Fudged unemployment stats

 It was interesting to read the opinion piece by Pr. Scott Holmes, Newcastle University (Monday 22 April 2013) relating to youth unemployment in particular the impact in the Hunter. It was only a week ago that a similar opinion piece on unemployed people on disability support pensions (DSP) appeared in the other daily news paper, Daily Telegraph.

Combine the youth 17-21 year olds who aren’t on Centrelink benefits due to their parents income and those on DSP who escape the official ABS stats and you have a national unemployment rate of 11% or greater.

There are statistics and there are fudged numbers. Unemployment stats fit into the latter to make government policy look good.

Unemployment in the Hunter hasn’t recovered since the closure of BHP, National Textiles, Pasminco and more lately the Hydro smelter at Kurri Kurri. These industries employed hundreds of contractors hundreds of blue collar people, apprentices, trainees, younger women in blue collar work and kept their aging workforces.

Many of the older employees of the closures have found their way onto DSP. At one period in the early 2000’s the number of people in the Hunter on DSP was 20% above the national average due in part to the people who left BHP and couldn’t find work.

It would be very interesting to know what the real youth and mature aged unemployment numbers in the Hunter really are. I am sure the Centre for Full Employment would have a good fix on them.

My first 200 days

Last August when I decided to run as a Liberal candidate for election to Cessnock City Council little did I realize the enormity of the task that lay ahead.

It is now some 200 days since the September 2012 Election and to say that four Liberals were to be elected to Cessnock City Council would have been laughable in the past.

The council elections are now behind us and the hard work and challenges over the next 4 years is in front of the elected council.

Some local media have reported that the council has been dysfunctional and that there are still issues that we face into the future. I say that the past is behind us and we can look forward to the future where there is cooperation between council staff and the elected council to drive economic development and future prosperity for the shire.

Cessnock is experiencing some of the worst unemployment in decades with youth and mature aged workers having a hard time finding local work. This is affecting retail confidence and consumer confidence.

Since the election there have been some very positive moves to get things underway. Firstly there will be the Bunning’s development which will employ additional people. Then there is the Vintage Balance Lands and Golden Bear that have been referred to the State Government for consideration and recently the Avery’s Village development in Heddon Greta. Once these are approved they will provide much needed employment in the housing construction industry.

We are still awaiting the Huntlee new town approval but with the establishment of the Huntlee reference group things are moving in the right direction. We are also awaiting positive decisions on the Golden Bear resort and the (HEZ) Hunter Economic Zone at Kurri Kurri.

The closure of the Kurri Kurri Smelter late last year was a significant blow to the local economy both in jobs and a $50 million income lost, but from the ashes of this very poor decision is the opportunity that the site of some 1,800 hectares could be rezoned for industry, commerce and residential development.

We have the completion of the Hunter Expressway coming up later in the year and the impending announcement of a new Hunter hospital imminent both significant economic drivers.

I would like to thank my helpers at last year’s election and the many people who supported my election to council.

As a Ward D councilor I can assure residents that I will continue to represent your best interests to ensure that council sets a direction that is suitable to all.