The Regions Have a Jobs Problem
The virus infection can have dire consequences for the economy as everybody realizes. Unlike previous recessions this one has been deliberately engineered by governments and as a consequence unintended consequences proliferate.
An example is jobs: at the moment regional Victoria is bleeding jobs while regional Queensland is desperate for labour. Unfortunately, workers can’t get to Queensland because the borders are closed and workers can’t afford to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine at their own expense.
According to the Grattan Institute, Victorian regions are suffering disproportionately, because of the Andrews government lockdown, even though they have very little COVID. The Grattan analysis shows that the electorates of Gippsland and Monash, held by the minister for veteran affairs, Darren Chester, and Russell Broadbent, suffered job losses of about 10% between March and July compared with just over 7% nationally.
As the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg has pointed out the effective rate of unemployment is 3% to 5% higher than the official rate.
Of the ten electorates that have the biggest job losses, 8 are in Victoria. Regional economies were hit harder than city economies because they had fewer white-collar jobs and less capacity to put people on jobkeeper. This means that there is a reduction in aggregate expenditure in the regions which in turn impacts local businesses, especially small business.
The electorate of Mallee, held by Dr Anne Webster, has the third-highest job losses, despite the fact that the end of the drought has meant that agricultural production in the Mallee has increased significantly.
At the same time, employers in regional Queensland are crying out for workers in the three sectors that are hardest hit in Victoria: construction, agriculture and hospitality.
The last time the Waltzing Matilda Motor Inn in Charleville, in central-west Queensland, had enough cleaners was in March — before coronavirus restrictions.
The motel's general manager Martin Reinhard said they had never had any issues in finding staff before.
"Usually we have a good response. In the past, we've filled positions within the day," he said.
It has been the hardest year in memory to find workers for one kiwi fruit farm in Killarney, southern Queensland.
Without workers, farmer David Weier said he has had to prune his trees in the early hours and late at night, around his day job as an electrician.
"Usually I would have four or five workers here at the farm doing the pruning," he said.
"We advertised for workers about three weeks ago but we haven't had too many replies."
It is obvious that the National Cabinet has to come to grips with the labour shortages in critical areas around Australia. There are obviously people in Queensland who have been stood down from the tourist industry but these people are on jobkeeper in many cases and don’t want to give up their permanent job for casual work. On the other hand, there are people who are desperate to work in regional Victoria.
These potential workers should be able to isolate in regional areas in Queensland in accommodation that they would normally occupy when working there such as their own caravans. Allowing them to cross New South Wales should be permitted provided they have tested negative for the virus immediately prior to departure and they submit a travel plan.