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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15033

Mrs MAY (2:56 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment Services. Would the minister outline to the House new initiatives to assist unemployed Australians off welfare and into work? Is the minister aware of any alternative proposals?

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —I thank the member for McPherson for her question and her ongoing interest in all things employment, particularly Work for the Dole. The federal government have committed an additional $375 million over the next three years to employment services to build on what has been a very successful transition from the old CES to the Job Network. We have some 2,500 locations around Australia delivering employment services. That replaces the old 350 CES offices, which were hardly existent in regional and rural Australia. We are giving a guarantee of service to all unemployed for the very first time. There will be some 2,000 electronic kiosks rolled out across the country, giving world's best IT to the unemployed and linking them with opportunities.

Regional and rural Australia will have the harvest labour service. In the past, under a Labor government, we had fruit being left unpicked, rotting on the ground. Now we have a service providing opportunities in electorates such as the Riverina and of course in the Mallee. We will have more than 375 job placement agencies, and private organisations will supply employment opportunities through our AJS, providing some 650,000 opportunities to Australia's welfare recipients. We think about half of those will, in fact, be delivered to welfare recipients.

The very good budget delivered by the Treasurer some two weeks ago was very well received, particularly in my electorate of Longman.

Mr BROUGH —It is pleasing to hear that the good voters of Bennelong also received it very well. The young job seekers in Bennelong and, for that matter, in all seats will have access for the first time, from 1 July 2004, to job seeker training—three weeks of intensive assistance. Quite frankly, many young people do not have the basic skills they need to present well. In recognising that, this government is bringing that service forward. It is a comprehensive array of employment services, putting real resources in the hands of unemployed people and linking them back into employment.

I know that the shadow minister has been going around the country of late saying to people that the long-term unemployment numbers have increased under this government. So, for the benefit of the House, I would like to cite the long-term unemployment figures delivered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for April. It states that there was, in fact, a fall of 1.2 per cent in the last month; 11.8 per cent over the year; and 31.4 per cent since the Labor government was kicked out in 1996. That is 31.4 per cent or, significantly, 61,900 Australians less in the long-term unemployment figures since 1996. They are the facts.

The member for McPherson asked whether there are any alternative policies. I am aware that the Labor Party has been developing a niche employment policy for a very targeted group. I know this for a fact. I know it is important to the shadow minister because he said in this place on 18 March:

Unemployment is without question still one of the greatest policy challenges we face.

Obviously he is talking about the Labor Party. I know there is a targeted policy because, in the Australian on 20 May 2003, there was a photograph of the Leader of the Opposition discussing, quite clearly, with the member for Grayndler an employment policy issue. They were discussing employment policy issues and the employment prospects of the member for Melbourne Ports, the member for Holt, the member for Calwell and, of course, Senator Collins. These are the only issues of employment that seem to be exercising the minds of those opposite. It is time that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister thought about the unemployed of this country and started to develop real employment policies—as the people on this side of the House have—that will deliver real jobs for Australians.

Mr Albanese —I seek leave to table a paper from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, dated March 2003 and entitled Employment Services Contract 2003-06. There are three pages which show that—

The SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler cannot advance an argument. Is leave granted?

Mr Albanese —the number of Job Network offices will be 986—

The SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler will resume his seat! Is leave granted?

Leave not granted.