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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2073

Work for the Dole

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (15:06): My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation. It's been nearly two years since an 18-year-old tragically lost his life on a Work for the Dole project in Toowoomba. Since then, we've had reports of Work for the Dole participants exposed to asbestos. Internal audits have revealed 36 per cent of Work for the Dole sites failed to meet departmental safety expectations. Why has the Turnbull government refused to tell the public the concrete steps it's taking to improve workplace safety for young Australians in the Work for the Dole program?

Mr LAUNDY (ReidMinister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation) (15:07): I thank the member for his question. Obviously, any workplace tragedy is one workplace tragedy too many, and I think that would be a consistent view right across the House. The Work for the Dole scheme, which was reintroduced upon our election in the 2013 election campaign, is a centrepiece component of the philosophy that we have on this side of the House: the best form of welfare is a job. We've had a raft of policies that are consistent with that theme. The most recent that I spoke about in this chamber is the Youth Jobs PaTH program. The results of that in fast approaching its first anniversary are nearly 70 per cent of the people involved in the internship program have achieved employment. When it comes to the youth program, the result is somewhere around 63 per cent. I spoke last week about the member for McMillan—

The SPEAKER: The member for Chifley on a point of order.

Mr Husic: Mr Speaker, I think a serious question deserves direct relevance.

The SPEAKER: I thank the member for Chifley. The minister is in order.

Mr LAUNDY: I can assure the member for Chifley I take workplace safety extremely seriously. I had, as I've stated many times, 23 years pre politics implementing work, health and safety procedures and practices, which all employers, irrespective of whether in the public or private sector, should do. I was in the process of explaining that these procedures and policies should always be taken seriously by all workplaces. We have, as I said, on this side of the House, implemented policies—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr LAUNDY: and those opposite who interject, I know you don't like them, because I've read many, many of your quotes. But the results of these policies are serious economic and employment results. Yes, the onus on every employer in this country under the Work Health and Safety Act, above all other acts in this country, is the safety of their employees, and they should at all times have this front and centre of mind as they formulate their own policies and procedures under that act, train their staff and implement them.