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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 4041

Mr McCLELLAND(10.15 p.m.) —It is unfortunately a real indictment of this government that the best they have in their arsenal to address one of the greatest problems Australia has—if not the greatest problem Australia has—is this work for the dole legislation.

The program is not about reciprocating at all. Indeed, it is going to be extremely costly and extremely inefficient to run. What it is about is purely and simply scapegoating. It is about pointing the finger away from where the blame should rest. And the blame should rest very much right in the seat of those who sit opposite. They have taken over the reins of government and, whether they like it or not, they have a responsibility to address the problems facing this nation—facing the youth, the middle aged and, indeed, the senior workers of our population.

The member for Namadgi (Ms Ellis) mentioned that long-term unemployment is not only a predicament of the youth. For example for over-55-year-olds, 50 per cent of those who are unemployed are long-term unem ployed. This government does absolutely nothing for them. They have said, by their own admission—despite prevaricating when we were calling for some announcement of detail—that this policy applies only to 18- to 24-year-olds. What are they going to achieve by this? They are going to achieve a situation where unemployed, unskilled 18-year-olds go into the program. What comes out at the other end are unskilled, unemployed 24-year-olds at the stage of their life when they are in a relationship and looking at establishing a permanent home and perhaps a family. What will the work for the dole program give them to get on with their life, to get on with their family and to get on with being an asset to Australia? Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.

If there are any bludgers, if there are any frauds in this equation, it is not the people whom the finger is being pointed at with this shameful title of `work for the dole'. The frauds and the bludgers are those who sit opposite, those who are sponging on the public's purse and not doing one single thing to get real jobs and real skills to the unemployed youth, middle aged and senior workers. They stand condemned for that. It is a completely and utterly shameful act. As the member for Werriwa (Mr Latham) said, the more appropriate title is `the Bob Woods Memorial Bill'.

This legislation came out of a situation where the government was facing trauma. It came out of a situation where the Prime Minister sat on some information from September until March and, in incredible circumstances, denied that he had received the information. He knew he was under pressure. What did the pollsters tell him? What did Andrew Robb tell him? `The public out there', as the actress said to the bishop, `want you to do something.' What he did was look for scapegoats and the scapegoats are the unemployed—particularly the unemployed youth. They, of course, according to this government, are all going out tonight with their spray cans to graffiti the buildings of Australia. They do not use deodorant when they get up in the morning, they do not shave and they need this program, according to the government, to make them employable. The fact of the matter is that they are none of that. They are decent kids, from decent families, who want to work. They want skills and they want opportunities. This government is not doing anything at all to give them any of those opportunities and they stand to be condemned as frauds and bludgers.