Dole queue soars

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - JOE SPAG­NOLO Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

THE num­ber of West Aus­tralians claim­ing the dole has jumped by more than a third in just three years, with more than 95,000 peo­ple now on un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits.

New fig­ures re­leased by So­cial Ser­vices Min­is­ter Chris­tian Porter show the harsh re­al­i­ties of a trou­bled State, with the WA econ­omy still reel­ing from a min­ing slump that has seen un­em­ploy­ment rise to 6.2 per cent in 2016-17 — the high­est rate in 15 years.

WA Trea­sury is fore­cast­ing un­em­ploy­ment to be about 6 per cent this fi­nan­cial year.

While 70,973 peo­ple were re­ceiv­ing New­start and Youth Al­lowance in June 2014, that fig­ure has now swelled to 95,496 — mean­ing the num­ber of dole re­cip­i­ents has in­creased by 24,523, or 34 per cent, in just three years.

Alarm­ingly, fig­ures also show that the pro­por­tion of the State’s pop­u­la­tion on the dole has now risen to 3.7 per cent com­pared with 2.8 per cent in 2014. This is de­spite the fact that the rate of pop­u­la­tion growth in WA slowed to just 0.6 per cent — about 16,000 peo­ple — in 2016 and is ex­pected to be just 1 per cent this fi­nan­cial year.

In other States such as NSW and Vic­to­ria, the pro­por­tion of State pop­u­la­tion on New­start and Youth Al­lowance has ac­tu­ally de­creased since 2014. Fig­ures also show that the age group worst af­fected by WA’s eco­nomic slump ap­pears to be the 35-44 age group, with 20,066 re­ceiv­ing the dole.

The fig­ures have prompted the Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try of WA and the WA Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vices to ap­peal to the La­bor Gov­ern­ment to do more to stim­u­late jobs. CCI chief econ­o­mist Rick Newn­ham said yes­ter­day WA was now “88 per cent of the way down the busi­ness in­vest­ment cliff”.

“Once in­vest­ment re­turns to pos­i­tive ter­ri­tory and new jobs are added, we will see the en­tire econ­omy start to re­cover,” he said.

But he warned that any in­creases in taxes would only ham­per eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

“To stim­u­late busi­ness in­vest­ment WA must be seen as a sta­ble place to in­vest,” he said. “In­creas­ing taxes on busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly pay­roll tax, does the op­po­site, mak­ing WA the most ex­pen­sive State to cre­ate new jobs.

“At a time when WA’s econ­omy was just get­ting back on its feet the WA Gov­ern­ment has knocked it back down by in­creas­ing taxes to prop up their un­sus­tain­able spend­ing.”

Mr Porter said yes­ter­day the un­em­ploy­ment “in­crease came off a very low base in 2014 — a time when the min­ing boom was pro­vid­ing jobs and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were mov­ing to WA for work.”

The new fig­ures co­in­cide with new data show­ing more West Aus­tralians are be­ing forced to turn to gov­ern­ment hard­ship fund­ing to pay their bills, such as power charges.

From Jan­uary to Au­gust this year, the Gov­ern­ment paid out more than $13 mil­lion to West Aus­tralians strug­gling to pay their power bills.

WACOSS chief ex­ec­u­tive Louise Gi­olitto said yes­ter­day the WA Gov­ern­ment had to make sure it “set clear tar­gets for trainee­ships and ap­pren­tice­ships for the Metronet build”.

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