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Transcript of interview with Chris Hammer: Breaking Politics: 13 June 2014: The Abbott Government's unfair budget; Abbott Government cuts to skills and training programs; Corporate schools.

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SUBJECT/S: The Abbott Government’s unfair budget; Abbott Government cuts to skills and training programs; Corporate schools.

CHRIS HAMMER: We’re joined now by Labor Member for Kingston in South Australia, Amanda Rishworth. Good morning Amanda.


HAMMER: Is Australia facing a real problem with youth unemployment?

RISHWORTH: Well what we’ve seen from the figures yesterday is there has been an increase in youth unemployment. So firstly, Tony Abbott’s promise to increase jobs is not working and this Budget certainly has not led to an increase of jobs like he promised. But of course, what we do know, that helps young people, is proper training. What employers are looking for are well-trained young people. And Tony Abbott in this Budget has ripped close to $1 billion out of training and education programs designed to help people get a job. So it seems quite ironic when Tony Abbott says this Budget is going to fix youth unemployment. Well the evidence on the ground is it’s not happening. In addition, he’s compounding that by cutting money to training programs.

HAMMER: But the Government is extending the HECS-HELP Program and funding for deregulated colleges to those involved with TAFE and technical

training, just not for universities. That’s going to be a great help for young people training.

RISHWORTH: Well look, if there aren’t the apprenticeships there, then there’s no point in actually encouraging young people to do them. And if there aren’t the jobs there we can’t encourage people into those jobs. In addition, what Tony Abbott is doing is just putting a whole lot of debt on people that discourage them from actually taking up some of these programs. But there are a lot of programs designed, including the Partnership Brokers Program, the Youth Connections program, that was actually helping young people at school transition into the workplace. Now they have all been cut, as well as a lot of money from universities and other training institutions. So what you’re actually seeing is while on one hand Tony Abbott is saying either ‘earn or learn’, what we’re seeing is that he’s not creating the jobs so people can’t earn. And he’s not actually ensuring that people can learn by cutting so many of these programs. So I think it’s interesting to hear the Prime Minister talk about youth unemployment. But his actions on the ground show that he’s not creating the jobs that he promised. And indeed, he’s cutting money from training that is so important in helping young people make that transition.

HAMMER: So what’s the problem here? Is it simply there aren’t the jobs or is it that young people are not interested in working in those jobs?

RISHWORTH: Look, I don’t think young people are not working. When I meet young people they’re waiting and looking for a start. They’re looking for an opportunity to go into the workforce. Sometimes they might not have the skills that are required in those jobs. Sometimes they might not get a look in because they aren’t work-ready. So there’s a range of different reasons why young people are not getting into the workforce. But in addition, Tony Abbott promised to create a whole lot of jobs and that just hasn’t happened. He hasn’t been creating the jobs, and indeed were seeing in South Australia, places like Holden actually say they’re going to leave the country, which goes with it a whole lot of jobs that are associated with it.

HAMMER: So if the jobs aren’t there, is it a good idea then to look at youth wages, cutting young wages and the cost of employing young people?

RISHWORTH: Well look, I think a couple of points on that. With young people already, there is often Enterprise Agreements and awards of staggered wage increases. So you get less as a 15-year-old to a 16-year-old and so on. So in most retail businesses, young people are actually getting less money already per hour than their older counterparts. So I think just saying we need to cut that more or get rid of penalty rates is not the answer when it comes to actually solving our youth unemployment. It’s actually preparing our young people for the

workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow. And that involves work-ready skills, that involves connections with businesses. And it actually involves young people to go into training and have the support that they do need. And by lumping them with a huge amount of debt is not an encouragement for young people to go in and get those further skills and education.

HAMMER: Now, what do you make then of these reports that young people, who aren’t even getting unemployment benefits during that waiting period, they still have to apply for up to 40 jobs a month?

RISHWORTH: Well what I’m really, really concerned about is those young people that are going to be driven into poverty as a result of this very, very harsh measure. A lot of young people, if they’re cut off entirely and don’t have parents or friends to support them, will be driven into homelessness. I’m confused about how a young person living in poverty and is homeless is going to be even in a position to be able to apply for a job. And I think one of things that this Government seems to assume is that all young people, if they don’t have any income whatsoever, can get support from their families. I’m not sure how else these young people are going to live. I’m not sure how if, you don’t have support from your family, you have no income whatsoever, you could be driven into homelessness, that you’re actually even going to be able to apply for a job. So I think while the measure is there, I’m not sure how it’s possibly going to be implemented when people are living in poverty. If they’re living about how to get by, day by day, the last thing on their mind is to actually be able to put in an application looking for a job.

HAMMER: Now the Prime Minister is in the United States and while he was there he visited a school that was in part, if you like, sponsored by a corporation. There’s a linkage there between going to school, you could spend an extra couple of years at school, and then there is the promise of a chance of a job with that corporation. Is that a good idea? It’s working in the US, is it something we should be exploring here?

RISHWORTH: Well Chris I think the ironic part about Tony Abbott’s visit to a school, looking at relationships with employers is that the Partnership Brokers program was connecting up schools with businesses, giving young people career advice, linking them up in terms of work experience and indeed giving them a pathway into work. That created around 1,800 partnerships between schools and businesses and in the Budget Tony Abbott cut that program. So I think there’s a lot of irony with Tony Abbott going overseas and talking up the importance of connections between schools and the business community. But when he’s back in Australia he’s cutting those programs. So I think he didn’t even know his own Budget, or he doesn’t know his education policy, or indeed he says one thing

when he’s in one country and says another thing in another country. But the program that was doing just that was cut in the most recent Budget.

HAMMER: Okay, Amanda Rishworth, thanks for your time today.

RISHWORTH: Thank you.