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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9906

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (10:56): I welcome the opportunity to discuss an extremely important policy area and to also discuss how the Abbott government is supporting Australia's youth in their transition into the workforce. The motion rightly raises the importance of getting young people to transition from school—like those who are just leaving the gallery at the moment—into either further education or the workforce. In fact, this government is a great supporter of this transition and has shown through its announcements and policies that we unequivocally recognise the importance of getting young Australians earning or learning. Unfortunately, like so many of the former government's policies, their policies in this area were announced with so much fanfare and were left without the budget for them to continue. In fact, it is a perfect example of why the coalition was elected in 2013 to fix Labor's horrendous record with Australia's budget. Both Youth Connections and Partnership Brokers had no funding beyond 31 December 2014 and on top of that the career development resources had no funding beyond the 2014-15 budget.

Of course, this is just one of many examples, but if those opposite want to continue to put forward motions that demonstrate the hopeless record of their previous government, I will be happy to continue speaking to those motions. But that is not the only thing this motion demonstrates. It shows the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the opposition, and not only with these programs not funded by the previous government. In any case, the Youth Connections program was designed to be taken over by state and territory governments at the end of the National Partnership Agreement on Youth Attainment and Transitions. Similarly, the Partnership Brokers program was designed to have finite funding, with the ultimate goal for the partnership to become self-sustaining—a good idea. For the opposition to now be using these policies as a political tool is opportunism and hypocrisy at its worst.

Separate to the National Partnership Agreement in 2013, there were 72 transition programs funded by state and territory governments that were aimed at improving school attendance and transitioning from school to work. Now, rather than the federal government deeply involving itself in policy areas of the states and territories, this government is focusing on assisting where it will be most effective, and that is by fixing the debt and deficit disaster left behind by the previous government. Our policies are driven at creating economic growth, which will create more jobs for young Australians—especially young Australians. Unlike most of those opposite, I can actually speak from experience when it comes to discussing employment. I spent the majority of my working life on the front lines of Australia's small and family business sector. I can safely assure the member for Kingston and her colleagues that, whilst the government of the day can introduce whatever programs it wants, if business cannot afford to employ people the jobs simply will not be there. I say that again: if business cannot afford to employ people, the jobs simply will not be there.

This government recognises the importance of young people's access to employment opportunities. That is why our policies are directed at increasing economic growth to ensure increasing job opportunities. As we on this side of the House often point out, the government does not create jobs—business does. The best thing government can do to help young Australians find work is to get out of the way of business, cut red tape and get this country's budget back on track. Of course this does not mean that the Commonwealth should step away from supporting young Australians who are looking to find work or further education—far from it. The government's 2014-15 budget is providing funding for a range of initiatives designed to assist young Australians with finding employment—especially following their schooling as they transition to higher education or the workforce. To begin with, the government is investing a record $64.5 billion in government and nongovernment schools. The government has introduced new trade support loans from 1 July 2014. These loans will ease the financial burden on apprenticeships and help increase apprenticeship completion rates. The government has also extended HELP for students studying higher education diploma, advanced diploma and associate degree courses. This will provide pathways for more students to their chosen career.

For those who are unable to find work, the new work for the dole arrangements will help young job seekers as they transition because it will improve their chances. Most importantly, all of these programs are budgeted for, so those who stand to benefit from them can plan their futures. This government will not leave young Australians guessing about the support they receive from the Commonwealth government—unlike the last government.