The latest ABS population figures should be a cause of great concern for the NSW Labor Government, Shadow Minister for Small Business and Regulatory Reform, Don Page, said.

“The ABS figures showed that in excess of 22,000 people had fled NSW in the year to 30 September 2008 while Queensland increased their population by around the same figure,” Mr Page, the Member for Ballina, said.

“The NSW Labor Government is doing nothing to stem the tide of people leaving the highest taxing and highest regulated State in Australia, which also has one of the highest unemployment rates.

“According to the recent Sensis Business Survey, the NSW Labor Government is regarded as the least business-friendly State in Australia by small and medium businesses.”

Mr Page said the report showed that NSW small to medium-sized businesses had the lowest rate of business confidence of any State or Territory in Australia. The Index also showed that NSW small to medium businesses are the least profitable.

“NSW consistently performs below par on almost every major economic indicator,”  Mr Page said.

“NSW has been losing blue-collar workers and skilled tradespeople for a long time now, and this is exacerbating the severe skills shortage NSW is experiencing.”

A poll released 12 months ago had found that one in five Sydney residents were considering relocating due to high taxes and living costs in NSW and better job opportunities in other States.

“The NSW Labor Government have done nothing during the past year to prevent the exodus that last year’s poll predicted,” Mr Page said.

Unemployment is also continuing to climb in New South Wales, with the February figures showing that NSW unemployment rate went from 5.5% to 5.8% in February. In real terms, 11,400 people lost their jobs in February, Mr Page said.

“Small business is a huge employer in NSW. But the current NSW Labor Government is not supporting them in the current economic crisis. It is little wonder residents are fleeing to our more business-friendly neighbours,” Mr Page said.

“There is a lot the State Labor Government could do if they were serious about helping small businesses. Cutting payroll tax from one of the highest rates of 5.75% to 4.89% as the Coalition have promised they will do, would be a good start.

“NSW businesses spend five hours more per week than their Queensland counterparts complying with Government red tape. This is another area that requires the urgent attention of the Government,” Mr Page said.