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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3178


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (17:25): I would like to start this discussion on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016 with a real-life scenario that has occurred in many homes in Gilmore. In discussions with different provider services, their conversations have gone something like this when we talk about some of the problems with young unemployment: 'Hey, mum; I got a job. I work with some really cool people that don't mind my sleeve of tattoos and I'll have enough money by the end of the year to buy a car.' And then the mother says: 'Oh, whatcha want to do that for? Go down to Centrelink and get on the dole and then you can help pay the rent here, watch the games, we can get a slab of beer every two days and you can get a car in maybe a year and a half. Anyway, your dad never had a job. I never worked and neither did pa or nan.' I have never been so keen on a policy as I am with this one, PaTH—prepare for a job, trial for the job and then become hired for the job. When you have second- and third-generation unemployment in the household, it is extremely difficult to break the cycle. There are many young people who do not know how to even start getting work, and they too are looking forward to this program.

Our government has announced a new approach to tackling welfare dependence, with a focus on helping people enjoy all the benefits of a stronger and growing economy. The focus is on investing in vulnerable people to help divert them from this cycle of welfare dependency, while giving them opportunities to find more prosperous futures. We have seen the problems that intergenerational welfare dependence can have, particularly in relation to the impact it has on crime, poverty, broken relationships and domestic violence. It is something that we need to change if we are to build a more prosperous future for our residents and for people who care about each other. That is the thinking behind PaTH, the prepare, trial and hire program, designed to help train and mentor long-term unemployed and vulnerable young people and get them into paid employment.

This new approach to welfare is based on unprecedented levels of data about our welfare system. The Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare is about using the best available evidence to ensure vulnerable Australians have a better future. It uses detailed modelling to give us a sharper picture of groups of people at risk of long-term welfare dependence who will benefit from the right policy responses at the right time. More than one-third of Australia's population is receiving welfare payments and, of those not currently in the welfare system, 88 per cent are expected to receive some type of welfare payment at another point in their lifetime. The future lifetime cost of welfare payments for all Australians in the population as at 30 June is estimated to be $4.8 trillion. We used to talk about billions and think that was a big number and now that we are starting to think about trillions of dollars it is almost unimaginable.

Analysis shows that there are significantly poorer outcomes for young carers, young parents and young students who transition to long-term unemployment benefits. We have identified that these particular groups of people are likely to be on welfare for a longer period of time. So we are able to provide much more targeted interventions for them. We need to place the emphasis on getting people from these groups onto a better trajectory, trying to get them into work and make them feel better about themselves. The program's three interconnected goals are: to improve lifetime wellbeing for all Australians by increasing people's capacity to live independently from welfare; to reduce the risks of intergenerational welfare receipt; and to reduce the risks of long-term social security costs.

The $96.1 million Try, Test and Learn Fund will be vital to achieving these goals, and it will call for proposals in December. Stakeholders, academics, states, territories and anyone in the non-government sector will be able to put forward their ideas for programs to divert vulnerable groups away from welfare dependency. We have had many people being informed about this in our region. The fund will foster collaboration and bold ideas. This is not a traditional government funding round. We are looking for new, cutting-edge ideas which might return better outcomes than existing approaches. But, as usual, there are those in the House and in the general population who have completely misunderstood the intent of the current policy. One such permanently outraged resident wrote to the local paper demonstrating his lack of knowledge on this issue. He grabbed the wrong end of the issue and used this misinformation to make claims about the youth employment program. He referred to the program as being youth internment, which many politicians have used as a way to encourage young uni students to see part of the real world behind the scenes and to work for free.

The PaTH program is so very different. We want to leave behind the road that leaves young people with less opportunity to learn some of the essential social skills that are so very important, such as having a positive attitude to work, being motivated and reliable, and having good personal presentation. Tackling intergenerational unemployment and welfare dependency is a huge challenge for governments all over the world. It is hard to unlock the potential and abilities of a young person when they have never learnt the basic skills associated with gaining and keeping a job. That is why the Youth Jobs PaTH Program starts with the preparation stage, focused on employability skills and training, which is industry endorsed and evidence based, to give young people under 25 a competitive edge in the jobs market. It will also give young people a better understanding of what employers expect of them in the workplace, as well as offering industry-specific training, which will teach them the skills and behaviours that they need to be successful in a job. When their family says, 'Stay home,' they will be able to say, 'Oh, it is so much better at work.'

Once the young jobseekers are offered work experience at local businesses, during which time they will receive a payment of $200 per fortnight as well as their welfare benefits—I repeat, this payment is on top of their regular welfare payment—the young person will be in a better place. Indeed, if the work opportunity does not end up with an offer of employment, then the young person has not lost their safety net of income support; this will continue during their trial phase. We will also be offering incentives to the employers to offer permanent work beyond the trial period for the young people involved. This is a win-win situation that has generated plenty of interest from employers, while also providing a chance for young people to move off the welfare treadmill and create stronger, brighter futures for themselves. Our government is determined to ensure younger generations are not confined to a lifetime of welfare dependency. So I have encouraged and will continue to encourage residents, such as the one criticising the PaTH program, to bring their concerns to my office for discussion with their plans to help with youth unemployment initiatives.

We must ensure that jobseekers are not disadvantaged by taking part in the youth employment initiative, which was announced in the May budget. The participants will be paid that extra money. The bill will make sure that that extra $200 is not considered as additional income so that it does not affect their other entitlements. The bill will also make sure that it is easier for eligible young people to return to the employment services and have their income support payment restored if their wage subsidy supported job is ended due to no fault of their own.

Finally, if eligible young people employed with a youth bonus wage subsidy lose their job through no fault of their own, they will get straight back onto their support. That means that there is no waiting period, and that is very important. The most important part of the changes we are making is that the current income support provisions in social security law require job seekers to make a new claim and serve any relevant waiting periods if their income support payments previously ceased. So this really is a good part of those changes.

The bill proposes to allow job seekers with up to 26 weeks to reconnect to income support without having to make a new claim or to serve any waiting period. Previous speakers have criticised this program, saying that the path will displace people from employment positions, but they have completely glossed over the concept that this is centrally framed around young people who have not experienced the benefit of being employed. It could be that their family is unemployed—perhaps second- or third-generation unemployed. This whole program is a method to initiate a young person into a pattern of work which will then keep them going for the rest of their lives. It certainly has potential. We really need to take care with our young people to help them thrive and to give them chances to develop their own personal drive.

There are businesses with vacancies they simply cannot fill, and these would be great locations to start work careers for some of our young job seekers. These businesses too are looking to assist people into positions, to become part of their teams. Those on the other side of the House always doubt the integrity of the businesses. While there may be some who try to twist a financial advantage, the majority have the overall desire to help young people into work they enjoy and give them a new outlook on employment altogether. I believe most people are good and I know that some local businesses in my electorate cannot fill positions. Trialling the program will certainly help them to find the right person for the job.

We believe that the Youth Jobs PaTH program will support up to 120,000 young people over four years, which will be an amazing story of social change. It will inspire young people to be the best they can be, to be welfare independent and to know that they can achieve their own dreams financially. We are, indeed, a very lucky country. Having just returned from conferences and delegations in developing nations, I know that Australia has so much to offer. Young people in developing nations often have no chance of an education, no chance of employment and no opportunity to make a difference in their own country until someone offers them some kind of pathway to change. We, in this legislation, are doing exactly that—making a pathway to change in our country. I most certainly commend the bill to the House.