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Tuesday, 15 February 2000
Page: 11746

Senator COONAN (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Will the minister inform the Senate of any recent developments for young Australians and the steps the Howard government is taking to help youth in rural and regional Australia? What other proposals is the minister aware of in this important policy area?

Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) —That is a good question and one which is important for young Australians. This year for the first time we are seeing a National Youth Week, which will be run between 2 and 8 April. That will showcase the talents of Australian youth and give Australian youth a chance to show this country the future that it is looking to with its young people. There are initiatives in the Rural Youth Information Service, which I will touch on shortly, where we are helping young Australians in regional Australia. I might point out to the Senate other initiatives that are very important, including our Youth Roundtable that meets twice a year. That is a great forum for channelling the views of young Australians to this government.

Senator Lundy —But you don't act on their recommendations.

Senator ELLISON —I hear Senator Lundy interjecting. She most probably does not care about what the Youth Roundtable says.

Senator Lundy —You ignored their recommendations.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Shouting in the chamber is disorderly.

Senator Ellison —Madam President, I can assure the Senate and those listening that the Youth Roundtable performs a valuable service in providing the minister for education with the views of young Australians in this country. We also have `The Source', which is a youth web site that provides a number of points of information on careers, study, financial assistance and government programs. This can point those young Australians with inquiries about government in the right direction. As well as that we have the National Youth Media Awards, which I had the pleasure of being involved in when I was minister for schools, that is looking at enhancing the image of youth in Australia. It provides awards to journalists who write stories which encourage the wider community to appreciate the good work that is being done by young Australians to produce a positive image of young Australians. This is another initiative of the Howard government. But we also have the National Battle of the Bands encouraging the talents of young Australians at school who are song writers and performers.

Senator ELLISON —I know Senator Stott Despoja is interested in that. I hear her voicing her support for it. Then there is the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge, and a tobacco, alcohol and other drugs prevention strategy, which is another initiative of this government aimed at dealing with young Australians. We also have the Youth Expo in Melbourne, the Indigenous Youth Conference in Queensland and state based youth awards, which are very successful in recognising the work and talents of young Australians around this country. I mentioned the Rural Youth Information Service. We as a government are committed to servicing young people in regional Australia and we are providing $30,000 per annum to each of the eight new and 17 existing Rural Youth Information Service providers. This is a service for those young Australians living in regional Australia. These services provide assistance to young people aged from 15 to 25 who may be unemployed or facing ongoing difficulties in gaining employment or achieving employment goals.

Senator Lundy— Are they the same ones who lost the youth allowance?

Senator ELLISON —Again I hear Senator Lundy interrupting. I might just remind Senator Lundy of the teenage unemployment rate under Labor of 35 per cent, and under this government it is just under 22 per cent—just under 22 per cent compared with 35 per cent teenage unemployment when Labor was in power. What we are doing for young Australians is providing jobs and also training. We now have a record number of people in training and the vast majority of those people are young people. (Time expired)

Senator COONAN —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, I was interested to hear about these initiatives. Will the minister advise the Senate of any other policy initiatives, particularly in the area of helping disadvantaged youth in rural and regional Australia?

Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) —I was just touching on training, a point that Senator Carr should be interested in, and the record number of those people in training. We are targeting apprenticeships in regional Australia and that, in turn, will serve young Australians. I mentioned the Rural Youth Information Services which aim to improve the access of disadvantaged young people in rural Australia. This means that more young people living in rural Australia will be able to access Commonwealth assistance, with funding commencing from February this year. The Commonwealth will be providing 50 per cent of the funding, in partnership with community organisations and state governments, in relation to these initiatives. What the opposition might ask is: what did it do to help young people in the bush? Nothing.