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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3284

Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (19:05): I rise today to speak on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Green Army Programme) Bill 2014. I do not want to speak for long, but I feel it is important because this piece of legislation resonates in my electorate of Hindmarsh. I was most interested in the comments made by the member for Melbourne. Somewhat disappointingly, although he is for the environment, he was not at all constructive in what he had to say. This is a great program for young people and for the environment, so I expected more from the member for Melbourne, given that he supposedly represents a constituency that looks for positive environmental programs such as this.

This amendment will allow the Green Army to build on the Howard government's successful Green Corps program, established back in 1996. The Labor government rebadged this program and then proceeded to terminate it. This has left young people without the opportunity to gain practical skills and improve our local environment. Under the Weatherill state government and under the last federal Labor government, we have seen the youth unemployment rate rise rapidly, to around 18 per cent. This is one of the reasons why this bill will be so important—to help these young people gain great experience in a worthwhile work program. Just as these young people who are missing out on jobs, training and experience have been disadvantaged, so has our environment. The introduction of the Green Army will deliver tangible benefits for the environment and skills for thousands of young Australians.

In my electorate of Hindmarsh, we have a beautiful coastline, beaches, parks and gardens. In the House today, I am happy to reaffirm my commitment, as part of a coalition government, to deliver projects in my electorate along the River Torrens. The Torrens has an iconic place in the electorate, running from the city to the sea. The projects may involve restoration and maintenance of the coastal environment of the River Torrens mouth, including dune revegetation, habitat enhancement and the repair of the river and banks, including weed removal and native plantings at suburbs like Kidman Park, Lockleys, Underdale, West Hindmarsh, Torrensville and Flinders Park.

Over the last year I have been talking with local councils and community groups on how we can work together utilising the physical resources of the Green Army. The Tennyson Dunes Group is one of the dedicated volunteer conservation groups whose prime objective is to provide a safe sanctuary for all the flora and fauna, and to improve and share the 22 hectares of coastal dunes with the community.

Trees for Life is another not-for-profit organisation which is looking at restoring our natural environment through revegetation and conservation, establishing and helping to protect wildlife habitat and working to re-establish biodiverse plantings on private land. It was pleasing to see Trees for Life members attend an environment forum with Greg Hunt when he was shadow minister for environment, climate change and water. I look forward to working with Trees for Life, who have also expressed an interest in the Green Army program. Earlier this year I met with GetUp! in Hindmarsh. Some of their members indicated an interest in being involved in the Green Army program. As you can see, there are many different community groups who want to be involved in this program because they see that it will benefit their membership and the environment.

Other initiatives I have been involved in recently include Clean Up Australia Day and Planet Ark's National Tree Day. Such initiatives may provide other avenues for the Green Army to make a contribution. By committing to work on a day-to-day basis and working in a team, participants will gain valuable life skills and work experience. They will be making a contribution to the environment and to their local community.

The Green Army will foster volunteerism, teamwork, local ownership and community spirit in the young people who participate. But it is just not for the young people; it is also for retirees, many in my electorate, who have shown a keen interest in maintaining the environment in their local areas. The Green Army will become Australia's largest-ever environmental workforce, building to 15,000 participants, capable of delivering 1,500 on-the-ground environmental projects. We care about the environment, about our youth and about meaningful work. This is another example of where the coalition is working towards a better environment.

The coalition is focused on meeting our emissions target. We will not do this through tax, destroying jobs, such as the carbon tax, but through direct action—a unique approach to climate change. As you can see, we are committed to working on great environmental programs to achieve outcomes. I look forward supporting this bill and working with the local community to achieve results.