Opinion: Don't celebrate jobs figures just yet

March 28, 2014

Originally published in the Daily Telegraph

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

THERE was much backslapping and high-fiving in the NSW government last week as new ABS data showed our state had the lowest unemployment in the country. But could the political self-congratulations be premature?
While the data tells one story, another is unfolding in the suburbs and the regions where the human impact of recent job losses paints a more uncertain picture.

These losses raise fears of NSW heading for a repeat of the unemployment nightmare of 1992 during Paul Keating’s “recession we had to have”.

More than 1500 Sydney job losses at Qantas followed other bad news including about 200 jobs gone at the Alcoa plant in western Sydney, 190 gone at Downer EDI and redundancies at the Drayton mine in the Hunter.

The current NSW unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent is welcome but no cause for complacency. It has jumped from just 5.3 per cent a year ago, resulting in nearly 20,000 more people out of work.

In NSW there are four obvious steps that must be taken to tip the balance and help avoid further damage.

Step one is to repeal the carbon tax. It’s a tax on economic activity, and therefore a tax on jobs. It pushes up the cost of energy. Why are some people surprised that since the carbon tax was introduced we have seen factory closures and job losses in energy-intensive industries? Who are the “deniers” here?

Step two is repeal of the mining tax. Of course a mining guy like me is going to say that, right? Sure, my sector has an interest in this, because the tax attacks our biggest export industry.

We should have a massive economic advantage over the rest of the world in mining, attracting investment, generating projects, and creating lots of jobs. Instead, this tax compounds the impact of the carbon tax, scaring mining investment away.

Securing the energy future of NSW is step three. Attempts by some to demonise coal and gas put our energy supplies at risk. In response, NSW needs a clear, long-term energy policy that outlines how we secure the cheapest and most reliable electricity, including coal, gas and renewables.

Step four is to fix the NSW planning system. The NSW government has tried to introduce a new planning system but has been blocked by Labor. This is reckless. We need a system that attracts more investment, not less.

The first two steps require action from the federal Coalition government. The other two require action from the state Coalition government.

Importantly, all require a constructive and sensible approach from Labor in opposition.

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