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Monday, 17 March 2014
Page: 2085


Mr WHITELEY (Braddon) (18:51): It certainly is in the news, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I will come to that, you can be sure, to be sure. This bill we are debating, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014 makes provision to assist long-term unemployed people transition from welfare payments to paid employment. That is important to me as the elected member for Braddon, and I will speak about that in a moment. It will be achieved through the Job Commitment Bonus and the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job measure. Prior to the election the coalition committed to implementing these two programs. As the Prime Minister has said on many occasions, he wants this government to be known as a government that delivers on its commitments, and this legislation does just that. These two programs build on the Tasmanian employment program which was launched six months early by the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, and me shortly after the 7 September federal election. The Tasmanian employment program provides support for businesses that employ long-term unemployed.

It has been an interesting hour or so as I have listened in my office and then trotted on down to the chamber to listen to the last few contributions from my opponents opposite. They talk about being concerned about jobs. Well, so are we. But the difference between us and them is that we know what to do about it. The honourable member from the other side who spoke previously said, 'Let's talk about the actions of this government.' I am happy to talk about the actions of this government because we are talking about action. We are not talking about platitudes, we are not talking about spin and we are not talking about deceit. We are talking about getting on and delivering on what we said we would deliver. We are getting on with building the economy.

Everybody knows, and elections have now proven, that the public cannot be conned. Labor have no plan to build the economy, only a plan that would trash the economy, and they proved that in six years of sitting on this side of the chamber. I could pass over the many cheap shots that have been made in the last half hour or so, but I probably won't—I'm not that way inclined! Before I get warmed up on that, let me say first that the Job Commitment Bonus is important for Braddon. It is extremely important for the north-west and west coast of Tasmania and King Island because my electorate has a significant problem with intergenerational unemployment and a growing problem with underemployment. Not only are children learning from their parents how to live and survive on welfare, with no impetus to seek gainful employment, but unfortunately they are learning from their grandparents. So this measure will go some way to highlighting the financial benefits of getting out of bed, looking for and gaining gainful employment and breaking that cycle of intergenerational unemployment.

These two programs are fundamentally important to job seekers in my electorate because Tasmania has the highest levels of unemployment in the nation. In the midst of that unfortunate set of statistics, my electorate of Braddon has the worst unemployment levels in the state of Tasmania. Unemployment is the only significant economic indicator that Tasmania tops. How unfortunate is that? At the weekend—and I will come back to this—the people of Tasmania overwhelmingly understood the challenge that is before us and put their faith and their vote in a Will Hodgman-led Liberal government.

Tasmania's unemployment rate is 7.3 per cent, which is 1.3 per cent—so nearly 25 per cent—higher than the national rate of six per cent. Youth unemployment on the west and north-west coast of Tasmania, which was highlighted in the last fortnight or so by the report of the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, is 21 per cent, the worst in the nation. That is something I am very, very concerned about and something that I am actually ashamed of. But it is not surprising because for the last six years the Tasmanian economy has faced the double whammy of an incompetent federal government and a weak minority government in coalition with the industry-hating, jobs-destroying Australian Greens. That is why I went on the record so strongly last week saying that the Tasmanian election, held over the weekend, would be the most important election in a generation. I am pleased to have sitting next to me this evening my colleague from Lyons. Lyons has experienced extraordinary losses of jobs, particularly around the demise of the forest industry. Mr Hutchinson as well as my colleague Mr Nikolic know full well the extreme damage that has been done to our beautiful state. The people have now passed judgement on Labor and the Greens, not once but twice.

This bill is just one of the many measures the coalition is putting forward to cut unemployment in Tasmania and around the country. This is a major challenge and there are many more things that need to be done, such as scrapping the carbon tax, scrapping the mining tax and repealing a billion dollars worth of green and red tape imposed on businesses which we are going to be doing through the repeal day next week.

There is a challenge ahead, there is no doubt about that. Let me go to some of the matters that have been raised by previous speakers. I notice that a bit of attention has been drawn to trade training centres, so let's just put the record straight. The problem with the Labor Party is they always think they know best. Well, a little bit of humility would not go astray because on this side of the House we do not always think we know best. That is why we talk and we consult with industry, with small business, with medium business and with big business to find out what the challenges are and where government policy is failing to meet the needs. When it comes to trade training centres we have not abandoned that scheme at all, but we will be rebadging them as trade skill centres. But the important point about these educational facilities is that they are going to be designed more to increase industry and school cooperation. We are going to be doing that. We are going to be trying to strengthen the links with industry and our communities and to enhance the governance arrangements to ensure industry has a say about the delivery of qualifications.

The Labor Party must have a tin ear, because for year upon year industry and business have been saying that what is being delivered through government policy has not been meeting their expectations and that we have not seen the delivery of qualifications that suit small business and industry. We are going to improve the training delivery so that it benefits the schools, the students and industry—for example, by working with local training organisations, business and industry to identify opportunities for apprenticeships or traineeships that will allow students to undertake their senior secondary school studies while doing an apprenticeship or traineeship. We are also looking to have better student support services—for example, career advice, mentoring and student counselling services to help students do well at their studies and to more successfully make the move from school to the workforce.

Contrary to the two previous speakers, we are not abandoning in any way, shape or form the support that will be provided to our young people to build the whole trade sector in this country. It is important for us to put some of the truths on the table. We are not sitting on our hands. Everybody with any degree of common sense would see that for six years this country went backwards at a rate of knots. This government does not intend for one moment to sit on its hands while we watch the economy get trashed. We will not. The job is ahead and we will continue to do what has to be done to get this country, this economy and our communities back on track.

Labor claims to be the friend of the worker. Well, I am not so sure about that. They were in office for six years, which by comparison to the Hawke-Keating years and the Howard-Costello years was not that long—thank goodness for that! But over that time, we saw employment for the young people of Australia rise from 9.9 per cent to 12.7 per cent. An additional 55,000 young Australians were unemployed after six years of a Labor government. So I do not think it is any good form at all to be spoken down to by those opposite. They had six years to get this economy back on track and what did they do? They trashed it!

They also said that we are a government of no action. They talk about, 'Where are the jobs; where is the plan for jobs?'. Well, what about the East West Link? Let's talk about infrastructure. What about the 3,200 jobs that will be provided through construction? What about the 10,000 jobs that will be on board with the WestConnex? What about the 8,600 jobs with the Pacific Highway upgrade? And the 3,500 coal jobs in Victoria—the list goes on and on.

There is confidence being restored to this nation. That confidence is being restored on the back of a majority government, a government with a plan, a government with a commitment to rebuild this economy, to get our spending under control and to get the budget back into the black as soon as we possibly can. But they have left us with a huge mess to clean up, and they sit there each and every day as though nothing has gone wrong at all. I do not know how they sleep at night.

Let me return to my own electorate and my own state. As I said earlier, there is much challenge ahead of us. But on Saturday just gone, the great news is that the people of Tasmania saw fit to put their confidence in a majority Liberal government led by Will Hodgman. After 16 years of Labor, the last four years in bed with the Greens to the point where they put two Greens in cabinet, our state has been trashed, our forestry industry has been wrecked, health outcomes are the worst in the country, educational outcomes are the worst in the country and infrastructure spending is the least in the country. Thank goodness a majority government has been restored in Tasmania.

I will take a few moments to talk about the character of the new premier of Tasmania. Will Hodgman is a good man. He has shown persistence, he has shown humility, he has shown a real desire to consult and he has a desire to really understand the needs of our community. He has been rewarded for those attributes on Saturday, with an overwhelming victory in the state of Tasmania—just like in the national capital—to lead and to rebuild the economy of Tasmania.

This bill today is about trying to get people back into employment—and man, do we need that in Tasmania! I know the scene well. As I have said in this place on a number of occasions, I spent eight years in the Tasmanian parliament and I know the challenges that are being faced by our communities. They have woken today, the first working business day of a new future—a brighter picture future. I say to the people of Tasmania from this honoured place where I stand that it is time to put shoulder to shoulder and to work together with the new government to get the Tasmanian economy back on track. It will be tough. There will be tough decisions, as Will has said right through the campaign, that will have to be undertaken. There will be rebuilding to be done and not everybody will like every decision, but if we are to rebuild a future for our children and our children's children the time has come. We cannot wait any longer to get the Tasmanian economy back on track. We have to do whatever it takes, otherwise we will leave a legacy that will bring us nothing less than shame, shame, shame.

I say with a great deal of passion tonight that I wish Will and the new Liberal team all the very best as they rebuild the Tasmanian economy and as they restore confidence in our great state. I say to those people who may get a chance to listen to or read this: if you are in business, or an investor in Australia, think again and give Tasmania reconsideration. We deserve it. There is stability now and there is a brighter future.