Address at launch of Youth Connections National Network policy paper

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

To my Parliamentary colleagues.

To Ms Gerry Mitra, Ladies and Gentlemen.

And to those who have flown in today, welcome to Canberra.

I am 12 weeks into this role and I would like to thank the many people I’ve met, in this room in particular, that have given me such a warm welcome to the policy area and portfolio, including those I met when I attended the meeting of the National Network in Adelaide in my first few days in the job.

I should say, one of your members was doing a very fine job of lobbying when on the Saturday night before it, I was at a colleague’s wife’s 50th birthday party and he hunted me out amongst 200 people to explain to me the Youth Connections programme, which at that point I was only vaguely familiar with having been relatively new to the role.

Thank you for the being part of this critical conversation about youth unemployment.

The simple fact is that youth unemployment in Australia is unacceptably high.

It has not recovered from the spike that followed the banking and economic crisis in Europe and North America in 2009.

Now, I am just old enough to remember the recession of the early 1990s.

I saw amongst family and friends the personal cost of chronic and long-term unemployment.

Today we can look around the world, particularly to parts of Europe, and see what is nothing less than a disaster for an entire generation locked out of the labour market. Youth unemployment figures, sometimes over 50 per cent, are something we have not experienced as a national community.

Yet, despite our relative prosperity over the past two decades, we all know that youth unemployment in parts of Australia can reach extraordinarily high numbers – but it does remain unseen to many in our national community.

I have appreciated the insights from those I have met from the Youth Connections National Network to whom this is not hidden.

While we know the labour market is an escalator, and getting a first job and keeping it is important to progressing to higher jobs.

Our economy is changing.

The number of entry-level, unskilled labour jobs is declining.

This continues the change our economy has been undergoing for several decades. And it won’t be reversed.

I’d like to acknowledge the passion of those who work in this area who deal with the change right across the country and in particular the work of the Youth Connections National Network.

Now, I must be honest and state that as a new government we face a particularly difficult financial and budget environment.

Our choices are constrained by what I think is the irresponsible management of the previous government, which left public finances in an utterly unsustainable state.

I say this because I believe addressing this is of critical importance to Australian youth.

It is simply not fair to burden them with an intergenerational debt that will constrain their choices.

So as well as the lessons learnt and outlined in Outside the School Gate today, I ask for your thoughts on how we can address the regulatory barriers to youth unemployment.

What is stopping young people getting jobs? And what can we change to make it that little bit easier in our laws and regulations, and our practices?

We need to ensure that our labour market regulations and settings do not work against young people seeking their start in work or initial careers – as some would argue it does in Europe.

We also need to design and implement programs like the JSAs to serve these needs better.

Addressing the regulatory burdens can add to and magnify, and multiply, all the work that you do.

It is a conversation that a lot of people in this room have a great deal of expertise and capacity to lead.

Thank you for putting Outside the School Gate together.

I look forward to continuing this critical conversation with all of you.

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