Investing In Jobs For The Future

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Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:34): I have something positive to say to the minister. You have to give him marks for enthusiasm and evangelising in his portfolio. He never, ever lacks enthusiasm, so there is something positive. Sadly, I fear that he is, however, by and large, terribly, terribly misguided. The Prime Minister has a penchant for putting people to live on other planets, and it appears that his Minister for Small Business is living on Planet Delusion. He criticises Labor in government for removing one particular incentive for small business and replacing it with another. Just remind me: what did they do in the last budget?

Mr Husic: Got rid of all the incentives.

Ms BIRD: They got rid of all the incentives Labor had put in place for small business and replaced them with nothing—nothing. Therefore, after 12 months, they have decided they actually have to go back to the issue and try to repair some of the damage that they have done.

I just have a little challenge for members opposite. I extended it to the Assistant Treasurer during our chat at the table. Anybody who is sitting here is welcome to take it up. They criticised the shadow Treasurer and the shadow small business minister for not putting out any positive press releases about government initiatives. Well, I challenge them, over the entirety of the years of the Labor government, to find me one press release—just one; that will do; I will be happy with that—from a shadow minister congratulating on or endorsing a Labor government initiative. If they can do that, I will accept that the minister may not be delusional on these matters, but I doubt very much that they will be able to find a single one.

Let us come back to the reality. Before the election, the commitment of the now Prime Minister—who at that time was the Leader of the Opposition—to the Australian people was that he was going to create a million jobs. What is the reality with unemployment at this point in time?

I am going to use the government's own budget to outline what the current system will be. This government budget as released this week confirms that unemployment will be higher and stay higher as a result of the budget.

Despite all the rhetoric we hear, the budget forecasts unemployment to reach 6.5 per cent—

Mr Husic:  Higher than the GFC.

Ms BIRD: higher than the global financial crisis, which those opposite like to pretend never happened—in fact, the highest unemployment rate in 14 years. The budget does not have a plan to address that for the long term. In areas across the nation like mine and the member for Chifley's there is an ongoing deep concern about endemic unemployment, particularly for our young people. In fact, it was a topic of the OECD and a major focus for the OECD. What we need to see happen, and it has been told to the government time and time again—it was told to us in government and we responded with a significant investment in both skills and infrastructure—is investment in knowledge, skills and the tools with which to utilise them to ensure the growth of new jobs and the ability of people to take up the emerging jobs of the future. We have not seen that in this budget.

I want to deal with my own shadow portfolio of vocational education and skills. If you look at what the budget says about this, it confirms that there is a massive 20 per cent cut over the forward estimates in skills funding. That is the reality—a 20 per cent cut. It has totally failed to make any new announcements about investments in skills and training. This abject failure to act comes on the back of last year's budget, where they cut $2 billion out of the portfolio.

Of particular concern in a debate about jobs and in particular when someone claims they are the Prime Minister for 'Tony's tradies', they cut $1 billion out of apprenticeships and traineeships. Not a single dollar of that has gone back, nor is there a single new initiative in this budget for apprentices and trainees. It seems it is all right to love the current generation of tradies, but heaven forbid you actually invest in the next generation of them.

What we actually saw put in place was the abolition of a whole range of programs that were there— (Time expired)