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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 9908

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (11:01): I have listened with interest to members on the government benches talking about what young people need, I presume in their electorates because their perceptions of what young people need are quite different from those that I have, having spent so much time in my own community. I understand, as members opposite do, that there are people who have started an apprenticeship and need assistance, need support, to continue. I understand that the government is providing $20,000 loans to help them do that. That is one way that the government has chosen to help young people who are already on a path towards work. They have talked about parenting—how you leave it to parents; parents know how to do it. Some parents do, but there are many others who do not and there are young people in my community in families affected by violence or alcohol or just bad parenting who have lost their way. They are not heading towards apprenticeships, which they can then be assisted to finish, they are not heading towards work and they are certainly not heading university—they are on a path to nowhere. They are young people who have lost their way, who are getting in trouble, and many are heading towards homelessness or are already homeless. None of the programs that government members have spoken about—such as moving from school to work programs—apply to them. They are not in school. Good parenting? They do not have it. Assistance in finishing apprenticeships? They are nowhere near an apprenticeship. Assistance in getting into university? They are nowhere near university. These young people are lost and they have no-one to help them find a path back to a good life. They are also on a path to an extremely expensive life for the taxpayer if they end up in crime or are unemployed for long periods.

It is sensible for governments to involve themselves in finding ways for these young people to find a path back to contributing to society and living good lives. One of the ways the Labor government found was Youth Connections. Youth Connections is incredibly cost-effective. In my community, the cost is about $700,000 a year for Youth Connections through Parramatta, Campbelltown, Bankstown, St George and Liverpool-Fairfield. It is incredibly effective. It assists up to 200 kids—in fact, it is now 215 children—even though it is only funded for 195. It finds young people who have lost their way, and it is voluntary for those young people to get involved in those programs. Sometimes those young people are involved for up to two years. The success rate of Youth Connections is extraordinary. Two years after these young people have found their way into Youth Connections and gone through the program and left, 80 per cent of them are still either studying or in work. These young people are the most vulnerable, most at risk, group in our community and 80 per cent of them are still in work or study two years after they have left the program. That is an extraordinary achievement. I worked it out once based on the entire number—it is about $3,500 per young person. If you only look at the success rate it is a bit more than that, but it is incredibly cost-effective if you are talking about getting young people who are heading towards lives of homelessness and substantial periods of unemployment or crime back onto a path where they contribute to society.

We have heard some extraordinary statements from government members. The member for Lyons said it was the Labor Party that brought down the 2014-15 budget. We are not taking credit for that dud; we are not taking credit for the 2014-15 budget. There is no doubt that what was in the 2014-15 budget was a product of the government—it was the government's budget, not the opposition's budget, and it did not include funding to continue the partnership which had been in place up until the end of 2014. I have no doubt the next speaker will try to make the same point, so I will make this clear. Partnership agreements between state and federal governments are negotiated for a number of years and then towards the end of those partnership agreements they are renegotiated. During the renegotiation phase, because you do not really want to play your hand and you do not want to go out there and say what the figures are, the figures do not have their own budget line for the period beyond the agreement. This is for obvious reasons—it is very similar to a commercial arrangement; you would not suddenly stick 'this is what we are offering you' up in front. You just do not do that. You hold those figures back. There are things, by the way, that are not in the government's budget. Paid parental leave, for example, does not have its own line in the budget but no-one is suggesting that the government has not included it in the budget. (Time expired)