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Thursday, 19 June 1997
Page: 5908

Mr ANDREN(10.23 a.m.) —Concerning the jobs for the dole issue, I think everybody is missing the point in this debate. While the former government, the current government and governments all around the world are thrashing around for an answer to the unemployment situation, we just have to realise that downsizing, rationalisation, privatisation, technology replacing jobs and the fact that there are no manual jobs out there any more means that we have to find a new definition for work. We have to find what meaningful occupations we can put a lot of these people into in the years ahead because we just cannot provide employment in the traditional sense.

We keep bashing our heads against the wall accusing each other of lacking any sort of vision in this area. We have to sit down and work out how we are going to soak up these people and whether we can work out jobs programs that are meaningful. They will be part-time. They might be two days a week ad infinitum. They might be grafted onto other public programs, but we cannot look at the traditional way of providing jobs as we have done in the past.

I will reserve judgment on the government's radical changes to the provision of employment services through the PEPEs and so on. I am sceptical of how the new competitive arrangements will work in regional areas like mine where there are only limited employers looking for young people and where I do not envisage there will be the same level of competition as in the non-rural electorates.

As well, this market-driven system will mean that the brokers will target only the cream of the unemployed for their programs, for only they will deliver the bounty on offer at the end of the day. Of course, with the new youth allowance, families with 16- and 17-year-old kids cannot afford to keep them. They too will miss out on these training opportunities. Believe me, they will be out on the streets in regional towns and we will have an increase in delinquency.

There could also—and I would hate to support the comment necessarily that Senator Kernot made—be more youth suicides because of this hopelessness that is out there. I know members of the coalition are concerned about this aspect of the youth allowance. I would ask the government to have a good, hard look at it again because it is going to leave many youths outside the safety net. We cannot just graft our youth back onto the family. It is simplistic nonsense to talk about this wonderful family concept as the answer. It is not the answer. We have dysfunctional families out there and we have got to take cognisance of that fact.

Concerning Austudy, to gauge the nature of public sentiment regarding the operation of Austudy I will quote some constituent letters which the parliamentary secretary should be interested in. This one says:

Austudy is a nightmare. You need an accountant to fill it in, but if you can't afford one of these you are penalised because you put the wrong answers in the wrong boxes.

Another says:

Just from my own experience, the emotional and financial strain that has been placed on our family makes you realise the enormous amount people have suffered.

Another says:

I fail to see how a family who qualifies for a low income rebate on tax does not qualify for Austudy. Do any of you live hand to mouth by day? Try it. You are institutionalising a system which will leave people no other option than to try to cheat it.

That says it all, and to think that this same test will now be applied across the board in the youth allowance. This test is going to occur despite rulings by at least one member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal stating that the test is doomed to failure unless its whole structure is changed.

The test is far too complicated for the average person to comprehend. The reliance on estimates of future expenditure is ridiculous. It does not allow for the fluctuating nature of income derived from many rural farms and small businesses. The benchmark in many cases does not line up fairly with PAYE equivalent incomes. The phone service is inadequate, and while I am sure it has caught some of the smarties that it was meant to, the evidence I have seen—and we have done heaps of surveys in my electorate conducted by my youth officer who has put so much time and effort into this—is that in some cases it has also discriminated against the very people it was designed to protect.

Finally, the government, in its desperation to cut funding outlays, has severely hurt Charles Sturt University in my electorate, and others, with cuts to the Commonwealth industry placement scheme. We all know what the Wood royal commission found about police training and so on. Charles Sturt has 3,000 students. It has lost $10 million in support. It must be restored, not patched up as the government is trying to do with it, it must be restored because this is the sort of study that Charles Sturt is now involved in that is vital to the community. (Time expired)