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QUESTION: What brings you to the Coast today?
MINISTER ABETZ: I’m here as a result of Karen McNamara’s invitation to visit the seat of Dobell. The Central Coast does have issues with employment. And so it’s good to be at an employer that has provided a stable workforce for this area on a long-term basis and has a great future ahead of it. This afternoon, I’ll also be visiting Work for the Dole projects, which is the other side of the equation. And there are some very good new stories coming out of the Work for the Dole programmes, where they are identifying people that are being picked up by employers locally. And here in this area we have one of the 18 trial regions for Work for the Dole. And, in between, I’ll be sitting down for lunch with a few small business people, just ascertaining what the issues are on the Central Coast.
QUESTION: Just elaborating on, I suppose, that meeting. What, in particular, are we going to be looking at with the business owners?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, that’s up to the business owners to tell me. Karen has invited me along to listen and learn from the issues confronting the small business community. As a Government, we are very focussed on assisting small business as well, because they are the engine room for jobs growth. And, as a Government, we seek to look after the large employers, such as Mars, but also look after the needs of small business. And so, today, we’re doing the whole lot – big business, I think, if not the biggest, one of the biggest employers in the region, here at Mars, then the small business community, and then Work for the Dole participants.
QUESTION: Nice. You touched on, you know, we haven’t got a good reputation for unemployment, especially youth unemployment, in the region. I suppose off the back of that meeting we might foresee the issues brought up. What can we see off the back of maybe this visit in the region to tackling those horrific statistics that we have?
MINISTER ABETZ: As a Government, you first of all have to get the economy in shape, and that will benefit the inner-city worker that’s out of a job and regional workers and the people in the Central Coast. So getting the economy right is number one. How do you do that? Getting rid of the carbon tax, getting rid of the mining tax, getting rid of red and green tape, signing up free trade agreements that really give us the opportunity to grow our strengths and export to China. So, in recent times, Japan, South Korea, now China, hopefully India in the future. They’re the sort of things, as a Government, we’ve got to work on, if you like, as an overarching policy. Then we look at local regions and we get the feedback from our members, such as Karen McNamara here in Dobell, to ascertain what we can do to adjust a wing nut here or something else over there to help grow employment opportunities. That is why this area has one of the Work for the Dole trial areas, and we hope that our other job initiatives will assist in getting more people into employment. And, as Minister for Employment, it’s not only the economic aspect that concerns Karen and myself in this area, it’s the social aspect of work. And we all know that if somebody’s got a job, their mental health, their physical health, their self-esteem, their social interaction is all enhanced, not only for themselves but their whole family unit. So there’s a huge social dividend to be gained if somebody is actively and usefully engaged, and also there’s the economic benefit of a tax taker being transformed into a tax payer.
QUESTION: So, Karen, happy to be showing off the work in Dobell?
KAREN McNAMARA: Absolutely. We have a great area here on the Central Coast, full of potential, and that’s why it’s important for me to be able to showcase this to the Minister. But, also, the Minister has been a great advocate, too, of the Coast and is fully aware of the challenges we have, particularly in regards to unemployment. And that’s why Dobell was chosen as one of the 18 sites to trial Work for the Dole.
MINISTER ABETZ: Thank you.