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Wednesday, 28 May 1997
Page: 4322


Mrs STONE(7.21 p.m.) —We have listened for the last 20 minutes or so to the emotional ravings of a person who suggested that we, this current government, should look to what the past government—the government resoundly defeated at the last election—did for jobs and savings. Therefore, I have to remind the member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) just what they did for people who genuinely wanted to work who were out of work.

In my electorate of Murray I had decent young men wanting real work, wanting training to get that real work, put in the back of utes and trucks and driven out to forests under LEAP schemes—and God knows what else they were called at the time—supposedly to be trained as forestry type workers. In fact, they were to dig and install cattle grids, only one per day, and there were seven or eight people there to do it. They were not supervised. They did not get information or training on how to install cattle grids, not that that is a very long-term job prospect anyway. All they got was colds. They went back sick. Unfortunately, that is what Labor did to young people who genuinely wanted to work and who wanted to have access to training. I notice that the member for Gellibrand is leaving the chamber. I do not doubt for a minute that he would want to stay.

I am sure that too many people remember what they did in the previous 13 years with our unemployed: they failed to give them genuine work opportunities. What happened is that the books were cooked. There was more frantic book cooking as the election approached in 1996. More of these mickey mouse schemes were brought on. More of the people from the jobless queues were siphoned off into numerous programs and then called trainees, so the statistics looked better. But the outcomes for those people were just the same. It was a cruel and callous thing to do.

You were defeated at the last election because the country wants jobs for its people. We do not pretend for a moment that the work for the dole scheme is anything to do with creating work for young people that will be ongoing. What we talk about with work for the dole is giving young people in particular an experience of what it is like to contribute back to the communities that are, through their taxes, paying for their unemployment entitlements. We are giving young people a sense of what it is like to meet with others, to get back into the routine of work and to, perhaps, experience work for the first time. We are calling it work for the dole, and that is what the public wants to call it.

There are so many communities and non-profit organisations out there waiting to take up these younger unemployed people to give them that chance. But we are not pretending for a minute that that is how we are going to lower the unemployment statistics in this country. We are not callous and we will not pretend like Labor did for 13 years. So let us put that on the record and straighten it all up.

Let me talk about what our budget does. We now, as a nation, understand what it is like to be on the rollercoasters of massive bust and boom inflationary spirals that go up and down and eat into people's savings so that there is no sense of stability over time. What we have done in this budget is consolidate the principles established in our first year when we responded to the calls of the people and determined that Australia would once again be a nation that pays its own way. We committed ourselves to creating an economic environment of decades of low interest rates for people to borrow to build their homes and businesses and low inflation rates.

Last year's budget was tough, but in every way it was widely regarded as fair. We took a scalpel to government expenditure. We delivered substantial cuts, but we retained essential services, and we were fair. This year we have continued to deliver, particularly in ways that address some of the fundamental inequalities in Australian society.

I represent a rural community. For the 13 years of Labor, rural communities understood that they were out of sight and out of mind. The standards of the physical and social infrastructure in rural areas were run-down. The inequalities in access to health services for country people really could not and cannot be tolerated any further. The unequal outcomes when it comes to access to higher education for rural people when compared to urban counterparts cannot continue to be tolerated.

I am also talking about the provision of services that are essential to ensure that we can compete in the cutthroat world of international agribusiness trade, which is of course a building block of all regional communities. We must have world best quarantine services, world best anti-dumping authorities that work and basic research capabilities or we cannot continue to compete in the highly competitive international agribusiness arenas.

The previous government ignored rural communities. Rural communities overwhelmingly reject Labor governments at each election, and the last election was no different. However, this government understands that Australians regard fair play and equality of opportunity as necessary for maximising people's independence and ensuring that they have a quality of life that is at least as good as, if not better than, that of the earlier generations. To do that, they need to have a sound economy.

Let us begin with the provision of health services and what this government, through this last budget and the budget before, has provided to ensure that an electorate like Murray does not fall further behind in offer ing basic health services to the newborn, children, adults and the elderly.

There seems to be some 4,000 too many doctors in Australian cities, but there are some 500 too few in country areas. In the country, as compared with the city, the chance of dying of heart disease is 18 per cent higher, the chance of dying of a stroke is 29 per cent higher and the chance of dying of pneumonia or influenza is at least 80 per cent higher. Death from respiratory diseases and its causes is 71 per cent higher and death from genito-urinary causes is 86 per cent higher. Rural children are more prone to ailments, with a death rate, for example, among girls some 15 per cent higher than for girls in the city. Of course we all know about the sad facts of rural youth suicide rates.

Only yesterday I was very proud to announce that this government in this last budget has created six new departments of rural health that are to be distributed around Australia. In the Goulburn Valley, in the heart of the Murray electorate, we will see one of those departments of rural health established. Some $500,000 is to be expended in this financial year, with a further $1.5 million in the next and following financial years.

This new initiative will ensure that some of these metropolitan doctors will come and train in rural areas. They will experience rural life; they will train to deal with the different health issues that socioeconomic groups in country areas present with. We hope that when they come to train in Shepparton they will find that not only is their career prospect enhanced if they choose to stay in rural areas but so is their quality of life. This is an initiative that has been identified already throughout Australia as likely to make a substantial impact in future years.

Debate interrupted.