Let's talk about jobs
BARWON ELECTORATE JOBS
Mr ROY BUTLER (Barwon) (19:10:58):Tonight I talk about jobs, specifically jobs in Barwon, something that I have been accused of standing in the way of or being "anti", which is an interesting accusation from the New South Wales Government.Let us start with some facts. New South Wales has had a Liberal‑Nationals Government since 28 March 2011. I was elected to this place on 23 March 2019. Those two facts are indisputable.Let us look at some other, well-documented facts.The O'Farrell Government cut 15,000 jobs, nearly 6,000 of them from the public sector, in regional New South Wales.Then there was the Baird Government, with his Treasurer Ms Gladys Berejiklian, now Premier, who stuck a for sale sign on almost everything in New South Wales and privatised a swag of Government services, slashing jobs and leaving towns with fewer services.In 2019 the current Treasurer announced he would eliminate up to 3,000 public sector jobs over the next four years.
Why care about public service jobs? The importance of public sector work is all the more visible in my communities. Good jobs in schools, hospitals and public administration are essential to the overall wellbeing of rural and regional towns. They function as economic anchors, they support the local economy and the many spin‑off jobs that come from having well-paid locals: consumer goods, hospitality, trades, the list goes on.This positive economic benefit has been ignored for years and years by the Liberal-Nationals Government.Of the 20 local government areas that experienced the greatest loss of public sector jobs between 2011 and 2016, six were located in the Barwon electorate—Central Darling, Brewarrina, Bourke, Coonamble, Cobar and Warren.
"But Roy", I hear the Government say, "our record investment in infrastructure has seen us create thousands of jobs in New South Wales." To which I say independent analysis has shown that over 80 per cent of new jobs in New South Wales in the past five years have been created in the Greater Sydney area. What is the benefit of these cuts to the people of my electorate? Where is the economic return for the people of Barwon? Where is the reinvestment of the dollars saved through public service cuts to my electorate? Well, I struggle to find any. But what I can see is the overall negative impact of consistent job cuts and funding reduction to the people of regional and rural New South Wales—to the people of the Barwon electorate.
When we look into the loss of these jobs and what it means to our communities, we find that fisheries officers located in Broken Hill were cut. Now one officer, located at Dareton, is required to cover the whole of the Far West from the Victorian border to Queensland and from the South Australian border to Balranald, which is over one-third of the State. This is an impossible area to maintain compliance with fisheries legislation. Just today I have been contacted regarding an allegation of illegal fishing. Then there is the fire control officer position at the fire control centre in Ivanhoe, a key position in the coordination of Rural Fire Service volunteers in the event of a significant bushfire—cut.
Then there is the big one, the NDIS. It took out every single disability worker, support worker and therapist employed by the public service and pushed them into an uncertain employment environment. Many left, seeking the security of bigger towns and cities. This has had an enormous impact, not only on the economy of our towns but also most importantly on the availability and sustainability of services in our towns. The Government did this, not a pandemic, not an unpredictable global event. These job cuts and the devastating impacts are the fault of no‑one but those who sit on the Liberal-Nationals government benches.
In the past few weeks we have heard about the number of jobs that will be created in Narrabri if the CSG project goes ahead. My support for the protection of groundwater and advocacy for the communities and industries that rely on it saw me being accused of being anti-jobs. What is most interesting about this argument is the fact that the information the Government keeps parroting about jobs comes directly from a report commissioned by Santos in support of its project. "We expect there will be up to 200 ongoing positions"—that is a direct quote from Santos. There is no independent verification, yet we see this figure crop up in Government reports. How can we really trust it? How can we bet the future of an entire town on the unverified expectation of a large company? Small towns have never been sold down the river by a large corporate before, have they? Never.
I take the House to some known facts. Between 2011 and 2016, Central Darling, Brewarrina, Bourke, Coonamble, Cobar and Warren local government areas lost 205 public service jobs from their towns—205 jobs. Despite what the Government would have us believe, the ongoing slashing of public sector jobs corresponds to a reduction in ongoing private sector jobs. The actions of the Government in reducing public sector employment has damaged the economy of towns right across Barwon. Its actions have reduced consumer spending across regional New South Wales by an estimated $1.9 billion. That is a loss of economic activity in the main streets and business parks in my communities, and that means less expansion and less private sector job growth. That is not on me; that is all on the Government.