Budget and low-SES

One of the things I love about being home in Lalor is running into former students, at the supermarket, at the football, or at netball coaching my team. Last weekend was no different. A former student told me how she and others were going at university. Another spoke about his carpentry apprenticeship—great boss, interesting work—and how he has just saved up and bought his first car. Yet another who dropped out at the end of year 10 and did it hard for a few years is now working in retail after some pre-employment programs. Lalor is home to thousands of young people like these, who, regardless of the home they grew up in, want to work hard and get ahead.

These former students have benefited from Labor government initiatives like the program that encouraged universities to enrol low-SES students. This resulted in a 32 per cent increase in low-SES students from Lalor attending university. The apprenticeships programs, like the access program, have helped 50 locals secure apprenticeships. The Tools for Your Trade program and Apprenticeships Incentives Program benefited more than 6,000 apprentices in Lalor. The Youth Connections program assisted youth at risk to reconnect to education and training, leading to work opportunities.

The sad irony now, though, is that this budget changes all that. I am left wondering: will their younger siblings get to university? Will people still afford to make home improvements after the cost-of-living pressures announced in the budget? Will the apprenticeships be completed if the work dries up? Will the cuts in people's incomes see a reduction in local retail? Budgets are about priorities. They shine a light on what a government believes, and this budget is no different. For the young people of Lalor this budget carries no good news. This budget clearly shows that the young adults in Lalor and their futures are not a priority for this government, despite the rhetoric.

We see this in the actions, in the cruel changes to arrangements for Youth Allowance and Newstart eligibility. We can see it in changes to university funding, in the cutting of Youth Connections, in the cuts to employment support programs. We can see it in the cuts to apprenticeship programs. Those opposite throw around a slogan for people under 30: earn or learn. They pitch it across this chamber like a challenge—a challenge that belies the reality on the ground, the reality that their cuts and their budget will make it harder to learn and harder to earn. I have seen first-hand the impact of well-targeted support and implore those opposite to reconsider these cruel changes. I implore my community, too, to shop local, to use local tradespeople and, if employing, to look locally so that we can see our way through what this budget is going to bring us.

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