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Tuesday, 31 March 1998
Page: 1955

Mr McDOUGALL —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Is the minister aware of alternative proposals in the area of employment and education policies? What is the government's response to these proposals?

Dr KEMP (Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs;Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the honourable member for Griffith for his question. It is quite clear that the policy vacuum on the other side of the House is causing intense frustration on the front bench. The member for Werriwa is now fed up with waiting for some leadership and direction from the Leader of the Opposition. He is lashing out in this new book, trying to come up with some new ideas.

I have to say to the member for Griffith that there are very few new ideas in the portfolio area of the member for Werriwa. He has never been much interested in education or training. You could go through this book and you would be hard put to come up with a decent idea. But he has been very busy thinking hard in the portfolio areas of other members of the front bench, particularly in the portfolio areas of the member for Hotham, the member for Holt and the member for Batman. One thing the member for Werriwa knows—and this book has been coming for a long time—is that there is a fundamental structural problem with policy in the Labor Party: they do not know what their policy is until it has been posted to them by the ACTU. As he said in 1990 in revising Labor's agenda: `This decade the ALP will be forced to confront the fading relevance of its trade union affiliates.' It is eight years down the track, the decade is almost finished and the member for Hotham, ex-President of the ACTU, and the member for Batman, ex-President of the ACTU, are still there on the front bench, and they do not look like fading away. The member for Werriwa is setting out to blast them out of their positions.

The party is coming apart at the seams. The only way in which the Leader of the Opposition knows that he is going to fill that policy vacuum is to wait down there at the letterbox day after day—waiting, waiting, waiting for the letter from the ACTU; the unions have got to come to his rescue. Every day he anxiously opens up the letterbox and peers inside and all there is is a policy vacuum; that is all he has got. He takes that back, and that is all he is able to put on the table. You have to admire the member for Werriwa. He has tried to address this structural problem but he has failed. Maybe he could think up some policies in his own area, because that would be a good start.