The South Australian opposition has questioned Premier Jay Weatherill’s decision to join the prime minister’s trade mission to China ahead of the state budget and amid the state’s worsening jobs crisis.
South Australia’s jobless rate rose to a 12-year high of 7.1 per cent in March, and the state now has the highest unemployment in mainland Australia.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall described the figure as disgraceful and said it came as unemployment nationally was falling.
He said if Mr Weatherill had not “done the work” on the state budget to embrace tax reform and create jobs, then he should have stayed at home.
“Quite frankly, he needs to be here in South Australia at the moment, preparing this budget and making sure that he can push forward on tax reform that we need in South Australia to create jobs,” Mr Marshall said.
“He’s got to come up with a set of numbers in June which provide some relief to the business sector so we can grow our economy.”
Mr Weatherill is spending two days with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s delegation to China which will seek to boost trading opportunities for the state.
On the jobs figures, Employment Minister Gail Gago said the state’s headline unemployment had risen four percentage points in March – a “significant” increase.
“This is, without doubt, cause for concern,” she said.
But the minister said the increase came after a period of stability, and full-time employment also remained steady.
“While we would prefer to see the unemployment rate fall, we will need to see how the trend continues in coming months,” Ms Gago said.