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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11556

Mr SYMON (5:39 PM) —It comes as no surprise to me, the day after the introduction of the Fair Work Bill that returns fairness to Australian workers, that we are in here entertaining the opposition’s efforts to distract us all from the fact that they are the party of Work Choices. And it is with some temerity, might I add, that they want to have a debate about jobs—about a plan for jobs—after yesterday’s events and their atrocious track record of ripping off workers’ rights. But we are very happy to have this debate if the opposition want it and I am happy to talk about some of the things the Rudd government is implementing to boost jobs and drive our economy into the future. The member for Swan might even call this a case of ‘double happiness’!

A good place to start is to look at the Rudd government’s early and decisive response to the global financial crisis through our $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy. As the Minister for Employment Participation said earlier, fundamental change across the economies of the world is happening because of the global financial crisis. With payments of $1,400 for single pensioners and $2,100 for couples, one-off $1,000 payments for people receiving the carer allowance and $1,000 one-off payments for each eligible child of families who receive family tax benefit A, there will be a direct economic boost to our economy as these payments arrive from 8 December, and increasing the first home buyer’s grant has already led to a pick-up in demand in the housing industry.

Sustaining demand in the economy protects jobs across many industries, especially in the retail and service sectors. The government has brought forward an additional 56,000 productivity places for job seekers for 2008-09, taking the government’s commitment to over 700,000 training places. This comes as part of the government’s Skilling Australia for the Future initiative. The issue of skills is something the previous government neglected for 11 years and is one of the very reasons that we still have jobs unfilled whilst there are people unemployed. Without training in the areas of need this problem will only grow, as it did throughout the term of the Howard government. Many Australian employers have not been able to find enough skilled labour in the required areas and imported labour is used in some cases to fill these skill shortage gaps.

Proper job development depends on us having workers with the right skills for the future. Six hundred and forty-five thousand training places over five years in the vocational education and training sector will be created through the Productivity Places Program to develop the skills that Australian industry needs. Three hundred and ninety-two thousand places have been allocated as part of this program to allow people currently in the workforce to upgrade their skills or retrain to better meet the needs of industry and employers. Over 300,000 additional VET places will be available to people outside the workforce to acquire skills and gain lasting employment, and more than 58,000 job seekers have already enrolled in the program in just over six months. Fifteen thousand of these people have already completed their training in areas of skill shortage and almost 1,000 of these job seekers referred for training by their employment service provider have already obtained jobs.

Training for new skills and increasing productivity are central to the government’s economic agenda. The Australian government is working cooperatively with state and territory governments and has fast-tracked 4,500 places for the health and community sectors. Labor governments have always been the governments that care about workers and working families. For the opposition to cry crocodile tears about the effects of the global financial crisis on jobs just does not ring true given their attack on workers and workers’ rights in the Work Choices debacle.

And while on the issue of training, we have also established over 1,000 new training places for nurses in our universities as well as providing incentives to encourage thousands of nurses who are out of the workforce to return to work. And of course we have our trade training centres programs for secondary schools to help address shortages in both traditional trades and emerging industries. Already 34 projects have been approved in the first round of the program and this covers funding of nearly $100 million with 96 schools involved across those 34 projects. And, quickly, we can turn to the government’s enormous nation-building agenda.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr PD Secker)—Order! The time allotted for this discussion has now expired.