HARD AT WORK: Both the Coalition and Labor are promising to tackle regional unemployment a week out from the nation going to the polls.
HARD AT WORK: Both the Coalition and Labor are promising to tackle regional unemployment a week out from the nation going to the polls. The Gympie Times Archives

Unemployment new election battlefield

WIDE Bay's high unemployment rate is the new battlefield for candidates less than a week out from the Federal Election.

With an unemployment rate of 9% as of last month, Wide Bay's figure is among the highest nationally and both the Coalition and Labor are promising fixes.

Wide Bay MP Warren Truss said yesterday an incoming Liberal National Government would implement a $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund to grow jobs in regions experiencing high unemployment.

Mr Truss said Wide Bay and the Gympie region stood to directly benefit from the billion-dollar fund.

"The fund will invest $200 million each year in local capital works projects that will improve local communities," Mr Truss said.

Following the fund's implementation, Councils and community groups will be able to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million, to meet half the cost of community building projects.

Mr Truss said regions with higher than average unemployment would receive funding priority.

"A Coalition Government will work with local communities by backing successful projects and contributing up to 50% of the funds needed to construct them," he said.

Remaining funds for projects will come from local and state governments in addition to the community and private sector.

Mr Truss said the electorate's unemployment had worsened under a Labor government and the National Stronger Regions Fund would strengthen the economy and support local jobs.

"Labor has ignored our region," Mr Truss said.

"When the Coalition left office in 2007 our regional unemployment rate was 3.5%, which was below the national average."

Meanwhile, Labor candidate for Wide Bay, Lucy Stanton, unveiled the ALP's plan to target the region's unemployment rate.

A major shake-up of the nation's employment services system is proposed.

Businesses and communities will be handed greater control over job matching and skilling priorities in the Southern Wide Bay-Burnett region, Ms Stanton said.

Labor's Jobs and Training Australia will see more decisions to address skill shortages and employment challenges being made by industry and community leaders.

At the heart of the ALP plan is a major expansion of Jobs and Training Boards.

The boards will roll out nationally from July 1, 2015 but commence in the Wide Bay-Burnett region from January 1, 2014 to maximise job matching opportunities.

Ms Stanton said Labor's $8.5 billion Employment Services system had performed well since its introduction four years ago.

"1.6 million out-of-work Australians (have been placed into) jobs and significantly contributing to the nation's very low unemployment rate," she said.

"We believe it can be reshaped and better targeted so it is more jobseeker and business focussed and more locally aware of areas of need and skills shortages."

A total of $600,000 will be available for the Southern Wide Bay-Burnett Jobs and Skills Board to cut the jobless queue.