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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11742

Dr SOUTHCOTT (7:28 PM) —The Social Security Amendment (National Green Jobs Corps Supplement) Bill 2009 seeks to introduce a training supplement of $41.60 a fortnight to eligible participants in the Green Jobs Corps. Before speaking on the second reading motion, it is important to go back to the announcement of the Green Jobs Corps. This was the big set piece announcement at the Labor Party’s national conference in 2009. The Prime Minister stood up there and he announced to the applause of the delegates that his government would be funding 50,000 new green jobs and training places. You can just see how this announcement came about from the hollowmen in the Prime Minister’s office saying, ‘Look, you’ve got a problem with youth unemployment and you’ve got a problem with sections of the labour movement on the emissions trading scheme.’ So what he came up with was 50,000 new green jobs and training places.

The important thing with this government is to always read the fine print because actually there were not 50,000 new green jobs. There were not 16,000 new green jobs, as the Minister for Employment Participation seemed to believe. There were not 10,000 new green jobs, as the Minister for Finance and Deregulation seemed to believe. Only 6,000 of the 50,000 places were jobs. These were funded from the local jobs stream of the Jobs Fund, a fund which had been negotiated through the Senate with the Greens and Senator Fielding and which had been announced by the Prime Minister on 5 April, four months before this set-piece announcement. Recapping, there were four elements of the 50,000 jobs: 10,000 were National Green Jobs Corps, or work experience places—it was very straightforward, these were not jobs but work experience places in a work experience program; 30,000 places were for the greening of training courses of existing apprentices; 4,000 places were pre-vocational training; and only 6,000 were jobs and they were not new.

As I said, 10,000 of those 50,000 places were for young jobseekers to go into the Green Jobs Corps. Green Jobs Corps will commence on 1 January 2010 and places will be available until December 2011. Green Jobs Corps is a six-month work experience program for 18- to 24-year-olds who have been unemployed more than 12 months. They will continue to receive Newstart, youth allowance or a parenting payment. Work experience, whilst not a job, is a move in the right direction. Work experience programs such as Work for the Dole, one of the signature programs of the Howard government, Green Corps and Green Jobs Corps are all designed to increase the employability of the unemployed. They are a pathway to a job. They help jobseekers to become job ready but they are not a job.

Some people may be a bit confused because there have been all sorts of names for different programs. Just to recap, there was a program called Green Corps for the life of the Howard government. It was a youth development program. This is a very important point. It was available for people who were unemployed but, more importantly, it was also available for people who were taking a gap year before university or before their TAFE studies and wanted to do something different or something where they would earn a bit of money. You would often find people in the Green Corps who were volunteers. That finished on 30 June.

On 1 July, with Job Services Australia and the new employment services system, there was something called Green Corps. Green Corps was no longer a youth development program. It was no longer particularly targeted towards youth. It was essentially a work experience program which was available to jobseekers of all ages. There was no difference, really, between Green Corps and Work for the Dole with an environment focus. Green Corps, as it was a youth volunteer, youth development and environmental training program, gave young people the opportunity to preserve the environment and Australia’s cultural heritage. More than 18,000 young Australians participated in the program from 1997 to 2009. They planted more than 14 million trees, erected more than 8,000 kilometres of fencing and undertook in excess of 5,000 surveys of native flora and fauna.

Green Jobs Corps, the third one, appears very similar to Green Corps. At the time that Labor announced their new employment services system, the opposition did highlight one of the problems. We thought it was a mistake to move away from Green Corps, which had a specific youth focus, to a new Green Corps. That has really been borne out by some questions on the Notice Paper. In answer to a question, the Minister for Education and Employment, Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion did say that Green Corps, under Job Services Australia, has been improved and expanded, which will limit its comparison to the previous program under Job Services Australia, and it goes on. But what it says is that to 12 August 2009 there were 36 jobseekers in Green Corps activities under Job Services Australia. Green Corps, the new program which has been running since 1 July, has been a massive failure. The reason for this is that the amount of money that is available for employment service providers is very small compared to what they got under the previous system. So Green Jobs Corps is very similar to the old pre-30 June Green Corps. The only difference is in the age of participants, which has been extended to 24 years, and participants are in receipt of income support payments now instead of the Green Corps allowance. Labor have added the word ‘jobs’ to the name yet have failed to define a pathway between this training and an actual paid job.

The third area I would like to touch on in the second reading speech is what I call the silent tragedy of youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is not receiving anywhere near the amount of attention it deserves. All the figures we have seen over the last 12-18 months show how devastating the impact of job losses and rising unemployment has been, particularly on young Australians. Green Jobs Corps is Labor’s response to that. It is their effort to reduce youth unemployment. But there is no real employment measure here; nor is there a pathway to a job from this program.

The opposition will be moving a second reading amendment to this bill which highlights our concerns about youth unemployment. Over the last 12 months, more than 100,000 full-time jobs have been lost amongst young Australians. Since the election of the Rudd government, 71½ thousand Australians have lost their jobs. Commencements among traditional trade apprentices have fallen by 21.2 per cent in the 12 months to March 2009. The proportion of teenage Australians not in full-time education or full-time employment has risen under this government. The rate of unemployment for teenagers who are not in full-time education has risen to 18½ per cent in 2009, up from 12.2 per cent in 2008. There are about 176,000 people aged 18 to 24 who are not in the labour force and not in full-time education. There are about 120,000 people aged 18 to 24 who are unemployed and not in full-time education. So there are around 295,000 young Australians who are not in full-time education, are not in the labour force or are unemployed. This is around 14 per cent of the 18- to 24-year-old population of Australia.

What we do know is that those people who do not make a good transition from school, who spend periods outside the labour force, not in full-time education and unemployed, will have a very intermittent work history throughout life. So youth unemployment is an area that needs a lot more attention from the Rudd government. All of those young Australians who voted for Kevin07 two years ago would never have dreamed how much their opportunities would dry up under this government. We see that the Rudd Labor government has no strategy to create actual jobs for young Australians.

When we look at the amount that is available in Green Jobs Corps compared to Work for the Dole or Green Corps, we see that under this program there is $8,250 available per placement for Green Jobs Corps, compared to $500 that is available for a participant in Work for the Dole or Green Corps. What that means is that the government have seriously underfunded their work experience programs. We also all know that the Rudd government, the Labor Party, hated Work for the Dole. They hated it, and this is their way of strangling Work for the Dole, of ensuring that Work for the Dole withers on the vine.

Lastly, it is my belief that work experience is a very important part of enhancing employability. It is with that in mind that we support work experience programs. We think they are a very good pathway to learning a lot of those intangible skills like being part of a team, being part of a workplace, learning a lot of those skills that enhance a person’s employability. One criticism I will make of the Rudd government—amongst many—is that they have focused so much on the training side and not enough on the work experience side. A lot of their training is training for training’s sake. Job seekers are on a training treadmill. We see that the employment outcomes for a number of the government’s training programs are very poor. The opposition will certainly be looking at what the employment outcomes are for the Green Jobs Corps. As I said earlier, we had a very similar program, the Green Corps, which had a youth focus as well. This is part of a late recognition by the government that in their huge revamp of employment services they threw the baby out with the bathwater. They did not have anything specifically focused on young Australians. This is the group that is feeling the rising unemployment and the lack of job opportunities the hardest. I move:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading , the House:

(1)    is concerned that 71,500 young Australians have lost their jobs since the election of the Rudd Government;

(2)    expresses its concern that 108,300 full-time jobs have been lost amongst young Australians over the last twelve months;

(3)    notes that commencements among traditional trade apprentices have fallen by 21.2% in the 12 months to March 2009;

(4)    notes that the proportion of young Australians not in full-time education or full-time employment has risen under this Government;

(5)    condemns the Government for abolishing Green Corps as a youth development programme;

(6)    is concerned that the Minister for Employment Participation believes that six month work experience placements are a substitute for a job;

(7)    calls on the Government to outline how many new green jobs were in the Prime Minister’s announcement to the ALP National Conference on 30 July;

(8)    calls on the Government to outline how many green jobs will be created in this term of Parliament; and

(9)    calls on the Government to outline its strategy to create jobs for young Australians”.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. JE Moylan)—Is the amendment seconded?

Ms Ley —I second the amendment.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Boothby has moved as an amendment that all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.