Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020


Youth Employment

8:08 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am becoming increasing concerned that this government is not listening to young people. We know that young people are bearing the brunt of Australia's first recession in 29 years, and the truth is that young workers were already being left behind by this government before the pandemic hit. Their economic security and safety is only going to get worse as this crisis drags on, but the government is leaving them out of the conversation and letting them down. In the aftermath of the GFC, youth unemployment went steadily upwards, reaching 13.2 per cent. After the GFC, it took longer for youth unemployment to come down. It has never recovered to pre-2009 levels, and after this crisis it will be much worse. Older workers are unlikely to retire as early, because they will need to rebuild their super. Young people make up the industries most affected by shutdowns, and a large number of people were working as casuals for less than 12 months, so they missed out on JobKeeper.

We know that youth unemployment has jumped to 13.8 per cent, and that in some places in regional Queensland it is reaching upwards of 16 per cent. It's not a surprise given that we have a Minister for Youth and Sport who has never been able to come in here and give satisfactory answers about these unemployment rates or what the government is planning to do about them. Yesterday, when I read these figures out in the Senate, Minister Colbeck muttered something under his breath about statistics. I guess he didn't want to hear these statistics.

What the Liberal-National government has forgotten is that this recession is not just about numbers. It is about people, and these numbers represent every single young person who is worried about their future. This government has forgotten about the almost 500,000 young Australians who have had to raid their retirement savings instead of getting support from this government. The government has forgotten about the 100,000 apprentices and trainees who will lose their jobs as a result of the ongoing skills crisis. The government has forgotten about the 1.1 million short-term casuals who have missed out on JobKeeper. And the government has forgotten about young workers employed in the arts and entertainment industry, because they are still waiting for that support. Particularly in regional Australia, we know that the arts are a crucial part of the community and the economy, and those workers have had nowhere to go.

Labor haven't forgotten about this government's dodgy PaTH program—a complete and utter dud: internships for car washes paying $4 an hour. And we haven't forgotten about when the government decided to pay Scott Cam $345,000 for 15 months work as the National Careers Ambassador. And we won't forget about the childcare workers booted off JobKeeper, because the thing about childcare workers is that 90 per cent of them are women and 40 per cent are under 29. Those are the first people that this government kicked off JobKeeper—young women who are childcare workers and who did essential work during this pandemic.

That is despite the Treasurer's $60 billion budget blunder, which would have meant that more people could have accessed JobKeeper. When we asked why some Australians were missing out on JobKeeper the government said that they had to draw a line somewhere. That is true, but they decided to draw a line that left young Australians down lower, languishing on their own. These numbers aren't something that the government should scoff at, or put into the too-hard basket. They represent young people, every single one of these statistics, and those people deserve a lot better.

I said in my first speech that young Australians shouldn't be afraid to speak up and speak out, and there has never been a more important time to do that. There are young workers hubs in every state across the country which young people can join and organise, mobilise and share their stories. Don't be afraid to speak up; do not let this government get away with shutting you out of the recovery process. They'll tell you that it will trickle down, but we know that it won't. Young Australians were already hurting before COVID and it's time that they had their voices heard.