February 11, 2015  |  Second Reading

Back To Work Bill 2014

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — I am pleased to make a contribution to the debate on the Back to Work Bill 2014. By way of background to this bill I indicate that am very concerned, as are people across my electorate and the state, about the need for a government that is getting on with supporting employment opportunities in this state. This comes on the back of looking at Victoria’s unemployment figures for the last four years. We see that the number of Victorians out of work increased by 68 000 during the term of the previous government. Unemployment increased from 4.9 per cent in December 2010 to 6.8 per cent today.

Youth unemployment, a particular concern to me and many in this house, rose from 12.5 per cent to 14.1 per cent. As a representative of a regional city in this state, I know that people across Ballarat and across my region are very concerned about this. We need to give hope to our young people so that they know that when they leave school they will have an opportunity to move on and gain employment. We need to know that people who lose their job for one reason or another or who are long term unemployed have opportunities and have hope that they will gain employment and be able to build their lives. These are vitally important issues that I stand for, as does everyone on this side of the house.

We were frustrated in the last four years when we regularly called for the former coalition government to show its determination in regard to employment and to come out with a jobs plan. It never did. We are now on this side of the house, and I am proud to be part of the Andrews Labor government. I know we were elected because people see in us hope for jobs in the future.

We brought in the Back to Work Bill in our first week in Parliament in December. Unfortunately the opposition did not support debate on it that week, but we are now able to debate this bill. I am speaking after the member for Malvern, who was the lead speaker for the opposition in this debate. He only picked holes in the bill. At no stage did he seem to understand the importance of getting on with the job of supporting employment in this state.

I would welcome the member for Malvern to Ballarat and invite him to speak to young and long term unemployed people who have lost their jobs. I would invite him to give the speech he just gave in this Parliament. They would howl him out of that place, just as they would howl him out if he took his piece of paper about the east–west link and showed them how he said, ‘Despite how you vote in the election, I’m going to try to tie you down to a $1 billion bill for the east–west link’. I welcome the member for Malvern to my electorate. I am sure he will be howled down by many people.

I now return to the bill. In the lead up to the election the Labor opposition announced a very thorough plan to build employment in this state. The Back to Work Bill is just one part of that plan to which $100 million has been attached. We know, however, that the Premier intends to develop an investment panel. People with experience in business and industry will support this panel by advising on opportunities to expend a further $500 million to create significant investment and employment projects. We know we also have a range of other funds available, including the Future Industries Fund and the Regional Jobs Fund, of which I am very supportive. These funds will ensure that we focus on opportunities for jobs in the regions as well as in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

I am pleased to speak on this bill today to show that we are getting on with the job. As a teacher I saw many young people going through school. I want to see them getting into employment. I have spoken to many young people. They have left school, they are looking for jobs, they have great hopes for the world and the way it will treat them, and they are frustrated when they do not get jobs, as are many other people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. We have seen this happen so many times in recent years in Ballarat. The previous Labor government did some great things in Ballarat. It brought the State Revenue Office to Ballarat. It supported employment in so many ways, including through jobs in the Ballarat rail industry — X’trapolis trains are being produced at Alstom in Ballarat. Labor continues to support employment in many ways, but more has to be done to make up for the loss of jobs that happened under the former government.

This Back to Work Bill ensures that we will be able to get things underway so that from 1 April any employer who employs on a full time basis a young person, a long term unemployed person or a person who has lost their job will be able to gain reimbursement through the State Revenue Office. This bill sets in place the process for that to happen so that the State Revenue Office can set clear guidelines before 1 April this year and so that the funds will be able to flow from 1 July.

I am pleased to stand as a Labor member of Parliament and as part of the Andrews government saying that we are concerned about employment in our electorates. We are very supportive of action that will see young people, long term unemployed people and those who have been retrenched given great opportunities. This bill will see that from 1 April this year, with the financial incentives that this bill will deliver to their employers, those people will have a new opportunity. I am very supportive of this legislation.