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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10161


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (09:42): I rise to talk about the significant issues of unemployment and underemployment in parts of my electorate. At the same time that we hear regular talk about a skills shortage and a need to bring people in from overseas to work on projects—often for a very short period of time, after which they will leave and take their skills with them—we have in this country a significant wealth of talent that goes continually unrecognised and underutilised. I am talking about the people and their families who have come here on various forms of humanitarian visas or family reunion programs who want to work and who want to contribute to Australian society, but who are far too often denied that opportunity.

At the same time a year or so ago that the unemployment rate officially across the country was around 4.9 per cent, Department of Immigration and Citizenship research suggested that amongst the people I am talking about, those who have come here in the refugee streams and their families, the official unemployment rate was around 12 per cent—more than twice as much. The reality is, I think, that it is much higher. I was at a public housing estate in my electorate last week where the coordinator of the neighbourhood house told me that the unemployment rate on that estate was 88 per cent; 12 per cent was not the unemployment rate it was the employment rate. This is an estate where there are many people who have come here from other countries.

It is not just unemployment; it is underemployment. The research also shows that if you come here from a non-English-speaking background and have a tertiary degree you are more than twice as likely than an English-speaking counterpart to find yourself in a low-skilled job. What does that mean in human terms? According to the Somali Association of Victoria, which I met with recently, there are in Melbourne nine doctors and one jumbo jet pilot from Somalia who are driving taxis because they are unable to find employment that recognises the level of their skills. If you get in a taxi in Melbourne you might be driven around by someone who could be piloting a jumbo jet. This work is not necessarily meaningful and, as the African Think Tank has shown, it has a flow-on effect for kids. If kids look at their parents and say, 'You did all this study and you can't find a meaningful job. Why should I bother?' it encourages a cycle of unemployment. We are also finding in the electorate of Melbourne that some of these kids who have grown up here, have gone on to university and then seek employment, when an employer sees an African name on the application, or sees them turn up in a hijab, they find themselves not progressed for an interview. This does need to stop. Government needs to take action. I am looking forward to holding a roundtable in November in my electorate and bringing together community groups and service providers to see what we can do to tackle this problem at a local level.