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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3490

Mr MELHAM (3:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation. Will the minister inform the House of measures to assist workers retrenched through no fault of their own as a result of the global recession? How will these measures be supported by investment in skills of the Australian workforce and the introduction of the new Job Services Australia on 1 July?

Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR (Minister for Employment Participation) —I thank the member for Banks for his question.

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt is on a warning. I can only assume that he wants a reward. But I will give him a reward of one day.

Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR —I had the good fortune to attend a number of jobs forums in Sydney’s west. The member for Banks is one of a number of members on this side who know how difficult things will get in their communities with regard to jobs. I do appreciate him being there and talking to me about what we can do at a local level to assist those communities in the area of employment and training.

This government understands that job losses can be very devastating for workers and their families. We understand that it is a difficult thing to confront and overcome in many instances. I say to you, Mr Speaker, to the chamber and to the community via this chamber that this government will continue to do whatever it can to assist workers. On 24 February the Prime Minister announced a $300 million initiative package to help retrenched workers by providing immediate and personalised access to services for those workers in need. That followed the $145 million initiative, the out-of-a-trade apprenticeship initiative, that will provide opportunities and incentives for employers and group training companies to employ apprentices that find themselves out of work or laid off by employers in very difficult times. There is also a further package of assistance for those young people who want to get into apprenticeships but need pre-apprenticeship training and support. That is a $30 million initiative that has been put forward by the government so that we can provide support for those young people.

In his earlier answer to a question, the Prime Minister remarked that this government will, of course, implement a $650 million Jobs Fund. That is available to local communities across Australia to provide opportunities for them to create jobs, to build on skills and to develop the sustainable social infrastructure needed for those communities. Already we are hearing some magnificent ideas from small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and others about how we can assist those local communities to do well in what are, of course, very difficult economic times. The new Jobs Services Australia will commence on 1 July this year. These services are indeed—

Dr Southcott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While the minister is there he might like to explain why it is a good idea for one in every two job seekers—

The SPEAKER —That is not in any way a point of order. The member for Boothby will resume his seat. The member for Boothby is warned.

Mr BRENDAN O’CONNOR —I am still, of course, waiting for one question from the member for Boothby in this entire parliamentary term. One day you may get to ask a question, and I am waiting for it.

In answer to the question from the member for Banks, we are not only providing new services as the result of extensive and broad consultations with employment providers, employers, not-for-profit organisations, training providers and others; we are also ensuring that those services are more effective in assisting workers to link up to training and training providers and to ensure that there is an integrated approach. For example, when a job seeker needs services in this country, that job seeker can go through one door and access the services that he or she needs, rather than go through four or five separate doors. This integration, this one-stop approach, will be more effective for those job seekers, and for employers in this country who are looking for skills now and when the economy recovers.

We know these services are a reflection of the consultations and we know that they will commence from 1 July. They will be working in tandem with the massive training agenda of this government. There are 711,000 training places that will be rolled out by this government. Ninety thousand have already been rolled out and undertaken by people across the country; 319,000 of these are dedicated to out-of-work Australians, many of whom have lost work through no fault of their own. We need to ensure they are given every opportunity to equip themselves with the skills that are needed now and, of course, which will be needed when the economy recovers. We will continue to respond as we have done with the nation-building infrastructure initiatives and with these packages to provide support for out-of-work Australians, ensuring that they have the opportunity to either find work as quickly as possible or find the training that will equip them with skills so they can fill existing vacancies or future vacancies when the economy recovers.