Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (16:20): The topic of this matter of public importance is that the economy is not working for everyday Australians, and I’m really struck wondering which set of economic indicators those opposite are looking at. Surely it’s not the government’s imminent return to surplus in the coming budget. Surely it’s not the lowest unemployment rate since 2012, currently at five per cent. That’s quite an achievement, and I have great hopes and expectations that we’ll head even lower. Job adverts are up at the moment. Surely it’s not the record number of people in work, 12.7 million, and the extra 300,000 in the workforce over the last 12 months. Surely not. Surely the economic indicators those opposite are looking at are not labour force participation of women, which has hit a record 60 per cent. And surely it’s not the fact that we have had the lowest level of welfare dependency—I don’t know, actually, for how long that is—for a very long time.
I look at those figures and think so many people in Australia are well served by the economy. We know that the greatest form of justice in a community, the greatest form of enablement, is to have a job. That’s what this government is doing. It’s got economic indicators set—or, as Paul Keating would have said, ‘It’s got the levers in the right place’—to create jobs, to create wealth and prosperity throughout the community.
I know they’ve been focusing on the level of wages growth. We would all like to see it a little higher. That would be fair to say. But it has been travelling at 2.3 per cent while inflation has been running at 1.8 per cent. That’s half a per cent, real growth, year on year, and it’s not to be sneezed at. Around the world, particularly in the Western world, in the advanced economies, we have seen slow wage growth. Australia is holding its head up well and, at the same time, growing the jobs market at a rate that we have never seen before. That is where fairness comes into our economy.
Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan, as you well know—because you’re a good Port Augusta lad—I represent 92 per cent of South Australia. Our unemployment rate is a little higher than the national average. I don’t like that and we’re working hard to bring it down. It’s about seven per cent at the moment. The unemployment rate is highest in the Upper Spencer Gulf. That is where the government has been focusing its resources and attention, to bring about change in that area. I can tell people in that part of my electorate—in fact, all over the electorate—that the news is good. It’s very good. Job opportunities are strong, perhaps stronger than they have been in a generation. In the Upper Spencer Gulf we’re seeing record investment on renewables—wind, solar, pumped hydro, fixing up some of the mess that South Australia has found itself in—and battery installation. There are a number of projects going on and hundreds of people are employed.
At Carrapateena, Oz Minerals are kicking off a new mine. There’ll be over a thousand jobs there. That will make a difference. BHP is expanding at Roxby Downs, at Olympic Dam. It’s not the big hole in the ground we were going to see a few years ago. They are expanding and taking on a workforce. GFG Alliance, under Sanjeev Gupta, is on the cusp of a $1.3 billion investment in the steelworks at Whyalla. And I just attended, with the minister, Senator Fawcett, an update on the expansion of the Cultana training facility. There have been $41 million worth of projects undertaken. We oversaw this the other day. Of those, $33 million have come from local tradespeople and businesses. That is a really good tick for the government.
We have put a $20 million regional jobs and investment package into the Upper Spencer Gulf region. That should deliver 300 extra jobs. The Joy Baluch AM Bridge at Port Augusta is going to be duplicated at a cost of $172 million to the federal government—$200 million in total. Port Wakefield, a little further down the line, is getting dual lanes on the National Highway and an overpass on the northern side with $72 million from the federal government. I continue to lobby for more. For Horrocks Highway, the Stiz, and the EP road network, we’re doing good work; people have got jobs and they are prospering.