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Wednesday, 10 May 2000
Page: 16185

Dr SOUTHCOTT (3:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. The 2000-01 budget represents a significant investment in the reform of Australia's welfare system. Minister, would you inform the House who will benefit from this investment and what the reaction to these budget initiatives has been?

Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Boothby for his question. The initiatives in this budget in the social welfare area represent a historic break with the past. Australians today want an end to the philosophy that the Labor Party brought to social security policy, which was the handout mentality based on passive welfare which trapped people year after year in welfare dependency. We all remember how the Labor Party attracted young people out of school by offering them welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, if they dropped out of school and went on the dole. This government pursues an entirely different strategy in relation to welfare. People in this country want to see a real improvement in the capacity of people to help themselves. They do not want to see these problems develop in the first place. They want the incentives in the welfare system right. They want to see this handout mentality pushed into the past. They want to see social security support going to those who really need it.

In this budget, the government pursues a fundamentally different approach. It is an approach which is based on the belief that a strategic investment in individuals, in families and in communities is critical to this country's social and economic health. The budget contains a new investment of more than $400 million for individuals, families and communities. Amongst the most important of these items is the $240 million families and communities package, which is an investment in the future of the country, strengthening the ability of families and communities to help themselves. The strongest welfare network in this country is the family. This government is committed to strengthening the capacity of Australian families to bring up the next generation. The initiatives include $65 million to provide greater choice and flexibility in child care, $40 million to establish a stronger families fund, helping parents develop learning skills in their young children, and $37 million to help up to 400 communities develop their leaders and engage up to 10,000 young people in a youth cadetship program. These programs have been fundamentally important in helping many young people get a strong sense of self-esteem and a strong ethic of contributing to their communities, and this is going to be a very important initiative in many communities around Australia.

The government has also extended in this budget the youth allowance eligibility by lifting the 50 per cent discount on farm and business assets to 75 per cent. This is an investment in young people and the future of our rural and small business communities. The youth allowance corrects the incentives that were in the dole under Labor for young people to drop out of education. It is a tremendous social reform in itself, and it is currently being extended in a way that will help over 7,000 additional families in rural and regional Australia.

In my own portfolio, of course, the government is investing over the next four years some $2 billion in providing new apprenticeships. One of the most significant investments contained in the budget is not a big spending initiative; it is one to put in place three pilot programs with the aim of improving opportunities for the long-term jobless and of helping jobless families and mature aged unemployed people. These are three groups which have not shared as others have in the economic prosperity that Australians are enjoying, and these pilots will be important in helping the Welfare Reform Reference Group to deliver a report which is comprehensively based on programs that will have demonstrated effectiveness. I was very pleased to see the comments of the independent chairman of the Welfare Reform Reference Group about these pilots when he said that they are a step in the right direction and will contribute to the final report of the reference group, which will develop a broad framework for reform of the social support system. This government has put forward real policies, real reform and real improvement, and that is the difference between it and the other side of the House, which has no policies, no direction and no hope of improvement.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.