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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9900


Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (10:31): I was recently happy to welcome the Leader of the Opposition to the Chifley electorate to visit a massive development venture that is under construction there: the Sydney Business Park at Marsden Park. It is going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, in particular through a partnership initiated by the developers, joined by a range of community based organisations. The future tenants of the site are going to commit to sourcing the majority of staff from neighbouring suburbs. They are looking to do what they can to deal with the number of unemployed youth in the area, because youth unemployment has plagued our area for quite some time. It is running at roughly three times the national unemployment rate and it is predicted to climb to four times that rate within the next few years. So we need a range of people in business, government and the community to work together to make sure we create jobs and get our local young people ready and skilled up to fill those jobs.

That brings me back to the opposition leader's visit, where he was able to meet the developers and meet on-site with some of the local young people who are already busy working to get a future in the hospitality industry. Courtesy of Marist Youth Care, this band of future entrepreneurs and pretty sharp baristas are running their own cafe in a demountable adjacent to all the site's construction activity. They are the first wave of what will hopefully be many to follow, showing what they are capable if given the chance and boosted by the right support provided by Youth Connections, which is used on-site. That project is just one of many that Marist Youth Care is involved in in the Chifley electorate, giving young people in the area hope of employment and boosting their self-worth.

The following day I visited another organisation, Eagles RAPs in Doonside—a fantastic group of dedicated people who, incidentally, also source Youth Connections funding through Marist Youth Care's grant. Eagles RAPs offers an education platform to young people who have had problems adapting to traditional schooling or who are battling their own personal circumstances such as misdemeanours or a difficult family life.

Now an organisation that delivers hope to others is running out of hope for itself, because the Abbott government has cut $800,000 of Youth Connections grant funding to Marist Youth Care, which also uses Eagles RAPs. In fact, Eagles RAPs is staring closure in the face after 20 years of operation. The area that I am proud to represent does not hold a monopoly on youth unemployment, crime or hard luck stories—not by any stretch—but we do have more than our fair share, and organisations like Marist Youth Care and Eagles RAPs give greater value for money than the funds they secure from the government. But the Abbott government thinks it is clever to slash their funding and tear away at the sections of society that need help the most, as evidenced in the bold letters contained within the budget.

What I found particularly galling was that, the very day after the opposition leader and I met with Marist Youth Care on-site, the Prime Minister turned up in our area, in Blacktown, and had the hide to meet Marist Youth Care, the very organisation that he stripped $800,000 from. The parliamentary secretary was in tow with him, visiting Marist Youth Care in Blacktown. I felt for them, because they were obviously aggrieved. They are impacted on; they are trying to find jobs and skill people up in our area, and the Abbott government has basically cut their funding, but then the Prime Minister wants to use them as a prop for a photo opportunity. Marist Youth Care is good enough for the Prime Minister to use for a photo op but not good enough to support with the funding they need to help reduce youth unemployment in the area I represent. It is an absolute crime. And does it make sense? No, it does not. But in a way that is not surprising. Let us look at the ministry list. This is how many people from Western Sydney sit in the federal ministry, in an area of two million people: one. And this here is how many sit on the list from the east of Sydney, highlighted in orange: one.

That is my issue. This government has no concept of the impact of its decisions. It cuts school funding, makes it harder for our young to go to university, and has slashed programs like Youth Connections. And the impact of these cuts and the human stories is out of sight and out of mind for a ministry that is Eastern Sydney centric, with the exception of Senator Payne—Senator Payne is the only Western Sydney minister. And guess what? She is the Minister for Human Services, who oversights Centrelink—the same government body that will shortly be holding back Newstart payments to the young people who find it harder to get work because programs like Youth Connections get cut. That tells you everything you need to know about this government: if it is out of sight it is out of mind. They do not care for the young people of Western Sydney and the problems they have, because none of their ministers have to walk around the communities that are affected by their decisions, unless of course it is the Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretaries all out there for a cheap photo.