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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20514

Mr TICEHURST (2:59 PM) ——My question is addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Would the minister inform the House how the government is supporting and listening to young people? Are there any alternative approaches?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —I thank the member for Dobell for his question and his keen interest in representing and also listening to young people. It was not so long ago that I was at the Oasis Youth Centre in Wyong, where a very large group of young people were telling us about some of the good things the coalition are doing and we were taking on their advice of areas of improvement. As I mentioned yesterday, the best thing you can do for a young person is to give them a job, but along the way you have to give them financial incentives. That is where programs like Youth Allowance, which was introduced by the coalition government, have been extraordinarily successful.

Under the old Austudy when the Labor Party was last in power, there was a positive disincentive to go on to further study. It was easier to get the dole than to go on to further study. With Youth Allowance today over 380,000 young Australians are taking up further education and training, and many of them are also eligible for rent assistance that they never had under the old Austudy proposal. Indeed, I am talking about not just students in the mainstream but also young Australians who could be at risk in programs like Reconnect.

I was recently in the member for Hinkler's electorate talking to the Roseberry Youth Service and in the member for Deakin's electorate talking to Eastern Access Community Health. They were very complimentary about the Reconnect program. As the program suggests, it is all about trying to help young people in particular who may be at risk of homelessness or who are homeless to reconnect with their families or employment. A good example of how the government is listening occurred last week, when many members of the parliament attended the Youth Roundtable—and I thank those members who attended. Fifty young Australians came to Canberra and gave the parliament their wisdom and ideas, which the coalition government took on board.

But the member for Dobell asked an interesting question: are there any alternatives? I am very pleased to see that the shadow minister for children and youth, Senator Jacinta Collins, had some very interesting insights into how the Labor Party has failed to listen to young people and is continuing to disregard them. I get a strong sense of dj vu, but just yesterday I was complimenting her on her praise of the Prime Minister and how he inspires young people—and of course it is the policies of this government. Her comments in the Age of 22 August are particularly interesting. In giving some interesting pieces of advice to her Labor Party colleagues, she said:

The ALP needs not only the enthusiasm and hard work of young people; it needs the ideas of young people.

Fair enough. She continued:

It is hardly surprising that so many young people are deserting Labor in favour not only of minor parties such as the Greens but in favour of the conservatives, when the national president of the ALP, Greg Sword, will not defend the rights of young people in the ALP.

I have to say that the pen is mightier than the sword! This is just a clear example again of where Senator Jacinta Collins is being upfront and honest about how the Australian Labor Party has failed to represent, let alone listen to, young people. Indeed, it is the coalition government that is acting and listening to Australia's young people.