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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5998

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) (19:19): I would like to thank the member for Blair for his question and the ongoing work he puts into the participation and productivity agenda in Australia and, indeed, in his own area, in Ipswich and other regions. There are a range of initiatives in the budget on participation and productivity—in fact, there are a lot of initiatives on participation and productivity in the budget. Obviously the member is familiar with some of them, but I draw his attention to Budget Paper No. 2—and, again, I note that the opposition has one budget paper between the two members here, so they could share—at page 131. We are looking at linking—

Mr Tony Smith: It's the ACTU handbook.

Mr SHORTEN: How is it that I start talking about linking job seekers with a disability and national employers, and I get catcalls from the member for Casey? We are also proposing to put in place wage subsidies for people with a disability. We all know that people with a disability have not shared in the long prosperity of the last 20 years. So we are looking at further wage subsidies. We are also putting in place wage subsidies for the very long-term unemployed. This is an important initiative because, whilst Australia has been doing well—despite the difficulty of the global financial crisis and despite the benefits of the mining boom mark 1 being squandered by the opposition when they were in government—there have been pockets of disadvantage, and there are families where you have second- and third-generation unemployment. So we are putting in wage subsidies for these people, to assist them to get the chance to break the cycle of unemployment.

We are also accelerating Australian apprenticeships. So if you are a very motivated trades apprentice and you can get through the units of your learning and your employer is satisfied with your work, we can accelerate your apprenticeship. We are also providing additional language and literacy programs to assist people in the workplace. Interestingly enough, we are also providing mentoring for apprentices. We think this is a good idea, and perhaps some of the inspiration comes from watching the member for Berowra assist the member for Longman. Apprenticeship mentoring—it happens everywhere. We are also looking at the access arrangements for Australian apprentices. This is a government which, in each budget since being elected, has supported apprentices and supported the development of apprentices, and I would invite the members opposite to attend some of the apprentice jobs shows and see what a good job is being done.

But it does not stop there. We are putting in place compulsory participation plans and support for teenage parents. We are also looking at changing the eligibility criteria for youth allowance so that our young people who are 20 and 21 will get the youth allowance if they are at home rather than the unemployment benefit. These are tough decisions but decisions that this government is making in order to ensure that everyone is encouraged to participate.

I have made it clear also that we are looking at putting in place compulsory participation requirements for families and for people in jobless families in targeted locations—a tough call, but one that I would hope the opposition would support us on. We are also looking at working with group training apprenticeship schemes—very good—and we are also providing incentives for single parents and parenting reform.

We are working with Indigenous youth and Indigenous job seekers. A great little scheme which I think the parliament should be made aware of is the Indigenous Ranger Cadetships. They will go some way to assisting Indigenous Australians in remote communities. There is good news also for mature age workers—good news indeed. We are providing more assistance to help mature age workers. Registered training organisations will be eligible for grants of money for people who are older than 55 so that those people will be able to gain assistance in seeking work.

We are also looking at working with the states. We are identifying areas—regions of Australia, postcodes—to be provided with a bundle of employment initiatives. We are also looking at making sure that we are working with all of the services for job seekers so that people are encouraged to be able to reach out and find that work. We are making sure that, as we develop these services, we are working with the single parents to make sure that they are able to enter the workforce. Indeed, as the member for Blair would know, we are also working on a range of issues in terms of child care to allow parents to be able to participate more in the workplace. There is a lot being done in the field of productivity and participation in the budget.