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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8542

Senator FURNER (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Arbib. Can the minister please inform the Senate of what the Rudd government is doing to prepare the labour market for the low-carbon economy of the future? In particular, how has the Jobs Fund assisted in creating jobs and training opportunities for all Australians?

Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —I thank Senator Furner for that question. Last week I talked about the numerous opportunities that are coming forth in terms of green jobs and also green skills development. As I said last week, Liberal and National Party senators are being left behind by the labour market, and are certainly being left behind by business. Last week we had members, apprentices, from the World Trade Organisation on the floor outside the parliament. They were talking about what they were doing in their own trades in relation to green skills. We are also undertaking a large number of training programs to develop green skills and green jobs.

The Jobs Fund, which was set up by this Senate, in cooperation with the government, with the Greens and with Senator Fielding, has provided $650 million to set up job programs throughout Australia and also to develop green skills. In terms of round 1 of the Jobs Fund, I am happy to announce that 1,838 green jobs were created, as were 435 traineeships and 786 work experience positions. This is an extremely positive result, supporting employment during the global recession but at the same time preparing our economy, preparing our labour force for the future—the low-carbon future.

Some of these projects are quite significant. The Western Australia Council of Social Services has a program called the Climate Change Readiness for Community Services project. It is a $2 million investment. Not only is it supporting over 48 jobs; it is also going to save this community organisation money. It is going to assist them in retrofitting their infrastructure, making sure that they are prepared— (Time expired)

Senator FURNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In the context of the global recession, where young people are among those hardest hit, can the minister please inform the Senate of what the government is doing to help young people transition into the low-carbon economy of the future? In particular, how is the government supporting training in the green jobs sector?

Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —We know, and I have told the Senate on numerous occasions, that young people have been the hardest hit from the global recession, the hardest hit in the labour market. As employers have kept on workers, young people have been the ones who have been left out. We have seen youth unemployment continue to rise. That is why the government has acted. The government has now passed through the Senate the Green Jobs Corps legislation, which will establish the new Green Jobs Corps—10,000 environmental work experience and training places for young people aged 17 to 24. It will focus on the conservation, protection and rejuvenation of Australia’s natural environment. It offers a combination of environmental and green work experience, skill development and training over 26 weeks for 25 hours per week. Participants will be encouraged to undertake certificate II training, so they will come out of the Jobs Corps with a year 12 equivalent. Those on the other side are not interested in— (Time expired)

Senator FURNER —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of industry support for the government’s green skills and jobs agenda, and outline some of the obstacles standing in the way of a low-carbon economy and green jobs for the future for Australians?

Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Government Service Delivery) —Business has welcomed these initiatives—and again business has left the Liberal Party and left the National Party behind. Mr President, I draw to your attention the words of Heather Ridout, from the Australian Industry Group, who welcomed the 30,000 apprenticeships in green skills, which she said would address ‘a deficit in our national green skills capability’.

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Arbib, resume your seat. When there is silence we will proceed.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order, on both sides! Shouting across the chamber during question time is disorderly. I am waiting for silence and then we will proceed. Senator Arbib, proceed.

Senator ARBIB —Thank you, Mr President. I note Liberal senators deride the AiG. And they ask for what ACCI said. What did the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry say? I do have that. Mr Greg Evans, who was then the acting chief executive, said:

We support the take-up of the skills and technologies required to promote environmentally sustainable business practices where there is a market requirement …

This is ACCI. They continue:

In an economy with greater environmental awareness it will be necessary to meet this demand, including helping to develop appropriate skills.

So that is what ACCI have said. ACCI are taking up the challenge. It is just the Liberal Party and the National Party that are not taking up the challenge of climate change. (Time expired)