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Monday, 17 March 2014
Page: 2111


Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (20:48): I rise to speak on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014. Importantly, this bill puts in place two of the coalition's key election commitments. These are the Job Commitment Bonus and the Relocation Assistance to Take up a Job Program. Both these commitments will commence on 1 July 2014 and they are an important part of our plan to put the economy back on track.

Let me set the scene for why this government needs to legislate policy such as what we are doing here at the moment to kick-start our economy, to drive jobs creation. We are talking about the creation of long-term sustainable jobs. We are not talking about what happened in my electorate of Corangamite several years ago, when the then industry minister Mr Combet gave $40 million to Alcoa, saying it would put Alcoa on a long-term, jobs sustainable footing. That has been an unmitigated disaster. We now see Alcoa is closing. I cannot tell you what grief that is causing right throughout the Geelong region. Labor's legacy is 200,000 more unemployed, $123 billion in cumulative deficits across the forward estimates, a gross debt heading towards $667 billion, and the world's biggest carbon tax.

Let us not forget the damage the carbon tax is doing. In manufacturing alone, this is a $1.1 billion hit on jobs. In my region, in Corangamite, in Geelong, the people of Geelong understand the damage the carbon tax is doing. This is a tax on jobs. This is a tax on the people of Geelong. That is why we are so determined to repeal the carbon tax. Labor's legacy of debt and deficit is a shameful one indeed. This is the fastest deterioration in debt in modern Australian history. Labor's debt is already costing the Australian public $10 billion a year in net interest payments. It is important that we understand these figures in the context of the employment rate. When Labor was voted out of office last year, there were 200,000 more unemployed Australians than in November 2007, when the coalition was last in government. The number of unemployed Australians went from 492,000 in November 2007 to 691,000 in September 2013. Contrast this to the record under the Howard government, where the number of unemployed people decreased by 269,000 during the coalition's time in office. I think it is fair to say the coalition is recognised by Australians as better economic managers, for a very important reason. We understand the importance of running the budget responsibility. We understand the importance of building a strong and prosperous economy, a safe and secure Australia.

Last week in Geelong, I attended the Geelong Manufacturing Council dinner. It was a terrific function, bringing together many of our finest manufacturers. I would like to remind the member for Newcastle—despite the spin and the deception that we continue to here from Labor—about our commitment to long-term, sustainable jobs. We have a bright manufacturing future. I come from a very proud manufacturing region. There are many wonderful stories to be told in manufacturing. We have great opportunities and great potential, but all we hear from those opposite is a dragging down of our economy, a dragging down of our potential and, frankly, that is unacceptable.

Labor's track record in unemployment is completely shameful. I look at what has happened since the carbon tax was introduce—102,000 more Australians are now unemployed. Labor continues to block the repeal of this job-destroying carbon tax and the job-destroying mining tax. During Labor's time in office, unemployment went from 4.4 per cent in November 2007 to 5.5 per cent in September 2013. Labor left us with an unemployment rate across Australia that has now risen to six per cent and, on Labor's own figures, is forecast to rise to 6.25 per cent. It is clear that the member for Newcastle has not read her own party's documentation and her own party's forecasts because this is the unemployment rate that Labor created. This is the unemployment rate that Labor forecast and it is going up because of Labor's reckless management of our economy and its reckless regard for the importance of long-term jobs creation.

This morning, an article published in the Financial Review looked at Labor's unwillingness to support a raft of savings measures that this government has on the table to get the economy back on track and to create the conditions that lead to new jobs. I refer to the article, 'Labor's tax block will cost "$1,800 per person"'. The headlines tell the story—and we have laughter from members opposite! I am sorry to see that there is laughter on such a serious matter. This is not a laughing matter. These are Labor cuts. The intransigence of Labor could cause a $45 billion black hole in the economy. As I mentioned, some of the savings measures were championed by Labor in its dying days as it tried to pick up the pieces after a six-year spending spree.

The government is taking the necessary action to turn this economy around. Unfortunately, those opposite fail to see the reality. They are now actually denying their own savings measures. So yes, those opposite have rightly earned the title 'government change deniers'. It is unfortunate that those opposite continue to laugh because it is a really serious situation that we now face as we see, due to Labor, the unemployment rate. I am very proud of the measures we are taking to create long-term jobs to build confidence and to build new opportunities. I look at what is happening at my own electorate at Corangamite.

I am working as a member of the economic review panel chaired by minister Macfarlane and we are working very hard. We have announced a growth fund. We are working very hard on our review of the South Australian and the Victorian economies. Our focus is on growing long-term jobs, investing in new and emerging industries, in biosciences, in food processing, in IT communications and in advanced manufacturing. I was very proud to join the minister in announcing $5 million for Carbon Revolution, an incredible company that is building another 150 new jobs with the work that it is doing in developing a world-class carbon fibre automotive wheel, taking Australian innovation to the world. As I said, there are some wonderful stories. This is another example of where Ford workers, who are grappling with the demise of Ford manufacturing and the car industry under Labor, are now being employed in this new company. We are working very hard to help these traditional manufacturing workers transition to new and exciting opportunities like the one we are seeing at Carbon Revolution.

The coalition believes that every Australian who is capable of working should have the opportunity to do so. It is very important for the broader economy and also for the individual. This bill and the programs it sets up are designed to help people, like those who are without a job in my electorate, find work and stay off welfare. These programs are part of the coalition's economic plan that the Australian people voted for in September last year. We are delivering on these important election commitments, just as we are delivering on a whole host of our commitments across all sectors of the economy.

As we have heard, the Job Commitment Bonus is a new payment. Unsurprisingly, there was no equivalent payment under the former Labor government. This bonus rewards people aged between 18 and 30 to get and keep a job and remain off welfare. Eligible young jobseekers will receive $2,500 after 12 months in continuous employment and they will receive a further $4,000 if they remain in continuous employment and off welfare for another 12 months. This is a fantastic investment by this government to help young, long-term unemployed Australians to move away from welfare dependency, to learn the value of working and to find and keep a job. As I mentioned in this House previously, in this debate, jobseekers will have to meet the following criteria to qualify for further bonus payments—they need to be aged between 18 and 30, they need to get a job and remain employed for 12 months and, as I mentioned, after another 12 months they can be eligible for the second payment of $4,000.

Importantly, employment can be full-time, part-time, casual or shift work. Another great initiative championed by this bill is the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program, which gives people the opportunity to go where they need to go for work. It is one thing to say 'Go to where the work is,' but it is not always that easy.

Debate interrupted.