MPI - Youth Unemployment

Across this country in communities like mine, and in communities like the member for Cowper's local area, youth unemployment is an extremely significant and important issue to families, to communities and, I would hope, to members of this place. If the member for Cowper thinks that banging the drum again, carrying on about trade unions and criticising the opposition are going to cut it with people who are seriously concerned about youth unemployment, he is very, very wrong.

I found it quite disappointing to see a cheap shot at trade unions taken in a speech on an MPI about youth unemployment. If the evidence does tell us anything in this place, it is that the trade union movement, as too many families who have young people who have been injured at or died on a workplace know, has been at the forefront of protecting young people from being exploited and ensuring that they work under fair conditions and return home safely at the end of the day.

 

I am not going to stand here and have members opposite stand here in a debate on youth unemployment and use the trade union movement as some sort of battering ram just because their talking points say to bang on, bang on, bang on attacking the union movement. I know, as should every member in this place, that one of the most vulnerable categories of workers in the workplace are young people, who are often desperate to get a start, often really concerned to retain a job. They need and deserve the backup of the trade union movement, which has delivered in spades.

 

Students are finishing school as we speak. They are doing their end-of-year events, getting dressed up, hiring outfits, celebrating the end of their school years. But the reality for this cohort of young people is that they will face a much tougher job environment than any of us in this place have ever faced. It is getting tougher and tougher for young people to get a break into the workforce. There are two things that a government can do to really help with that. One of them is to ensure that they leave school with the best possible schooling they could have achieved in order to make them as well prepared as possible for the postschool world.

 

One of the most important things that we could be doing to make sure that happens is supporting the Gonski school funding reforms. Those reforms were about ensuring every kid in every school, regardless of sector or state, reached a funding standard that guaranteed them a quality of education, so that they were well prepared when they went out into their postschool world. We have seen the government fail dismally on that, run and hide and make excuses. The reality is that they have made significant funding cuts across that sector.

 

The second thing you can do as a government is then make sure that the postschool sector is well resourced and well organised to support them in getting the skills they need for the workplace. As the member for Chifley outlined, the government's record is just as appalling there. It infuriates me that the opportunities for skilled occupations which create good jobs and great careers have been decimated by this government time and time again. Do not talk to me about pathways and internships. You are a government that could not even go to the last election with a single policy on vocational education and training or apprenticeships—not a single policy.

 

As we saw, 130,000 apprentices disappeared out of the system. Many of those were in regions like mine, in regions of other members here and in the member for Cowper's area—regions where there was a real pathway to a long-term, good career. They were decimated because you cut a billion dollars out of the system. You have let TAFE be destroyed. You have no policy on TAFE. You have nothing to say about TAFE, yet it is such a significant pathway for young people to get skills and training. Indeed, in my own state of New South Wales, we found out today that the state Liberal government, under a National Party minister, had cut over $200 million out of TAFE there as well.

 

These are the things you could be doing, but you are not. You want to bang on about unions and attack us, but you are doing absolutely nothing to deliver real opportunities to young people.

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