National Youth Week Y20 Panel Event - Q&A Webcast

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education

[E&OE transcript]

Steve Cannane: Hello and welcome to you all both here in Canberra and also those joining us online as part of National Youth Week Y20 Panel Q&A Webcast. My name's Steve Cannane. I'm your host for this afternoon and as you all know it is National Youth Week and this is an opportunity for you, the youth of Australia, to share your opinions and your ideas with your Y20 delegates on the challenges and opportunities that affect you, so they can best represent you all at the Y20 summit.

Today's discussion will focus on three key Y20 issues, that is youth employment and growth, global citizenship and mobility, and sustainable economic development. Now these are all pretty big issues that impact on young people right around the world, and issues that your delegates want to hear your ideas on.

So over the next hour we will be discussing these matters and taking your questions and comments, but before we meet our panel, let's hear from the official organisers of this year's Australian Y20.

Josh Zwar: Good evening ladies and gentleman. My name is John Zwar and on behalf of the Y20 Planning Group, welcome to this special Y20 Q&A Panel held here in Canberra during National Youth Week. First I'd like to tell you why the Y20 is important for Australian youth.

As you know, Australia is currently President of the G20 and hosting the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane in November. The decisions that G20 leaders make have far reaching effects across society. As one of five official engagement groups, the Y20 is charged with representing the views of young people under 30.

The voice of youth has never been more important. Young people currently make up over 50% of the world's population. A global financial crisis and a slow global recovery have hit young people especially hard. Youth unemployment rates globally remain high with the risk of negative effects that can last a lifetime.

Put simply, the G20's growth and employment targets cannot be met without increasing the participation of young people in the global and national economies. Your Australian Y20 delegates, some of whom you'll meet tonight, are charged with representing your views at the Y20. My Planning Group colleagues and I are working together with the Department of Education to put together a Y20 that represents the interests of young people around the world. In July we'll hold a summit and present a communiqué to G20 leaders. Ultimately our goal is to raise issues on the agenda of the G20 leaders' meeting and to mobilise domestic support.

I commend you all for your participation in this panel tonight and for being part of a conversation about youth issues that we all hope will continue to the G20 leaders' table.

Steve Cannane: Thanks very much Josh and as Josh said, this is a real opportunity to have your voice heard and through the, the Y20 process, influence the G20. Let us introduce our panel and I'd really encourage questions both from the audience here and online and via Twitter to our panel members. Directly on my left is Senator Scott Ryan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education. Then we've got two of our Y20 delegates, Laura Sobels and Jonathan Pavetto, both of whom are very active on issues affecting Australian youth, Martin Thomas from Mission Australia which is one of the nation's leading community service charities and helps thousands of youth in need every day, and also Anne Daly, Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Canberra whose research interests include labour economics, particularly the economic status of indigenous Australians. Please welcome the panel.

First to you Senator Ryan. National Youth Week is a celebration of young people and the contributions they make. Do forums like this lead to policy change? Do, do governments listen to the, the views of young people that come through forums like this?

Scott Ryan: Well I think people do listen – I know I do. I was appointed to this portfolio after the last election and it was new to me, and this morning I was at a youth forum in Waverley in Sydney. I do as many of these events as I can because I find I learn a lot. But I'd also say I don't know a single member of Parliament that wouldn't listen to the young people coming through their office door, a Member of the House of Representatives or a Senator, no matter what side. People listen to their constituents. This is a way to crystallise discussion around a few issues, particularly with the Y20 coming up and Australia's presidency of the G20, but I think politicians and community leaders do listen to what young people say – I can vaguely recall 20 years ago when I was classified as a young person and I felt people listened to me then too.

Steve Cannane: All right. Well let's tackle the first big topic for tonight and that is youth unemployment. It's been called a "generational crisis". Thousands of young Australians are struggling to find work as youth unemployment reaches high as 20% in some regions. It's even worse in other countries. Let's go to our video question, our first video question tonight from Kellie McNaughton.

Kellie McNaughton: In Australia the current youth unemployment rate is double the national average. For many G20 nations young people are bearing the burden of rising unemployment with as many as one in three young people being unemployed in these countries. As a young person who has experienced the struggle to find employment I understand the financial strain that comes with not having a job. The stress of juggling studying, socialising, planning for the future and giving more time to the things that we care about is becoming all too familiar for Australia's youth. What can governments do to fix this and how will our delegates get this onto the G20 agenda?

Steve Cannane: Anne if we can come to you first on the scale of the problem, Kellie mentioned there that youth unemployment was twice the national average. Is that right?

Anne Daly: I think there are estimates from the Bureau of Statistics that put youth unemployment at the moment at about 12% which is twice, more than twice the national average, but there's lots of reasons why there might be a lot more people – young people unemployed, that they might be discouraged from actually registering or recognising themselves as being unemployed because there are certain definitions you've got to tick the boxes for if you're going to be counted as unemployed and if you become discouraged, you might not even be trying to apply for a job. So I think we should think of these as minimum estimates and there's also huge ranges in different parts of Australia as you've said in your introduction.

Steve Cannane: Okay. Part of that question was what can the – what will the delegates do to get this on the G20 agenda? Laura, do you want to tackle that one?

Laura Sobels: Yeah sure. So, our approach is three-pronged. First of all we're going to be consulting as widely and as broadly as we possibly can with the youth of Australia and we're doing that through a variety of different ways, pulling our resources, our networks and our skills together to do that. We'll also be talking extensively to our international colleagues, the other delegates from the other G20 countries prior to the summit in July and that will be a huge part of the consultation as well, talking to them about what they think, how this is – how this affects them in their respective countries and beyond that also, we'll be trying to talk to the general public in Australia because youth unemployment we can all agree I think, is not just a youth issue. It's a generational issue and there's a challenge and opportunity there for everyone.

Steve Cannane: And Jonathan, it's clear that this issue – unemployment is going to be on the agenda at the G20?

Jonathan Pavetto: The Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as Chair of the G20 this year, has made it abundantly clear that his priorities are jobs and growth, and I would have to agree with him that to fix the youth unemployment problem, we need to fix the growth problem. If we look at the spread of youth unemployment around Australia, particularly where I'm from in, in regional north Queensland, the biggest issues with youth unemployment tend to be in regional and remote areas, and they're the areas where the economy is struggling the most with particularly our agricultural exports and our mining industry.

Steve Cannane: Well you're from Far North Queensland, I think in Cairns the youth unemployment rate's about 20%?

Jonathan Pavetto: It's 20%. Some people would say it's higher than that. It depends on who you ask, but either way it's a staggering number and we need to do something to try and bring it down.

Steve Cannane: Okay Martin, let's get your perspective on the other part of the question is what can governments do about this?

Martin Thomas: Look, governments can make a difference. Obviously there's an economic issue. There's an issue on the demand-led in terms of organisations creating jobs, but certainly a few of the panellists mentioned the, the disparity when we look at youth as a, I guess a broad group, and that in areas of disadvantage, direct programs can make a massive difference. Whether it's just helping people overcome key transition periods where they're, they're in a job and something happens and they potentially fall out of a job, or they fall out of training early or out of school, the evidence shows that by – direct programs can make a, really solid difference particularly on those facing most disadvantage.

Steve Cannane: Can you just give us an example of that, of a direct program that might work?

Martin Thomas: Yeah. So currently for the last four years there's been a Youth Connections program which the federal government sponsors and it is essentially looking at those key transition periods. Now we've done some work and it shows that based on a survey we did, about 95% success rate, that within six months once a young person's connected with this, they've worked with case workers to overcome any kind of barriers to work and it might be simple. In many cases you're dealing with families where there hasn't been someone employed before. So even a simple thing like not turning up for work one day and the embarrassment of, of telling an employee. So to sit with someone and say "It's okay to communicate with that, and not just fall off the radar and lose your job." That program's been tremendously successful. We would estimate, although it costs I think about $228 million or something over four years, when you look at the savings based on that success rate, it's upwards about $2 billion over five years.

Steve Cannane: Scott, let's get your perspective on Kelly's question there about what governments can do. Is going for growth enough or do you need programs like Martin has outlined there?

Scott Ryan: Well, I've lived through this before. I mean, particularly for those in Victoria and South Australia and Tasmania, the recession of 1991-92 was very, very hard. I remember using the same measure we currently have with these limitations. Youth unemployment rates in the western suburbs of Melbourne were well over 35% and it took years for that to work through the system. The truth is it was solved with economic growth. We have to have a labour market that grows to provide job opportunities. All the programs in the world can't place people in jobs unless the job market is growing and providing those. So, even when I went to university not long after that, I remember having trouble getting part time work and, it struck me by the early 2000s there were "help wanted" signs in the restaurants along Lygon Street when I went to Melbourne Uni whereas 10 years earlier there'd be 50 applications for a four hour a week waiter's job.

So the economy changed and people got much, much more - much greater opportunities, particularly at getting that first job which is so important as the bottom of the escalator of the labour market because we know that if you get that first job and have that second job, you not only learn work skills, you also have something to point to on your CV or your resume that a future employer can have confidence in, a reference, a pattern of behaviour, and that's one of the challenges we have that we don't have as many people having that first job opportunity.

Steve Cannane: But there's something else going on here, isn't there, because there's been reasonable economic growth in the last few years compared to the rest of the world but there have been problems with the youth unemployment levels here?

Scott Ryan: Well that's true, but again, if you compare it to the rest of the world we have a challenge with youth unemployment undoubtedly, at somewhere between 12 and 14% on the measured data. But I looked this afternoon on the way here, Italy has a 40% youth unemployment rate. Spain recently broke 55%. So, to put it in a global context, our economy has been relatively strong, but the labour market has not been as strong as it has been previously. I was once taught you could never get unemployment below 5%. That's what all the universities were teaching in the early 1990s. Under the end of the Howard Government or the start of the first Rudd Government, I think it was down to 3.8%. That was taught in economics classes. "It's never going to happen again." It was sort of the blip of the 1960s.

So, we have achieved this before and it's primarily through growth. The one thing I'd say through programs and we don't have – is that the Youth Connections program that Martin mentioned - I would hesitate to say that the money saved came to anywhere near $2 billion. It had some successes. It was variable in its effectiveness around the country because it's dealing with very different regions around the country, but I would hesitate to say that expenditure of $230 million delivered $2 billion in savings because the data I have seen doesn't come anywhere near that.

Steve Cannane: Martin, do you want a quick response to that?

Martin Thomas: Look, I think certainly we would agree growth is, is essential. I guess what we're talking about these programs is disadvantage and I think there have been some reviews to these programs and they've showed when you target them correctly, they have the biggest impact. So to get to those that are most disadvantaged. To get to those that the experience shows that in early 20s as distinct from teenage years seems to have more effectiveness. So there has – there are patchy results when it's not applied accurately. So I think there's room for improvement.

Steve Cannane: All right. We'll move onto an audience question. Someone got a question in the audience here?

Steve Cannane: In the middle there, in the blue shirt.

Audience member: I have a question. Thank you very much. I have a question for Jonathan. Why do you think in Far North Queensland the unemployment is higher, I guess than the national average?

Jonathan Pavetto: Look thanks for the question. The key issue as I mentioned before in Far North Queensland, and it's not just Far North Queensland, but also in other parts of regional and rural Australia we have really big issues with economic growth. Our key industries such as the sugar industry, the cattle industry, the mining industries and also the wheat industry have really struggled in recent times to try and get on their feet. The key issue was with the live cattle export debacle that we had under the previous government. We've also had problems with our mining industry recently and looking at the broader issues of a higher dollar, those issues really feed back into the fundamental strength of regional and rural economies and as the Senator said before, without the jobs to be there, people can't be employed. So if we're going to get young people in regional and rural areas employed, we need to get those industries that are strong in regional Australia, particularly in Far North Queensland, to grow and to be developed and to be strong, and to support our regional communities.

Steve Cannae: All right. We're going to go to a web question now and I'd remind everyone to keep your questions and comments coming through the live chat and also via Twitter at the hash tag Y20Aus. That's #Y20Aus. The question we have via the web is from johncsmith88. His question is "What suggestions regarding youth unemployment does the Y20 plan on giving to the G20 Sherpa's and other leaders?" Laura, we'll get you to explain what a Sherpa is because people are going "What does this have to do with climbing Mt Everest?" in a moment. And also, "What role can the Y20 play with the IMF and the World Bank regarding co-operation in the fight to end poverty?" Okay Laura, what's a Sherpa?

Laura Sobels: Look, I learnt recently myself as well because I was asking myself the same question, my understanding of what a Sherpa is, is that our Sherpa for Australia is Heather Smith. They're the, I suppose leading diplomats of each country, every respective G20 country and they have lots of, I suppose what you would call "pre meetings" to a G20. So, there might be a bit of a misconception out there that the G20 that happens towards the end of the year, there's, there's no lead-up. Everyone just kind of rocks up in one place for a couple of days and then you chat, but you're never going to get world leaders in the one place at one time without talking about it beforehand.

Steve Cannane: Okay. So to move onto the question, what is the Y20 going to do? What role can the Y20 play with the IMF and the World Bank regarding co-operation to fight poverty and also on giving - what are they going to do about youth unemployment?

Laura Sobels: Well first I'll tackle the youth unemployment in terms of the G20 – the Y20 and the G20.

Steve Cannane: Yep.

Laura Sobels:  So, our approach at the moment really is that we understand that youth unemployment is a massive issue. It's not something we're disputing. I suppose it's also part of recognising the youth experience within Australia is quite broad as well, across many different areas. A kid in Broome who's 15 is going to have a very different experience trying to get a job than a kid in Western Sydney. So we recognise that and we also recognise that there's no 'one size fits all' policy if you will. So, because we're no experts it comes back to what I said before about pooling all of our resources together to ask people who know, who are having those experiences, who are trying to implement programs, kind of like what Martin pointed to before, many different stakeholders and ask them so we can take that to the international forum. Beyond that, with the IMF and the World Bank cooperating in the fight to end poverty, look, that's a really big question. There's no doubt that ending poverty is something we would all love to see and I believe that it's baby steps. I don't see why we can't do it in our lifetime given the advances we've made on many different fronts in the last few decades.

Steve Cannane: All right. Anne, could I get your view on this. What, what role can forums like the G20 play in reducing youth unemployment locally in Australia and, globally?

Anne Daly: I think it's really important to raise the issues and to make them publicly available and publicly debated, and while I don't imagine Y20 is going to solve all the problems tomorrow, it would be lovely if it did – by bringing these things to people's attention, they provide a really good service and, and I think organisations like the IMF and the World Bank, they'll be aware of what's going on at Y20 and G20 and we hope they will be responding.

Steve Cannane: Martin, you're dealing with these issues at the coalface every day. Is it good to hear them discussed at an international forum?

Martin Thomas: Absolutely. I think and certainly to potentially increase trade between countries to, to get the economies going and certainly at a macro level, really important. But also just to learn from different countries whether there's programs that are successful in the UK or other G20 countries. If we can learn from them, well that's all the better obviously.

Steve Cannane: Okay. We're going to go to a web question now and I'd remind people to keep their questions and comments coming through the live chat and also via Twitter at #Y20Aus. Aus spelt A U S. Now the question from Darren Stones via the web is, "Is the funding cuts to TAFE in Australia going to cause a longer term issue regarding youth gaining vocational skills?" Scott, do you want to tackle that one?

Scott Ryan: Well firstly I'll, I'll have to say that the Commonwealth doesn't fund TAFE. It is the preserve of the State governments who have responsibility for it and I know it best in my home state of Victoria, so I'll concentrate on the debate that's occurred down there. The State Government did make some changes a few years ago because quite frankly, the, the skills that were – the growth in TAFE that had gone from, I think $800 million to about $1.2 billion in a short number of years because caps had been removed, had all been in areas that weren't on the national skills shortage list. We were training quite frankly, an inordinate number of personal trainers.

Now I have one because I need one, but it's probably not going to be the single most important skillset that we want people to have the opportunity to learn in TAFE. So it was reprioritised to try and direct it towards the skills where we know that are in national short supply. So, in my experience TAFE works and it works very well, but all governments have to live within their means. This is not something that is negotiable. In fact, the last five years have taught us that lesson more than any other time in my lifetime. And so when governments actually have to prioritise, these days if people want extra money or proposed spending on an additional program, then that money has to be sourced, either from another program or from a tax revenue increase. That is just the reality that we deal with now in our budgetary situation.

Steve Cannane: Anne, do you want to respond to the Senator there?

Anne Daly: Yes. So we've done some work, among the group I work with at the University of Canberra, looking at the rates of return to investment in vocational training and there are some jobs which you wouldn't be surprised to hear, like electricians and plumbers, where it's, it's been a really good investment and we imagine it will continue to be in the future. While there are other areas like hairdressing, if you're looking at a purely economic return, these are not good careers to get into in terms of future income. So, I think Senator Ryan's right, that we need to think about where we're going to direct the funds because we've got scarce resources, but it's very important that, that there's access to resources for training in those areas which were the focus of the skill shortages that happened in the middle of the last decade at the height of the mining boom.

Steve Cannane: Okay. We're going to go to an audience question now. So if anyone here in the audience has got a question, please put your hand up and we'll, we'll get a microphone to you. Just in the middle there.

Audience Member: Thanks. Hi. This is for the Senator. I guess my question is there are a lot of young people who do free work experience. So they work for free. They're not reimbursed for travel expenses, food or even wages. So my, my question – there's two questions. Do you think that young people should be involved in unpaid work experience and what advice do you have for these people in those types of situations?

Scott Ryan: So, in broad terms, I'll call them internships, effectively unpaid placements in offices. And one of my staff here I actually recruited via an internship. I did it myself years ago when I was at university. I think they are an incredibly valuable way to get experience. When I was a uni student I wasn't working in anything to do with what I was studying. I was pushing trolleys around a supermarket, but an internship allowed me to actually get some effective work experience, you know, I could put on my CV in the areas that I wanted to work in. So I think I always try and provide opportunities for interns for example, in my office - I know a lot of my colleagues do - for those that are interested in public policy or politics or the public sector, and I think it's valuable not just for them. It's also valuable for us because I get then a perspective on a generation and people's experience in the education system I might not otherwise get in my daily life.

Steve Cannane: Do you remember how long your internship was?

Scott Ryan: Well there was a course - you could do one at Melbourne Uni - I think which lasted a semester. So that would be roughly 15 weeks give or take, but it wasn't full time and then I – what I'd call the unpaid voluntary work I did, I probably did another couple of months of it all up, spread over a few years.

Steve Cannane: Because the question is I guess, when does it become exploited, if you know?

Scott Ryan: Well the thing is, no one is compelled to do it. So what I was going to say is the advice I would give someone is when you think you have gotten what you can gain out of the internship, whether that be the experience, the insights into a particular career – I remember doing work experience with a Barrister when I was in Year 10 or 11. It made me decide I did not want to be a lawyer. So, when you think you've got what you can get out of it which is experience, insight and maybe a reference, then I think that might be time to move on because at that point you've got to judge what is it – what is it really returning to you? I know for some people that might be a month, for some people it might be six months.

Steve Cannane: Yeah. It's a good question. Jonathan, have you had any personal experiences with internships or any wisdom you'd like to share on them?

Jonathan Pavetto: Yes, I have. When I was in Grade 10 and Grade 11 I did a bit of work experience with a legal office as well and made me decide that I didn't want to be a lawyer either. But I, I have done a lot of volunteer work, I guess we can call it that. I wouldn't necessarily call it much of an internship, but it, it was, it was very worthwhile and I got a lot of experience out of it that I wouldn’t have had otherwise and it also put me in a position where I had the experiences and the references and the capacities to really go forward and, and to, to say to my current employer that, that at the time, "Look, I have these experiences. I have a lot of capacity I have demonstrated before in, in a professional environment," and it was very, very valuable.

Steve Cannane: Laura, do you want to chip in there on the issue of internships?

 Laura Sobels: Yeah I would. Look while I agree wholeheartedly with what Jonathan and the Senator have said, there is definitely a lot of value in doing unpaid work and getting that experience hands on in a work environment. There are many, many different benefits I could go into. Although respectfully I'd have to disagree with you Senator that I believe it can be detrimental and it ties in quite nicely to the question we just had before about vocational work going into long term unemployment. What we're seeing now as well, is that the cost of being unemployed is going – is getting higher. So the longer you are unemployed the less attractive you become to an employer, and what I hear from a lot of my – because I'm at university at the moment – what I hear from a lot of my fellow students is that it becomes, especially within say, areas like law, it becomes extremely competitive.

You've got to have these kinds of industry internships. You've got to have a minimum of this and a minimum of that and there's a lot of pressure to do it, and beyond that, it's, it’s not the one or two days a week for a couple of weeks that we're talking about. It's when you're expected to take big chunks, full time weeks out of your personal time where you could be earning and doing that for free where you aren't getting reimbursed for anything, and you've got to factor in the fact that you're losing that time earning as well. So that's a big struggle, and it then becomes, and I've seen this, it becomes an avenue for people who have come from say, privileged backgrounds who are, or who are perhaps in a better position to take that time out where they're not earning if they're – especially if they're in uni and they're supporting themselves where they have to take that time out. So I think it's worth a conversation talking about the value – not just the value of that but how they're constructed, especially in really competitive markets like law.

Steve Cannane: Is there anything you wanted to follow up on, about that question, about internships?

Audience Member: Not so much.

Steve Cannane: Was it from a personal viewpoint from your own experience that you…

Audience Member: It was just from experiences, not for myself, but for my friends and people that I've talked to. It, it gets to a point where those other people become exploited, so in other words, those people are helping the firm or the corporation earn profits but they are not getting a share of those profits at all. They are just getting work experience. So is in – is that sort of okay, is the question?

Steve Cannane: Okay. There's a follow up question I think here. If we can just pass the microphone down. I guess it goes back Scott, to the issue of consent and about knowing how long this internship is going to go for and having that clarified so it's not being dragged out?

Scott Ryan: Well, as someone that's had interns in the office, and people I know that have interns in, you know, professional services or the creative design area, it's actually not entirely, you just get someone in and drop them on a desk. It actually requires us to have processes in place and most employers, because they then pick up liability for these people as well, you know, as they should in a workplace. So it's not just you slot someone in and you sort of set and forget and get them to work hard.

I also say I don't know if volunteering at a place and not getting a share of the company's profits through being paid labour, I wouldn't necessarily define that as exploitation. If you are volunteering to do it and you are doing it because you think it's going to help you get another job down the track, then I think the person, by the nature of the volunteering, is actually getting something out of it because they're not being compelled to do it.

Law is a classic case where, I take Laura's point, there, there's always been summer clerkships and since the explosion in the number of legal students over the last 15 years, there is virtually no chance of all of them working at a law firm. In fact there is no chance of them all working at a law firm, and so it has become hypercompetitive to get even those summer clerkships. But, what's the alternative, and this is my concern. Every time, sometimes when we see a problem we've got to ask ourselves "What is the alternative to fix it?" and sometimes governments trying to fix things can actually make a problem worse, and I'd be concerned if we tried to regulate this space because it does seem to be working relatively well simply by virtue of the number of people putting their hand up.

Steve Cannane: Okay.

Audience Member: My comment would obviously be running on from that because I have – I've done my law degree and, and experienced this sort of thing. I think it's incredibly important to differentiate between a work placement for a subject at university which is obviously something that a, specifically in law that we have to do, and obviously unpaid internship kind of situation that, that certainly comes up, because again it is a hypercompetitive area and if you don't have these experiences on your resume, there's 100 other law graduates who are banging at the door trying to get some experience. And my understanding is that they've attempted somewhat to regulate this area a little bit sort of, going into things like Fair Work and making sure that if you are contributing to the business enterprise that you are being reimbursed or you waive your right to be reimbursed. It's not necessarily my area of expertise, but my understanding is there is a little bit of regulation coming in in that respect which again, tries to stop being – people being exploited, but I think it is important to realise that, that in the hypercompetitive areas there is – there are still people working full time hours for free on the basis that they just need the experience because you can't get your first grad job.

Steve Cannane: Okay, we'll move – we'll move on and get another, a web question, and I'll remind everyone to keep those questions coming through via the live chat and also via Twitter. The question is from Henry Sacchari. "What is sustainable growth for young people? Does it mean a budget surplus? A booming economy?" That question has got to go to the economist, Anne?

Anne Daly: I was worried I was going to get this one. Well certainly we do need a strong economy if we're going to have jobs for young people. That's definitely true. The whole argument about how you produce a sustainable economy is much more complex. We don't just want growth for growth's sake. We want particular types of growth. Now, in the short run, I don't think we do need to have a budget surplus in order to have a sustainable economy, but in the medium term we do need to have a balanced budget. So, it is a very complicated question and I don't think there's a simple answer about how we produce a sustainable economy.

Steve Cannane: Okay, Scott, it's universally accepted that we need growth to reduce unemployment. What about the issue of surplus? Because Tony Abbott's made it clear he wants to build infrastructure. Infrastructure sometimes takes borrowing but that borrowing can lead to investment that is good for the economy, good for, for reducing unemployment and, and making the economy more efficient?

Scott Ryan: Well it can and it can particularly do that when you don't already have a big credit card debt. I mean you can't go to the bank and ask for extra money to buy your first home if you've got $20,000 or $30,000 on the credit card, and that's the challenge Australia finds itself in. I think balancing the budget is not just about the economy. There's a moral component to this. As well as our debt, we have hundreds of billions of dollars of superannuation liabilities for public servants that we as tax payers and you as younger tax payers are going to be paying for your entire working lives. Over decades governments have run up liabilities as well as formal borrowings over the last five years.

Now, just to put this in context. The interest payments this year on Commonwealth debt alone would almost cover the entire Commonwealth contribution for the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There is a real cost to the money that has been borrowed and spent on consumption in the last few years because we don't have the freeways, we don't have the new railway lines, we don't have the new ports, that economic infrastructure you're talking about.

Steve Cannane: But just to pick up that issue, the money that was borrowed after the Global Financial Crisis was about reducing the unemployment rate, wasn't it, which is what we're talking about?

Scott Ryan: Well no. No, I sat – I sat on this in great detail and that's become a mantra of one side of politics, but they're – they started saying they were going to create jobs…

Steve Cannane: Well sorry, that advice came from Treasury, that…

Scott Ryan: …and they said that it saved just over 200,000 jobs, actually just under 300,000 jobs,  that it saved. So, are we saying the $42 billion which was spent on that second stimulus package, was worth allegedly saving 300,000 jobs which can't be proved because the counter factual can't be established?

Steve Cannane: Look, I don't know what the argument to that is, but the government at the time was acting on the same advice the Coalition would have got if they were in government which was from Treasury, which was borrowing money to spend it to make sure the unemployment rate didn't go up.

Scott Ryan: But, this is the same Treasury that in 1989 said "Keep interest rates high." I mean, just because it comes from Treasury doesn't make it infallible.

Steve Cannane: Okay.

Scott Ryan: And all the way around the world when there has been fiscal consolidation in the United States under Bill Clinton and before that George Bush senior, in Australia in the late 1990s, in the UK, whenever there has been financial consolidation you've had a sustained period of economic growth that follows it, and that's the most important underpinning to give business confidence to invest, particularly small business, which provides so many jobs and particularly first jobs for young Australians.

Steve Cannane: All right. Martin wants to respond. Martin?

Martin Thomas: Look, I think there's also an element in terms of sustainable growth that goes to fairness and equity and I think Australia to some extent is a beacon and a good example to other nations in the G20. We have to make sure that there's a, a fairness and a sense that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the economy, and I guess that's why unemployment is so insidious that it cuts people out.

So I think from a moral point of view, governments need to have some level of funding to help those that are the most vulnerable to stay in, but we need to get that balance right, to make sure that there's still a system that encourages people to, to, you know, maximum to find a job. So I think that fairness and equity thing is a massive issue. I think particularly in the US and the UK the divide between rich and poor is growing. You're getting working poor as well which is a massive issue. I think Australia potentially has a, a lot to contribute to the, G20 in that context and also some challenges ahead as, as you say, as budgets are constrained both at State and Federal level.

Steve Cannane: Okay. We've got a video question now. This video question is from Lauren Moss.

Lauren Moss: Given that mental illness impacts on at least one in four young Australians each year and workforce participation for people with a mental illness is quite low, how can we move towards more inclusive, supportive and flexible Australian workplaces?

Steve Cannane: Laura, can I throw that one to you?

Laura Sobels:  I'm really glad that a question about mental health has come up as, as Martin will tell you from the data that's come from Mission Australia recently. That's a really big concern for young people seeing as it is so prevalent and I'd, I'd throw any statistics over to you Martin for that. Look I know what I can say from my experiences. I've experienced difficulties in the past, in the recent past, and being unemployed during those periods has been very difficult and it, it demotivates you to try and find jobs and it certainly isn't helping if you're starting out working in a new place as well. There are many different factors we could go into.

So I think it is really important that we are looking at and addressing how we can be mindful of that in the workplace, especially when it comes to, to young people and as I mentioned earlier, the youth experience is very broad across Australia and there are so many different things we could take into consideration there, anything from LGBTIQ, depending on what language you use, rights and issues around that. I think it's very important that we are mindful of that and I would like to tie back into something you mentioned Scott about helping out the small businesses, small and medium businesses as well, and how they can tackle those kinds of issues in their workplaces, because as we can see, you, you walk down almost any street these days and the amount of shopfronts that are closing, there definitely needs to be some discussion there about how we can help small businesses and then help young people get jobs there.

Steve Cannane: Martin, I'll get you to respond to that question because Mission Australia has done a lot of work helping people who've dealt with mental illnesses getting placed in the workforce.

Martin Thomas: Yep.

Steve Cannane: Can you respond to that question?

Martin Thomas: And look, as Laura mentioned, we do a youth survey every year. When you look at issues of personal concern to young people, stress, coping with stress, mental health issues are very high, year on year. Look I think there's a couple of things. I think certainly to overcome stigma of mental health, whether it's through employees across the community and I think there's a lot that's happening there which has been positive. I think one of the big issues is that mental health for many people is – just comes and goes to some extent. It's not necessarily something that they tackle with for a full lifetime. There'll be times when they'll be fully able to work and manage the mental health issue that they have, other times when they may not be able to work, but to be able to look at that and make sure we understand it's an episode in some cases which, which may not allow someone to work. But I think there's plenty of opportunities and I think we just need both employers and a community that comes together to help us overcome stigma of mental health.

Steve Cannane: All right, we're going to go…

Laura Sobels: Sorry…

Steve Cannane: Do you want to make a quick point there Laura?

Laura Sobels: I just wanted to quickly jump in on that because I thought it was really pertinent that you brought that up as well – the stigma – given what's just happened in AFL, just this past week. I forget his name and I'm really - I apologise for that.

Steve Cannane: The Melbourne Demons player Mitch…

Laura Sobels: Mitch Clark.

Steve Cannane: Yeah.

Laura Sobels: Yeah, who has come out and said he is experiencing depression and he just can't play full time football anymore and I think the respect that the community has shown to him for that and the fact that he's had the bravery to stand up and say that, he would be a person that a lot of young people look up to. So, more instances of that and the community being really supportive around that is important.

Scott Ryan: Can I just add, I think one thing we should also acknowledge is how far we've come on this issue over 20 years. Twenty years ago I knew someone, a friend of the family, who went to three hospitals and begged for help and didn't get any, and went home and took his own life. While it can happen today, the truth is there's a much greater awareness of mental health issues. It started really I think with Jeff Kennett, who in a way came out and talked about it, in a way partly that people wouldn't have expected Jeff Kennett to actually talk about a social issue. I think compared to when I was growing up - and I'm only 40 - the stigma while some people say, it can still be there, it is nothing compared to what it was. My colleague Andrew Robb wrote a book about it and sits in Cabinet and has just had a very successful week negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan. So I think there's a, a willingness to discuss this which is a huge achievement for the country over 20 years.

Steve Cannane: All right. Let's go to that web question, we've got a question here from VGen.  "How can young Australians ensure G20 countries push for sustainable growth so that those living in poverty aren't left behind?" Anne, do you want to tackle that one?

Anne Daly: Sure. I think that it's – it's really important to keep the trade flows open and there's plenty of evidence that shows that economies that are open to trade are the ones that grow and perform well, compared to the economies that are closed, and North Korea is the example of the extreme closed economy where, you know, people starve to death…

Steve Cannane: That's right.

Anne Daly: …in their hundreds of thousands. So, I think that that's a really important thing to be pushing for in the G20. Keep the trade flows open.

Steve Cannane: Jonathan, I'm sure you'd endorse that given that you, you know, you've been watching carefully the, the agreement this week and it hasn't necessarily done the cane growers any good that you represent?

Jonathan Pavetto: Yes, we've certainly been watching the trade negotiations very actively. Unfortunately there was nothing in it for sugar, but that's just the nature of these things in trade. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. We didn't this time, but there's always next time. In terms of sustainable growth and lifting people out of poverty, the best way to lift people out of poverty is through solid economic growth. If you look at the billions of dollars in aid that have been spent throughout Africa in the past decade, there has been little achievement. But if you look at the economic growth that's come out of China and India, it's lifted millions of people out of poverty and if we're going to focus as a G20 on lifting people out of poverty, the best way that can be done is through increasing economic growth around the world, and I think Australia has a very important part to play in that.

Steve Cannane: Martin, do you want to jump in there?

Martin Thomas: I do, and probably from a former hat. I have worked with World Vision for quite a while. I think there's certainly a component and a use for aid. I mean I think certainly at a very base level the, the ham, cheese and tomato if you like, of aid which has been vitamin supplements, mosquito nets and increased nutrition has saved countless lives that basically were going, and under-five preventable deaths have been halved. So I think there is. It's not going to solve it, aid, but I think aid certainly has a key role in helping countries get to that stage where they can get that first step on the economic ladder. So I don't think it's either/or. I think they both play a role. I think in the context of the G20 where you have developing countries there, that they also have a say in how the aid is spent and, and that they have some control of it too.

Scott Ryan: Can I just add to that? I think, the point Anne started and, and John mentioned as well, again, in my lifetime we have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of the most abject poverty. People aren't taught about the great famines of China of the 1950s and 60s where, where tens of millions of people died. India and China between them have had the greatest movement in the shortest period of time of people out of poverty in human history, and it's happened almost entirely because of trade. It's happened because they have opened their economies and yes, they have had low-wage manufacturing jobs, just like a lot of other countries had them 50 or 60 years ago, or in our case, 150 years ago. Trade is the single greatest force for lifting people out of poverty. When we want to have policies about…

Steve Cannane: And democratisation as well, isn't it, too?

Scott Ryan: Well that's true, having the institutions, and I read a fact the other day that the only continent in the world that will have an increase in the number of people without electricity over the coming decades will be Africa, and I genuinely think that in coming decades we will look back at the work of some who have seemed to fight against trade, particularly in Africa, despite the lessons of India and China, and we will look back on that with a little bit of shame because it is keeping people unnecessarily in poverty.

Steve Cannane: Okay. We're going to move onto a topic that's very much related to what we've been discussing in the last few minutes and that's global citizenship and mobility. International trade, global financial markets and high speed technologies have connected individuals and communities beyond our natural borders. More and more we're all part of a connected, globalised economy. In an era of global supply chains, jobs are increasingly mobile. What opportunities and challenges does this present for Australian youth? We'll take some questions on this topic from the audience here and also via the web, but Anne, if I can go to you first on that, the, the issue of you know, the globalised economy, what opportunities does that provide for Australian young people?

Anne Daly: It provides us huge opportunities for Australian young people and I think one of the things that's changed in the last 20 or 30 years is that migration used to be something that you did for your life. You moved somewhere and that was it. But now the whole world is pretty much on wheels and people move to all sorts of different places in the course of their working life. They’re not just moving one place. So that, that offers a whole lot of opportunities and I think…

Steve Cannane: Now it's not only the highly trained, highly educated people or, you know, is it anybody?

Anne Daly: No, it's – it's across – it's across the board. If you go to somewhere like Hong Kong you will meet a lot of housemaids from the Philippines. There are people from all over the place moving all over the world. I think one of the, the big challenges for Australia is with things like the HECS debt for people that are moving overseas are now no longer…

Steve Cannane: Surely that's got to be shut down and surely they should be paying HECS?

Anne Daly: Well that's up to the government to decide.

Steve Cannane: Scott?

Scott Ryan: Well I did – I have read part of the Grattan Report from the – from the other day and it is fair to note that other countries like Britain that copied out HECS scheme, which really was a global innovation when Bruce Chapman at the ANU conceived it and it was implemented in '89 I think it was, the UK for example has copied that, but it has put a levy on those working overseas. Now it's a touch easier because many of them would be in the EU.

Steve Cannane: Yeah.

Scott Ryan: But I think the Grattan Report does have some things worth looking at.

Steve Cannane: Jonathan do you want to pick up on that one?

Jonathan Pavetto: Well in terms of global citizenship and, and mobility I guess I'm, I'm part of that story and I'm incredibly excited about it because I have previously studied in Italy twice. I have lived and studied in Syria before the crisis - I had to leave a bit early. That was unfortunate -  and then I've done a bit of work for the United Nations in New York and, and also in The Hague in the Netherlands and what it showed to me was that national barriers aren't a limitation. If you want to go somewhere and you've - you find the means to do it and I've not always been from a family of means, but if you can find the means to do it, then it's certainly worthwhile doing, and you can do it. That's the big part of the story. You can do it. There's no limitation on you anymore.

Steve Cannane: Laura?

Laura Sobels: Yeah, I would definitely second that as well. I have almost grown up with this sense that when I finish school, when I finish university I'll move overseas. I don't know where yet. I don't know what that looks like. I don't know where it's going to be, but that I have never not seen that in my career, in my working future. And I also don't see it as being permanent either. So I think especially in terms of the Y20 and how that feeds into global citizenship and mobility there's often I feel quite a broad discussion around what it, especially within Australia, about what it means to be a global citizen. But I think we've got to step back and say that that's quite a privileged conversation we're having that from the perspective of we've all got a lot of access to technology and a lot of access to people from around the world, so it's easier for us to see ourselves as global citizens, but that might not be the same for our Y20 colleagues. And so that's why we're focusing on labour mobility in terms of global citizenship and the workforce around it.

Steve Cannane: Scott, does global mobility need to be two ways? Do we need to be taking people from other countries into Australia and be freer about that if we're allowing young Australians to, to break into other economies?

Scott Ryan: Well, we do. The immigration rate, if you include the 457 visas, many of whom went onto permanent residency, under the Howard Government got near 300,000 people a year. So, our country - and this is one of the things that has kept the economy strong – our country compared to countries like Europe which are looking at the risk of serious population decline – some of them – our country is still rapidly growing. I mean the city of Melbourne, my home town has grown by a million people which is basically Adelaide in 12 years. So, I think we have facilitated that and we are better off for it, but I just endorse what Jonathan and Laura said, I always wished I could but I never had the opportunity. It is fantastic now that people can grow up with that perspective which is "I am going to study overseas," "I am going to work overseas," and have that confidence, conscious that what Laura said too, there are going to be people who don't have those opportunities who are at the other end of the labour market who we also need to have programs for.

Steve Cannane: Yep, okay. We'll just see if there's any questions from the audience on this issue of global mobility, global economics? Anyone in the – on the floor here got a question? Yep, just there, down near the front.

Audience Member: Hi, I'm Mushee Brakash. I was just wondering just as a general sort of economic question that comes into the play here, as you have increasing mobility, what advantages would you actually give Australia in terms of a globalised economy because we find that a youth bubble is actually present around the entire world and so right now we've got good education compared to say, other developing countries, but as people become more up‑skilled everywhere, where's the push going to be? Like, do we sit in cities where we can do, you know, programming or some other sort of tasks or shuffling paper somehow to produce things that the rest of the world wants? Can we do it that way or do we have to see a push to go to rural areas where, you know, farmers are struggling because they're all over 60 and stuff like that, or other forms in the rural sector as to resources and so on, that actually drive the global economy?

Steve Cannane: Jonathan I think that's a good one for you.

Jonathan Pavetto: Yep. There's, there's two parts that we can look at that question. In terms of education, Australia has one of the best international education systems in the world. Our universities are top-notch and people from all the world come to Australia to go to our universities. That's a very important part. The second part on migration into regional and rural areas, in my home town our population is declining. You've got cities like Melbourne which are growing very quickly, Sydney is doing the same, Brisbane as well where I live now, but my home town, the population's declining and that poses very severe issues for North Queensland in terms of our economic development potential, in terms of keeping services like the local school and local hospital open, so it's very worthwhile looking at international migration opportunities, particularly for rural and regional areas as, as part of that international connectedness.

Steve Cannane: Anne, do you want to pick up on that issue as well?

Anne Daly: Well the issue of the shrinking of small regional cities and towns and the growth of the big metropolises is an international phenomena and I'm not sure that we can buck that trend, but I think there are great opportunities produced by all the digital revolution in the last 10 years for the possibility of employment growth in some of these areas. You now no longer have to be sitting in Sydney or Melbourne to find a job in a whole lot of professions and we haven't really exploited that. Things are just beginning to happen.

Steve Cannane: Okay. We're going to move onto our last topic for, for this evening. The headline statistic on the G20 often focused on the fact that it compromises 85% of global GDP, but sometimes we forget that 60% of the world's poor live within the G20 as well. G20 finance ministers recently set a target to lift global growth by two percentage points higher than the current forecasts. The contribution of developing economies is vital to achieving that goal. So what is the role for wealthy countries like Australia in promoting sustainable development abroad and how can young people help this? Have we got any questions from the floor on this topic? If not, we might just throw that, that issue open. What role can Australia play in the developing nations? Laura do you want to – do you want to tackle that one?

Laura Sobels: It's a big one. It goes back to sort of what you said earlier, Senator, about how the economic growth of India and China has lifted millions of people out of poverty. What Australia can do for that, I'm not sure, there are members of delegation who could speak well to this, that especially in Aboriginal communities or indigenous communities I should say, that you haven't seen as much, definitely nowhere near as much improvement as you would have liked in terms of the poverty rate there. So what models we have for that to extend overseas, I don't know. Beyond that, there is definitely so much enthusiasm among the young people of Australia to see that and we've had the chance now to be having a lot of conversations in the public arena about the future of our world that goes back to the global citizen topic we mentioned just before, that we see it incumbent upon us as being a developed nation to help that 60% of the world's poor that is within the 20 biggest economies of the world.

Steve Cannane: Martin, what can Australia do to help those countries?

Martin Thomas: Well look, I think we've talked about the importance of trade between countries, but the other element, Australia has had some excellent success in just exporting its expertise around food security and agriculture in terms of we do some arid land farming very successfully. Many countries, be it in Africa or parts of Asia, are struggling to produce enough food to have that food security, particularly with rapidly changing environments where areas are becoming more drought prone and I think certainly there's really good examples where that expertise has, has helped countries and we've struck up, I guess the partnerships for, for the benefit of those countries.

I think going back to being a global citizen, the, the idea of bringing young people together to sit and almost take away those boundaries in terms of the challenges and problems people are facing around the world and bringing the best brains and the best expertise is really another significant issue around the importance of G20.

Steve Cannane: Anne, what are the solutions here? I mean microfinance is another example, isn't it?

Anne Daly: Yes, it is, very much so. So there have been some very successful microfinance programs in the past, but I think one of the things that Australia does and perhaps we don't recognise enough is that education is one of our largest exports, and at the University of Canberra for example, we have a huge number of international students and what they learn through their university experience - and I'm not just talking about what they learn in the classroom - is a really important way in which we influence these people who often go home to become leaders in their countries.

Steve Cannane: Okay, we've got a video question on, on this topic from Gideon Reisner.

Gideon Reisner: According to the Tax Justice Network Australia, illegal trade related tax evasion alone will be responsible for some 5.6 million deaths of young people in developing countries between 2000 and 2015. What will the Y20/G20 do to address and acknowledge this injustice, one that clearly forms a barrier to sustainable economic development in least developed countries?

Steve Cannane: Martin, have you heard that argument before, that tax evasion is, is leading to deaths in developing nations?

Martin Thomas: I haven't heard necessarily that direct link, but certainly the issue of tax evasion is a massive issue and I know this government and the G20 have put the issue of transparency on the agenda, the idea that corporations can transfer or do price transferring. That means that they're not paying tax in countries where they're working in, the developing countries, means that there's less money to provide infrastructure in those countries, health etc. So it is certainly an issue. It's an issue that needs to be tackled globally and part of that is to have a transparent process where companies are transparent with how they pay tax and how it's calculated.

Steve Cannane: Anne, is that an argument you've heard before?

Anne Daly: Yes I have, and I agree, that it's a very important argument, the argument about transparency, but I'm not sure how you can actually link the transparency with deaths. I'd be interested to see that piece of research that does that.

Scott Ryan: We actually looked at this today because I saw this question and quite frankly there's absolutely no basis for this assertion. It's rubbery to the extreme. And quite frankly I think these are effectively anti-trade agendas that some groups lend their names to. People need to consider the credibility of their groups when they see claims made on websites like this, because there's no basis for this at all. It's an assertion based on other assertions. Now, the issue of transparency around tax arrangements will be discussed at the G20 and it is important, particularly to have public faith in the taxation system, but some people who would like higher levels of tax collection have argued or have implied that this will somehow bring budgets back into balance. It's not that degree of money we're looking at. This is not going to be the panacea to solving the problem which is that we are simply spending more than we are collecting in tax revenues. This is not going to make up that difference.

Steve Cannane: Surely it will make a difference though if some of those, those, those big corporations who have been dodging tax, pay their fair share?

Scott Ryan: Well hang on, again, we've got to use the term carefully here. Currently what is being done is entirely legal, so I'm not necessarily going to imply that it's somehow illegal. If we want to change the laws, by all means that's what parliaments do, but what they're mainly talking about in a moment including some very rubbery numbers that were thrown around about Apple, are revenues raised in first world countries, in countries with high consumer bases. So there are examples about Apple, there have been examples particularly in the IT sector where it is easier to move intellectual property than it is avoid tax on physical goods or change the tax jurisdiction. So, in terms of developing countries, it's not actually the huge issue there. It is this has been primarily discussed in terms of a revenue base for developed countries.

Steve Cannane: Yep, yep, true. Okay, we're going to go to a web question now. Shannon Molloy has asked "What's the single biggest challenge facing young people in the coming decade and what can we do about it?" Gee, that's a big question. Jonathan?

Jonathan Pavetto: The single biggest challenge that I would, would say really is the jobs challenge. If we can't get people in jobs and if we can't get Australian industries employing young people, then what does that say for our future? If we can't solve the youth unemployment problem that we have around the world, then we could be looking at a catastrophic situation of a lost generation. In Australia it's an issue but it's not as big an issue as in countries like Spain where it's 55% youth unemployment - that is just a tragedy – or in other countries like Greece and Italy. But that goes back to my original point earlier is that we need to try and get our Australian industries working. In a, in a city like Cairns that has 20% youth unemployment which I, from personal experience would suggest is a very small number – I'd suggest it's higher than that – it really goes to the point that we need our Australian industries to be doing the best that they can and employing as many young people as they can to, to give them the bright future that, that we all deserve.

Steve Cannane: Laura, you get the last word on this one.

Laura Sobels: I'd just like to jump in there and say that there are definitely many topical issues that youth of Australia care very deeply about and definitely from around the world there are any number of things I could bring up. But I think as Jonathan said, you know, it's really important to remember that if the youth of Australia aren't being employed, they can't afford to care about other social issues that are really important to them, and that's something really important to remember.

Steve Cannane: All right. That's a good point to end on. Thanks to all of our panellists tonight, Senator Ryan, Laura Sobels, Jonathan Pavetto, Anne Daly and Martin Thomas. Please thank them. And for more info on upcoming Y20 events and to continue to engage on these issues in the lead-up to the summit, head to the Y20 website. Thanks very much for coming in, everyone in the audience, everybody online and hopefully we can do it again sometime soon. Thanks very much.



For more information

Media Contact:
Non-media queries: 1300 566 046