|Figures||Australian Dole Numbers Double|
|Comment||Jobless Areas Get Worse|
THE number of Queenslanders receiving the dole has more than doubled in less than a decade.
Latest Federal Government figures show the figure for the state jumped by 139% between 1989 and 1996.
In the five years to 1996 Queensland's population grew 13.1%.
According to the Social Health Atlas of Australia, a comprehensive report card of the nation, the number of people in Brisbane receiving unemployment benefits increased by 153% from 25,305 to 64,134 people.
This was a rise from 3% of all adults of working age to 6.6%.
The increase in the Gold Coast-Tweed region was even more pronounced, with 24,078 being paid unemployment benefits in 1996 — more than five times as many as in 1989. In 1996 10.8% of the tourist area's working-age population was on the dole, the study says.
The study showed a 73.7% slide in the number of unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the state during the period.
New statistics show that 101 towns and suburbs have double-digit levels, with Mt Morgan the highest on 38.1%.
That's followed by the Brisbane suburb of Wacol on 23.2%, Logan City's Woodridge (22.5%) and Kingston (21.9%). In Coolangatta, the jobless rate at December 31 was 18.8%. Hervey Bay 14.7%, Mackay and South Townsville 11.2% and Maryborough 10.4%.
The Federal Government has produced the hot spot figures as part of a survey of the state's 446 small-area labour markets.
Last year, the number of unemployed in those areas rose 4498 to 57,255. The average unemployment rate went from 12.6% to 13.1%.
Opposition deputy leader David Watson said the figures showed the Beattie Government was not delivering on its "jobs, jobs, jobs" promise.
"These figures are the statistical face of a human tragedy," he said. "The premier runs around the state claiming he has the answers but the facts tell a different story. They say that most communities in greatest need are worse off now than they were 12 months ago. They say the government has done virtually nothing about unemployment rates of 10%, 20% and 30% throughout Queens land. They say the Beattie Government's job policies aren't worth a cracker."
Mr Beattie — who in the most recent election campaign set state jobless target of 5% — said Labor had reduced unemployment from 8.7% to 8%.
"Obviously the jobless spread is never uniform. We are doing things to ensure we have job creation programs across the regions. For example, there the Gold Coast convention centre, the prison in Maryborough, the Strand in Townsville. We will continue to do this to deal with hot spots. In areas like Kingston and Ipswich, we have our urban renewal strategy designed to enhance suburbs and create jobs as well."
Mt Morgan Shire Mayor Stan Lean shrugged off the town's number one unemployment ranking.
Councillor Lean said alarming numbers of jobless didn't mean Mt Morgan was a haven for dole bludgers.
He described the formerly thriving mining community, 30 minutes south-east of Rockhampton, as a "proud town", simply struggling with tough times.
Gold, silver and copper mining at Mt Morgan all but ceased in the mid'80s and the town's rail link soon followed suit.
Today, Mt Morgan supports only a fledgling tourism industry, with the town's major employer the local council.
"It is ironic that this town paid off the national debt at Federation," Councillor Lean said. "The situation now is depressing, but we are working on it."
Mt Morgan Shire Council has created some jobs through town upgrade projects, but they are not permanent.
Councillor Lean said Mt Morgan residents were hoping for a saviour in the form of a proposed magnesium mine for nearby Stanwell.
"People here really do want to work," Councillor Lean said. "If jobs are there, you'll have long queues of people wanting them."
Wacol's high unemployment ranking came as no surprise to many residents.
"Too many people here have a lazy attitude to work — they don't want to do it," snack-bar manager Steve Theso said. "They need to get off their backsides and look for a job, but they've got too many government benefits coming in to worry about that."
Hairdressing assistant Karen Moir said it wasn't hard to see why unemployment was so high.
"A lot of young people here don't have very much confidence in themselves," Mrs Moir said. "When you go for a job, people want to know where you are from and it doesn't always work in your favour to say you're from Wacol."
Service station owner Eve Brown said Wacol was a cheap area with Housing Commission homes.
"It attracts people without a lot of money, who often don't have a job," Mrs Brown said. "The whole trend then just escalates."
Unemployed labourer Dave Jacobs, 31, moved to Wacol recently because it was the cheapest suburb he could find.
His four-week search for work had produced few job offers.
Many Queenslanders are now enjoying their Easter break from work, many spending up big. But they should spare a thought for the thousands of jobless who can't afford to join them.
As we report today, the number of unemployment hot spots in this state is increasing. New statistics reveal 101 towns and suburbs have double-digit jobless levels, with Mt Morgan topping the list with 38.1%.
Add to this the number of Queenslanders relying on the dole more than doubling in less than a decade and the severity of the state's unemployment problem becomes alarming.
Many Australians have benefited from a fairly buoyant economy. But the spread of largesse is uneven. There are many pockets around Queensland where families have no member in work and little prospect of getting a job.
The increase in the number of jobless may partly be due to increased migration from other states but, as Opposition deputy leader David Watson says, the figures are the statistical face of a human tragedy. He accuses the Beattie Government of having failed to honour its promise of jobs, jobs, jobs.
Premier Peter Beattie says the government is working to ensure job creation programs. Well and good. But he must try harder.
A community divided between the haves and have-nots is not part of the Australian dream.