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Thursday, 28 October 2010
Page: 2119

Ms OWENS (11:27 AM) —I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly on Social Security Legislation Amendment (Connecting People with Jobs) Bill 2010. I was not expecting to but my colleague from Greenway is occupied in the House and will be up very shortly. I have to say, while the minister is here, that when I first saw this bill on the agenda I actually got excited. I am excited by this bill and I mean that genuinely. In this country of ours I know that we have regions around Australia that have everything that you need to make a good life—job opportunities, low vacancy rates, good property prices that people can afford, and good schools that have room for more kids without additional infrastructure—and are great places to live. Yet we quite often in Australia tend to settle in the city in which we were born or where we first arrived as migrants, and stay there. In spite of efforts by many people to find other options and other places to live, it is actually quite difficult in this country, when there are so many options, to look at what they are.

This particular trial introduces the capacity for people from areas of high unemployment to move to other places where there are job opportunities. It is a two-year relocation trial that will encourage job seekers in high areas of unemployment, who have been unemployed for longer than 12 months, to relocate to take up full-time jobs including apprenticeships.

They will be assisted in that—there will be a reimbursement of $3,000 for people who move to a metropolitan area, and an additional $3,000 for moving to a regional area, making that $6,000; and for those relocating with dependant children, an additional $3,000 relocation assistance. It has been found, looking at past relocation trials, that, where families decide to move, the likelihood of success is far higher—as you would expect, perhaps not because moving with children makes you more successful, but deciding to move with children perhaps shows a level of commitment which is far higher. The employer also will be given assistance of $2,500 for a wage subsidy, in recognition that there may be additional support needed in the early stages of their employment in a new location.

There are a number of elements to this trial which make it quite likely to succeed, and, again, I am really looking forward myself to observing, as I know the government is, how this works over the two-year trial. It focuses particularly on areas of high unemployment. We all know that, in areas of high unemployment, there are people with skills who would be working if they lived elsewhere. So we have a body of workers who are particularly suited to this kind of project.

In my area of Parramatta we have a particular group of highly-skilled migrants, for whom unemployment for 12 months is quite often a very short period. Skilled migrants come to Australia with all their skills but without the networks and experience in the local industry that Australian-born workers of an equivalent age have. We all know that, if you are in engineering or science or any of the skilled areas, who you know, and your networks, are quite often the basis for getting employment in your mid-career—not advertisements; in fact, many jobs are not advertised at all. So in my area I am quite shocked at times to find people with extraordinary skill levels who have been unemployed for quite some period of time. So I know for them, in a new country, the knowledge of where the opportunities are in regional areas would be very hard to come by. This really does provide an incentive. I notice, in a lot of the material that I am reading, that the $6,000—or the amount depending on where you are moving to—is talked about at an incentive, but if you have been unemployed for 12 months or more, it is more than an incentive; it actually makes it possible. For many people who have been unemployed, particularly with families, for extended periods of time, the cost of moving elsewhere is quite prohibitive, and the fear of not being able to find work, or not being able to sustain work, can cause some freezing on behalf of the unemployed person. So, in my electorate, I know there will be many people for whom this program, should it be extended at some point, would be very valuable.

I notice the member for Greenway has arrived, so I will give her the opportunity to contribute. I thank the House for the opportunity to make a brief statement. Thank you.