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Tuesday, 24 June 1997
Page: 6104

Mrs BAILEY —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Would the minister inform the House of the benefits to the environment of the Green Corps initiative which blends the important issues of the environment and work? How will this have a positive impact on youth employment in my electorate of McEwen?

Mr WARWICK SMITH —I thank the member for her question. The Green Corps initiative of this government has been welcomed by many communities. It is a program which provides the opportunity for young Australians to assist the environment and to develop accredited training opportunities since the scheme began. By June 1999, the Green Corps will have undertaken some 350 priority programs for the development of heritage conservation projects in conjunction with conservation organisations and community groups right around Australia. It is being managed on behalf of the Australian government by the Trust for Conservation Volunteers. We hope that there will be some 3,500 young Australians who will have had the opportunity to have worked and benefited from these projects by the year 1999.

The trainees work in teams of 10 and go into the different communities to assist these programs. They are aged between 17 and 20 and have to make a commitment to the environment for a period of at least six months. It is interesting and will probably not come as a surprise to honourable members to note that finding people with a commitment to the environment is not difficult. A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that as recently as April 1996 it found that an astonishing 72.2 per cent of people aged between the ages of 18 and 24 are concerned about the environment. The Green Corps provides an opportunity for those people to be involved.

Twenty four Green Corps commenced in March 1997 and a further 36 commenced in May 1997. So there are 60 projects commenced to date with 600 young Australians and a further 30 projects are scheduled to commence in September. These projects will benefit communities right around Australia in nearly every electorate. The electorate of the member will have the opportunity for her community to apply, the electorate of Eden-Monaro, the electorate of McMillan, Northern Territory, Herbert—

Mr Kerr —What about Bass?

Mr WARWICK SMITH —There is no need to worry. Bass will have an opportunity as well. The community of the member for Denison will have an opportunity, the community of the member for Sydney will have an opportunity, and the communities of the members for Canberra and Kalgoorlie will have an opportunity. These programs are designed to give the 72 per cent of young people who have already expressed a desire to help through the survey the opportunity of assisting in the making of the Australian environment.

It was interesting to see a surprising comment in Hansard from one of the shadow ministers. Here is a scheme which is endorsed by the vast majority of young Australians. It has been put together under the guidance of Ministers Hill and Vanstone, along with the parliamentary secretary Mr Abbott administering the program and doing a very good job. One must ask why it is that the Labor Party do not support the youth of Australia in taking advantage of these programs. Why is it that the Labor Party do not support programs like this? The member for Batman, in his speech on the appropriation bill on 19 June, said, `Green Corps is wrong.'

Green Corps is right. It is good for Australia and it is good for young Australians.