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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12335


Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (12:54): I rise to speak on this motion today and to thank everyone who has spoken in this debate—importantly, highlighting the issue around veterans' employment and what we can do better when it comes to supporting veterans to gain meaningful employment after their time in service. This is an issue I have been discussing for some time. It's an issue I have spoken about with veterans in most places around Australia. It's one of the significant issues that comes up. I have often talked about it as an issue—and not necessarily because veterans don't have the skills and experience. There is a lost-in-translation piece, where veterans do find it difficult to explain and summarise the skills that they've gained within the ADF, and employers don't necessarily always know how to interpret them.

Statistics compiled last year indicate that veterans' unemployment five years after discharge was shocking, at 30.2 per cent. Even those who were not medically discharged face a joblessness rate of about 11 per cent, which is almost double the national rate. Last week, a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare stated that the joblessness rate for veterans who discharged between 2010 and 2014 was listed at 16 per cent and noted there was a lack of information available on the level of employment, unemployment and underemployment across the veterans' population. So the numbers vary, but I think all the numbers that have been put on the table clearly show that not enough is being done when it comes to our veterans' employment and not enough has been done so that those who have served their country and have decided to transition are actually supported to get meaningful employment after their time in the ADF.

Labor has continued to offer support to the Prime Minister's Veterans' Employment Program, and, indeed, to a number of the announcements. But we have stated that we, and I have been on the record stating that I, don't believe this goes far enough. These individuals are highly skilled and would be a valuable addition to any workplace. While it is important to ensure that businesses understand the many benefits of hiring a veteran, it's also important that we best prepare those businesses to employ veterans and those individuals to move into employment. Like I said, at the moment there is a lost-in-translation piece, and we need to do everything we can to address it.

It is for this reason that Labor has announced a $121 million veterans' employment policy, which will seek to meet our obligations to those who have served our country. Our policy has four main pillars, which include providing grants to businesses. These are training grants of up to $5,000. They are important for businesses because they might have an otherwise suitable veteran who has a small gap in their skills and abilities, and those training grants are about plugging those small gaps to ensure that an otherwise competitive veteran would get a job. Our policy also includes establishing a new veterans' employment service to better prepare, on an individual basis, an ADF person for their time of transition. It also includes better and expanded access to education and civilian training, and proactive work by Defence to translate the experience of the veteran into the civilian sector, so that the onus isn't always on the veteran to work out how they fit into the puzzle and so that work is done to ensure that they have Defence and other organisations proactively working with them to help them translate their skills.

I need to be very clear that our policy is not about charity. Veterans and ex-service personnel have a wealth of practical skills that would make a valuable contribution to any workplace. It is about ensuring that industries have the support they need and that veterans are best prepared to move into employment.

I'd like to also thank every veteran and veterans' advocacy group who have helped us to develop our strategy. There has been extensive consultation with current and ex-serving Defence personnel, and we believe that our program will deliver tangible outcomes and support for veterans and their loved ones. That is why I absolutely think that if the government would like to steal our policy then we are happy for them to do so, because we think it is an important way forward to ensure that veterans receive the support they need. (Time expired)