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Wednesday, 8 August 2001
Page: 29443

Mrs MOYLAN (3:23 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment Services. I refer to the government's Australians Working Together package that has allocated $1.7 billion over four years to be spent on getting Australians off welfare and back to work. I ask the minister: how will that money be spent, and is he aware of any alternative plans to redirect funding for this carefully costed program?

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —I thank the member for Pearce for her question and her interest in the Job Network and the Work for the Dole programs and all of the government's successful employment services programs. The Australians Working Together—Helping People Move Forward package brings together an expansion of the Work for the Dole program, where we are seeing another 16,500 Work for the Dole participants, an additional 30,000 Job Search Training places and over $111 million put into training credits.

All of these things have been applauded by people as we have moved around Australia. In fact, the applause has come from some pretty unexpected quarters. There have been comments such as this one: `This is the country's major employment service system. Much of it is going very, very well.' Another comment was: `I have had the pleasure of sitting in on job search training and intensive assistance sessions. It has been quite inspiring and I congratulate you on it.' On indigenous employment, there was this comment: `I actually think the government has done quite a good job in this area.' So where is this praise coming from? It is coming from no-one other than the member for Dickson, the shadow minister. The shadow minister made all of those comments—fulsome praise of the government's employment services when—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dickson is warned!

Mr BROUGH —Would the member for Dickson like to add another piece of praise there? During the NESA conference on 25 July, she not only made all of those comments but she also went on to say:

If we win government—

`we' being the Labor Party—

we won't expose you to reform fatigue, I promise you. In any case all of the changes that I want to see made have already been implemented or will have been implemented by this government.

That is, the Howard government. So I thank the shadow minister for those comments.

Mr Speaker, you can understand my surprise when on Sunday during Meet the Press the shadow minister started to retract from those points of view and started—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr BROUGH —She did not, okay.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will not respond to interjections.

Mr BROUGH —My apologies, Mr Speaker. She was asked this question by one of the panel:

Have you got a rolled-gold guarantee that you'll get the same money should Labor win government at the end of the year?

Her answer was:

I'm pretty confident about it, yes, I am.

She was then asked a question by the Courier-Mail journalist, Dennis Atkins. He asked her, `Well, you intend to pull forward some expenditure, don't you. So therefore which of these projects are you going to cut?' `Oh, no, no, I'm not going to cut any projects.'

So the Labor Party is not cutting any projects. She has given us fulsome praise of Australians Working Together and the Job Network, but then she says that she wants to introduce some new programs on behalf of the Labor Party, some of which she has costed—`bring forward expenditure,' she says. This is what she had to say at the NESA conference: `One, I'd like an independent monitoring authority. It will only cost a couple of million dollars. We've already allowed for it in our budget.'

Mr Costello —You've got a budget now!

Mr BROUGH —I am just wondering whether you have shared that with the shadow Treasurer, the shadow finance minister or the Leader of the Opposition, because that budget is not on Kim's web page about his plan for Australia. More importantly, she went on to say this about mature age workers: `We intend to give them immediate access to intensive assistance and make sure they have the funds.' So I asked my department to cost what it would be for every mature age worker to have immediate access to IA today. It is $104 million in the first year. Is that costed in your budget as well? Is that on top of the $1.7 billion?

That is not all; there is more. Mr Speaker, when you buy an independent monitoring review and you buy mature age workers access to IA, you also can throw in access to all retrenched workers at a cost of $230 million per year—that is, nearly $1 billion additional funding into one portfolio over four years. Where is the money coming from? I will tell you where the money is coming from. She told us where the money is coming from when she spoke to Meet the Press. She was asked by Vivian Schenker from ABC Radio National:

... you've talked about new initiatives like more after-school-care places for kids. But how do you pay for those sorts of new initiatives, particularly if you're going to roll back the GST?

The shadow minister had an answer. It was:

Well, the first thing is, a whole lot of them don't cost anything.

I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that child care does cost money, that providing IA does cost money and that providing money to retrenched workers is expensive. The question is: are we going to see more of the Beazley bankcard, or are we going to see you with your slimy hand in the pockets of every working family in this country, pulling taxes out of the working man of Australia?

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will address his remarks through the chair or resume his seat.

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