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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015

I rise today to speak on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment and Other Measures) Bill 2015, which is a dynamic component of the 2015-16 budget. In the recent budget, the Abbott government unveiled the Growing Jobs and Small Business package, the biggest small business package in Australia's history. This is a vital policy, illustrating the Abbott government's commitment to create jobs and address unemployment—which, as we have just heard, is higher in the bush, such as in my electorate of Durack, than in metropolitan areas. I am very pleased that Australia's biggest small business package has now received parliamentary approval.

After years of glossy posters and rhetoric, the last government left little but a massive debt, a legacy they will hold forever. But the Abbott government, I am pleased to say, is fair dinkum about getting Australia's economy back on track. Since being elected, the Abbott government has created around a quarter of a million new jobs, including 42,000 last month alone. Of the 42,000 new jobs created last month, I am pleased to say that 29,800 were taken up by females in part-time roles. The economy is responding to the strong economic management by the Abbott government, with unemployment dropping by 22,000 last month. This is in stark contrast to the 519,000 jobs lost under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, where they had no respect for small business, the engine room of our economy, having six small business ministers in six long years. I am proud to be a part of a government that is committed to creating jobs for Australians. As we found out last Thursday, and as I have said, there were an extra 42,000 jobs last month, adding to about a quarter of a million new jobs created since the government was elected in September 2013. I am particularly happy with the rise of part-time jobs for females as, according to the last census, unemployment among women was at 4.4 per cent Durack—go Durack girls!

This government is dedicated to improving the employability of unemployed Australians, investing $18.3 million in additional work experience places. This will provide on-the-job experience and immediate contact with a potential employer. I have met many young adults in Durack who have gained a job following work experience, either with the work experience employer or with a different employer. We all know this can be a very vicious cycle when trying to get your foot on the employment ladder. Employers want employees to have experience, but, without having a job, how can a young person get the experience that employers require? This bill includes a measure which will make job seekers more employable. In what must be music to the ears of small business owners, this measure reduces the costs of employing new staff. This measure will bring job seekers and employers together. The Growing Jobs and Small Business package has been welcomed in Durack amongst both job seekers and employers. It will assist businesses to prosper and to take on the four sectors of the workforce which I would like to see thrive in Durack: the young job seekers, the mature workers, the parents and the long-term unemployed. I call on the opposition to have a heart, support the bush, pass this bill unamended and not play politics with this important measure. I was particularly offended by some of the comments by the member for Bendigo. If the member looked a little closer, she would see that this government is serious about helping young Australians, especially those in the bush, get the skills that they need to secure employment.

Under this bill, young people will become more employment ready than before. From 1 July next year, people under the age of 25 who are the most job ready will be able to apply for Newstart and will have the four-week period where they will be able to get their application skills up to date for the modern workforce. During this period, young people will have the opportunity to develop an up-to-date resume, agree to a job plan, create a job seeker profile on the JobSearch website, and also meet with a Job Active profiler who is going to help them secure employment. This has been welcomed by young people seeking a job in my vast electorate of Durack. Our government has also made a further $8.1 million available in emergency relief funding to provide assistance to job seekers who, through no fault of their own, have slipped through the cracks of mainstream education and therefore need that little bit of extra care and assistance to be job ready.

Members of both sides of the House in the past will have heard how much I value education. I am particularly passionate about making it easier for students from the bush to access tertiary education. With this in mind, I am very pleased that students will not have to wait four weeks to be eligible for youth allowance to be able to continue with their tertiary education. Young people who return to school or take up full-time vocational education or university study will not be subject to the four-week waiting period, which is great news for the over 20,000 people aged between 15 and 24 in the electorate of Durack, which make up a whopping 12 per cent of my electorate.

Job seekers who have been deemed as having significant barriers to finding a job will not have to wait either. There are many who will not be subject to the four-week waiting period. People who are living with a disability will not have to wait. Women who are pregnant will not have to wait. People who have served this period in the last six months will not have to wait. People who have left state care in the last 12 months will also not have to wait the four-week waiting period.

This measure is fair and I call on the opposition to support this bill and thereby support young people in the bush. As many in Durack know, it is alarming that unemployment in regional Australia hit a 12-year high earlier this year. But country people are not that fussy when it comes to getting jobs because country people cannot be fussy; they simply have to take what they can get. There are not the same opportunities for people who live in the regions as there are in metropolitan areas. That is why this bill is important. It ensures all job seekers accept any suitable job, not just one that they would like to have. In this day and age, and in the circumstances, I think this is a fair and targeted measure.

Unemployment benefits are for those who are looking for work and finding it hard to secure employment. It is not for ever and ever a taxpayer funded payment with no end in sight. This is not a heartless government. As part of this bill, we will be funding intensive support trials for vulnerable job seekers. I am proud to say we are also providing new support for youth with mental health conditions. On top of this, we will provide new support for vulnerable young migrants and refugees, and support parents preparing to go back into the workforce.

This bill will go a long way to bridging the gap in employment opportunities between regional and metropolitan Australians. These measures hit squarely on the head a key issue I am passionate about which is getting young people into the workforce. The bill assists youth not just in getting a job but also in starting a career. I am proud to be a member of the Abbott government and proud to be supporting this measure. This bill is a vital component of the biggest small business package in Australia's history.

This is part of the same package delivered by the Abbott government, which has presided over the creation of a quarter of a million new jobs in the past two years. Durack will benefit from this bill. Job seekers—young, mature and new to the workforce—will reap the benefits of this government's plan; so too will small businesses, our largest employer base and the backbone of our economic society. I commend this bill to the House.

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