Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (16 April) . . Page.. 923..
MS REILLY: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, you have repeatedly claimed that you are concerned about youth and youth unemployment in the ACT. Noting that youth unemployment in the Territory is presently at 40.7 per cent, I ask: What specific measures is your Government taking to bring down this disgraceful figure and offer some hope to young people in the ACT?
MRS CARNELL: I agree that it is a disgraceful figure, and it is one that existed every single month under the previous Government. Maybe you should turn around and ask the previous Chief Minister what she did to address the issue. Yes, youth unemployment is unacceptably high - although I am sure that, if Ms Reilly had asked Ms Follett, she would have got a good explanation of why the figures seem higher than they really are in percentage terms. That is simply, Ms Reilly, because we have a 97 per cent retention rate at school, which artificially skews our figures for youth unemployment. In fact, we have just about 3,000 young people who are available for work in the full-time work force. So, if you have 1,000 or so young people looking for jobs - which is an unacceptable figure - it ends up looking substantially higher than is the case elsewhere. I am sure that you can get a very good explanation from Ms Follett on that; but, if you cannot, I am very happy to run through it in greater depth.
Taking that into account, I suggest that the only way that young people are going to get jobs in this city is by making sure that we get the private sector running. Under the previous Federal Labor Government we saw a virtual cessation of employing young people in the Australian Public Service. We saw a situation where the number of people under 25 in the APS - remember that the APS was our major employer - had nosedived to an all-time low level. That sort of situation has caused problems in Canberra; there is no doubt about that. It is only by approaches like encouraging new small businesses in the ACT and getting projects up and running - projects that can actually employ for the future - that any of us are going to be able to ensure that our kids get jobs in this city.
What happened under the previous Government? Potentially, you should ask that as well. The reality is that nothing happened. There were no jobs from our major employer and certainly no incentives for the private sector to pick up the tab. We have a number of exciting industries in this city - ones that really can grow - but they can grow only if they are given the right incentives and the right environment. That can be done only if this Assembly takes this issue seriously; and certainly the Government does.
MS REILLY: Chief Minister, you have raised many interesting things in relation to youth employment, and it is hard to decide which supplementary question to ask. One thing I would like to just mention to you, in case you had not realised it, is that between February 1994 and February 1995, in fact, there was only one month when youth unemployment went over 40.7 per cent. You might like to have a look at those figures.