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Youth Employment

  It is my pleasure to speak in the grievance debate this evening. I want to talk about something that is very dear to my heart, which is youth affairs.

The youth of Australia are in real need of a strong policy response to unemployment. Young people are the most underemployed demographic in our country, and we need to be putting young people into stable, full-time employment. Sadly, youth unemployment has been rising within Australia over the last two years. One in three unemployed Australians is aged between 18 and 24. With full-time work, many of the social issues associated with young people simply evaporate, as their lives stabilise due to full-time employment. Young people need balance and stability in their lives. This prevents these vulnerable young people from making poor choices with their lives which stem from boredom, such as drug and alcohol abuse and other antisocial behaviour.

The budget this government has just delivered has relieved a lot of the pressure from this growing issue. An unprecedented $331 million was pledged to support young Australians as part of the $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business package.

A changing employment landscape has meant that the young people of Australia are now not just competing with their classmates for jobs but that they are also competing in a global jobs race against people right across the world for a spot in the Australian jobs market. Because of the desirability of Australia to foreign job seekers—the comparatively high wages, the good quality of living, higher rates of job satisfaction et cetera—many young Australians find it difficult to compete and, sadly, they join the ranks of long-term youth unemployed.

This is where I am pleased to say that the Growing Jobs and Small-Business package can make a big difference to the young people in this country. The package includes $221 million for a new youth Transition To Work program. The program will work closely with community organisations to provide flexible, holistic support to help young job seekers find and maintain jobs or to take up an apprenticeship or even a traineeship.

There is also a supplementary $106 million for the most at-risk young job seekers—those in our communities with a history of mental health concerns and also young, unskilled migrants working here in Australia. This program specifically targets the disengaged youth of Australia—those who are considered to be long-term unemployed youth. By allowing these young people to gain employment, they reduce their impact on our social welfare system and gain the confidence to get on, retrain and also retain employment in the future.

We are a nation of entrepreneurs, and we have one of the highest rates of population starting a small business across the developed world. We have to encourage our young people to go out and start their own businesses when no other opportunities are open to them or simply because that is their choice. There are over 40,000 businesses in Australia registered to people in that 18 to 24 age category, which I think speaks volumes about the innovative nature of Australians. This government has committed $70 million to removing the red tape around starting a small business, and ensures that those wanting to start a business are not tied down by restrictive set-up costs.

In 2014, only 28 per cent of Australians under 24 were employed in full-time work. Because of the competitiveness of finding a job post study, many students and young people are staying at university longer. The $330 million package will help around 45,000 young people to improve their job prospects. The opposition has, in turn, previously contributed a measly $21 million to combat youth unemployment which, sadly, is 15 times less than the Abbott government's recent contribution. The latest budget illustrates that the Abbott government understands young Australians, and is taking steps to ensure they have the skills and the jobs to prosper and to make their own contribution.

With the short time available to me, I would like to acknowledge a young man who is currently carrying out an internship in my office, and who is largely responsible for the speech that I have just delivered—a young man called Alex Bunney. I would like to thank Alex for his contribution to the electorate office in Durack, and to assure them that he is a very talented young man and he has a very fine future.

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