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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 4039

Ms ELLIS(10.06 p.m.) —I have a couple of very relevant points that I want to make tonight in relation to these amendments. I assure the House that my comments are going to be very directly relevant to the amendments for one single reason, and that is that these amendments are attempting to turn this bill into something that is going to mean a lot more to the unemployed of this country than this current bill does.

I have got some questions that I believe should be answered. Where will this program actually lead the unemployed whom it affects? What is at the end of that process for those people? I fear that it is not much, and that there will not be a job there for them. Where is the training that they are going to need? I heard the minister refer earlier to the program referring through to community do-good programs, which are very good in themselves. I heard an earlier speaker tonight talk about the sorts of community contributions, the warm and fuzzy stuff, that he seems to think that some of our communities around this country are requiring.

When you think about that and when you think about the training that the minister has referred to when he says that these people are going to get training, you note that they have talked about people visiting the lonely in a nursing home—that is a very admirable thing to do. They have talked about people going out and mowing lawns for those who cannot do it for themselves—again that is a very nice thing to do. They can go and clean up the streets in a suburb and they can plant trees. I do not quite understand what sort of training is going to be required for a young person to plant a tree. This is what we are talking about when we say we wish to amend this bill.

If you are talking about training, Minister, be genuine and be sincere and really mean what you are saying. Young people and—because your bill excludes any age reference—middle-aged, long-term unemployed people as well are going to be affected by this bill. Similarly, there has been very little if any comment about the over-24s age group in this debate today. I am pretty alarmed to think about—because you are going to do everything in your power to defeat these amendments—the training element, the necessary requirement for these young people and anyone else who happens to come under the guise of this bill. I am really worried about what they are going to have at the end of the process.

If you are trying to tell me that, at the end of the process, they are going to be trained in how to plant a tree to beautify a suburb or that they are going to be trained in how to talk to lonely people in nursing homes, I will say that all these things are admirable but they are not the sorts of things you should be making younger people, in particular, we assume, go out and do through the guise of this bill. There are other ways in which that can be done. These people should not be made to feel obligated because they are unemployed.

I can assure the minister that every single young unemployed person who walks into my electorate office in Namadgi is not illiterate. They are very well trained. They are frustrated and they are angry because they want to get good, proper, sincere work and all they are seeing around them is the job base disappearing. They are seeing jobs disappear in front of their very eyes, and the minister is telling them at the same time that they have to feel obligated to receive that benefit on which they can survive. I find this a pretty deplorable state of affairs—all the social comment that comes out of turning the blame downwards, of making our unemployed people feel guilty that they are in that position.

I can assure the minister that the young unemployed in my electorate are not feeling guilty. They are feeling angry and frustrated at the decimation of the employment base around them, the lack of additional training that is available to them and the fact that, in some cases, some of them are going to be compelled to go and do these rather strange duties to, in some way, make the rest of the community feel better about how their taxes are being spent. We have got to see that these amendments get through. I support them wholeheartedly. They are there for a very good reason. He who protests too much sometimes makes a flaw in his own argument. If I hear the minister say once more, `This is not a labour program like you had,' I will start to believe that maybe he thinks it should be.