My question today is for Minister Pulford. Minister, taxidrivers are among the most poorly paid and underemployed workers in the state. They have seen their livelihoods decimated by the unequal-level playing field created by the rideshare services. These vulnerable members of our community, many with families to support, need Victorian government assistance urgently. I note that $34 million in additional state government support for the unemployed and underemployed has recently been announced via the Jobs Victoria Fund innovation stream. Minister, will you and your department commit to working with taxidrivers and their representatives to ensure some of this funding is used to help address the underemployment that is rife within the commercial passenger vehicle sector?
Ms PULFORD (Western Victoria—Minister for Employment, Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Resources) (12:13): I thank Mr Barton for his question and, as always, his strong advocacy for people working in this industry. This is an industry that even prior to the pandemic had been profoundly impacted by change, and that had very significant consequences for people who had been in the sector for a long time. Of course compounding that then with what is now our third year in this pandemic and people’s need to stay home and people’s desire to not be jumping into vehicles with people they do not know, it really adds significant additional strain to this group of workers in Victoria.
Mr Barton referred to the recent $34 million announcement out of the innovation stream of the Jobs Victoria program. Members would I think be aware that Jobs Victoria is a $619 million initiative that in a number of different ways supports people to return to work, to enter work for the very first time or indeed, if they are underemployed, experiencing underemployment or insecure work, to transition into types of work where there is more security and where there are more hours. I thank Mr Barton for the suggestion and for the initiative. The innovation stream, part of the Jobs Victoria program, as I think Mr Barton has identified, perhaps does present an opportunity for Mr Barton and representatives in the industry to work with me to see what we might be able to explore, and I would welcome the opportunity to do so.
I suggest to Mr Barton in the first instance that he and I could make a time with some industry representatives and perhaps with one of our leaders at Jobs Victoria to explore where the demand and where the need is and what we might be able to do, because of course the unemployment rate in Victoria at the moment is at a near record low and there are many, many industries that are experiencing significant workforce and skills shortages. Difficult as that is for industries experiencing that, it does present a unique opportunity for us to help people to transition into more secure work and perhaps to reset their careers in any number of different ways, and that is a program that we are running in every town and suburb and city across the state. I look forward to following this up offline with Mr Barton, but I thank him for the initiative and for the question.