Shepparton named one of Australia’s 10 most disadvantaged areas
By Nadia Surace
WITH more than 18 per cent of working-age people on income support compared with the national average at 12.4 per cent, Shepparton has been named as one of the most disadvantaged areas in Australia.
The list of the 10 worst-off areas in the country revealed in last month’s Federal Government Budget was determined by highest rates of youth unemployment and jobless families, and the level of income support dependence received by people claiming income benefits and the length of time they had been receiving support over the last financial year.
Visiting Shepparton last week to criticise Member for Northern Victoria, Wendy Lovell’s ‘lack of action over unemployment’, Victorian Shadow Minister for Employment, Tim Pallas said Ms Lovell had shown no initiative toward improving opportunities for people on benefits in the region and said she had not mentioned the word ‘job’ in parliament once since the Coalition came into power.
Ms Lovell however shifted blame to a Federal level claiming that the Labor Government is acting against the interests of employment in the region.
“Unemployment in Victoria has fallen from 5.4 per cent in December 2010 to 4.6 per cent in June 2011 and 4,600 additional jobs were created in the Goulburn-Murray (which includes Wangaratta, Wodonga and Shepparton) in this same period,” Ms Lovell said.
“It is hypocritical for Tim Pallas… to criticise everyone else and ignore the fact that his Labor counterpart, Julia Gillard is solely responsible for labelling regulations, restrictive Labor laws and the carbon tax, which is only making life harder for Victorian business.
“If Mr Pallas has genuine concerns about the risk of job losses in Victoria, he should get on the phone to the Prime Minister and ask her why she is introducing policies that will damage Victorian industry at a time when it is facing multiple challenges, including tough global competition.”
Shepparton’s unemployment rate is now at 8.3 per cent with the residents having a lower average income than in the rest of Australia.
On top of that, householders pay the second highest rates in Victoria. But Greater Shepparton Mayor, Geoff Dobson last week said he did not believe Greater Shepparton was more disadvantaged than other regional area and said it was a ‘thriving regional centre’.
“Every town has pockets of disadvantage and challenges that are unique to that area for a range of reasons,” Cr Dobson said.
“However, I firmly believe that we’ve always had a reputation for having a can-do forward-thinking approach and I think there’s plenty of evidence. Just look at the amount of money this community’s raised for the hospital for example – that Greater Shepparton will continue to be a thriving and highly liveable regional centre,” he said.
“We’ve always been fortunate to have a great deal of diversity in our industry and business – from the food-processing and the related manufacturing and service sectors – such as metal fabrication, transport, storage and cooling – to strong health, education and community sectors, which are all significant employers in this region.
“The irrigation modernisation project has been a tremendous boost for the local economy and we’ve seen great innovation from local industry as a result, which in turn creates employment.
“Just recently Councillors visited Rubicon and this is a terrific example of a business that is making its mark both here and overseas.”
Cr Dobson also said Council, through its Economic Development branch, the Business Centre and initiatives such as Shepparton Show Me actively supported and promoted local business and industry.
He did acknowledge that some sectors were doing it tougher than others and that this could affect employment.
“There’s no doubt the strong dollar is affecting some sectors and of course there is currently a great deal of conversation around the impact of the internet on the retail sector,” he said.
“A number of businesses are not only ensuring they have a bricks and mortar presence but are also capturing that online market.
“I think, too, that the local tourism sector is doing a good job tapping in to the food and wine, nature-based and sports and recreation tourist markets and there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that, as a result, more and more people are stopping off in Greater Shepparton, staying a night or two and enjoying our local restaurants and sights.
“Once again this type of activity creates jobs and is a great boost to the local economy.”
State Member for Shepparton, Jeanette Powell did not provide comment on unemployment in the region.