2018 NSW Election: Candidates share their thoughts on reducing unemployment and stimulating the local economy

18-year-old Chloe O'Brien would like permanent work.
18-year-old Chloe O'Brien would like permanent work.

The Camden Haven Courier surveyed readers about issues affecting their vote at the state election on March 23. Lake Cathie water quality, funding for local roads, jobs and employment, mental health and tourism/local industry made the top five. 

Eighteen-year-old Chloe O'Brien from Telegraph Point knows the struggle of finding permanent work.

"It has been stressful, pretty difficult," she said.

Over the last two years she has had a number of casual jobs in Port Macquarie only to find her hours drastically reduced or even laid off without notice. 

She's happy in her current job in the service industry but would like permanent work.

Ms O'Brien said she hasn't ruled out enrolling in TAFE but doesn't have the financial means to fund further study.

Mid North Coast Business Chamber Regional Manager Kellon Beard said Ms O'Brien's experience isn't unique to young people.

Allan Gordon, CEO of the Hastings Co Op.

Allan Gordon, CEO of the Hastings Co Op.

He commended the State Government for doing "a pretty good job" when it comes to the economy but said "youth unemployment is a real issue for us."

"We relied so much on the building trade and a lot of building has been automated, people aren't putting on apprentices so we are not seeing that flow through of skills." 

The youth unemployment rate for the Mid North Coast which includes Port Macquarie is 10.8 per cent.

This is double the general unemployment rate but lower than other regions such as  Coffs/Grafton 24 per cent or the Hunter 13 per cent.

CEO of the Hastings Co-op Allan Gordon said all levels of government needed to work towards a national strategy on youth unemployment.

If you look at the way base level jobs are being automated and the effects this will have over the next decade, unless something substantial is done in terms of having young people working towards the jobs of the future, then I think youth unemployment will continue to be an issue for a long time.

Allan Gordon

Mr Gordon said he would like to see better infrastructure to attract new business to the region which would "make doing business here easier”. 

Another local employer Patrick Cassegrain from Expressway Spares in Wauchope said reducing the payroll tax would be good start to reducing unemployment.

"It is a punitive tax and one that hurts businesses like ours. We would employ more people if we didn’t have this tax."

Principal of Newman Technical College Mark Nunan said preparing young people for the job market was one way of tackling the problem.

He urged politicians to be courageous with any changes to the high school curriculum which is currently under review. 

"For too long there has been too great a focus in the curriculum that was designed decades ago  on university entry that has little or no relevance to more than 60 per cent of students engaged in it," Mr Nunan said. 

We need a flexible curriculum that prepares students for university but we also need a curriculum that motivates and stimulates critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Mark Nunan

Newman Technical College student Arcadia Meldrum concurred saying her traineeship at Rydges enabled her to gain "core skills" in presentation and communication which have prepared her for the job market. 

For Kellon Beard  there is a lot more politicians could be doing if they really want to create jobs and economic growth. 

"Payroll tax, assisting developing industrial land at Sancrox, planning regulations to make it easier to get businesses off the ground and incentives for kids to go to TAFE to name a few."

Arcadia Meldrum from Newman Technical College in Port Macquarie.

Arcadia Meldrum from Newman Technical College in Port Macquarie.

What do your state election candidates for Port Macquarie think?

We asked candidates for the state seat of Port Macquarie about how they planned to stimulate the local economy,  attract industry, address youth unemployment and prepare young people for the job market, if they were elected. 

Leslie Williams, Nationals MP for Port Macquarie

The NSW Liberals & Nationals will continue to stimulate the economy by increasing the payroll tax threshold to $900 000 in 2019-20, $950 000 in 2020-21 and $1 million in 2021-22.

This will mean further savings of more than $8000 for thousands of small businesses in NSW while many more will fall out of the payroll tax brackets completely.

NSW Liberals & Nationals will deliver an additional 100 000 free TAFE courses bringing the total number of free TAFE courses being offered by the NSW Liberal & Nationals to nearly 700,000 over four years. 

More young people will be given the chance to pick up the tools and complete an apprenticeship with the NSW Nationals announcing an exciting initiative to establish a government-run vocational school on the North Coast.

The new school will allow students to study a trade at the same time they are completing the HSC.

Whilst the exact location of the new vocational school is yet to be determined you can be assured I'll be fighting tooth and nail to secure it for our community.  

Peter Alley,  Labor candidate

Labor will mandate a target of 50 per cent local content for major state government contracts as part of Labor's plan for NSW workers and local industry.

A new act of parliament will require local jobs and content to be written into all government procurement documents for the first time.

Under the Nationals we have seen the closure of UGL a major employer, under Labor that will be reopened.

Labor will also develop the skilled workforce in NSW by requiring that 20 per cent of work on major NSW government construction projects is alocated to a combination of apprentices, trainees, long term unemployed and Indigenous Australians.  

Labor will rebuild TAFE by offering 600,000 free TAFE courses in areas of skills shortage such as childcare , aged care disability care, construction, plumbing and electrical trades.

Drusi Megget, Greens candidate

The Greens have plans on immediate action on climate change which involves starting up a new publicly owned electricity company, Power NSW.

One of the benefits for regional areas from the Greens' plan is a $1 billion Renewable Energy Fund for local communities and councils.

These funds will boost investments made by local community groups and councils, matching local investments in renewable energy, dollar for dollar. 

The Greens also urge investment in recycling as a hugely improved sustainable recyclable industry is a no brainer.

Urgent action is required now that China is no longer accepting our rubbish and regional NSW would benefit from investment in the recycling industry.