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Transcript of joint press conference: Parliament House, Canberra: 8 September 2015: release of the Exposure Draft for the Transition to Work youth employment programme; Syrian refugee crisis



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MINISTER ABETZ Leader of the Government in the Senate Minister for Employment Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

Liberal Senator for Tasmania

THE HON LUKE HARTSUYKER MP Assistant Minister for Employment

TRANSCRIPT

Tuesday, 8 September

Minister Eric Abetz and Assistant Minister Luke Hartsuyker press conference Australian Parliament House

Subjects: release of the Exposure Draft for the Transition to Work youth employment programme; Syrian refugee crisis

MINISTER ABETZ: Jobs have always been the focus for this Government. As soon as we got into Government, we sought to repeal the carbon tax, the mining tax. We sought to get rid of red and green tape; we pursued free trade agreements. All these policy initiatives were designed to grow jobs. Now, Australia continues to have an issue with creating employment opportunities, especially for our young people. As a result of which, in the last Budget, we did announce a Transition to Work policy for the youth of this nation.

Youth unemployment is a particular issue, a particular concern, something which, as a community, we should try to do everything we can to overcome. As a result, we developed our policy and we are now at a stage of putting out a draft exposure for proposal for the Transition to Work policy. And I'll invite the Assistant Minister, who will have carriage of the detail, to talk about how that will occur and then we will take questions.

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Thank you Senator Abetz. Yes, Transition to Work is part of the Government's $331 million youth employment strategy. It is an important new initiative that supports early school leavers aged 15-21 who are at risk of long-term unemployment to get into a job. Transition to Work will offer a higher level of support to these young people because of their risk of long-term unemployment.

The sorts of support that will be offered will be intensive coaching and mentoring, assistance on the road towards an apprenticeship, the basic foundation skills that many young people lack, that employers are seeking.

It is all about giving young people a leg-up into the work place. We are focused on — through this exposure draft for expression of, for proposals—we are focused on getting a diverse range of service providers to deliver the very best services to young people.

Youth unemployment was very much a focus of last week's G20 meeting, where employment ministers resolved a target to reduce youth unemployment by some 15 per cent. Transition to Work is part of this Government's ongoing commitment to reducing youth unemployment, to create the sorts of opportunities that will help our young people to give them those very important foundation skills that will make them more competitive in the workplace. Employers are telling me and telling other Members of Parliament that many young people lack the very basic skills on how to conduct themselves in the workplace. In fact, a recent survey by my department highlighted the fact that over a third of employers said that the very best thing that young people could do to improve their prospects of getting a job was to improve their attitude in the workplace. Well, Transition to Work will address this issue, amongst a range of other issues, to ensure that our young people are as work ready as possible so that they can take their place in the workforce, give them that leg-up into the workplace.

MINISTER ABETZ: Thank you.

JOURNALIST: How does it differ from the previous programmes in this space? How is this one different from previous …

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: This program is different because it has a very strong focus on work. A very strong focus on giving young people the skills that they need, so that they can be competitive in the job market place.

MINISTER ABETZ: And payment will be based on outcomes, and not just churning of the training.

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Very much so. This will be a programme that has two elements to the funding. There will be an element that will fund the providers for the intensive work that they will be providing job seekers, but they will be subject to performance targets. And we will be expecting performance by Transition to Work providers at a level of around 25 per cent higher than providers under the jobactive system.

JOURNALIST: And will it be geographically located, or how would it be designed?

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Transition to Work will be rolled out in all 51 employment regions around the country. We will be seeking providers in all of those regions, and we will be looking very carefully at the coverage that will be provided.

JOURNALIST: What time frame do you have on this?

JOURNALIST: [indistinct]…. both how you feel about the refugee crisis at the moment?

MINISTER ABETZ: Look, are there any other questions- I think there was another one.

JOURNALIST: Just sorry the time frame of this please.

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: The time frame, this programme will be rolled out in 2016 calendar year. The various organisations will be delivering services in the first quarter next year.

MINISTER ABETZ: And the exposure draft… comments on that in by 6 October, after which we will then finalise the tender.

JOURNALIST: And does it hinge on any legislation passing through the Senate or not?

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: No, this doesn't require legislation.

JOURNALIST: How will you measure outcomes when you are getting funding out to tender, how will you be able to measure that before deciding?

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: There are a number…. are you talking about deciding on the potential suppliers?

JOURNALIST: That's right.

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Suppliers will be assessed on a range of issues. The selection criteria will cover issues such as governance, such as their former track record, such as their plan to deliver innovative services to youth, and they will also be judged on the basis of their strong links to the community.

We want a diverse range of suppliers, a strong representation from the community sector and for those service providers to demonstrate strong links with the community, strong links with local employers, strong links with local chambers of commerce, strong links with local schools, and strong links with local youth groups. So we want a very diverse service that will be innovative and that will connect with young people and get them on the road to work.

JOURNALIST: Just you mentioned earlier that employers are telling you that young people need to improve their attitude in the workplace. Can you expand on that, explain how that is the cause for youth unemployment in Australia?

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Well many employers are telling me and have told my department through a recent survey that young people are presenting at the gates of their business without the necessary basic skills to get by in the workplace. Skills that those of us who have been in the workforce for many years would take for granted, such as turning up on time, being appropriately dressed, how you get on with your work mates, how you address customers - those skills that are absolutely vital but regrettably many young people, perhaps in a household that has never seen anyone go out to work, they lack those very basic skills. That will be one of the issues that Transition to Work will address to help young people on their road to the workforce.

JOURNALIST: But can you say that's the key reason for… you mentioned earlier that is one of the key reasons for youth unemployment.

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: A survey by my department revealed that over a third of employers said the very best thing that young people could do to improve their chances of getting a job was to improve their attitude. They are the words of employers.

JOURNALIST: Senator Abetz, just on Syria …

MINISTER ABETZ: Wait a minute, are there any other questions on this? If there aren't then we'll move onto Syria. And I think in fairness you were first, and then over here.

JOURNALIST: What's your response to the current crisis, and what do you think you would like to see Australia and the Government focusing on?

MINISTER ABETZ: Look the Syrian crisis in anybody's language is a crisis. It is a humanitarian crisis. I think everybody's heart goes out to the situation. If you take a step back, you ask what has caused this problem. Has it been the Assad regime? To a certain extent. Has it been IS? Absolutely yes. And therefore, as part of the problem, we need to deal with Daesh and the death cult that is causing this problem. Then of course there is the humanitarian issue. We have sent Peter Dutton to Europe to discuss with the UNHCR the best possible way of dealing with this situation. And can I respectfully say that pulling a figure out of the clouds of 10,000 might grab a headline, but why not 9000 or 11,000? What we as a Government want to do is to develop a proposal that is proportionate, that is reasonable, and is that which the international community actually wants and needs, and that we cater for these people.

Can I say that Australia has a very generous record in relation to resettlement of refugees from around the world. In recent times we indicated 4,400 places would be made available. And I hope that after consultations that Mr Dutton has, that we will be able to make a fully rounded response.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that Australia needs to look at beyond this 13,000 plus number?

MINISTER ABETZ: I am not going to prejudge other than to say I think most Australians would want us to be generous but, in the circumstances, we need to ensure that that which we do is something that will actually be of assistance and not just grab a headline.

JOURNALIST: Should Australia's response focus on persecuted Christian minorities?

MINISTER ABETZ: I think the Australian people would see a need for that to be a focus. In recent times, a number of world leaders have indicated that the Christian community is the most persecuted religion in the world and I think the plight of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere has been considerable and if we can assist that particular community, I think most Australians would welcome that.

JOURNALIST: Exclusively Christians…or majority Christians?

MINISTER ABETZ: All these questions, I would say, it should be on the basis of need and given the Christians are the most persecuted group in the world and especially in the Middle East, I think it stands to reason that they would be pretty high up on the priority list for resettlement.

JOURNALIST: Vast numbers of Muslims have been killed as well aren't they, shouldn't it be non-discriminatory?

MINISTER ABETZ: That is why I said on the basis of need, on the basis of need, but given the plight of Christians, I think a very strong case can be made that Christians should be prioritised. But once again, it should be based on need.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can you give us your view as well please?

ASSISTANT MINISTER HARTSUYKER: Look I think that Minister Abetz has adequately answered the question. I have got nothing further to add.

JOURNALIST: Labor yesterday delayed its motion calling on the Governor-General to dismiss Dyson Heydon, what did you make of that delay and do you expect it to come to the Senate today?

MINISTER ABETZ: Look it is a disgraceful motion and I would simply say to Senator Wong drop this motion. The sign of a mature political party, the sign of a mature politician is (1) to recognise when you are doing something wrong, but, (2) even if by chance you do get the numbers, there are occasions when you should not use your numbers.

And so even if Senator Wong could get the numbers for this motion, it is absolutely clear that those numbers should not be exercised. What an outrageous suggestion, in circumstances when the rule of law allows for anybody with a complaint about Justice Heydon's alleged apprehended bias, if they believe that that exists, they can go to the courts. Yet, when Dyson Heydon delivered his very tightly worded 67 page decision, the ACTU lawyers didn't even front. One would have thought if the ACTU lawyers thought they might be in with a chance, they might have jumped up immediately and asked him to stop any further hearings to allow them to go to the courts to appeal.

JOURNALIST: Senator, what is your reflection on the story in The Australian today about the contact between the Commission and Kathy Jackson? Is that inappropriate that contact?

MINISTER ABETZ: As I understand it, Kathy Jackson complained that she felt that she had been ambushed by the Royal Commission and had been treated very harshly. So I don't know where that story comes from. One more question before I freeze.

JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] this morning was quite revved up about, obviously, Labor's motion in the Senate, promising that Labor will continue to fight against the Royal Commission into union corruption. How damaging is this for the commission with all these conversations going on on the sidelines?

MINISTER ABETZ: Look Brendon O'Connor is using language, as is Bill Shorten, as is Senator Wong, they are all using language which the lawyers for the ACTU, the CFMEU did not use in their submissions to Dyson Heydon. Even the submissions did not suggest actual bias. They couldn't bring themselves to say that, yet we have Mr Shorten asserting actual bias and Brendan O'Connor asserting it, Senator Wong asserting it in circumstances where the lawyers appearing indicated that they could not assert actual bias. So you really wonder why this desperation, why this extravagant language by Mr Shorten? It is to try and cover up that which should be exposed and that is union corruption in a manner not really seen in this country before. It needs to be exposed. It will be exposed and Mr Shorten should get with the program and say, as a true trade union leader I want clean trade unions. As a result, I support the Royal Commission. Other trade unionists have said it; it would be good for Mr Shorten to jump on board.

Thanks a lot.

ENDS