Pinetech CEO Justin Lippiatt with USQ Professor John Cole at a Gympie Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Pinetech CEO Justin Lippiatt with USQ Professor John Cole at a Gympie Chamber of Commerce meeting.

‘Elephant in the room’ that is holding back region’s prosperity

Letter to the Editor by Justin Lippiatt, Director PineTech Manufacturing Pty Ltd

Over the last couple of years we have had exceptionally credible outsiders continue to tell us that Gympie has real potential.

Bernard Salt, Neil Glentworth, Terry Ryder, Prof. John Cole and Rohan Toll to mention a few, wave the Gympie banner enthusiastically.

CLICK HERE: Second Gympie border hopper remanded in custody

“Here we are! Over here! Come and see!” we cry out, desperately trying to entice visitors to come to the region. The regional economy – a partnership between business, community and local, state and federal governments shouts, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”.

READ MORE: The big picture behind the sad closure of a 115-year-old Gympie business

However, despite all of our zeal to see our beloved region thrive, we have a major elephant sitting squarely in the centre of the room.

This is a really big elephant that we cannot ignore. Even COVID-19 cannot hide it. The elephant, my friends is a lack of a skilled workers.

In fact, the business sentiment in my networks seems to indicate that it may be just a lack of workers, not just skilled workers.

Now, I am not saying that the multitudes of government and para-statal agencies aren’t doing their level best to improve our situation on the employment front. It’s just that in many cases we can’t seem to find people keen enough to take up gainful employment.

Chamber of Commerce president Tony Godman, Pinetech Justin Lippiatt, USQ Professor John Cole and Brendan Allen at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Gympie.
Chamber of Commerce president Tony Godman, Pinetech Justin Lippiatt, USQ Professor John Cole and Brendan Allen at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Gympie.

I realise unemployment is exceptionally high in the Wide Bay area, and nationally unemployment figures will reach nearly 10%, so it seems incredible that the businesses that are surviving and creating employment opportunities would struggle to find employees.

The Chamber of Commerce, Council and business community are working together to attract business to the region, but one of the major stumbling blocks is a skilled workforce.

The armrests to our elephant’s armchair are JobSeeker and JobKeeper.

“JS” and “JK” are valiant and honourable initiatives to keep people financially stable despite the ravages of the “unprecedented” virus and the havoc it’s inflicting on our people and their welfare.

It’s a great way to keep the economy ticking along, despite the devastating closures of businesses that suffocated during this traumatic season, but it comes at a price. This stimulus and indebtedness is going to cost us in the long term - our children and our grandchildren will be forced to pay it back somehow. It’s not their fault nor ours, it is what it is. But who, and how are we going to pay it back?

A quick change of direction before I conclude.

Pinetech CEO Justin Lippiatt with Cooloola Christian College principal Trevor Norman.
Pinetech CEO Justin Lippiatt with Cooloola Christian College principal Trevor Norman.

A few years ago I met a 24-year-old man in Gympie. He was from a generationally welfare dependent family. I asked him why he wasn’t working or at least looking for a job.

This unskilled young man who had never worked a day in his life (apart for the Year 10 work experience program) turned to me and in all seriousness stated, “I wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $30 and hour”.

I don’t judge the fellow, but it is an indictment on our society that we have raised entitled, not empowered people to hand the reins over to.

JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments have been great for those who can access them, but it raises other challenges for us in Gympie and the regions in general.

COVID19 is here to stay, but what happens after JobSeeker and JobKeeper?

Business cannot afford to compete with the “welfare wage”. The Award rates are mandatory, and we comply willingly but somehow there seems to be a little misalignment in expectations. My young friend who plays Xbox until 3am and then sleeps to midday, definitely won’t get out of bed after JS and JK are surgically removed from our economy. I can almost hear the words chiming in my ears, “Seeker, Keeper…business weeper…”

Warren Polley, Elizabeth Hill and Justin Lippiatt
Warren Polley, Elizabeth Hill and Justin Lippiatt

C’mon! We’ve got to do something, and we can only do it together – community, business, government! We can find a way, we can prosper, and we certainly can turn this mess around.

We can defiantly give it a “Fair Go!”

Justin Lippiatt, Director PineTech Manufacturing Pty Ltd

Gympie Times


Gympie region sewage not being tested for COVID-19

Premium Content Gympie region sewage not being tested for COVID-19

Gympie treatment plants are not part of the pilot wastewater surveillance program...

20 jobs up for grabs in the Gympie region

Premium Content 20 jobs up for grabs in the Gympie region

Whatever the industry there are a number of jobs up for grabs across the Gympie...