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Monday, 17 March 2014
Page: 2060


Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (15:14): As I was saying previously, governments cannot expect young people to gain well-paid jobs without providing good education, training and support. Governments cannot expect young people to easily find work with the current unemployment rate either. Unfortunately, this bill seems to operate on the premise that young Australians do not want to work rather than the reality that many face, that there is difficulty in obtaining employment.

Sadly, we have seen an increase of youth unemployment in this country after many years of a downward trend. The dangling carrot approach of this legislation is all well and good, but there must be jobs available for our young people in the first place or else this carrot merely becomes the stick—an incentive that cannot be obtained because it operates as a bandaid solution to what is a much deeper, much more complex issue.

The current youth unemployment rate of around 12 per cent, more than double the general unemployment rate figure of 6 per cent, is, of course, far too high. It is particularly high in my home state of Tasmania, where on the north-west coast it is a staggering 21 per cent and in the Launceston area it is just over 18 per cent. This means that a large number of total unemployed persons in Tasmania, and in other areas right across this country, are young people. This is totally unacceptable and the consequences of not acting to redress this are very high indeed. Governments need to intervene, and that is what Labor was doing when we were in government. We were investing in vocational training, we were investing in trade training centres in high schools and we were intervening with programs like Youth Connections. Labor also provided support to the economy during the global financial crisis to support jobs, saving an estimated 200,000 jobs during this period.

During the election, Labor announced changes to Job Services Australia because we know that the support that job seekers receive is vitally important to them gaining employment. This is precisely why we talked about reforming job services and why we did it in our years in government. We wanted the flexibility to match services to individual job seekers and prioritise resources for those with the greatest need. As a result, we achieved significantly better outcomes for the most disadvantaged job seekers, outcomes that improved by over 90 per cent.

Across employment services, Labor in office helped more than one 1.6 million people secure jobs. Our employment services system was recognised by the OECD as playing a central role in keeping unemployment down during the global financial crisis.

Prior to the election, Labor in government conducted a review of employment services. There was an issue paper released and more than 180 written submissions with more than 440 people from over 300 organisations took part in this review. Labor announced during the campaign that we would have seven key principles which would drive the next employment services contracts. These were training and employment services to be integrated through a place-based and demand-led model; jobs and training boards to be established in 42 regions across Australia to formally link employers, employment and training services, and health and community services—these boards would have ensured that services met local needs and they would have replaced the current employment service areas. We would have made improvements to the up-front assessment of job seekers' needs and employment barriers. We were going to introduce a jobs and training apprenticeship guarantee to give every job seeker the help they need to get back to work, making sure that no one slipped through the cracks. There was to be an increased focus on addressing long-term unemployment and youth unemployment, as well as closing the gap in Indigenous employment. Incentives to providers were to be altered to encourage long-term employment outcomes and to reward investment through improving capacity. The seventh principle was that an independent employment services regulator was to be introduced under Labor to manage job-seeker complaints and service quality, to oversee provider compliance and to be responsible for reducing red tape in the job services area.

Central to our new vision for employment services was this establishment of 42 jobs and training boards across the country. They were to be established under 'Jobs and Training Australia' and to be independent from government. Membership of these boards was to reflect the local economy and community and was to consist of employers, of unions, of health and community and social services, of VET coordinators, of regional development organisations and of government representatives.

The jobs and training boards were to build on the success of the local employment coordinators, with a board established for each natural labour market. These boards were not to run employment or training services but were for determining strategic direction of employment and training services at a local level, with each board having to create a jobs and training plan with stakeholders' involvement. We would then have been in a position to invest strategically in skills that employers will need in the future, to use our employment and training services not just to help people find jobs but also to drive business growth and the creation of new jobs.

Driving jobs growth should be the role of governments. That is why we announced these changes to Jobs Services Australia and to the four-year contracts due to expire on 30 June next year. That is why Labor wanted to provide the jobs and training apprenticeship guarantee, to provide every young Australian access to telephone and online careers advice, skills appraisals and assistance with resume writing. That is why we also announced that all Australians would have access of up to $90,000 assistance through VET fee help and access to courses up to certificate III through the National Training Entitlement.

We have not yet seen or heard what the new government plans are for Job Services Australia. We know that providers of services will need to know soon. We all know that if there is to be any tender process of any sort it will need to start this year. We also know that this system has been continuously reformed, as I said, over previous years, because we know how crucial the role of the JSA is in addressing unemployment.

Young people in work increases when young people are better trained and educated. It also increases when the labour market is strong. We want to see the government continue investing in training. It is investment into training, into education and into support for young people that will give them well-paid jobs. Research shows that people who complete year 12 are more likely to have a job, will earn more and will have more stable employment. Unemployment rates are 1.6 per cent higher among those who have failed to complete year 12 and, of course, they earn only 81 per cent of their secondary-education graduate counterparts. The proportion of full-time earners is 12 per cent higher for those who have completed year 12 than for those who have not and the proportion of part-time earners or non-earners is 26 per cent lower.

If we do not address these education and training issues behind youth unemployment then we are failing our children, and the blow-out across the economy in future years will be not just in terms of welfare and social supports but also, importantly, in terms of each individual's lost opportunity and potential. We are missing out on $1.5 billion a year when young people do fall through the cracks between school and further education or meaningful work. This is why the government must commit to jobs training and education first and foremost. We are pleased to see that the government is attempting to address youth unemployment by offering incentives, but it must not be at the expense of other measures that we know will get young people working.

Labor has been very concerned about jobs since the new government came to office. Prior to the election we had the then opposition leader and now Prime Minister promising he would create one million jobs in five years—200,000 jobs a year, that is. After six months in government the government should have created 100,000 jobs. We all know of course that the government is way off target and that the current figures do not show this. Indeed, the troubling high unemployment rate of six per cent does not include the thousands of recently announced job losses, so we know that, sadly, there is more pain to come. Since the new government we have heard announcements that others will lose their jobs: Qantas workers, Toyota and Holden workers, workers in the component industries, workers at Rio Tinto at Gove, workers at Alcoa and so many more. Of course, our thoughts are with them and their families as they deal with their devastating news. All of these job losses are yet to be factored into the employment data or unemployment data.

This government cannot continue to do nothing. It needs a detailed plan for jobs. The government should explain to the Australian people how its plan to create one million jobs is actually going to happen. Where is an industry and innovation plan? Where is the plan to be part of the Asian century? Indeed, where is any plan at all? The government must ensure that support is given to workers who are affected by recent job announcements and the economy, particularly in those regions where communities are more affected by these recent announcements.

We need to stop sending Australian jobs overseas. We deserve a government that will fight for jobs here in Australia. We want a government that will support workers and job seekers. That is what Labor did when we were in office. We responded with both assistance to maintain manufacturing jobs in Australia and additional support for those workers who were affected when any large manufacturing plant or company folded. Retraining and job services stream 3 additional support was always provided for people who lost their jobs.

Whilst we support this legislation and the principle of encouraging young people to find employment, Labor do not want to see these payments to job seekers be instead of wage subsidies, support for employers or indeed, as I have outlined, investment in training or further education, particularly for young people. The government needs to fight for jobs and for workers. It needs to do more. It needs to intervene where necessary and to support jobs, training and further education in this country.

Before I close I want to note Migration Council Australia's concern that this bill excludes long-term New Zealand citizens who hold protected special category visas from receiving the job commitment bonus. Migration Council Australia say that to their knowledge this group of people has not been excluded from other social security payments in the past and they wonder why it is included in this bill. I move:

That all the words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes that if the Government was serious about addressing youth unemployment it would be providing more support for the more than 60,000 workers who have recently lost their jobs and be providing more support and training for young people; and

(2) calls on the Government to publicly review, by 30 June 2015, the impact of the extension of the non-payment period for recipients of the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job if the person is unable to work for the required six months."

The SPEAKER: Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Hayes: I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

Debate adjourned.