(Debate, 26 March 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I support the Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme (Jobs Action Plan) Amendment (Fresh Start Support) Bill 2014, which will extend the payroll tax rebate to new jobs filled by former employees with limited opportunities for re-employment who lost their job in large-scale retrenchments that disrupted an industry or region. Eligible employers will get the rebate under the existing scheme, plus an additional $1,000 rebate for two years.
My work in recruitment before becoming the member for Sydney gave me an understanding of how many employers operate. In my experience, employers can disregard applicants who have been retrenched or who have had a break in their career. At times, employers are not flexible enough to give a chance to a candidate who does not have specific experience in the relevant field. Employers can be risk averse, and this can make it difficult for some candidates with potential to get their foot in the door.
At the same time, employers often look for value for money. Incentives to hire someone through payroll tax concessions can encourage the creation of new jobs and employment of people whom an employer would not have considered otherwise. The decline in Australian manufacturing is leaving unemployed large numbers of workers who may not be suited to new, emerging jobs such as those in the digital economy. The bill will encourage employers to be innovative and create opportunities for former factory workers. In a similar plight and on a similar scale are carers, parents returning to the workforce and mature-age workers. We need more people in the workforce to grow our economy and we must not overlook the need for incentives to help return those groups to paid employment.
Carers often give up employment because it is too difficult to juggle work with caring duties. Carers help feed, bathe, dress, administer medication and provide emotional support to the young, frail and those with a disability or mental, terminal or chronic illness. While their work saves the New South Wales health system around $10 billion a year, their own health, economic and social advancement suffer and they are at risk of poverty in later years. Currently nearly 5.5 million Australians between 15 and 65 years of age have caring responsibilities, most being women, who comprise 92 per cent of primary carers for children with a disability and 70 per cent for parents. Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that women's labour force participation rate is only 58.9 per cent compared with 71.8 per cent for men. Some 58 per cent of mothers of children aged zero to four years are employed, compared with 94.2 per cent of fathers. Only 23.7 per cent of mothers of children aged zero to four years work more than 35 hours per week.
Australia is behind in employing women aged 55 to 64 years. Data from the Diversity Council of Australia and the Human Rights Commission shows that only 53.8 per cent of this group work in Australia; in New Zealand it is 68.9 per cent; Switzerland, 61 per cent; Denmark, 56 per cent; and Canada, 55.3 per cent. The commissioner said that gross domestic product would rise by 4 per cent if Australia increased its mature age participation rate to that of New Zealand.
The bias towards full-time work discourages carers, parents and mature age workers from returning to the workforce, which means that our economy fails to maximise its productivity and a large portion of the population misses out on the benefits of paid work. The numbers are significant and on a par with numbers from industries that are winding down such as manufacturing. Payroll tax concessions for hiring these workers could encourage employers to create new jobs that provide more flexible working hours needed by carers, parents and mature age workers.
I have asked the Treasurer to extend payroll tax rebates to employers hiring carers, parents returning to the workforce and mature age workers. I ask the Treasurer to investigate the viability of this proposal and to respond in his reply. Payroll tax has often been considered a tax on employing additional staff, and it is encouraging to see this Government creatively using it to incentivise employment of groups in need. I hope this trend continues. I commend the bill to the House.
Click HERE for Hansard record.