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Monday, 17 March 2014
Page: 2092


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (19:22): I always welcome the opportunity to speak on bills. Obviously, I do not support the amendment. I think the original bill, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014, is really the issue and really what adds value here. It is always interesting to look back on the recent history of employment in Australia. The opposition makes much of talking about Holden, Toyota and Qantas, to the exclusion of Mitsubishi—forgotten—and Ford—also forgotten. It is very easy to point the finger at us with more recent situations and to completely neglect or whitewash away the past—even what happened at Gove.

For years we have been talking in this place, on our side anyway, about the additional costs that have come from the opposition. The Labor Party's approach to high-emission industries and, thanks to the carbon tax, their determination by the other side to close down the aluminium industry in this country is effectively being achieved. They shed crocodile tears for the jobs lost in Gove, when that exact industry was almost specifically targeted by the carbon tax and was highlighted as an industry at risk. Mission accomplished Labor Party! Pat yourselves on the back. That is what you did when you got the carbon tax through. Job losses have come from that and real people have been impacted. This is the reality.

For Qantas, $106 million: yes, I bet that would be really good for the company's future. Just whack that sort of money on, all to the exclusion of the impact on climate. Anyone who has been to China, who has been on the streets of those cities, would know where so much CO2 is coming from. So many Australian jobs have been lost as result of industry being undermined by the Labor Party's carbon tax, yet other places like China more than account for any savings. I am not sure whether there has been a reduction of CO2 due to this carbon tax. There have been jobs lost, there is no doubt about that, but not so much on the climate side of things. This is what comes from the actions of the other side.

I heard the last speaker, the member for Griffith, talking about youth unemployment. I recall, back in 2007, when there was a change in government, the youth unemployment was 9.9 per cent—that is tragic, there is no doubt about that. Of course, under Labor it went up to 12.7 per cent—again we do not hear too much about that. That is not exactly the enviablerecord they talk about on the other side. An additional 55,000 young Australians were unemployed after six years of Labor. In the last month, 80,000 extra full-time jobs that have been created in this country. Unfortunately, balanced against that was a loss of part-time jobs.

In the hospitality sector, shops do not want to open on Sundays. In the shopping centres in Perth and in my area at Kingsway shopping centre, many shops do not open on Sunday because they cannot afford to. There is a reason for that. Many jobs have gone because of the cost of opening—$6 or $7 for a cup of coffee to cover the new wages awards brought in by the other side—that is great! Jobs lost, but whatever you do, don't talk about penalty rates. Blow the jobs: that is view of the Labor, and do not talk about penalty rates.

I should really proceed to more positive points. This bill is a lot more positive than the past six years have been. Whenever I speak at a citizenship ceremony, I always say that some people call this country 'the lucky country'. I call it a country where there is opportunity, where, if you want to make the most of your education, then work hard and achieve your best and you can be successful. If you have a good attitude and work hard at your job, you can maximise your opportunities. There are places in the world where your family will either give you a better chance of getting a good job or undermine your chances of a good job or education. There are places in the world where your religion will do the same thing—it either works for you or it works against you. Thank god this is not a country where cultural issues get in the way of success. In this country, if people work hard, it is does not matter about their background. In this country, people's destiny is in the palm of our hand and if they work hard, they will succeed. Thank god this is a country like that.

Look around: the numbers of people who have come here from other countries is an endorsement of these opportunities. The reason so many people want to come here is that this great country is a land of opportunity. It is also something of a criticism of the places people have come from. I know there are a lot of New Zealanders in this country. We see the All Blacks jersey pulled out so often in the rugby season, but if New Zealand were such a great place, they would still be living there.

Of course, there is a reason for us to be positive. In the last month almost 50,000 net jobs were created and the participation rate rose to 64.8 per cent. The unemployment rate was not good but it held steady at six per cent rather than going to 6.25 per cent as the previous government had predicted. Although there was a reduction in part-time jobs, 80,000 new full-time jobs were created. So, there is a lot to be positive about. I see confidence returning in WA, particularly. More jobs are being advertised again. The Roy Hill project, owned mainly by the often maligned Gina Rinehart, is gearing up and that is great news for Western Australia. Labor and the Greens want to continue to undermine Western Australia's future with the mining tax and the carbon tax. As everyone knows, a good result at the 5 April Senate election will see three Liberal senators able to assist the men, women and children of Western Australia to a better future.

In Cowan, I am encouraged by an increase in job advertisements on the streets and in the businesses of the light industrial suburbs of Malaga, Gnangara and Wangara. Just the other day I saw Centurion Garage Doors, a great manufacturer in Cowan, advertising for installers on Hartman Drive—this is very encouraging. In Cowan, the unemployment rate is 4.5 per cent, which is lower than the Western Australian rate of 5.9 per cent. Despite these figures being better than many other electorates and states I know that they could be better and that is why I support this bill.

Specifically on this bill, the first point I would like to note is that, like any good government, if you say it before an election then you must do it after the election. This is a point of difference between us and our predecessors. This bill is essentially about bringing into effect two election commitments—the Job Commitment Bonus and the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program—both of which will come into effect from 1 July 2014. It is important to keep in mind that jobs are created through economic activity and prosperity. The role of government is to facilitate the circumstances of that prosperity and, where possible, pull the hurdles out of the way. Our key policies in achieving this include getting rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax, and getting rid of excessive red tape. For individual Australians who are out of work, getting a job is vitally important and this government is determined to assist them. For the youth and those wishing to get a job regardless of its location this bill and this government are here to help. We are determined to combat the damaging effects of unemployment on people, because we know that being out of work for an extended period can cause harm by reducing a person's skills, confidence and sense of pride. Without self-confidence, a person is already becoming uncompetitive and the longer a person is unemployed the greater the harm taking place.

The first element of this bill is our proposal of a Job Commitment Bonus. This new payment will be available to young Australians aged 18-30 who have been unemployed for 12 months or more, who are already in receipt of a Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance, and who go on to get and hold down a job. The payment is split into two parts. To achieve the first bonus, worth $2,500, an eligible young job seeker must remain in employment and off income support for 12 months. The second part is worth $4,000 and is paid when the person remains in employment and off income support for an additional 12 months. That comes to 24 months in total. This is a much welcomed initiative because it targets the building of a better jobs culture—a culture, as the minister said, of commitment to the world of work rather than the world of welfare. This is what the Job Commitment Bonus is about—to achieve its objectives it will reward those young Australians who demonstrate a dedication to work.

I also greatly support the second significant initiative of this bill, being the acknowledgement that job seekers face costs and sometimes those costs, such as moving, can be significant and can stop a person taking up a job. To combat this problem, the government, through this legislation, will introduce the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program to provide funding to eligible job seekers to meet the costs of moving to take up a job. Eligible job seekers can access up to $6,000 for relocation to a regional area to take up a job. Sometimes it works the other way—people move to a metropolitan area from the regions—and, in this case, $3,000 can be made available. Even relocation from higher unemployment metropolitan areas to another metropolitan area can attract $3,000. Where a family with dependent children is moving, up to an extra $3,000 can also be granted in recognition of the additional costs for a family to move.

There are a number of great benefits generated through this bill. These programs are measures designed to support job seekers, but there has to be a commitment on the part of those taking up the support of the government and taxpayers; there has to be a commitment by those people who want to access this money. It is therefore appropriate that, if the person does not remain in the job for at least six months, there should be a penalty in the form of a 26-week non-payment period before they can access unemployment benefits again in the absence of a reasonable excuse for leaving the employment. This bill will provide effective support to job seekers whilst also holding them to account for that support. The great value in these measures is that this acts as a partnership in many ways—the government and the taxpayers give the hand up and the unemployed person commits to moving and staying in work. The end result is greater participation which helps build economic prosperity. This is good for the individual, good for the business doing the employing, and good for the government and the taxpayers who do not have to pay unemployment payments.

At the start I spoke about this country being the land of opportunity, and it is through this bill and these measures that we, the government, can enshrine these opportunities. We will be there for the job seekers of our nation to ensure that opportunities are not out of reach due to costs of relocation and to lock in a positive culture of participation, not unproductive entitlement. This bill is about hope, reward and opportunity for those who may feel employment is out of reach, and it is about an acknowledgement that no lifetime should be wasted because of a culture of low expectations and desperation due to welfare dependency.

There is little doubt, and the people know it, that the coalition inherited an economy in transition. The lives of Australians have been held back by $123 billion in projected deficits and, without change, the economy is heading towards being $667 billion in debt. The good news is that, through these initiatives, we can increase productivity, grow the economy, reduce debt and get people into jobs and off unemployment benefits. I therefore commend the bill to the House.