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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10060

Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (21:24): I rise to commend the government's new Work for the Dole arrangements and to share the successes and benefits the program is bringing to my electorate of Petrie. In the Petrie electorate we are facing a high level of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and we have been for quite some time. So it is great to see the government taking measures that will give job seekers practical experience that they can use to their advantage at their next job interview. It saddens me to read opinion pieces online commenting that Work for the Dole will not help people find work. For one, are these journalists so pessimistic that they think there is no hope for job seekers except for a life on welfare? And if these journalists are qualified enough to discredit the program—even though most have not spoken to anyone on the Work for the Dole program—shouldn't they be qualified to present an alternative option?

I am not an investigative journalist, but I did do some investigation myself. Over the past two weeks I visited two Work for the Dole placement areas in my electorate and spoke with program participants and coordinators. I wanted to see for myself what tasks job seekers were doing under the program, whether they thought it was worthwhile and how the program was going overall. It surprised me to hear the following remark from the Work for the Dole coordinators at both sites I visited. They said to me: 'These people are doing great work. It's a shame we're losing so many because they're actually finding jobs.' What a positive outcome—that so many local job seekers involved in the program are actually finding work. Congratulations to those participants involved who have landed a job. One of the Work for the Dole placement sites I visited was the Redcliffe PCYC. I met with the participants there and they showed me the new kitchen that they had just renovated and the new timber deck they were installing as well. These job seekers now have a story to tell future employers. When they go to that job interview they will be able to say, 'Yes, I have been helping a not-for-profit organisation by doing some plastering, painting, installing a new kitchen and building a new deck, and I've learnt some valuable skills that will help your organisation.'

Employers are looking for people who are not sitting around while they are waiting for jobs but are proactively improving their skills to enhance their job opportunities. Employment agencies match a person's career objective with their placement; this means they are learning skills that will be vital to their career direction. The men I met at the PCYC who were participating in the Work for the Dole program had all learned new skills, and some had even landed work, as I mentioned, which was great to see.

I strongly believe that the best form of welfare is a job. As my colleague Treasurer Joe Hockey says, the government will spend around 35 per cent of the federal budget on welfare in the next financial year alone. We spend more on welfare than we do on health, education and even defence. We have a very comprehensive welfare system. It is in place to be a safety net—to help people get back on their feet and to live independently. The Work for the Dole scheme is part of that safety net. It gives job seekers opportunities to keep in the loop, to further their skills, to further their work experience and, ultimately, of course, to find work. The program is a win-win situation. It is a win for the participants in the program as they find valuable new skills and it also helps the local community organisations to get some new things built.

I had the chance to talk to a number of participants, and I asked them: 'What is it that you are really looking for? What sort of job do you want to achieve?' One of the men said that he wanted to be a plumber, and I thought that was great. I said to him: 'You should go for that. You should really try to achieve that goal. It might take you four months, five months or six months to find an apprenticeship, or it might take five years. But if you know what it is that you want to achieve, you will be able to do it.' I would encourage all community groups in the electorate of Petrie to contact my office if you are interested in taking on a Work for the Dole placement. It is a great opportunity to engage with the community, to help to train up some people who are looking for work and to get some things done at your local community organisation.

The SPEAKER: It being 9:30 pm, the debate is interrupted.

House adjourned at 21:30