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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 70

Senator CRANE (6.13 p.m.) —I would also like to make some very brief comments with regard to the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training entitled Wanted: our future. Most of what can be said about it has been said but, as a fellow member of that committee, I would like to reinforce the points that have been made by my colleagues Senator Tierney and Senator Calvert. I believe that the slowness and the lack of action by the federal government with regard to this report is not only a slight on us but is also a slight on other members of the committee, and I see Senator Foreman, a Labor Party member of the committee, sitting on the other side of the chamber.

  Eighteen months after this report was brought down we now get a very belated response. As we go through the various recommendations, we find so many of them are either not supported, supported in principle—whatever that means—or to be further examined. Under the chairmanship of Senator Aulich, the committee brought down this unanimous report. It was brought down in good faith, taking into account the many young people who appeared before the committee. In good faith, those people gave information and evidence as to how they saw their problems and how we, this committee, as the representatives of this Senate and the federal parliament, should act.

  To let this report go so long—in effect, gathering dust—and then find that so many of the recommendations are virtually ignored can only be described, in my view, as a total lack of consideration and commitment by the government to the youth unemployment problems in this country. In fact, it has to be described as a disgrace as a response that was required to this report.

  One particular recommendation I wish to deal with was raised by many employers at our hearings. It was also supported, I might add, by the youth who gave evidence. It is recommendation 11 relating to giving real incentive to business to address youth unemployment. I want to highlight that recommendation because I believe it could have been put in place very quickly and effectively, and it would have been targeted at the unemployed. Recommendation 11 states:

(a) that, as a matter of urgency, the Industry Commission prepare a report to the Commonwealth Government on impediments to small business employment, and

(b) that the Government consider a 150 percent tax deduction (at the company tax rate) on new employment of people who have been unemployed for six months or more. This should remain in effect until the end of 1995 or until the present unemployment rate is halved, whichever is the sooner.

It is that type of swift action which can address a problem. It does not involve all the problems that we have heard about recently in estimates committee hearings with the administration of programs through DEET and the CES. They have been raised many times and, in some instances, I believe, have bordered on fraud.

  This recommendation was a straight-out, incentive based proposal which the government has not supported. It would have gone directly to the heart of the problem. It would have gone directly to small business in particular. I believe there are some 900,000 small businesses in this country and, if each one of them could employ one more person, all of a sudden our unemployment problem would become non-existent. If only half of them could employ one person, that would take 450,000 to 500,000 people off the dole and give them their pride back.

  Unless this government is prepared to address the unemployment problem with direct measures—not indirect, roundabout, mickey mouse ways—we will have to live with the ever increasing rates of unemployment. Had this recommendation, of all the recommendations, been addressed 18 months ago, so many people would not now be in that terrible position of being long-term unemployed. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many, and through no fault of their own, they have fallen behind the pace in the employment stakes and have become, not unemployable, but difficult to employ in the current economic circumstances.

  The government has treated this committee with contempt. For a long period it has shown disregard for the youth unemployment problems which exist in this country. It has let a golden opportunity slip past which cannot, and will never, be recovered in terms of the damage that has been done to the pride and prestige of these individuals.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.