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Thursday, 20 March 1997
Page: 2616


Miss JACKIE KELLY(3.39 p.m.) —Well, well, well. We have two ex-members of the ACTU standing up and trying to tell us how to run the government. The Labor Party—which embraced privatisation, embraced enterprise bargaining, embraced union power in the accord and sold out on tariffs—now expects their party faithful to come running back to them all of a sudden as new Labor. Well, they did not six months after the 3 March by-election in Lindsay. Now, 12 months after the by-election, I am sure we would get another five per cent increase in our vote.

Labor is going absolutely nowhere. It has gone nowhere since the 1990 recession where we had 11.2 per cent of Australians unemployed, and the member for Batman (Mr Martin Ferguson) professes concern. Oh, he is terribly worried. His heart is breaking for the battlers—for the people at the football. What about the battlers of Lindsay? What about the guys who had to sit there as Labor doled out a 40 per cent increase on sales tax, as they were strangled by the regulation that the Labor Party put on small business, as they suffered tax hike after tax hike, as they suffered ridiculously high interest rates and as the Labor government destroyed Commonwealth savings?

In 1992 the Labor government spent $11½ billion more than they collected. In 1992-93 the budget figures show that they spent $17 billion more than they collected; in 1993-94, another $17 billion more than they collected; in 1994-95, another $13.2 billion more than they collected. Evidence that they were still on the same track—if the Liberal Party had not returned to government—is Beazley's black hole. The 1995-96 figures came up with a $10.3 billion deficit.

How did the Labor Party pay for this—the party that stood for government enterprise, the party that stood for non-privatisation? They sold off Qantas, they sold off the uranium stockpile, they sold off ASTA, the sold off the FAC, CBA and ANL. There is not really much left for us to sell when it comes to fund the $5.6 billion deficit we are facing this year.

The deficit is slowly coming down. We are slowly getting Commonwealth savings back into government in Australia. This government will slowly get money in the bank so that, if we do suffer a hiccup such as a recession, we do not have 11.2 per cent unemployed as we did in 1992. We will have savings. We can spend our way out of a recession. That is why Labor could do nothing about the deteriorating labour figures.

Despite an economic upturn from December 1995 until March 1996, unemployment went from 8.1 per cent to 8.5 per cent. Australia was in a mess, and the country knew it. The numbers in parliament are proof of this. Those very same ex-ACTU members and ex-union bosses, who sit there with their fancy deals and sell their members' interests out to big business to keep themselves a nice cushy job through the union movement into parliament, stand here today and betray the very people they were sent to represent. What happens? Those people turn to people like me—an ordinary Australian, a PAYE taxpayer—to come here and represent their interests, and, I tell you, they are very happy with what we are doing.

Instead of coming up with a solution, Labor came up with NWOS, new work opportunity schemes. They cost $10,000 a head. They had a 21 per cent success rate, and the rest of it was wasted money. Do you know what the beautiful thing about that is? Those people did not count in the unemployment figures. Those people were counted as training, so they were not unemployed. At the end of their LEAP project, new wave project or any of those other government sponsored programs, they went back into the short-term unemployed.

Talk about fiddling the figures. If you are worried about how statistics lie, let us have a look at what Labor were doing to the unemployed: they were not counting these figures in the unemployment statistics. They make wild allegations that our minister had anything to do with those figures in 1978. He was not even there.

If you work for one hour a week, even if it is in a family business, then on the ABS statistics you come up as not unemployed. The distinction between employed and unemployed has not changed. The facts and figures we are talking about here are exactly the same, and the changes in the definition of part-time and full-time work have only occurred for administrative reasons in the employment placement enterprises. They will receive government sponsorship for their money, if the person they have placed has entered full-time employment—defined as more than 20 hours a week for six months. I do not know why the ACTU is making such a big thing about this. It stands to reason that, if this enterprise has got these people into a job—and let us define job—they should get paid for it.

But the facts and figures that the ABS uses to come up with full-time and part-time statistics have not changed. There has been no diddling of the unemployment figures. We have crystallised the unemployment figures. We have not hidden them in programs; we have crystallised unemployment. If you are on the dole now, we know you are. We have a work for the dole scheme, you can join the army, you can do a whole bunch of things, but we recognise that you are unemployed.

And we recognise that another of Labor's solutions—`give them a government job'—is not a solution. Under Labor, one out of every five jobs was in the state government, local council or Commonwealth public services. Again, the people in the other four jobs had their hands heavily in their pockets to pay for the person in the fifth job. We have recognised that those are not real jobs. You cannot hide unemployment figures and stack the books that way. In the end, we have to pay for our public servants and, if there is no money, there is no money to do that.

The other solution the opposition has come up with is job sharing. Let us share a job—you beauty! `Wow, I can have a full-time job and bring things home for my kids and my family and my spouse, and we can go away on weekends, or I can have a part-time job.' What do you think workers want? They want full-time jobs. In the last 12 months we have crystallised unemployment and we have set some very strategic groundbreaking measures in place to get out of the rut and off the track to disaster that we were on on 3 March 1996.

It has not been easy. It has been a long haul. We have not had much help from the opposition in the Senate. We have not been able to act quickly. Even so, we have balanced the budget. We are heading towards a target in 2000 where we will have government savings to help kick-start us out of recession. With that has come a certain amount of offshore confidence which has lowered interest rates. Do not underestimate what impact that has had—the flow-on effects are just coming now.

We now have low inflation and we have flexible workplace relations, which only came in January. Given time, both of those will see an increase in jobs. We have also got individually tailored assistance for the unemployed: they can get the skills that they need and they are still recognised as unemployed and counted in the unemployment statistics. We are not fudging things here. This is a very open and transparent government, and we are not going to dress up any facts and figures for the public. They are entitled to be treated as adults and not as patronised children—as the opposition used to treat them prior to 3 March 1996. We have also spent an enormous amount of time reinvigorating small business and reducing red tape. We have a task force report coming in next week. We have got reduced provisional tax, the capital gains rollover relief and relief in sight for FBT. (Time expired)


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Order! This discussion has concluded.