Millward Rudd's 'Wide Bay man'

LIKE our man in Havana, Jason Millward is Rudd's man in the Wide Bay.

“A lot of hard work with the locals,” he said of the road ahead after he was yesterday appointed the Federal Government's local employment co-ordinator for Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.

“I will be out and about, living and breathing the region, getting a taste for how people feel.”

Parliamentary secretary for employment Jason Clare made the announcement while hosting a Keep Australia Working forum at Hervey Bay Boat Club.

Mr Millward moves from Townsville, where he had operated in the same capacity to try to stem the unemployment tide and make the most of the Labor government's stimulus package.

“I will engage with businesses, local government, community groups and identify opportunities. I will be looking at opportunities to broaden the economic base of the region.”

Community and business leaders filled the Boat Club's Fraser Room yesterday during a thorough analysis of job opportunities in the region and were challenged to identify solutions to local employment problems.

There have been 2183 redundancies in the region since July 1, 2008. The number of unemployment benefit recipients has increased by 33.9 per cent in the last 12 months.

“It's about having a presence on the ground, embedding in the community, pre-empting the impact of the global downturn,” Mr Millward said.

“Confidence remains high in the regions. If employers have concerns about retaining their workforce, I would ask them to contact me.

“I would encourage employers to retain people even if they have to reduce hours.”

In a survey of 305 employers during August, 33 per cent had either decreased staff numbers or hours in the three months before the survey.

On a more positive note, about one in three employers said they expected to be recruiting in the next 12 months.

“It's a sign that businesses are confident that things are going to get better,” Mr Clare said.

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