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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5561


Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:08): Mr President, my question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Evans. Could the minister please outline to the Senate the measures the Gillard government has put in place to support jobs and the economy?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): I thank Senator Crossin for the question. I think it reflects the government's priority, in sharp contrast to the priorities of the opposition. The Australians I talk to are interested in the economy and in jobs. Jobs are the No. 1 priority for the Gillard govern­ment. Around 750,000 more Australians have a job now than before we came to office. Labor is the party that has a jobs agenda at its heart. That is why we are committed to supporting Australian jobs, not just in the cities but through every region in the country. During the global financial crisis the No.1 priority of our response was protecting Australian jobs. As a result of that stimulus package we avoided recession while virtually every other advanced economy went backwards. We kept 200,000 people in work who otherwise may not have been—200,000 people who might have been unemployed were kept in work. So this government is very proud of that achieve­ment and it reflects our priority, which is supporting and creating jobs for Australians.

Mr President, as you know, our stimulus package was very well reviewed by leading economists because it worked in terms of stimulating the economy and protecting jobs. If we had not done that, if we had listened to the opposition, thousands of Australians would have lost their jobs; thousands of them would have been thrown out of work. We thought that creating and supporting jobs had to be the priority during the global financial crisis and that is what we continue to believe. In times of economic uncertainty we still have the jobs agenda at the centre of the government's policy, be it investing $3 billion in skills to develop the future work­force of Australia, be it investing in critical infrastructure which is providing work for Australians or be it through taxation meas­ures to take advantage of the mining boom to help provide support to other measures in the economy. All of it is about jobs. (Time expired)

Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What is the government doing to encourage skills development and training in order to boost the economy?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): Australia has a long and proud trad­ition of producing highly skilled workers. Skilled workers are critical for raising our productivity and securing Australia's future prosperity. Our future is in a high-skill, high-wage economy; that is the future for Austra­lia. That is why the Gillard government is investing $3 billion to upskill Australia's workforce. The Building Australia's Future Workforce package is encouraging more Australians who can work to take advantage of the jobs that are being created. That is why we are also funding 130,000 training places under the new National Workforce Development Fund—training places in partnership with industry training the workers they need to give those workers the opportunity to take high-skill, high-pay jobs. But we are also working with those who are excluded from the workforce at the moment to increase participation, to give everyone who can work a chance to get a job and share in the prosperity of Australia.

Senator CROSSIN (Northern Territory) (14:12): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In this patchwork economy, what else is the government doing to boost jobs, particularly in relation to assisting the redundant BlueScope workers in the Illawarra and on the Mornington Peninsula?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:12): The priority for this government is obviously to assist those workers made redundant from BlueScope in every way we can to find alternative work. We are committed to giving them the opportunities to transition into new work. We have announced, with Senator Carr, a $40 million package of support for those workers and $8 million of that will be through my portfolio directed at supporting those redundant employees. All BlueScope employees, whether in the Illawarra or on the Mornington Peninsula, will receive the same support of intensive employment assistance and money to assist with retraining, reskill­ing and getting back into the workforce as quickly as possible. So the JSA providers will be working with those employees to provide them that support and the department's local employment coordinators are helping drive the local responses to those redundancies, working with local govern­ment, unions and employers to try and make sure those people are able to transition into other jobs as quickly as possible. (Time expired)