Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 23 March 2005
Parliamentary Record 25
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 23 March 2005 new initiatives in the statement. Therefore, I wish to raise today some o f the things that I am anxious to see happen. Alice Springs is my home, and has been for a long time. Although I have three brothers and a sister and many relatives there, I no longer think of Bendigo as my home; I think of Alice Springs as my home and because of that, I am always interested in what is happening. I have been through good times, bad times, and I have seen the town go through ups and downs. I guess that is what happens. At the moment there is a bit of positive feel about the town. There is a lot happening as regards contract work and real estate investment. When you drive along Smith Street you see all the buildings there and the industrial area that has gone up; the proposed Red Centre Resort development; Mad Harrys expanded store, it is absolutely huge; and the old drive-in complex. We are going to go through a stage of a bit of a boom, and I hope that continues. My big problem is the lack of skilled workers. I know people are going to say that is general across Australia, however it is even more difficult in a place like Alice Springs. There is much work for skilled workers in the bush and remote areas, as well as in town, but people are finding it very difficult to locate them. What should government be doing? The government has to seriously look at apprentices and the system we have at the moment. A first year apprentice probably gets less than $6 an hour. Who is going to work for that in this day and age? We need to find incentives to encourage people to become apprentices. For instance, I know o f one chef who is offering his apprentices second year wages if they are a first year apprentice, and third year wages in they are a second year apprentice, purely to encourage and keep them. It is that type of incentive we appear to be lacking in governments policy along the way. Remember employers do not only have the job of training their apprentices, they also lose them at times when they are away studying, therefore employers need to have a lot o f incentive to do this. Apprentices also have to now pay HECS fees which they did not have to pay before. If they get into a position where they have to pay tax, it just seems ironic considering the low wages they are getting. We are not encouraging mature aged people to go into apprenticeships because we are not offering them a comparable wage with something they could get elsewhere. I am saying to the government: why not seriously think about giving grants to employers to assist and subsidise the wages of their apprentices? Apprentices do not earn much in the first year, so what is wrong with government saying to employers, If you are willing to take these people on, we will subsidise those wages? What is wrong with government saying, We will give you a remote area allowance which will assist you, and we will give you tax relief? That is what we need to do. If we are going to have this period of activity in Alice Springs, we need to have the skilled workers to do it. I urge government to seriously think about what they are doing to get not just young apprentices but mature age apprentices into the work system, and to come up with some good incentives for employers. A fellow from an electrical firm said to me that a few years ago he had seven people on his staff, and now only has two electricians and is finding it hard to cope with the amount o f work that he has. He also said he has trained around 43 apprentices in the period he has been in Alice Springs, and that there are too many people working one-man shows who just do not do that apprenticeship training. We need to turn that around, and put more emphasis on training people. Last night I went to a teachers presentation award. Many of these teachers I have known for years in Alice Springs. They have often come out of the South Australian education system, and are getting close to retirement age. Many of them are saying that they are going to leave town and go somewhere else to retire. These people are self-funded retirees who have done the right thing - they have set themselves up financially to be self-funded. If they leave town tomorrow, each time one of them goes we lose $ lm out of our economy, as they own their homes and they have their investments. We have three people on the Seniors Advisory Council from Alice Springs, Penny McConville, Ian Wagner and Lorraine Fox, all people with a lot of foresight and interest in providing facilities for self funded retirees as well as other aged people in town. They have been saying for a long time that to stop the flow of self-funded retirees, we need retirement centres. Government knows how successful the senior villages o f public housing have been because you have pensioners living together where they support each other. The services they have such as Meals on Wheels and health services all go to these seniors complexes. They also know when Joe has not come out the door today and we hope he is okay and they keep an eye on him. The bus picks them up for community activities. They do things to care for each other, but they are the pensioners of the town. They are not the self-funded retirees. They are not
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