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Thursday, 17 July 2014
Page: 8499


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (Gorton) (10:43): I rise on behalf of the Brimbank/Melton Local Learning and Employment Network to express my strongest support for this valuable service. It is yet another crucial organisation that has been hit by savage funding cuts inflicted by the government's cruel and twisted budget. Over the past 13 years, the Brimbank/Melton Local Learning and Employment Network has delivered for local young people and young job seekers—particularly disadvantaged young people living in the electorate of Gorton and, indeed, beyond. The Brimbank/Melton LLEN plays a vital role by brokering partnerships and fostering a strategic whole-of-community approach that supports young people's education, training, transitions and employment outcomes.

Key objectives include improved retention rates and educational outcomes, and improved transition outcome and development of work-ready skills in young people living in Melbourne's west. But the Abbott government has entirely cut all funding to youth connections, partnership brokers, and the national career advice programs—programs designed to assist young Australians finishing school and getting work.

These cuts are entirely indefensible. Recently the Brotherhood of St Lawrence releases a report that indicated there are now more than one-quarter of a million young Australians aged between 15 and 24 who cannot find work. More than 50,000 have been unemployed for more than a year. There is an even stronger case, therefore, for continued investment in Brimbank and Melton given the entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage confronting many parts of Melbourne's west. Indeed, ABS data shows that unemployment amongst young people now is about 15 per cent and rising. The recent national unemployment figures for young people has now hit more than 13 per cent. This is a national challenge that the government must respond to, but it is particularly difficult in certain parts of Australia, not least of all in my electorate.

To add insult to injury, the government is cutting income for job seekers under the age of 30 for six months, expecting them, even when they are looking for work each day, each week, each month, to receive no support at all. The government effectively has torn up the principle of mutual obligation. There was a time when you received a modest form of income provided you undertook activities to find work and look for work. Now it does not matter whether you look for work or not; if you are under the age of 30, if the government has its way, there will be no support for you. You may have a family to rely upon, and that will be hard for the family if that is the case; but, if you do not have a family who can provide that support, you are in a very, very dire situation.

Labor believes in helping people to get a job through the right training, work experience and incentives and an appropriate level of support, so investing in our young people is a key component of building a prosperous and inclusive nation. Therefore, it is not just a social good; it is economically sound to provide support for young people.

The Abbott government appears to have turned its back on young people, but there is still an opportunity for the government to do what is right here. The Brimbank/Melton LLEN is not scheduled to close its doors until the end of this year, so there is still time for the government to reverse this counterproductive and cruel cut. I call upon the Minister for Education to reverse this decision and commit to ongoing funding for Brimbank and Melton LLEN. If Tony Abbott really wants young people to improve their levels of education or get a job—earn or learn—his government will reinstate funding for partnership brokers, youth connections and the like. I implore the government to do such a thing.

While I am on my feet I also want to extend my condolences to the passing of a Mr Leo Johnson, who was a loyal Labor member and great community activist in Melton. He passed away this week. He was a fantastic contributor to his community—I knew him as a branch member and a branch officer of the Melton branch. When I first was the member for Bourke, Melton was in my electorate, and he was a great source of support and wisdom. He will be sorely missed by his wife, his family, his friends and the community, who were the beneficiaries of much of the good work he did—particularly where he worked with Djerriwarrh, an organisation that has done magnificent things for many people in the municipality of Melton. (Time expired)