The state government should rethink its approach to unemployment, Polwarth MP Richard Riordan says.
The opposition MP said labour shortages were holding parts of the south-west back, with some major projects and businesses struggling to attract talent.
“One of the frustrations I’m hearing across industries in our area, is despite the down turn for suppliers of dairy, by and large the dairy production industry is going well. Certainly Midfield Meat in Warrnambool and ALC (Australian Lamb Colac) in Colac, they are crying out for staff in those big workplaces.
“They’ve all got fantastic, long-term contracts – they’re going gangbusters.”
Mr Riordan said the timber industry around Colac and niche food industries along the Great Ocean Road were other areas that were booming.
“There’s opportunities galore,” he said.
“We are struggling to get people out here and I think it’s because the government’s focus at the moment is on retraining people in areas where there are no jobs.”
The MP made reference to the state government’s Jobs Victoria program, which in part helps train people for work.
“I’d rather see that $63 million going to supporting people moving into our area than to help people stay unemployed in unemployable areas, quite frankly,” Mr Riordan said.
Mr Riordan said the money could be better spent bringing people into the region.
“You have an obligation to take a job when it’s available. Being in useful, gainful employment is better than sitting at home when the job’s going,” he said.
Mr Riordan said unemployment figures released this week shed light on the favourable job conditions in the region.
“We are well below state and national unemployment averages,” he said.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released this week showed the national unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent, while the figure for Victoria was six per cent.
The Warrnambool and south-west unemployment rate recorded for April was 2.4 per cent, a drop from the six per cent recorded in February and 4.4 per cent in March.
“The incentive is there for people,” Mr Riordan said.
“We have affordable housing, we have great services – there’s not much more you need to do to incentivise people.”