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Thursday, 19 November 2009
Page: 8389


Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) (1:45 PM) —I thank Senator Fifield for his contribution. I too saw the very impressive performance by Senator Arbib at that national conference but I did not reach the same conclusion that Senator Fifield did. I think there is a serious case of political spin being put by Senator Fifield on Senator Arbib’s contribution to supplement the announcement by the Prime Minister of the National Green Jobs Corps.

The amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 are sought to allow the introduction of the National Green Job Corps supplement of $41.60 per fortnight to participate in the corps for those who receive Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (Other) or the Parenting Payment. The supplement of $41.60 per fortnight will be paid in recognition of the additional costs participants may incur due to their participation in the program. It will also act as an incentive for young people to participate. The National Green Jobs Corps with provide 10,000 places over two years for Australians aged 17 to 24 to gain a combination of environmental work experience, skills development and accredited training. This program builds on the broader compact with young Australians by seeking to ensure that young Australians have the skills and experience required to realise their full potential and ensure they are well positioned for the jobs that emerge in the 21st century labour market. The corps will attract young people who may struggle to engage with and remain in educational training and the program will also provide a pathway to employment or further education and training. It provides a pathway to employment and in doing so the corps will help to equip young people with the skills to fill employment opportunities in emerging green and climate change related industries. It will equip young people with the skills to recognise and respond to the challenges of environmental change and will improve our readiness to respond to the impacts of climate change.

This debate, to touch on Senator Fifield’s contribution, takes place at the time of a period in the world of a financial and economic crisis, the worst in 75 years, which has seen unemployment rates increase—not because of the election of a Labor government but because of the world financial and economic crisis, which commenced a year ago—in most comparable countries to Australia, although not Australia I have to say. It has seen unemployment rates increase massively over the last year. Just over a week ago the unemployment rate in the US hit 10.2 per cent—15 or 16 million people are unemployed in the United States. I would stress of course that a year ago there were some who were forecasting that Australia would reach double-digit—one million—unemployed. It is one of the key reasons that they Rudd Labor government took decisive action to implement its stimulus package to cushion the economy from the worst effects of the most significant financial and economic crisis in 75 years. As a consequence, the budget forecast for unemployment—assuming the impact of our stimulus package of course—was 8.5 per cent. The MYEFO released a few weeks ago highlighted the positive effect of the stimulus package and our cushioning against the world financial and economic crisis and recession. Those figures for unemployment were revised down to peak at 6¾ per cent and, as I speak, Australia’s unemployment rate is 5.8 per cent. That is significantly below almost every comparable advanced economy in the world. We have the second-lowest unemployment rate amongst advanced economies and that is testimony to the decisive actions taken by the Rudd Labor government to cushion the Australian economy, to secure businesses and to secure jobs in this country.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.