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Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Page: 2320


Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (19:23): The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014 is about providing real incentives to help more young people into work. The bill provides practical assistance to help our long-term unemployed find and keep a job. Importantly, it focuses on our young people, who deserve a fair go, real opportunity and real optimism for their future. As a Liberal, I believe that every Australian who is capable of working should be working, preferably for a wage but, if not, for the dole. Young Australians in particular need to be able to find and keep job opportunities that can enhance their skills, develop their knowledge base and provide a strong foundation for their future careers, experience and perspectives.

The coalition government is committed to encouraging and increasing workforce participation, particularly for our young people. There are two measures in this bill that will help to deliver what the government said it would do. Both will commence on 1 July 2014. The first measure is the job commitment bonus. This helps by paying eligible job seekers $2,500 if they get a job and remain in continuous work and off income support for 12 months. This new payment will be available for young Australians aged 18 to 30 who were unemployed for a year or more, receiving a Newstart allowance or youth allowance, and who go on to keep and stay in a job. It rewards young people who demonstrate a commitment to working. A further $4,000 will be paid if they remain in continuous work and off income support for another 12 months. This means that young people on the Central Coast who are long-term unemployed can receive up to $6,500 over the two-year program. Bonus payments will go directly to the employee at the end of the 12- and 24-month periods.

The second measure, the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program, is a targeted measure to help young people who are unemployed for at least a year to be able move to where there is a job available. Under this program, should an eligible job seeker from the Central Coast choose to move to Sydney to take up a job, that would be considered a regional-to-metropolitan move and the eligible job seeker could receive up to $3,000. Should an eligible job seeker move from the Central Coast to take up a job in Newcastle, for instance, this would be considered a regional-to-regional move and they could receive up to $6,000. In addition, families with dependent children will be provided with up to an extra $3,000 in recognition of the additional costs that can accrue when moving a family.

This is common-sense legislation. It is appropriate that we have strong measures to increase workforce participation. The coalition is committed to building a strong and prosperous economy, which in turn will help generate more jobs for people on the Central Coast and, indeed, across Australia. I am proud to be part of a coalition government that is determined to see a million new jobs created over the next five years and two million over the next decade by creating conditions where businesses can thrive and prosper in growing regions like my own, the Central Coast.

But full-time unemployment, particularly for young people, is a major concern for families and businesses in my electorate. Labour force figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that across the Gosford local government area there was an average of 7,100 young people aged 15 to 24 who were without work. Nationally, the figures got worse under Labor. Between November 2007 and September last year, the national youth unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 19 and looking for full-time work went from 19.6 per cent to 27.4 per cent. Worse still, the number of long-term unemployed—people who were unemployed for 52 weeks or more—nearly doubled, going from 69,000 to 133,000.

I will never forget the experience of talking to a young man near East Gosford when I doorknocked his family home about 12 months ago. His story put a stark face to these statistics and reflects those of many others I have spoken with over the last six months. Only 19 years old at the time, this young man told me of his passion for cars and photography. Despite months and months of trying he could not find a job, but he was keen and willing to do anything. Four of his own young mates could not find work locally either, even though, he said, they were also qualified mechanics and welders. There is nothing that saps the aspirations of young people more than the lack of opportunity to fulfil them. Currently, the level of youth unemployment in my electorate is far too high. It is a major challenge. We need to prevent young job seekers from sliding into this long-term welfare dependency.

That is why I am proud to be part of a government that is delivering real solutions to real challenges. After all, that is what the Australian people, including people on the Central Coast, elected us to do after six long years of Labor waste. We need a strong, stable economy where government can get out of the way and let business, particularly local businesses in my electorate, grow, prosper, thrive, succeed and create more jobs and even more opportunities for our young Australians and, importantly in my electorate, for our young coasties.

That is why we are determined to scrap the carbon tax to deliver much-needed relief not only for local families, who will save an average of $550 a year when this toxic tax is gone, but also for businesses. Since Labor's carbon tax was introduced, 120,000 more Australians are now unemployed. I spoke with Alison Vidler, president of the Gosford City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, earlier today. She commended the government on this bill, saying that the chamber supports measures that will change the cycle of welfare dependency and give young people on the Central Coast a positive outlook for their futures. She also said that abolishing the carbon tax was an important part of helping businesses reduce their costs and reduce the confusion businesses are facing because Labor is holding up the bill to scrap the carbon tax—holding it hostage in the Senate.

Red tape is also a burden on productivity and job creation. That is why, for the first time, the national parliament will be holding a red tape repeal day to cut $1 billion in red and green tape costs. The Rudd and Gillard Labor governments introduced 975 new or amending pieces of legislation and more than 21,000 additional regulations. It has been left to the coalition government to clean up this mess because it is having a real impact on business and, in turn, employment opportunities, particularly on the Central Coast. Tomorrow the government will start to announce details of more than 9,000 pieces of spent and redundant legislation and regulation. Some of this regulation is more than 100 years old. Getting rid of the more than 9,000 regulations will benefit business, schools, homes, hospitals and community groups in my electorate, and I am really looking forward to the red tape repeal day.

Building the roads of the 21st century is another key element in our plan to build a stronger economy and deliver growth and more jobs. The Prime Minister's announcement this week about NorthConnex will boost the productive capacity of people living on the Central Coast, not only by creating around 2,000 new jobs but also by getting people to and from work sooner. The Australian government is investing $405 million into this $3 billion project. Unlike when Labor was in charge, when it was announced and nothing happened, this vital piece of infrastructure is moving into the planning approval phase. NorthConnex will see the missing link between the M1 and M2 motorways built, with a nine-kilometre tunnel to reduce congestion and shorten travel times. It will help commuters and freight trucks to bypass up to 21 traffic lights and reduce travel time by up to 15 minutes each way. Construction on NorthConnex will start next year and the tunnel is expected to open in 2019. I commend the Prime Minister for his determination to see NorthConnex built, and to leave a lasting infrastructure legacy for our nation.

We also want to see young job seekers equipped with the tools required to get a job and to keep it. That is why in a couple of weeks I will be hosting a workshop on vocational education and training. By consulting with key stakeholders on the coast, we can clarify what is working well, what can be improved and where there needs to be major change. Getting more unemployed young Australians into work is not going to be easy. Labor's shameful legacy to Australians is 200,000 more unemployed. The unemployment rate went from 4.4 per cent in November 2007 to 5.7 per cent in September 2013. But it does not end there. Unfortunately Labor's legacy has delivered gross debt projected to rise to $667 billion, with $123 billion in cumulative deficits. People in my electorate know that it is the coalition that has a track record of growing the economy, reducing debt and getting people off the unemployment queue. Businesses and local residents in my electorate of Robertson understand that it is important for the Central Coast that we have as many people as possible in the workforce. In a growing region, we need to meet the economic and social challenges ahead.

One of the barriers to young people being able to find meaningful employment is education. As a former teacher on the coast, I know how important education is to the future prospects of our young people on the coast. I benefitted personally from great schooling at my former high school in Narara and from studying at Sydney University, and that why I am now proud to be part of a government that is putting students first. Under the Students First framework, the Australian government will work with the states and territories on four policies we all know will make the biggest difference to students—teacher quality, school autonomy, parental engagement and a robust curriculum. At the heart of our approach is lifting the quality, professionalism and status of our teaching profession, which, in turn, will help deliver better outcomes for our students.

The coalition also understands the crucial role that universities and vocational education and training plays in driving development on the Central Coast through job creation and educating the community, especially our young people. In our strong growth plan for the Central Coast, we underlined our commitment to boosting skills and education training, including by working in partnership with the Central Coast community to identify further training and education opportunities for the region. As part of this, we will work with local governments on the coast to progress necessary approvals to facilitate universities developing campuses on local government owned land, and I acknowledge the work of Gosford City Council, in particular the mayor, Lawrie McKinna, and the general manager, Paul Anderson, in relation to a university presence right in the heart of the Gosford CBD.

Our growth plan also outlined our commitment to deliver $2.7 million to develop a new local skills and jobs centre on the Central Coast. This funding will enable Central Coast Group Training to build stage 2 of the local skills and jobs incubator, including individual trade business models. It will give more young people on the Central Coast the skills and professional connections they need to expand their job and career potential and ensure they will have better opportunities to be mentored by experienced tradespeople.

People living and working on the Central Coast share a passion to see our region thrive and grow. There is a determination among businesses and community leaders and right across my electorate to tackle the challenge of the lack of local employment opportunities. We see it every day, with over 30,000 commuters leaving early in the morning to Sydney or Newcastle and returning home late at night because their jobs take them away from their families. I believe this does not have to be a permanent marker of life on the Central Coast. I look forward to the day when people in our community no longer have to go to Sydney or to Newcastle or anywhere else for employment, education or other opportunities because they will find them right there: in Gosford, in Umina, in Woy Woy, in West Gosford, in Erina, in Avoca, in Terrigal and in Somersby.

May I acknowledge the presence earlier in the gallery of my family: Oscar, who is five years old, and Mollie-Joy, who is just three, who came down to listen to their mother deliver a speech. It is a speech about something I am particularly passionate about, for the sake of not only my family—and their future, when they have grown to reach the age where they might want to see local employment opportunities on the Central Coast—but also the families of so many other people in my electorate.

I am pleased to support this bill as an important piece of legislation that will help deliver, to more young people, more work in my electorate and deliver real hope, real reward and real opportunity for our young people who most need it.