Consideration in Detail – Appropriation Bills 2015-16 (employment)
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (16:09): Minister Hartsuyker: as you know, my electorate has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The unemployment rate for Hinkler is 10 per cent, and for the broader wide Bay region it is 13½ per cent. The youth unemployment rate among 15- to 24-year-olds in my region is 20.6 per cent. Unlike those on the other side, I recognise that it is businesses that create jobs, not governments. The businesses that I speak to all say they are willing to train people but are concerned that not enough of the job seekers they meet are work ready. They do not have the required soft skills, like turning up on time and dressing appropriately. On the other side of the coin, job seekers say they struggle to get a foot in the door to get some much-needed experience in the workplace. As I am sure you are aware, Mr Hartsuyker, we have had great success with the Work for the Dole program—some fantastic success with that program.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr PITT: Well, I will give you a good example. We have interjections from the other side, but I will give you a great example from the former Hervey Bay mayor, Ted Sorensen, the now state member for Hervey Bay and a fantastic man. He is a good local member and has been for at least two terms down there and many years as the mayor. Ted’s advice is that in his time as mayor the Work for the Dole program worked exceptionally well. It brought young kids in, it gave them experience and it gave them the things they desperately need in order to get a job. And the first one of those of course is soft skills. The employers I meet with—and I have to tell you, Assistant Minister, it is all the employers I meet with—have real challenges identifying people inside our electorate who have the basic skills: turn up on time, be dressed, be work ready, be willing to leave your phone behind and not have it with you 24/7, have the ability to show up every single day, not just on occasions when it might be appropriate for you, to come to work and enjoy work and have the skills needed to show up.
The other thing Ted spoke about, and he spoke about it often, was the great advantage they got from learning additional social skills. They are able to work with new colleagues. And life skills: to be able to work with more people, people who are actually in the workforce and who have things they want to transfer. This knowledge transfer is incredibly important. It is something I spoke about in my maiden speech. We are losing the skills from our experienced workforce, and they are not being transferred across to the current generation. We need to ensure that we transfer those skills. Ted spoke about all of those things, but the most important thing for the mayor of Hervey Bay was that many of the people who were involved in Work for the Dole got a job. They got a full-time job after they completed the program, and a number of them with council, with local government. It is a fantastic outcome for them, and as far as I am aware they are still there. The skills they learned in Work for the Dole, working for council, gained them employment. So, they are very, very important skills.
It is important that we identify that Work for the Dole has worked so far. It has been great. I also appreciate the fact that the minister has been to my electorate three times. I am fairly certain that those in the opposition do not even know where my electorate is. But the minister has come up to have a look and gain some real first-hand experience—three visits, which has been fantastic. We have been to an organisation called WeCareToo, which was using the Work for the Dole program to help the local community. They are a food bank—
An honourable member: Famous for its whales.
Mr PITT: Whales, seafood—many things. But they are helping the local community through Work for the Dole. They provide experience for a food bank that helps people who cannot afford to purchase food. That is their role. It is a fantastic outcome.
Building on the success of Work for the Dole in giving people real-world experience, the 2015 budget included funding for a national work experience program, which is something different. Can the minister please advise how job seekers and employers in my electorate and indeed elsewhere in the country—almost as important as my electorate!—will benefit from the national work experience program?