For the benefit of subsequent speakers, I will be quite brief, so they may want to prepare themselves in the chamber. To be blunt, I remain unconvinced about the merits of this bill, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016. Minister Cash has been doing her utmost to persuade me of its merits, and I am undecided as to whether to support it or not.
My initial reaction when this program was announced was that it would be open to rorting and scams, just as we have seen well-intentioned measures put forward by successive governments being gamed. I need only look at the VET FEE-HELP scheme that was implemented and resulted in the enrichment of a bunch of shonks. I look at the childcare packages that have been passed in recent years and the phantom childcare centres which have enriched individuals. I have spoken about that before. These are very genuine concerns. It does not dissipate or diminish the good intentions of the government; it is just that successive governments have demonstrated they are not very good at managing programs to ensure that they are not ripped off.
It is a laudable aim though, of course, to want to get unemployed people, particularly young unemployed people, on the path to a constructive career and get them job ready. Part of that lies in the education system, which has failed young people. Our standards in education, our rankings internationally, are going down. It seems that, the more money we tip in, the less impact we actually have. If you are serious about getting young people into jobs and off welfare, perhaps it might start with actually drug testing some of them. We have vacancies in regional South Australia where 30 or 40 young people will apparently apply for the job and then, when they are told that a drug test will need to be passed, that number diminishes to somewhere around eight. Then, when the drug test is actually implemented, only about two of the 40 get through. That is an outrageous circumstance, and the fact that people think it is okay to use illicit substances and collect welfare money is quite extraordinary.
So I remain unconvinced because I do think this program is open to misuse. I would welcome in your summing up speech, Minister Cash, any further information you can provide for me. I understand that the program has already commenced and that this substantive part of the bill is about allowing those who lose their job placement through no fault of their own to recommence where they left off—so, if they have been unemployed for two years, they still have Work for the Dole obligations and things. It is laudable and worthy, no question, but I come back to: why does the government have to pick up the tab for all of this stuff? If a business receive a $1,000 sign-on bonus for taking a young trainee and then after a period of time decide they cannot work with them, or for whatever reason the trainee does not do the right thing, what happens to the money? Why can’t the business pay for the trainee’s re-entry to the welfare system?
These are general questions, Minister, that I would welcome an answer to. I do compliment you, notwithstanding your frustration with me, for the persuasive case you make, but you will understand, given the potential for abuse in so many government programs and the demonstrated ability of people to rort them, that I remain to be convinced that this program is somehow going to be different. They are the four most dangerous words in investing and in politics: ‘This time is different.’ I look forward to your final attempt to convince me that it really will be.
Chamber Senate on 9/05/2017 Item BILLS – Social Security Legislation Amendment (Youth Jobs Path: Prepare, Trial, Hire) Bill 2016 – Second Reading Speaker : Bernardi, Sen Cory