Speech - Interstate and Intrastate Migration
This issue of people leaving South Australia is quite personal for me.
I commend the member for Chaffey for bringing this issue to the house. It is an issue that is very close to my heart. I am technically a member of the gen Y generation. I probably act a little more generation X in getting married and buying my
first home at quite a young age but still those around me are very much gen Y.
I have a younger brother who studied accounting at UniSA and then went on to work for Pricewaterhouse. He felt that his career advancement was limited in South Australia and moved to Perth, and then moved to London to work, and ended up working for the BBC which was quite an exciting job. We were lucky that we enticed him to come home to work in the family business. We offered him less pay, poorer conditions and far, far more hours working under arduous circumstances, but we are thankful that he said yes. It really highlighted for me, and he realised, that his career progression was outside of South Australia.
As someone who has been a proud member of the Young Liberals until I was no longer a young Liberal, I have seen many of my fellow Young Liberals move interstate—very intelligent, capable people who have a deep abiding love for policy and also South Australia—deciding their paths laid outside of South Australia. I now have friends who work within the Reserve Bank, the Department of Treasury and Finance, electricity regulators and a whole host of areas where they are able to ply their talents and skills but unfortunately those opportunities did not lie here in South Australia.
There was a headline in the Sunday Mail a couple of months ago that said 3,000 people are leaving our state every year. This tells a large part of the story because over the last two decades the average has been around 3,000 people a year, and that is a sad indictment on where South Australia is at—the raw and honest opinion of where South Australia is at—and we can see that by
people voting with their feet to leave.
This is an issue that has been around for a long time but I do not think the government has been able to address it with any great clarity. We have heard a couple of times already, and the stats are just out for this month, that trend unemployment is up to 8.1 per cent which is the highest in the country, with the national average being 6.2 per cent. It is quite interesting that federal Labor tweeted this morning saying that any unemployment rate with a six in front of it is unacceptable. Well, hear hear to that, and I hope that the South Australian branch of the Labor Party is listening to what its federal colleagues are saying.
Whilst this government may try to spin this result as being other than an indictment on our state, the truth is there are not enough jobs to go around. I will touch a bit more on that later. Jobs are very much central and should not be the complete focus but the vast majority of the focus when it comes to arresting and dealing with this problem. Our labour participation rate remains steady,
below the national average by 2.2 points, but the truth is that we have a larger older population because those younger people have left and they are the ones who hurt our participation rate.
I fear, though, that 8.1 per cent trend unemployment is only the start of the story. I had cause in the last couple of weeks to visit Leigh Creek, Moomba and Port Augusta. I look at the jobs that are being lost out there. Moomba was telling us that they were up to 1,400 people down to 600, and that is a cyclical issue that I hope turns around again quickly. Things like Leigh Creek and the jobs at Port Augusta at the power plant and also the jobs at the coal mine that we were able to visit in the beautiful electorate of Stuart really hit home what the changing South Australian economy means.
These are well paid jobs by people who are very good at what they do who have moved to Leigh Creek, which is not necessarily close to much else, but they have a beautiful and vibrant community and they choose to live there because there is job opportunity. There was not too much happening in the way of a nightclub on a Saturday night or small bars, although I did find the pub was quite a good place to hang out, but they were there because there were job opportunities and that has to be the fundamental focus of where we are at.
The problem, I believe, is structural from a government perspective in terms of job creation, but it is also cultural. These two issues, the structural and the cultural reasons behind not being able to create jobs and keep young people here in South Australia, were at the heart of the Liberal Party's policy agenda in the lead-up to the last election. These are two things we need to deal with going forward. At the last election, Steven Marshall and the Liberal team put forward a policy of establishing a start-up conference which would have featured high-level international speakers, tried to attract new investors and foster an environment for start-up culture to flourish.