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Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Page: 2327

Mr COLEMAN (Banks) (19:53): I rise this evening to speak in favour of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014. I am very pleased to be able to do so because this bill is about jobs. There is nothing more important for families in my electorate and no doubt in electorates right across the country than jobs. In our lives we all learn so much from jobs and we all progress through our careers. The dignity of work is such an important aspect of life. It is critical that governments focus on the right policies to create jobs, because what is an economy other than a job-creating engine? That is what economic growth is all about.

In terms of the specifics of this bill, there are some terrific initiatives to assist people who have been unemployed for some time. The job commitment bonus will provide for young people between the ages of 18 and 30 who have been on Newstart or youth allowance for 12 months the financial incentive—a reward—for staying employed for 12 months, and it is $2,500, which, for a young person, is a very significant incentive. It is important to note that the person must stay in employment for that 12-month period. So this is not a simple handout; this is about a reward for consistent effort and for consistent application in the workforce. I think that is a commendable structure for the legislation because it ensures that we are focusing on those people who really knuckle down, who do the hard work and who commit to employment for at least 12 months.

In addition, for people who stick at it for another 12 months—two years in total—there is the opportunity for an additional $4,000. That is a total of $6,500 under the job commitment bonus. It is a terrific initiative. It says to people who have been unemployed for some time that if you make the effort, if you stick at it, if you get a job and if you keep persevering for two years then in addition to your salary and all the other benefits that come through work, we will acknowledge that hard work you have done by providing this additional incentive. That is a terrific and important initiative.

The other initiative which is the subject of this bill is the relocation assistance initiative. For many people it is not always straightforward to find a job next door. We would all love to find a job that is just around the corner or down the road but that is not always possible. There are significant costs involved in relocating to another town or perhaps to a different part of a capital city. The relocation assistance provided for under this bill says that, should you make that sometimes difficult decision to pull up stumps and relocate for the purpose of a job, you will receive assistance from $3,000 all the way up to potentially $9,000 for a family relocating to regional area. That is another tremendous initiative.

These initiatives really show the resolve of the government in the area of jobs. As I said before, jobs are at the essence of economic management, because if you do not manage the economy well, you do not create jobs. If you manage the economy well and you create the conditions in which business can prosper, what follows? Jobs follow. Government cannot create jobs out of thin air. Government cannot create jobs through make-work schemes or through central planning, although those opposite may disagree. Jobs are created by the industry of private enterprise. They are created when people see an opportunity, often at substantial risk, and say, 'Let's go for it.' It does not always work out and there are substantial risks involved. But it is the pursuit of opportunity that creates jobs, and that is what we as a government so strongly believe in and support. It is a very significant contrast, as a matter of fact, to the approach of the previous government.

The facts on the previous government's record on employment are, of course, manifestly clear. The former government started with 4.4 per cent unemployment in 2007. Then we travel along to 2013 and unemployment had gone up by then to 5.7 per cent. Youth unemployment, when the former government came to office, was at 19.6 per cent. Six years went by and at the end of those six years youth unemployment was over 27 per cent. Imagine that increase from 20 per cent to 27 per cent in human terms. That was a very substantial increase. The total number of people unemployed under Labor increased by 200,000. We get this pious rhetoric from those opposite about jobs and about fighting for jobs and so on but, if they were so flash at fighting for jobs, you would think that might be reflected perhaps in their six years of government. If those opposite had the panacea for unemployment problems, we would see some evidence of that. That would be logical. But the evidence actually points completely in the opposite direction.

Of course, there has been much discussion in this House and in other places in recent times about manufacturing. But we need to be very clear about what happened in the manufacturing sector under Labor—the so-called champions of manufacturing jobs; the champions of government industry assistance, with the government intervening to supposedly save jobs. We know that they have claimed to have secured jobs—that is their claim—in, frankly, a misleading fashion in the past. What actually happened in manufacturing is that one in 10 jobs in the entire nation in manufacturing was lost in six years. If that rate of decline were to continue, imagine how enormous that reduction in the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector would be. It is a really quite appalling record and it is something that people need to be reminded of, because, as in all things in life, what matters is results. It does not matter so much what you say and what you might excitedly shout out across a parliamentary chamber; what matters is what you actually do—what do you deliver? It is not about flowery expressions; it is not about simply professing empathy with people in a particular situation. We all feel for people that have lost jobs. The question is: what is the best solution to create more jobs? That what it is all about.

The government has a very clear agenda to create the economic conditions in which business can create jobs. That agenda is wide-ranging. One of the really important things, though, I would say, is confidence. Confidence, of course, is a hard thing to define. People such as those at the National Australia Bank do measure it, but it is always a difficult thing to define. But confidence is critical because, if you are facing a decision in business of whether you put that extra $500,000 into a project, or whatever the amount might be, large or small, the confidence you have in the future of the economy is critical. If you are worried that the economy is facing a downturn or if you are worried that things are looking on the worse side rather than the better side, you will tend to hold back from investment. That is obviously a problem because then fewer jobs are created.

Getting confidence back in the business sector is so important, and there are so many different ways that this government is working to do that. We know we have to get rid of the carbon tax. We know it is a massive impost on more than 75,000 businesses around Australia. We know it has smashed the aviation industry, with Qantas paying more $100 million in carbon tax. We know that small businesses all around the nation are struggling under the burden. Clean Brite Dry Cleaners in Mortdale in my electorate has suffered very significant costs from the carbon tax, as has been discussed previously in this chamber. So we have to get rid of the carbon tax. It is so self-evident that you really do wonder why anyone would oppose such an obvious job-creating measure as getting rid of the carbon tax. I guess the answer is the only people that would oppose it would be someone who was foolish enough to bring it in in the first place. That is, of course, what we confront on the other side of the chamber. We have to get rid of the carbon tax, but there is so much more that we need to do as well.

Deregulation is really important. The last thing that you want to do in business is spend your time filling out forms. People in business have clients to worry about, they have product development, they have marketing and they have sales—they have all these matters on their minds every day. After finishing their day job at seven or eight o'clock at night, the last thing that we want to be imposing on small business and, indeed, large business as well is the need to fill out a whole lot of forms and go through a whole lot of administrative process when those processes do not actually add any substantive value. Of course, some regulation is appropriate, but there is a vast amount of regulation in this economy which is unnecessary, which is duplicative in nature and which simply ties people up in knots for no net benefit to the economy. Getting rid of a whole lot of regulation is critical and, obviously, the government will have a lot more to say on that in the coming days.

On environmental approvals, we had a situation where so many big environmental projects—projects requiring environmental approvals—were in logjam. They were held up and sitting there with nothing happening; there was no development and no employment because promoters of those projects did not know whether they were going to be allowed to do them or not. It is self-evident: if you do not have the approval to get on with your project, you cannot do it; if you cannot get on with your project, you do not hire people to do it. The Minister for the Environment, and the government more generally, has given environmental approvals in recent months for projects totalling more than $400 billion of investment. That is an extraordinary amount of investment. Getting these projects up and running is a fantastic way to create jobs.

Similarly, one of the parts of the economy where government can most sensibly get involved is infrastructure, because most infrastructure projects require some form of government involvement. It is great to see the very strong commitment to infrastructure projects right across the nation that we are seeing. WestConnex—and, Mr Deputy Speaker Kelly, you would be familiar with this project—is very important to my electorate of Banks in south-western Sydney. The duplication of the M5 East, which will be occurring as part of that WestConnex project, will save at least 20 minutes for someone travelling from Beverly Hills, in my electorate, to the city. Anyone who has sat in the M5 East tunnel for minutes or hours—or however long it might have been on that particular day—knows that this is a very, very important initiative. This is important because it goes to productivity. If you are spending less time stuck in your car, you have more time to get around, you have more time to attend your sales meeting and you have more time to get to work—and that means you get more things done. It also means you spend more time with your family, which is, of course, a very important benefit.

Infrastructure is critical, and of course the overarching thing we must have for economic confidence to get employment growing again is confidence in the administration of the economy, and that means getting the budget under control. The budget under the previous government was an absolute basket case. We know that time and time again they promised they would get the budget back to surplus. They failed to do so. Things got worse on a consistent basis. The Australian people look at that and say: 'Hang on. How can we consistently spend more money than we take in?' They know that you cannot do that. You cannot do that in a household, you cannot do that in a business and you cannot do that in government either. So getting the budget back under control will go a long way to getting confidence back in the economy. Confidence helps to build jobs, as do the provisions we discussed this evening.