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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12320

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (19:09): I follow the member for Lalor and say it is a good thing the JSA penalties were not in place for the last government, because they would have been all over them from daycare centres to trade training centres to GP superclinics. Imagine the penalties they would have been paying in those situations.

First and foremost, if we had two per cent unemployment, we would not be having this conversation. The fact is that we have rising unemployment and rising challenges in this area. In my own city of Townsville we have unemployment of 9.7 per cent, some of the highest in the state. We have an economy in transition. In my city of Townsville we have a manufacturing sector which has copped the brunt of high costs of energy transmission from Gladstone all the way through to Townsville. That has affected the unemployment market.

When you get an unemployment market, the thing to remember first and foremost is it is not just the 9.7 per cent. That is just the overall total. When you start talking about unemployment, it is the youth, the elderly, the disabled and the new migrants who cop it the worst. Whilst we have an unemployment rate in Townsville of 9.7 per cent, I guarantee that our youth unemployment is quite high, our over-50s unemployment is quite high and it is only that space in the middle there.

The member for Lalor is 100 per cent correct when she says that people are turning up trying to get jobs as forklift drivers who have bachelor's degrees and not getting a job and there are people turning up as forklift drivers trying to get jobs in other things and being underqualified. So we have a real challenge. What I would like to say is that we are trying to reinforce the mutual obligation which was started in the last government. I think it should have been, and we supported it in the last government.

I am an auctioneer by trade. When the market is tough, you do not do less. I worked as a manager for a national firm. I worked for a couple of firms in this space. I worked in the finance game for a finance company. When the market is tough, you do not get your budget lowered because it is a tough market. We have journalists in this place. You do not see the boss of Channel Seven saying: 'Ah, it's a slow news day. Don't worry about it; we won't do the news.' That is when you have to earn your money. A tough market is when you have to get out there and you have to deliver the goods. You have to do more. In an auctioning game, when cars are not selling, you must find the market. You must think of different things. You have to spend more hours. You have to visit more people. You have to do more cold calls and all that sort of stuff to get your sales through because, if you do not get your sales through, you do not make a profit. If you do not make a profit, your people do not get paid. If they do not get paid, you go broke and they lose their jobs. That is the simple transaction that we go through here. It does not matter where you are; that is the consequence of not working harder in a tough market.

So that is the thing that we must do and that is the thing that we are asking people to do in the unemployment market. We are asking them for their job whilst they are unemployed to be to get a job. It has to be hard to work to get that space, because it is hard at the moment. No-one in this place is denying that it is hard, but when it is hard is when you have to put in more. If there were millions of jobs out there, we would not be having this discussion. There are not millions of jobs out there. We have to find the ways to apply things, stimulate the economy and still drive down debt. It is a very delicate thing to balance. But we must ask the people who are receiving the unemployment benefits and those things around that place to put in. The sense of mutual obligation must go through. If you put in, we will put in.

I hear a lot about the rights of the unemployed. I understand all that, but I would also like to speak about the rights of the people who actually earn the money that pays the tax that pay for the unemployment. Those are people we have to look out for as well. What we are finding in this place after the last six years of government, I am sorry to say, is that a lot of friends of mine who are self-starters and small business people were actively looking for jobs for wages because it was just too hard and just too hard to employ people. So we have to look at the whole thing around why people are not getting employed. We have to try to work in that space.

With this bill we are offering inducements and assistance for people to shift where there is work. I had a phone call from a gentleman who said he was up the government because he had to shift to Melbourne for a job. His family was still in Townsville. I did not know what the problem was. I said: 'I shifted to Townsville for a job. I've been here 20 years.' I shifted to Townsville for a job because that is where the job was. If it were not for the jobs, most Australian migrants would not have come to Australia in the first place. So I do not have a problem with shifting or asking people to shift to where work is. I think that is a natural consequence. Millions of people do it every year. We do it all the time.

We have a social security budget from which we pay out about $145 billion a year. Social security payments make up nearly 35 per cent of the overall spend. It is a massive amount of money. For the member for Lalor to sit there and say that we are trying to disqualify or discredit people so that we can save money—imagine what that figure would be up against $145 billion per year. It is laughable that we would be in this space. I do take her point about looking after those people who are unable to comply. I take her point about the storms in Melbourne yesterday and people not being able to turn up to appointments. In Townsville, talking about unemployment, anyone living in the Upper Ross who does not have their own car has to catch the bus from the Upper Ross to get to the Willows and to get the other bus to get into the city. If you miss that bus, or if it is early or late—because we have an infrequent public transport system in Townsville—you miss your appointment. So when services like Centrelink and job service providers are trying to organise these appointments it is important that they do recognise where these people are coming from. In a place like Townsville, even if you live near the major bus routes you can have trouble. When I had two daughters going to university, the bus would stop just down the road from us, in front of the Cathedral School, and take them straight to the university. They knew the bus did not come on time all the time, so they got down there at least 20 minutes early to make sure they got the bus to university. But quite often, at least twice a week, the bus did not turn up, so they would have to ring either my wife or me to go and pick them up and take them to university. That sort of thing happens with the unemployed, and people need to be cognisant of how they are going to get to job interviews. It is pointless asking someone from the Upper Ross to get into the city by 8 o'clock in the morning for a job interview if they are catching public transport, because they will never get there. That has to be factored into the system.

I would also like to speak about new migrants. The member for Lalor intimated that a little bit of racial prejudice might be a reason why new migrants do not get jobs. That may be a part of it. My wife is Italian, and we all know what that heritage means. They are great people. When the Italians, the Greeks, the Poles and all those sorts of people came to Australia after the Second World War, you would have a non-English-speaking forklift driver, you would have a non-English-speaking bloke on the broom in the shed, you would have them as machine operators at GMH and Ford, because you could have those sorts of guys there. It did not matter; you just showed them how to do the job and everything went through. The problem we have now is that whilst those jobs are fewer and fewer, with our workplace health and safety requirements they cannot pass the basic English to get that job. With the generation that went through before, the first generation, whether they were an architect, a brain surgeon or a labourer from another country, they would get in and do whatever they could and make sure that their kids went to school, got a great education and they became the doctors, the lawyers, the carpenters and the builders in our society. What we are seeing now is a section of society which is being vilified by other people—especially Africans, in my community, because, firstly, they look different. They are being vilified because we do not see them going to work—not like the Italians did, not like the Greeks did. We do not see them going to work, because they do not have good enough English and because we will not hire people in those situations and we will not put them on, because business cannot afford the risk. That is the issue when it comes to all things migration.

I have a magnificent city in Townsville. I come from a fantastic part of the world. I use the line: Townsville is the place where God goes for holidays. It is a great part of the world, and we are a great multicultural population; we are a great multicultural city. But we do have that section of society who will not rent houses to people of African origin. We will not give them a job—firstly, because they do not speak English and we have that great deal of difficulty. When it comes to those sorts of groups, what I have said is that they get them together as a group and they hunt as a pack. When it comes to houses, when it comes to jobs, they have to use their English-speaking people to get them into these situations. I think that we as a government must work harder with these people to try to make sure that we get them through.

People who are intellectually disabled or are dealing with mental illness will always be looked after. The first rule of government is to look after people who cannot look after themselves, and that is why social security is there—specifically for these people. So when we get into this space I do say that we are spending $145 billion a year on social security and we do have to be cognisant. That is a massive amount of money. So when we are asking people to make decisions about whether they are going to go to work and that sort of thing, we ask that they do respect the taxpayer and that they respect the fact that someone out there is paying the tax. Someone has to put the cash in before we can take the cash out. Those are things that we have to do in a city like Townsville where we have a real issue when it comes to youth disengagement and lack of education. We have real issues in that space and we have got to work on those. But that is not what this bill is about. This bill is about trying to get people to understand that their work, whilst they are collecting unemployment benefits, is to search for a job. If we can get them into things like Work for the Dole, if we can get to them into programs where there is some sort of manual labour or some sort of job, then they turn up every day and do something.

The only way to guarantee a result is to do nothing. That is the only way to guarantee a result. When you are cold calling as a businessman, an auctioneer, a finance company representative or a sales representative, the only way to guarantee that you do not make the sale is to not knock on the door of that business. That is the only way, because most of the time they are going to say no. But one of them is going to say yes, and that is how you get paid. And the tougher the market is, the fewer people who are out there actually doing it, the more it makes sense that you must be in there and you must be driving it hard.

I have never been unemployed. I was unemployed for a week between jobs, and I would never wish it on anybody. I think it must be soul destroying. The statistics show that if you are on there for 12 months you are on there for two years, and it is awfully hard to come off. But are we more likely to get a good result by saying to people, 'Just go home and collect the dole' or by asking people to work hard in a tough market? Are we likely to get a good result by telling people that their job is to get up and have a go? That is what we have to do.

I support this bill. By and large, I understand that even though the member for Lalor bashed us around a bit on her way through it is pretty much bipartisan that we have these things. This sort of mutual obligation has been around for a fair while. I do support this bill. I do support the fact that we have to make sure that we scrimp and save every taxpayer dollar, because if we do not respect the taxpayer dollar how can we expect those people who receive it to respect the taxpayer dollar? I support this bill. I support what the government is trying to achieve with this and I hope that we get it through. I thank the House.