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Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Page: 2317

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (19:08): It was very interesting listening to the previous speaker talk about the government's plan for jobs. The only plan that I have noticed from the government is to watch more and more jobs disappear on a regular basis—I think about 63,000 jobs have disappeared in six months. That is quite a record, and I think if the government puts its mind to it there could be an enormous number of people unemployed. The fact is, they do not have a plan. There is no plan whatsoever to address the issue of new jobs, or new technology. All this government does is leave it to market forces.

I will not oppose the particular legislation before us today. The legislation has two initiatives in it. One of them is the Job Commitment Bonus and the other is the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program, a program that was introduced by Labor when we were in power. This bill extends it and makes it more generous. It will provide financial assistance to the long-term unemployed—people who are looking for jobs. But there will be participation requirements associated with it. It will be available to people who are receiving Newstart and Youth Allowance, though that does not count if you are an apprentice or in full-time study as a student. Also, it will be available to people who have been on the Parenting Payment for at least the preceding 12 months to relocate for the purposes of commencing ongoing employment.

The program is going to be demand driven, and will provide $6,000 to support eligible job seekers who relocate to a regional area, from either a metropolitan area or another regional area, or up to $3,000 to support eligible job seekers who relocate to a metropolitan area. It is quite generous. Families with dependent children will receive an extra $3,000. But the catch to this is that a participant who leaves their employment, without good reason, within six months of receiving the relocation payment, will be excluded from receiving any payment for 26 weeks.

There can be a plethora of reasons why a person may choose to leave a job, and whether or not their explanation is acceptable will determine whether they are excluded from receiving any sort of financial assistance from Centrelink. I think that is a little draconian. The government could be a little bit more generous around that particular component of this legislation.

The other component of this legislation is the Job Commitment Bonus. As all of us in this place know, youth unemployment is an issue in most electorates. Young Australians aged from 18-30, who have been receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance—other than if they are an apprentice or a full-time student—will be eligible for a tax-free bonus of $2,500 if they gain employment and maintain that employment for 12 months. That is a tax-free payment. If they manage to stay in full-time employment for another 12 months, they will receive a further tax-free bonus of $4,000. For a period of continuous employment of 24 months, that is quite a significant payment. It will work as an incentive for people to look for work.

However, I do feel it is missing some salient issues when it comes to youth unemployment. The fact is that employers have to make a commitment to train young people. There needs to be jobs there for young people to undertake. I would hate to think that these payments were being used instead of wage subsidies, or support for employers to hire young people, or investing in training and education for young people seeking work.

In my electorate, particularly the southern part of it on the northern part of the Central Coast, youth unemployment is very high. The initiatives in this legislation will only touch the surface of the problem. They will not result in young people finding employment. There are problems like the availability of work, there are the actual issues around transport and getting to work, and there is the fact that young people need training. It is interesting to note that we need to have more money invested in TAFE and in apprenticeships. If this government is truly serious about reducing the number of young people who are unemployed, they really need to invest in training. They need to make sure that young people have the skills necessary to obtain the jobs that are available now and to also obtain the skills so that they will be able to obtain the jobs of the future.

Under this government we have seen, as I mentioned at the start of my contribution to this debate, jobs going one way. They are being lost and none are being created. We have a deficit in jobs yet we are putting in place incentives for people to gain jobs. It is very nice to have incentives there. That works on the assumption that people are only unemployed because they do not want to work and, if you give them an incentive, they will run out and find a job. But, if the jobs do not exist or if they do not have the necessary training for jobs, then their situation is not going to change.

On the Central Coast in my electorate there was a proposal to build a training hub for young people that were unemployed to help them gain the skills they needed. The Gulgul Barang training centre was approved under RDA prior to the last election, but in its wisdom this government have moved away from that commitment. They have deemed that it was an election promise even though the money was put aside in the 2013-14 budget for it. They have denied young people in the northern part of the Central Coast the opportunity to engage in training and the opportunity to have the support they need.

There were a number of employment agencies involved in it. The Darkinjung Aboriginal people gave land for the project. They have already spent a lot of money on getting to the DA stage, a DA that will not be submitted because the funding is not there. The wonderful San Remo Neighbourhood Centre supports a number of programs. One is the LEAP program, which is providing training for people to help them enter the workforce, and there is Youth Connections and ET Australia as well. It was one of those projects that I think members dream about, a project that involved the whole community, a project that was creating a hub in an area where there are very few resources. It was creating opportunity for people that were unemployed, young people in particular. Now that has been snatched away from them. Their opportunity to undertake training and to actually obtain jobs that they would like to have has been taken away from them.

Without training and without skills, you can give young people as much money as the deepest government pockets allow, but it is not going to make a difference. If an employer takes on a young person who does not have the skills, who is not an effective or efficient employee, who does not have the support they need to develop those skills, then that person will only hold the job for a very short period of time and the $2,500 will never be paid.

It makes me really sad. I am talking quite a bit here about the Central Coast part of my electorate, I know, but in that part of my electorate we have seen Kellogg's move to Thailand and we have seen Bluetongue close its doors. I know that Wyong Shire Council is looking at an initiative to undertake a project to bottle water. That will be good because maybe that may maintain the jobs of some of the people that were working there.

But we do not need support for people that lose their jobs; we need jobs for people. We need to put in place the right sorts of programs and incentives for employers to create jobs. It is very easy for member after member in this parliament to stand up and talk about the carbon tax. Job losses in this country have more to do with government policy, government vision, a need for the government to have a plan rather than just act like an opposition, which is all this government has done in trying to blame the previous government for the fact that jobs are going faster than you can blink your eyes. It is a disgrace.

We have lost 5,000 jobs at Qantas and 2,500 jobs at Toyota—and they are direct jobs—along with 2,900 direct jobs at Holden. At Rio Tinto at the Gove refinery, 1,100 jobs have gone; at Electrolux in Orange—a regional area where jobs are really hard to come by—544 jobs have been lost. At Simplot 110 jobs have gone, at Peabody 200 jobs have gone, and at Caterpillar another 200 jobs are no more. Sixty-three jobs at Bluetongue on the Central Coast have been lost. For those direct jobs that have been lost, there is the flow-on effect to the industries associated with them and then there is the flow-on effect to all those businesses that provide lunches and other services to the workers in industry. This government has a very sad record when it comes to employment and initiatives in the area of employment.

Whilst there is no problem with the initiatives that are highlighted in this legislation, except that I think that they are just window-dressing—they are carrots; they are ways of trying to encourage people to look for work, and then there is the undertone that the only reason that people are not in employment is that they do not want to be, and that is where you come in with the tax-free bonus—the punitive nature of the requirements that are attached to the relocation assistance program do worry me a little bit. If this government wants to be real about jobs, it needs to put in place proper training, to support apprentices and employers, to have a vision, to plan for the future and to make sure that it has a job plan that looks at the future of this country and is about the success of business, the success of the economy and the success of workers.