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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9909


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (11:06): There are those moments in politics when you ask: what are we doing here? There are those moments when you hope that, before you bring forward a motion, staff in your political office would gather around you and say: 'Don't go there. Don't go and start a debate with the coalition government about a program that you defunded yourself.' But, in fact, no-one gathered around the member for Kingston. No-one gave her that quiet word in the ear that would have made an enormous difference. You remember that sort of eternal silence when the motion finally makes it up to the notice board in the whip's office and nobody wants to speak to it? It is all right; it sits there empty for weeks, and everyone says, 'Don't go there.' Unfortunately, the member for Kingston was not protected by her staff, by her constituents or by those who knew better—and this motion came to parliament today. That is right: the Labor Party is attacking the now coalition government about why we will not rescue, revive and resuscitate a program that they defunded, a program that they cared so little about that in 2012 they only flicked in an extra year of funding—like walking past a beggar and flicking a coin into their bowl. And then come 2013 how committed were they to put it into the forward estimates? It was another one year of funding, with the money running out in December this year. This is the measure of how keen the opposition is in Youth Connections and partnership funding. It is a big fat zero.

If those opposite had really genuinely cared when they were in government then there would be, as we have said consistently on this side of the chamber, evidence out in the forward estimates—governments think in four-year lots; four years ahead—giving four years of security, certainty and tenure for the people delivering these vital services. There are 450 of them all around this great nation, and 83 programs. But, no, that is not how Labor operate. How Labor operate is that they give a year of extended funding. Of course, you are secure in your job for a year. What sort of security and certainty is that? How can you plan for a family when your funding just trickles in once a year and then in the middle of every year you are wondering: 'Could this be it? Will the guillotine fall?'

There was no certainty at all given by that Labor government to this program—no passion, no support whatsoever—yet they happen to dig it up now. It reminds me a little bit of my time at a hospital, working in critical care. These government programs are like a patient that we have to continue to support, to keep alive and thriving. We want to make sure that they go on to deliver great things. But what the former Labor government did, as one emergency team handed over to the other, was pull the plug out of the wall, didn't they? They switched off the life support system on Youth Connections, didn't they? And then they snuck out of the building hoping no-one would notice and then they brought this motion in today to criticise the coalition government for not fixing the problem that they created. That's right—they were there on Youth Connections, where they were meant to be, looking after the patient, and they were pulling out the IV drip, switching off the fluid, stopping the blood, booby-trapping the bed and even booking the undertaker! That is what this Labor opposition did and now they have the hide to come in here and move this motion!

Of course, no-one wanted to speak to this motion on the Labor side. No-one wanted to back that member for Kingston, so we got the nicest people in politics—the member for Reid and the member for Scullion, who are good, kind, well-intentioned people—to come in here and speak on a motion for which they could otherwise find no-one at all to back that member for Kingston. You are good people for coming in here but you have no defence to the basic prime facie case that this program was killed off in 2012, when the Labor government was scurrying around trying to fool voters that they could get back to surplus. The best way to get back to surplus is to hide stuff in the forward estimates.

I could elaborate on the great stuff that we are doing in training for employment partnerships, the money that is being invested in trade support loans and in basically promoting employers and schools to work together to create the opportunities that we need in the middle. I have often wondered why we need enormous amounts of investment there. SEEK.com has shown us that by providing opportunities rational individuals can go out and find the opportunities they need most. Now there are a small number of individuals for whom that it is not possible. They come from tough family circumstances, with very little guidance and leadership from care givers. They live in tough parts of this country, with parents who are often struggling with mental illness or in and out of incarceration. What we need for those people is properly directed welfare. We need to make sure that that is spent purely on health, education, housing and essential needs. There should also be reciprocal and mutual obligation that they turn up to programs like this, if they want to receive their welfare payment. Of course, no movement was made in that direction by the former Labor government.

They are a Labor opposition now but when in government they simply measured themselves on how many inputs they made, how much money they could give way. Forget the outcome! It was just about creating more public servants. They never saw a public service job they could not duplicate. They never saw a public service job they could not give to a whole team of them. They were a government that lost their way and this member for Kingston is exactly why we got rid of the Labor government in 2013—and they can stay away for as long as possible!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.