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Monday, 24 June 1996
Page: 2589

Mr ROBERT BROWN(8.21 p.m.) —First of all, I congratulate the member for Fraser (Mr Langmore) for bringing forward this private member's motion on the question of downsizing and giving the chamber the opportunity to consider issues to which we have probably given insufficient attention before. The member for Wakefield (Mr Andrew), who has just concluded his comments, referred to himself as an economic rationalist. In a work that was published by John Langmore, the member for Fraser, and one of his academic colleagues, Professor John Quiggan, early last year called Work for all , they chose to use the expression `economic fundamentalist', which I think is probably a better expression and better summarises the types of policies and objectives which are pursued by people who refer to themselves as economic rationalists.

There are two bases upon which an approach can be made to this question. The first one—and this was pursued by the member for Fraser and the member for Port Adelaide (Mr Sawford)—is the economic justification for concern about what we refer to so frequently now as downsizing. Second, we can look at it from the point of view of some of the social imperatives which it involves.

I want to make mention of an article in yesterday's Sun-Herald on page 43. The article is written by Terry Smyth and entitled `Axed: whichever way you say it'. I think it is delightful. What he has done is refer to the nomenclature which we used to call at one time `the sack'. I am not going to go into the details of that article, but I encourage anyone to have a look at it. We no longer talk about people being sacked. We have all these euphemisms, slogans, cliches and expressions, which are designed to obscure the reality that people are being sacked.

I said the second way in which this general question could be examined was on the basis of the types of social imperatives which are inherent in it. What concerns me about it is that, when we talk about wealth creation, we too frequently talk about wealth which comes from material output and from material accumulation. How, within that type of framework, do we measure the enormously important national and social wealth which comes from the dignity, the pride and the self-esteem which is associated with people in employment?

Mr Andrew —Productive employment.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Certainly. The member for Wakefield says, `Productive employment.' Yes, I endorse that absolutely. No-one should make the claim that we should pursue the inefficient production of material wealth. No-one makes that claim. The examples that the member for Wakefield gave during his contribution would not be endorsed by anyone on this side. Economic dries, wets, rationalists, or fundamentalists—everyone would accept the need to pursue economic efficiency.

But there is a difference between that and seeking to ensure that there are sufficient employment opportunities available for all people in the community. When we look at the number of unemployed people, including the long-term unemployed, we appreciate the lack of personal esteem, the lack of dignity and the lack of pride on the part of people who find it not possible to make a contribution to that social exercise of producing items for material consumption.

What we should be looking at is creating a global picture, a global image, of what we mean when we talk about wealth. It is not just things for material consumption. When we talk about wealth we should be talking about the quality of life as well. When we talk about the quality of life, we are talking about the opportunity for people to make an individual contribution to the collective production of wealth. (Time expired).