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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Page: 3678

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (09:39): By any measure, the economy in Australia in 2011 is going well. We have unemployment levels below five per cent. We have fantastic growth, in excess of four per cent per annum. We have record levels of investment going into the mining industry and we have a set of books and budget figures which would be the envy of most treasurers throughout the Western world. But it is also true that there are challenges that come with the economy going at full speed, as it is at the moment. The first challenge is that a growing economy needs a growing workforce. The second challenge is that, despite this wealth and despite the advantages of growth, there are many throughout Australia who are quite simply missing out. That is why this 2011 budget is clearly focused on both of these challenges. It is great news for people in electorates such as mine which have had unemployment levels stubbornly above the national average for far too long.

The $304 million package which is targeted at 10 priority regions throughout the country, including my electorate of Throsby in New South Wales, will assist the 1,950 long-term unemployed people in my electorate and provide assistance to teenage parents, 80 per cent of whom, because of their situation, have not had the benefit of finishing high school. We know that if we are to break the cycle of disadvantage we have to ensure that these young women have the opportunity available to them to complete a high school education. That is why, as a part of this budget and this program that will be focused on my electorate of Throsby, we are providing a package of assistance to these young women.

The assistance includes providing quality child care. It includes providing tailored case management facilities. It includes assisting them in financial and other ways, such as with counselling, so that they can re-engage with the education system. And yes, it does also include having some sanctions if there are no good reasons provided by the clients for not engaging and participating in a return to education plan. I think this is a program that all Labor members, and indeed all members of this House, should be proud of because it says that as the economy is booming we should not leave anyone behind. (Time expired)