Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (11:04): I am pleased to be able to rise today and speak on this motion. In the motion before the House, the first point reads:
That the House: … recognises that alongside national defence, there is no higher obligation on a Commonwealth government than to support and promote the employment prospects of its citizens …
I agree with that, and I am pleased to be able to speak on it and set the record straight for the members for Charlton and Scullin and others who seem to have forgotten that, under the previous Labor government, we saw $16 billion ripped out of the defence budget, including reducing defence spending as a percentage of GDP to the lowest level since 1938.
I agree that national security and the Australian Defence Force are key elements and that it is a key responsibility of the Australian government to ensure that these are well funded and that the nation that we all love and the democracy that we enjoy continue to thrive. Just last week, I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with the Navy over at HMAS Stirling and have a look at some of the superb work that the young men and women in the Australian Defence Force are doing.
Labor’s record there is not great, and their employment record is not much better. I do agree with that first point in what they are saying. Of course, the federal government have a major responsibility in making sure that we create an environment for small business where businesses flourish and ensuring that employment opportunities are there, but of course state governments also have a large responsibility. We now see a state Labor government in Queensland with a fairly appalling record, I think, of sitting around for the last four months not doing a lot, just cancelling anything that the previous Liberal-National Party Newman government implemented. We obviously know that they came into power and were not expected to do so, but they do not have a plan. They do not have a plan for jobs. They do not have a plan for the state. They only have a plan for more debt and deficit, just like all Labor governments do.
We have already seen them cancel projects in the state like the port projects on the Gold Coast and also in Cairns, and of course this affects jobs. These cruise ship terminals would have made a big difference to Cairns and on the Gold Coast. We have also seen them cancel some of the Brisbane City Council housing development applications —thousands of jobs just with those three alone. This is what happens when you get a government that is just ideologically opposed to what the former government wanted to do. They have even cancelled things like the hospital guarantee waiting list. How appalling.
So what are we doing in this space? I was fortunate enough last week to have the Assistant Minister for Employment, the member for Cowper, up in my electorate, and we visited a number of projects. I want to thank him for coming up. We went out to Costco at North Lakes, where almost 40 job seekers have found work through MAX Employment, and we visited a Work for the Dole site at Deception Bay, at the local PCYC, where local job seekers are putting their skills into practice and developing new skills. I want to thank the Deception Bay PCYC for taking on this Work for the Dole project, and I want to thank the young men and women that are there involved in this project. When they go to their next job interview, they will be able to say: ‘Well, I’ve actually been volunteering down at the local PCYC, and I’ve been helping build a new deck, and I’ve been working with timber, and I’ve been painting the wall, and I’ve been doing a bit of plastering, learning new skills. I’ve been proactively getting out there.’ That looks great when you go for that interview. So that is an important practical step, and I want to say, ‘Well done,’ to those 16 or so participants that were involved out there.
The 2015 budget has a strong focus on helping more job seekers, especially young job seekers, find and keep a job.
Our Growing Jobs and Small Business package will give small businesses more confidence to invest and grow their business and in turn employ more staff. The package will see a new $18 million National Work Experience Program. What a great idea—a work experience program that will provide job seekers with the opportunity to undertake work experience in businesses to improve their chances of finding a job. This is so important when I talk to job-seekers in my electorate, because there is that catch-22 experience: ‘I need experience, on one hand, to get a job, but I also don’t have any.’ So the Work Experience Program will be fantastic. We are also investing $212 million in a Transition to Work service to help young job seekers most at risk of long-term unemployment find a job, and I look forward to all of us working together to help more Australians find work.