Matters of Public Importance - Abbott Government Fails Its Own Employment Test

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Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:34): This week is a year since the Abbott government was elected, and what a dismal year it has been for millions of Australians. Let us just have a look at where exactly so many Australians are at the moment. I want to draw the House's attention to a particular commitment that was made before the election by the now Prime Minister, in a press release on 4 September last year. The now Prime Minister said:

Within five years I am confident that our economy can deliver at least one million new jobs; and two million new jobs within the next decade.

As the member for Grayndler pointed out in his speech on this MPI, in the infrastructure sector there has been a complete and total failure of those opposite to meet the commitments that were made before the election. Twice today they have failed to be able to indicate one project that was actually commenced under them in government and is now under construction.

Let me take members to the reality of what has happened in the employment sector, and then I want to particularly touch on my own portfolio area, of vocational education and skills. We have seen unemployment now having risen to the highest level it has been at in a decade. In 10 years, we have not seen unemployment at 6.4 per cent. Now we do. How on earth could the Treasurer have made any sort of claim in question time today that that delivers on a promise to create a million jobs? There are people in communities across this country who are facing increased levels of unemployment. In particular, as the Brotherhood of St Lawrence has recently documented, young people are looking at increased youth unemployment. How on earth they could take any comfort from a government that promised a million jobs before the election and now thinks that having the highest level of unemployment in a decade is a good outcome I do not know.

They are now putting increasing expectations on people who are unemployed at the same time as they slash and burn the programs that provide the pathway for people to get into jobs. Let us look at the Youth Connections and Partnership Brokers programs, both well regarded—I am sure there are many of my colleagues who avoid, like the plague, people in their electorates who are running those programs, because they know that they are effective, well-designed programs delivering real pathways into jobs. They were slashed in the last budget.

Today I had the opportunity, with the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Canberra, to visit some apprentices at CIT at Fyshwick. At that place, we met a lot of apprentices who were studying in the first, second or third year of their apprenticeships. Around 20 per cent of them were mature-age apprentices who were actually retraining and looking at changing their long-term job future. Those apprentices have seen $1 billion ripped out of the support provided to them and future apprentices in the last budget—$1 billion, with no replacement and no view to future support for apprenticeships.

Ms Scott: That is completely not true.

Ms BIRD: I will go through it for the member opposite, who says that is not true. Are you saying to me that there was not $1 billion in the budget taken out of apprenticeship programs?

Ms Scott interjecting

Ms BIRD: Okay, then I will outline for the member opposite what exactly you did: a $20,000 loan—I am sure apprentices are so thrilled! Let me tell the member opposite: you abolished the Tools For Your Trade—

Ms Scott interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Order! The member for Lindsay knows that if she wishes to interject she should be in her seat. The member for Cunningham has the call.

Ms BIRD: Stop encouraging the member to make a fool of herself, Deputy Speaker! Let me tell you: not only did you abolish the Tools For Your Trade program, but let me name the four other programs that you abolished in the budget for which there was no replacement. No. 1 was the Apprenticeships Access Program. I was out in Western Sydney as a minister visiting the Motor Traders' Association who ran the Apprenticeships Access Program, and they were busily telling me how important and significant it had been for Western Sydney to have that pathway for disadvantaged young people. Then the Apprenticeships Mentoring Program was abolished. The Apprentice to Business Owner Program, helping them to establish small businesses, was abolished. These programs were all abolished on your watch. (Time expired)