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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 4032

Mr CHARLES(9.38 p.m.) —I cannot let this go unremarked. The member for Jagajaga (Ms Macklin) said that she wanted to take this bill about work for the dole and turn it into a proper labour market program—in other words what the Labor Party considers to be a proper labour market program. We went through hundreds of millions of dollars worth of proper labour market programs that were the greatest circus merry-go-round that anybody has ever seen in the history of labour market programs.

Mr Lee —Five days a week, we want.

Mr CHARLES —Five days a week. And five flavours of ice cream at the staff canteen too—five flavours of ice cream or we shut down the job. Let me tell you about shutting down the job: that is exactly what happened with labour market programs. Give people a little bit of hope, tell them we will give them a little bit of training and we will give them a job. But what happens? A job does not materialise so the training results in another round of training, which results in another round of training and another round of training. That is a good labour market program, isn't it? That is a good labour market program, to train people for jobs that they will never be able to do, for jobs that do not exist, for jobs that the community does not need. That is really a great deal of help to the people!

What it did was give them hope that there might be something at the end of the tunnel, but there was nothing. So the market labour program merry-go-round simply cost Australian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars—ultimately billions of dollars—in wasted taxpayers' funds. It did absolutely nothing for the unemployed. In fact, if anything, to a large extent it destroyed their self-confidence.

I say to the member for Jagajaga, through you Mr Deputy Speaker, that the work for the dole scheme is not a labour market program. It is not. Your amendments that seek to turn it into that are fraudulently flawed, as flawed as were the Working Nation attitudes which were supposed to solve all of Australia's unemployment problem. My view is that the statistics that we have today, in a sense, are partially reflecting the wind down of those programs because the attempt of the member for Hotham (Mr Crean) to massage the figures when he was the minister by pouring millions of dollars into quick fix programs in the run-up to the last election—in order to get people off the dole queues and onto a so-called labour market program; out of the queues and off the dole—means those people are now re-emerging and attempting to find jobs because they know they need real jobs. Now they are out there trying to look for them.

The real jobs will come. They will come because this government has the guts to do something about fixing up the economy, about reducing the debt, about giving business some confidence, about reducing interest rates while still holding inflation at a very low and sustainable level. It is taking time but these things do not happen instantly. They do not happen if you do not give encouragement to business to build sustainable jobs and to grow.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr CHARLES —Sure, you can do it in fits and starts, can't you. You can do it like the old roller coaster—we roar up one minute and we roar down the next. I lost 80 employees and I lost a company at the wind down of Keating's recession we had to have. That was really great for employees, wasn't it? It was fantastic. That was a good labour market program—the very best that Australia ever had, wasn't it? It was the greatest failure of all time. You want to re-invent your policies through this initiative by the government, which is designed to give people real hope and give them some encouragement, and you want to return to the failed past. We reject it.