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Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Page: 12104

Mr GEORGANAS (5:17 PM) —The Social Security Amendment (National Green Jobs Corps Supplement) Bill 2009 has national long-term economic and environmental importance. The National Green Jobs Corps supplement, which is an amendment to the Social Security Act, addresses and supports the now widely recognised statute that the environment and the economy can and indeed need to work hand-in-hand. The Green Jobs Corps commences on 1 January, giving 10,000 young people the opportunity to develop green skills for their working future through a 26-week accredited training program. As we just heard the member for Kingston say, it is also about developing our community and connecting the community as well, and this will play a big role in that particular sphere.

The government is taking steps through this amendment to address the needs of two of our most precious resources, our young people and the environment. The government is committing $94 million over three years to create 50,000 new jobs and training places. That is 30,000 apprenticeships, the 10,000 Green Jobs Corps places, 6,000 local jobs that focus on sustainability in financially ravaged communities and 4,000 training places for the long-term and disadvantaged unemployed.

This initiative will not just give young people work; it will give them vital training in an area of ever growing importance. Protecting the environment is the way of the future and it is going to be, for many, the employment of the future. The National Green Jobs Corps will give underskilled and underutilised young people the opportunity to get involved in worthwhile work, to do something of value for themselves and the environment and to develop careers in what is certain to be one of the major markets of the future. For many, this would be an ideal career path and we are helping them take it. They will get 130 hours of accredited training, leading to a nationally recognised qualification. They will learn skills and gain accreditation in the areas of bush regeneration, erosion control, beach and dune rehabilitation and habitat protection. Young people across Australia have shown not just a willingness but an absolute enthusiasm to be involved in green matters, in sustainability and in helping to preserve and protect the environment.

In my electorate of Hindmarsh, as I go around and visit schools and community groups I see great enthusiasm and that enthusiasm is seen in a raft of projects and broader initiatives, including school projects. The electorate of Hindmarsh is home to more than 15 kilometres of Adelaide’s pristine coastline. It is one of the most pristine and picturesque coastlines not only in Australia but, I would say, in the world. It has tidal estuaries, natural sand dunes, wetlands and conservation parks, all within a few kilometres of the CBD of central Adelaide. It houses a multitude of aquatic and bird life and more than 30 species of indigenous plant life. The residents in Hindmarsh along that coastline have an affinity with their local environment and a strong desire to protect it.

The commitment runs from small children through to retired people. For example, the Cowandilla Primary School was named one of the most environmentally sustainable primary schools in the world last year after its success in the international solar cities schools competition. I am proud to be a former scholar of Cowandilla Primary School and I would like to congratulate them on their efforts to educate students in water conservation and biodiversity; it is inspirational stuff.

We also have many organisations, residents groups and community groups, for example the Friends of Patawalonga Creek led by Andrew Winkler, who started the group. They have done great work over the past 21 years preserving and protecting the remaining reed beds and wetlands between Glenelg and Port Adelaide. On National Tree Planting Day they organise a huge contingent of people who plant all sorts of natural habitat. This particular area has seen a dramatic change from being an area that was ravaged to now one that is going back to its natural environment.

Volunteer groups like Henley and Grange Dunecare, the Tennyson Dunes Group and Semaphore Park Coastcare have been giving their time to protect our precious dunes through seed propagation, revegetation and community education. Their work alongside the local Charles Sturt City Council is helping to protect the flora and fauna of some breathtaking coastal areas. We also have the Friends of Gulf St Vincent and the Henley and Grange Residents Association. When there is any degradation to the environment they inform me and ensure that they are very vigilant in letting the authorities know and come up with solutions. I am very proud to have those groups in my electorate. The work done by all of these groups shows that the broader community cares about the environment. They give their time for free to protect it. Imagine how much safer and more protected the environment becomes when we, as a skilled workforce, join the fight.

To get that skilled workforce we have to make sure we take the opportunity now to get it right. The National Green Jobs Corps addresses the inadequacies and the limitations brought on previously by the policy of the coalition when it simply rebadged the Keating government’s 1992 LEAP and tried to pass it off as their own initiative. The coalition restricted this sort of training to people aged 17 to 20, therefore telling an unemployed 21-year-old they were too old to learn new skills. We have extended the age limit to 25. The coalition offered no financial incentive, but we will provide a training supplement of more than $40 per fortnight.

The National Green Jobs Corps has been well received across the board by industry, environmental groups and unions. It is a most welcome initiative in my electorate of Hindmarsh. Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group believes the plan will address the shortfall in Australia’s national green skills capacity. Tony Mohr of the Australian Conservation Foundation has given it his tick of approval. Sharan Burrow of the ACTU has praised the initiative for its support of young Australians hard hit by the economic downturn. The initiative has broad appeal because it is doing something practical to address issues that are going to become even more important in the years ahead. It is helping create a sustainable future not only for our environment but for the people who are going to be living in it. The beneficiaries of this initiative will be the next generation of Australians.

As I said, the bill will amend social security laws to provide for a temporary National Green Jobs Corps supplement for recipients of youth allowance, Newstart allowance and the parenting payment who participate in the National Green Jobs Corps. The National Green Jobs Corps is a 26-week environmental work experience and training program targeted at low-skill 17- to 24-year-olds. Additional financial assistance will be provided to these participants in the form of a supplement of $41.60 per fortnight whilst they are participating in the National Green Jobs Corps. This payment will be on top of their existing youth allowance, Newstart allowance or the parenting payment. The supplement will be payable to those who commence in the National Green Jobs Corps between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2011. I commend this bill to the House.