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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18712

Mr PEARCE (3:25 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment Services. Would the minister update the House on new initiatives concerning the Work for the Dole program? Would the minister confirm that this program is proving to be increasingly popular with the Australian community?

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —I thank the member for Aston for his question. This month marks the announcement some six years ago by the member for Goldstein of the first Work for the Dole applications, about 579 of them being introduced some six years ago. Since that time, I am sure every member of the House would be pleased to learn, there have been over 14,000 projects delivering work experience to over 240,000 unemployed Australians, who have all contributed in a fantastic way to their local community.

What is clear from this program is that more and more Australians are getting on board and supporting Work for the Dole initiatives, because they see what a positive impact they can have on their local communities. We know that the member for Bowman, the member for Franklin and the member for Werriwa have all in the past expressed their positive sentiments towards the Work for the Dole program, as has every member on this side of the House and as have many state members of parliament on both sides of the political divide.

Very few though have gone as far as the member for Bayswater, who I am sure is known to the member for Aston. Peter Lockwood is the member for Bayswater in the Victorian state parliament, and I have a wonderful photograph of him here. This Labor member of a state parliament has gone so far as to put a Work for the Dole logo on his front window. He has it up there constantly for everyone to see—a beautification of his district. It is a great mural put together by Work for the Dole. I congratulate him; I say well done. He is putting the ideology of the Labor Party to one side, and I just hope he is not frightened by those opposite into removing this piece of beautification.

I am asked about new initiatives. I think everyone in this House will be aware of the devastation of the bushfires in this region. After those bushfires I was approached by the member for Indi and the member for Eden-Monaro and also the member for Gippsland to see what we could do with Work for the Dole to assist some of the farmers. The member for Indi brought to my attention an editorial that appeared in the Border Mail on 13 August just last week. I think this is worth reading to the House to show what a positive impact Work for the Dole is having. It says:

The success of the work-for-the-dole project linked to the bushfire recovery work in the Beechworth area and the Ovens Valley is an absolute credit to everyone involved. The elements of commonsense, commitment and caring is so evident in the success of the project. This project has been special because it has been an Australian first borne out of the terror and the heartbreak of last summer's bush fires ... Most importantly, the work-for-the-dole project has given the participants skills and the knowledge that the work that they are doing is not only important, it is appreciated.

And it is appreciated. In a subsequent article in the same newspaper—and this was very interesting to see, because everyone in this House will realise that, if you are over 40, you are not required to do Work for the Dole but you can volunteer—a 54-year-old female participant said that she had enjoyed helping victims of the fires `get back on their feet at a most difficult time', which is a very Australian sentiment. Everyone on this side of the House fully supports Work for the Dole. Clearly, many people on the other side do. It is only up to the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Grayndler now to get on board and make it universally supported.