Treasurer Scott Morrison presented his budget for 2016-17 on May 3. What does it mean for young people today? Does it address higher education and growing youth unemployment? No.
From April 1 next year, jobseekers under 25 who are receiving welfare payments such as Newstart and have been looking for a job for at least six months, will be able to participate in intensive pre-employment skills training within five months of registering with the Centrelink program “jobactive”.
Under the scheme, more than 30,000 young people will be eligible to take part in the intensive three-tiered Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) program, consisting of 6 weeks of pre-employment skills training, leading to placement in a 6 to 12 week internship program with a local business.
Interns will be required to work for 15 to 25 hours a week and will receive $200 a fortnight on top of their usual welfare payments. Businesses that take on interns will receive an upfront payment of $1000, and on completion of the internship, subsidies of up to $10,000 are available if they decide to offer ongoing employment to a young person who is classified as less job-ready.
The proposed Youth Jobs PaTH program amounts to nothing more than exploitation of unemployed young people who are currently receiving welfare payments. It allows employers to pay young workers only $4 an hour to boost their bottom line and increase their profits through the exploitation of labour.
Young people need jobs with proper wages, are secure and have good working conditions, as opposed to being forced to be trialled in low-paid internships.
Instead of spending millions of dollars forcing young jobseekers to be exploited by employers in low-paid internships, the government should be investing in a proper jobs program that gives young people real opportunities and potential for growth.
In the budget, more than $500 million was cut from the Work for the Dole scheme and jobseekers will now be required to have received Newstart for 12 months before undertaking Work for the Dole. The government is also scrapping the carbon tax compensation scheme for new welfare recipients, which will mean young people who are on Newstart or Youth Allowance will lose up to $14.10 a fortnight.
The budget also continues to allocate money to trialing cashless welfare, which restricts 80% of welfare payments to a card with restrictions on what they can purchase. If this were to be implemented across the board it would be a violation of civil liberties and have a disempowering effect on people who currently receive welfare.
Universities face renewed funding uncertainty, with the budget abandoning the government's controversial policy of university fee deregulation, which would have given universities the ability to set their own course fees. The budget also stripped $1.4 billion over four years from higher education funding.
The budget proposes cutting funding to higher education by $601 million in 2018-19 and a further $868 million in 2019-20. If these cuts pass it will lead to job losses in higher education and lower quality of teaching provided by universities.
But in this budget the government will increase funding to the military, with overall funding of $32.3 billion in the next financial year, including more than $1.6 billion to be invested in innovation.
This funding disparity between the military and higher education demonstrates the misplaced priorities of the government and leads us to ask in what world is the strengthening of the military considered a more valuable commodity than the education of young people.
An analysis of the budget by the Australian Services Union reveals there will be cuts to the funding of mental health services, including a 75% cut in funding over two years for specialist youth mental health programs provided by Headspace and the Youth Psychosis program. These programs should have their funding increased to address growing rates of depression and mental illness among young people.
More than $115 million will be cut to funding of homelessness services from July next year, including refuges for women and young people. This will inevitably lead to an increase in youth homelessness. The budget also failed to address the broader issue of homelessness by investing in more public housing.
This budget does little to address the pressing need young people have for good jobs and a quality higher education. We need a budget that prioritises the needs of people and communities. But this budget prioritises the 1% by lowering the corporate tax rate and cutting funding to higher education and essential community services such as mental health and homelessness services.
It is telling that there is almost nothing in the budget about how to tackle the growing climate crisis through investing in renewable energy, an issue which will disproportionately affect future generations.
Young people deserve better than what is being offered in this lousy budget. There needs to be collective action and organisation to put forward alternatives that put the needs of people before corporations and the rich.