Welcome to Bundaberg, Australia's dole capital
IT'S an unenviable title, but Bundaberg can lay claim to being the dole capital of Australia, with more residents living on the unemployment benefit than anywhere else in the country.
That's not per capita or an average, that's 4465 people receiving the Newstart Allowance that live in the 4670 postcode - the largest number for any Australian postcode area.
The December quarter figures from the Department of Social Services show Bundaberg tops the list, followed by Cairns (postcode 4870) with 4353 people, and Sydney's Liverpool area (postcode 2170) third with 4260 people on the dole.
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch, whose electorate includes Cairns, said there were jobs in fruit picking, milking sheds and even cafes that were being snubbed by Australians
"There's no shortage of jobs, just a shortage of people that are prepared to take them," he said.
"The reality it there are jobs out there; they may not be their dream job, but it's a bloody job."
It's a view many shared on social media, with NewsMail readers expressing their opinions online.
"There are jobs if you want to work. People say 'I apply for every job that comes up'. How about walking the streets and handing in resumes and actually dress appropriately when doing so," Jodie Onoprienko said.
"I moved away and came back and had two jobs the day I was back. Maybe not jobs I loved, but you do it until you find what you want."
But the figures also mount a case for decentralisation - a plan to relocate Federal Government departments to the regions, giving residents in those areas the opportunity to secure public servant positions.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt backs the move.
"Ultimately there needs to be jobs available for people to apply for and this is where decentralisation can also help," he said.
"I'm a passionate advocate of decentralisation; people in regional Australia deserve the benefits of government departments and the careers and flow-on benefits they bring just as much as those living in capital cities."
WHAT YOU GET
Fortnightly Newstart Allowance payments vary depending on the recipients' circumstances, but the maximum amounts are:
Single, no children: $535.60
Single with a dependant child or children: $579.30
Single, aged 60 or over, after nine continuous months on payment: $579.30
Partnered: $483.60 (each)
WHAT OUR POLLIES SAY:
Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt
We need to continue to build the economy - the more strings to its bow the better - and the government is doing this in a number of ways.
We've reduced the company tax rate, we brought ex-HMAS Tobruk to the region to be developed as a major tourism destination, we've upgraded the Bruce Hwy and
we're investing in water infrastructure for Queensland, and business confidence is on the rise.
Housing is affordable and the lifestyle is second to none in the regions - who wouldn't want to live here?
Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson
These figures prove that the Federal Government has forgotten about regional Queensland, particularly Bundaberg.
Successive LNP sitting members have failed to deliver any meaningful improvement in the jobs situation in Bundaberg.
Jobs is the number one priority for the Palaszczuk Government and we are doing all we can to create jobs where they are needed most.
The Queensland Government has implemented a number of job-generation initiatives, including the Back to Work Regional Employment Program.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey
I firmly believe our region has so much to offer by way of opportunities and as a council we have been working towards evolving those opportunities into job creation projects.
Our opportunities lay within the diverse nature of our region.
We are not dependant on one economic driver such as the resource sector.
We are expanding the diversity that exists here in agriculture, health services, tourism and education.
Our Open for Development initiative has attracted about $160 million in projects.