal with a government that is in furious denial.
The government is also in denial with respect to acknowledging every headline and every story in every media outlet in this country, whether they appear on our computer screens, TVs or the front page of every newspaper in this country — in every country town as well.
We see that journalists and the community are highly aware of the unemployment crisis we face, but we have government members in absolute denial. On the last occasion we debated this motion we heard government members refuse to acknowledge the views of senior economists. In fact government members claimed that the views of highly respected economists were absolutely wrong.
We have a government that is in denial. If you are in denial, it means you do not accept there is a problem. If you do not understand that there is a problem, then you cannot work towards a solution.
That is the dilemma we face. This government is not interested whatsoever in long-term, skilled, sustainable jobs. It keeps on making references to a whole range of other things that might be happening, but its examples include people who would be lucky to pick up casual work in the vicinity of 6 hours per week.
That is hardly enough work to keep themselves, let alone their families, together and maintain a reasonable livelihood. This is the sort of government we have — one that wants to drive down the living standards of people who really need a job.
This government cannot plan. It does not understand the importance and the need for transitional labour market planning.
It has an ideological problem with labour market planning. It does not understand that government has a very important interventionist role when things are difficult and when there are huge challenges.
At those times it is government’s responsibility, in partnership with other stakeholders in the economy, to sit down and work out how to rectify the situation. The very thing you need to do is to sit down and work out the labour market planning processes that are needed to provide a skilled workforce that can move into jobs.
For jobs to be there, you need to have economic and business confidence, and that is what this government is failing to achieve.
We know from the contact we have had, as well as the public statements now being made across the state, that there is a severe lack of confidence in this government when it comes to the economy and indeed the much-needed investment required for this state to move forward.
When pressed about jobs this government talks about what it may get around to doing if re-elected; however, it has barely turned a sod on anything. How is anyone meant to believe it when it has not done anything over the last three and a half years?
This is one of the major contributors to high unemployment levels because there has not been an infrastructure program in this state for the last three and a half years. There has been no work for people to go to. How many people do I come across who say, ‘I have not heard the phone ring for weeks or months now’.
They are sitting there waiting for work, and the phone is not ringing because the jobs are simply not there.
The most difficult situations are now coming to the fore, and people are saying, ‘The jobs are simply not there. Let’s get on with the election and build some infrastructure so that we have some work’.
The government continues to stick its head in the sand and abrogate its responsibility to Victorians.
It continues to trot out the same lines and sit there in comfy chairs while the unemployment queue grows longer and longer.
The scary thing is that even if the unemployment rate was 30 per cent or 50 per cent, the Napthine government would still be trotting out the same lines of denial. It simply does not care.
At the end of the day it does not understand industry policy, it does not understand that there is a lack of business confidence in the state and it does not care about Victorians, because, if it did, we would not be in this situation.
If you need a job in Victoria, under the Napthine government you are on your own. If you are a young Victorian in this state wanting a job, not only do you not have one, but you will not have a chance to go to TAFE and you will not get to university.
Indeed your whole future has been stripped from you. Bring on 29 November. We will work together to make this a great state again.