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Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Page: 8446

Ms HALL (3:42 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation. How is the government improving employment services for job seekers and how will this address Australia’s skills shortage?

Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR (Minister for Employment Participation) —I thank the member for Shortland for her question. I know she has a great deal of concern for job seekers in her electorate and, indeed, for those people who are unemployed and looking for work. We have recently gone through a round of consultations with employers, employer bodies, employment service providers and others to make sure we have a system in place that will be effective and that will ensure that there is training that will allow those job seekers to acquire the skills that employers are crying out for in this country. I know the Leader of the Opposition said earlier in this place that we do not have a skills shortage, that we do not a skills crisis in this country, but unfortunately employers in this country know better. They have told us that they cannot, in some circumstances, fill existing vacancies. They also know that their training, delivered by the previous government, was in many respects deficient. The employer body in Victoria, VECCI, made clear that the training that was provided to some job seekers was, in fact, deficient. They referred to some those training services as Mickey Mouse courses. This government is very focused on ensuring that the training delivered to job seekers ensures that they acquire skills employers need. That is why this government will roll out 253,000 training places for job seekers over the course of the next five years. We are going to ensure that those job seekers, particularly those who have been denied access to training because of the failures of the previous government, are given opportunities.

I know that, when the member for Wentworth became the Leader of the Opposition, he said that he would like to see people in this country being given opportunities. This government is about providing practical opportunities for those job seekers, some of whom are on the margins of our society. We know the previous government was obsessed about marginals, but over the last 10 years they cared not a jot about those who were marginalised. We on this side of the House are concerned for all Australians. We want to provide opportunities for all Australians, including job seekers who have been left out by not being provided the right forms of assistance that they need. We need to turn around the real problem we have with the very long term unemployed. In 1999, one in 10 job seekers were on the very long term unemployment list. Now, almost one in four are on the very long term unemployment list. That is why we need to ensure that there is sufficient training, proper assistance, mentoring and other forms of assistance that will give to those people who have not been given opportunities the opportunities they need to make their lives more productive for themselves, their families, their communities and this nation.

Ms Gillard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.