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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 3 Hansard (3 April) . . Page.. 1007..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The Ukraine has not really got over that since then. In my earlier speech I indicated that there had been droughts at various times, but they had been natural droughts—not a deliberate man-made famine, not a deliberate famine where villages were surrounded so people simply could not eat and thus starved to death. It was horrendous. I think it is unfortunate that the Russian embassy has not just come out and acknowledged that Stalin was a monster. In the history of any country we probably end up having the odd monster rule us.

Mrs Dunne: They have admitted to Katyn Wood.

MR STEFANIAK: That is right. Mrs Dunne says, "They have finally admitted to Katyn Wood,"where over 14,000 Polish army officers were shot in 1940, including, I think, 256 my father knew personally because he served with them. It took them 50 or 60 years to admit that, and they are still being a bit touchy about this. I find it a bit disingenuous, although at least they do have a go at the Stalinist government and I think they are also correct in saying that certain other republics of the Soviet Union also suffered as a result of Stalinist excesses. (Time expired.)

Employment—labour market

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (6.10): Mr Speaker, I will use my time in today's adjournment debate to talk about something that we hear a lot about from governments at all levels—the skills shortage that is facing pretty much all jurisdictions in Australia.

There is no doubt, with an unemployment figure at a record just over two per cent in the ACT, that employers are feeling the pinch in recruiting staff in the territory. I am on the record in the past urging the government to look beyond traditional migration areas to address this problem. South America is, I believe, an area that offers significant scope for recruitment of new workers to the Australian market, and there is little or no effort currently made to recruit workers from Latin America. I am not sure of the reason. It is a region with considerable similarities to Australia, with significant numbers of well-educated people that are open to travel and working overseas—and New Zealand has been quicker to take up that opportunity. This is the sort of new thinking that is needed when the labour market is as tight as it is at the moment. The slower the ACT is at embracing new ideas and options, the worse the skills shortage will be. We need to be a leader in this field to compete with places like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in attracting workers from overseas.

I will take this opportunity to draw the Assembly's attention to the National Farmers Federation's 2008 labour shortage action plan, which I believe is an example of the holistic and ambitious planning that is needed to combat skills shortages. Although the plan, which was launched today, applies to an industry, there are parallels that can be drawn with a small jurisdiction like the ACT. Members would be aware of the significant impact the recent drought has had on the farming industry. Many tens of thousands of workers have left the industry as work has disappeared as a result of the drought. With the drought hopefully coming to an end, the industry now has a severe skills shortage.


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