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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10341


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (10:32): Life isn't easy for young people in Australia today. The deck is stacked in many ways that previous generations simply didn't have to face. Young Australians bear more of the cost of their own further education than any previous generation. They enter a workforce where youth unemployment is at almost 13 per cent and where insecure work predominates; they confront a housing market where affordability is at a crisis level and the tax system is designed to advantage investors buying a second, third or fourth investment property over people trying to buy their first home; and, sadly, they confront a coalition government that is completely indifferent to their fate.

The PaTH internships program epitomises this neglect and disinterest. The program gives businesses $1,000 to take on a so-called intern for four to 12 weeks. The young people taking on these internships receive $200 for 30 to 50 hours of work, significantly below the minimum wage of between $600 and $1,000 for a fortnight. When the program was announced, Labor made our concerns clear about the potential for this program both to displace existing part-time and casual workers and to exploit young people forced into these positions.

Already we're seeing disturbing reports about this program's operation. There were reports this month that a person worked up to 58 hours in a week during his placement in a Melbourne cafe, despite the government's promises that young people would not be required to work more than 50 hours in a fortnight. There were reports of an intern who had worked for two days at a company with no signed agreement outlining their entitlements or workplace protections. Five months into the program, just 413 young Australians had secured a job after completing the program. In contrast, 1,300 young people have had their welfare payments suspended in relation to the PaTH program. The maths are clear: this government has cut more young Australians' welfare payments than it has found jobs for them under this program. More people have been punished than have been helped. It is, sadly, typical behaviour from this government, and young Australians are sick of it.

Labor has a better way forward for young Australians, focusing on pathways to better training and skills development; mandating that one in 10 jobs in government infrastructure programs are apprenticeships; focusing on restoring our TAFEs and properly funding our universities to ensure that every young Australian has every opportunity to reach their full potential; ensuring that university fees are not a disincentive for first-generation members of families going to university; stopping cuts to penalty rates; and tackling the legal loopholes that encourage employers to create insecure jobs in Australian workplaces. Labor understand that it's tough to be a young Australian today. A Shorten Labor government will ensure that they get a fair go.