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Bishop calls on politicians to address rural unemployment

Toowoomba's Bishop William Morris has issued a statement exposing the problem of unemployment in regional Australia, which is significantly more serious than in the major cities.

"In some towns on the [Darling] Downs and in South Western Queensland the unemployment rate was over 11% and within the Aboriginal community in some locations the figure was 30%," he said. "About one quarter of all unemployed people in our region have been long term unemployed."

Bishop Morris said that the size of the local labour market contracted by 10% in the 10 years to 2001. He added that the impact of policies such as dairy deregulation has produced large numbers of jobseekers with the wrong qualifications, with the job market increasingly looking for formal qualifications and IT skills.

"We need to be willing to question the current supposed wisdom which dictates that some country towns must die because they do not fit into the new global economy," he said. "The success of economic reform must be measured by the impact upon the most vulnerable in our society."

Bishop Morris said Pope John Paul II has consistently highlighted the Catholic Social Teaching's requirement that economic growth cannot be an end in itself but can only be implemented at the service of people.

"The cost to society of unemployment is too great for us to ignore," he said. "As Church we must continue to call on all politicians to use their skills to ensure that the thousands of unemployed in our region can have access to meaningful employment and a living wage - two essential steps to becoming more fully human."

Diocese of Toowoomba

Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba
Seven steps towards regional equity (Catholic Welfare Australia 28/8/01)
A Just and Peaceful Land: Rural and Regional Australia in 2001 (Social Justice Statement) PDF
Fixing the rural/urban divide in Australia (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 24/9/01)
Parliament of Australia (Senate) - Jobs for the Regions: A report on the inquiry into regional employment and unemployment
Regional Unemployment Disparities (Dept of Economics, University of Melbourne
Catholic lobbyist says Telstra cuts will heighten rural disadvantage (28/5/03)

5 Sep 2003