JOBS BOOST: Annastacia Palaszczuk takes a tour of Austchilli with ministers Leanne Donaldson and Grace Grace.
JOBS BOOST: Annastacia Palaszczuk takes a tour of Austchilli with ministers Leanne Donaldson and Grace Grace. Eliza Goetze

Palaszczuk in Bundaberg to launch jobs program

CHILLIES and avocados were the backdrop for an important announcement yesterday as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid a visit to Bundaberg.

Ms Palaszczuk dropped in on one of the region’s biggest producers, Austchilli at Alloway, with Employment Minister Grace Grace and Bundaberg MP Leanne Donaldson to launch the state’s Back to Work measure worth $100 million.

The funding is focused on getting people who are long-term unemployed back into a job – something Bundaberg, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, is likely to welcome.

“I’ve travelled across this state to help formulate our budget for the people of regional Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“The key message I heard was to get people into work.

“Companies like Austchilli are exporting to countries across the globe – a local-based company expanding to other parts of the world, employing people here locally.”

The funding offers $10,000 for an employer to hire and keep a regional Queenslander employed for 12 months or more, or $15,000 if they are long-term employed.

Ms Palaszczuk put out a call for employers across the Bundaberg region: “If you are interested in this program, please let us know.”

“We know unemployment levels are higher here than in other parts of the state.”

Austchilli managing director David De Paoli said the Back to Work program was “a great initiative”.

“Why I think it’s hit the nail right on the head is it’s regional,” he said.

“We employ a lot of people here full time. This gives us the opportunity to expand faster.

“We’re not funded by co-investors, everything comes out of our profits, so we have to be careful where we invest our money.

“This gives us more available cash for projects on the go – and we have a lot of projects on the go.

“We can afford to put someone on and free up our research and development staff to look into more innovation.”

Austchilli supplies 90% of chillies in Australia as well as ingredients in products from sauces to juice. They expanded into avocados with the AvoFresh range.

“Let’s do it”: Sarina Russo

JOB agency founder Sarina Russo has enthusiastically embraced the Back to Work package, calling it “one of the most exciting initiatives for regional businesses”.

“Annastacia (Palaszczuk) has convinced that she is committed to businesses in this region and to job seekers,” Ms Russo said at Austchilli.

“We’ve been in the game for 37 years and we’ve been in Bundaberg since 2002, and I think this will incentivise businesses to think twice about why they wouldn’t employ a job seeker who has been unemployed for four weeks or maybe a little longer.”

The incentives of up to $10,000 and $15,000 were “awesome for any employer”.

“I know we employ 1200 staff – if it was an option for me, I would consider it.”

The funding would also be good for the community, she said.

“We also have a social responsibility to the youth here in Bundaberg to give them an opportunity.

“We’ve got to give them dignity, we’ve got to give them inspiration, and our premier has done that.

“And I’m beside her to help her with it.

“I’d say to any employer, you must do it today,” she said.

“The opportunity exists right now and (it is an opportunity to) expand your mind, elevate your thought, and increase the relationship between the community and the consumer here in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough – wherever you are.

“Let’s do it now.”

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