Member for Hervey Bay Ted Sorensen does not trust the latest jobless figures.
Member for Hervey Bay Ted Sorensen does not trust the latest jobless figures. Alistair Brightman

Unemployment worse than it looks

HERVEY Bay MP Ted Sorensen believes the unemployment rate for the Wide Bay Burnett region could be worse than the 9.3 per cent last week.

“I don't think the figures are real at the end of the day,” Mr Sorensen said of the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics report.

He claimed to have first-hand knowledge of a continued downturn in the job market, saying he was aware of numerous jobs in the region that could not be classified as full-time.

“A lot of those jobs have gone down to one hour a week, and cannot really be classified as full-time.

“I also believe a lot of people on ABN numbers are not counted in these statistics.”

Mr Sorensen described the difficulties faced by an electrical contractor and a concrete contractor who had visited his Hervey Bay office during the past seven days.

“They have so little work on at the moment they don't think they should be counted in the statistics,” he said.

“I think it's time the state government came clean on the actual unemployment numbers.

“There are a lot of small businesses doing it hard.”

Mr Sorensen's views are in direct contrast to those of Jason Millward, the local employment co-ordinator for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Mr Millward observed that more hours were now being worked in the building industry, rising from three and four days a week to five and six days.

This, however, did not represent “a swag of new jobs”.

“It's relatively static now,” he said. “It could be going backwards.

“We didn't go as bad as we could have with the economic downturn.

“We've got to try and capitalise on that and linking with the resource sector is one way.”

The idea of attracting people to the Fraser Coast where they could be trained to work in the mining industry has previously been touted by the Keep Australia Working representative.

Fraser Coast councillor Gerard O'Connell also sees the Fraser Coast employment glass as half full.

He highlighted the region's emerging education sector, its rail and air infrastructure and the soon-to-be-established economic development centre at the Hervey Bay campus of USQ.

“We're in a good place to be. I don't know of any regional area that's as well set up as here,” he said.

“I'm happy to declare a conflict of interest. I've got kids. You get energised to do something to turn things around. You either let the rot set in or you take the opportunities in front of you.”

Mr O'Connell, who is the councillor with the economic development portfolio, said the latest unemployment figures which have the Fraser Coast running about four per cent above the state average, were the “reality jolt we need”.

“I can forgive people for getting depressed.

“It demands a whole-of-community response. We need to do it as a region, do it collectively.”

Maryborough MP Chris Foley said the unemployment figures did not tell us anything new.

“We want businesses chased in the door, not chased out the door.

“I have businesses coming to me saying the council are slow and unresponsive. We need to stimulate this area for small businesses to come here and thrive.”

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