House debates

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


Victoria: Employment

7:30 pm

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the growing crisis of youth unemployment in my home state of Victoria. Victoria now has the third-worst youth unemployment rate in the country, at 13.8 per cent—a 15-year high for Victoria—and it is getting worse.

The first seven months of this year saw a sharp rise in the number of young Victorians out of work. Many of these young people are located in regional and rural areas of Victoria. I know it is a big area of concern for my colleagues the members for Ballarat, Bendigo, McEwen and Corio, but in the inner-Melbourne areas, such as my seat of Chisholm, youth-unemployment rates are also rising.

Analysis by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Victorian Council of Social Service shows that youth unemployment is rapidly spreading to previously more reliable employment sectors, and that finding work is becoming increasingly difficult for university graduates. These are not young layabouts with few skills, as some people would like to characterise them. They are hardworking young people who have achieved high-level qualifications—qualifications they will pay for with large HELP debts—and they are not getting the opportunities to put these skills to use.

Sadly, we have seen a Liberal state government with no plan to address this crisis and a federal Liberal government whose only plan to deal with youth unemployment is to punish young people who are searching for work. With the Liberal jobs plan, anyone under the age of 30 who loses their job will be denied Newstart payments for six months. This is outrageous. It is a ridiculous approach that will not create a single new job or make it any easier for a young person to find a job. It is simply a situation of leaving people unable to support themselves and having to turn back to family and friends—and they would be lucky if they had family and friends to turn back to.

I have been contacted by countless students, graduates and young people worried about how they will survive if they either lose their jobs or cannot find one when they graduate. I have also been contacted by countless parents and grandparents very concerned about their young family members.

Last night I received a very concerning email from Stephen, who lives in the Menzies electorate, the electorate of the Minister for Social Services. It epitomises the real problem facing young graduates and their families. I quote directly from Stephen's email:

I have a son who has completed 5 years of tertiary studies (1 year at Victoria University and 4 years at Deakin University), who through no fault of his own finds himself in a profession which now predominantly offers graduates 6 month contracts. Over the past 18 months he has had 3-x6 month contracts, however at the end of last term did not secure a new contract, due to the availability of a more experienced teacher …

Under the government's new budget proposal it appears that my son is not entitled to any financial support for a period of up to 6 months. This effectively places parents in the position of fully supporting their children up to the age of 30. I find this outrageous. Even more outrageous is the advice I received from the Doncaster electoral office of my local federal member, the Hon. Kevin Andrews, some weeks ago, who suggested that if my son did not receive a contract renewal this simply reflects an oversupply of teachers and consequently he would need to retrain for another profession …

To suggest that my son, who has a university degree as well as an accompanying $25,000+ HECS debt should now retrain for something else is outrageous!!!

I agree with Stephen. This is outrageous—about as outrageous as the suggestion that there is an oversupply of teachers in the state of Victoria, particularly young graduates who want to get out there and work.

These are young graduates with skills. They want jobs. They are prepared to work. But they will be given no support from this callous government at either the state or federal level. Rather than punishing young people for finding themselves out of work, I am pleading with the government to listen to the very real concerns of families just like Stephen's.

Stephen also talks of his daughter's situation. She, again, has completed a certificate III in business, while taking a 12-month traineeship at Swinburne. His daughter, too, is finding herself on rolling contracts. This is a very real situation for many people in employment nowadays. It is precarious. Instead of punishing them, why do we not go back to basics, to a situation where we create ongoing employment instead of having people go through rolling contracts?

I urge the Minister for Social Services, who is opening the world family congress forum this weekend, to at the very least listen to the concerns of the families in his electorate.


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