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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 421

Mr UREN (Reid) -We on this side of the House are seeking a guarantee that this matter will be placed on the notice paper when the Parliament resumes after being prorogued. We on this side would support any action taken by the Government which does something of a positive nature for the youth of this nation, because we believe that if there is one section of the Australian community now suffering from the present economic constraints imposed by the Fraser Government it is the young people of this nation. For instance, the unemployment figures show that something like 44 per cent of those unemployed are under the age of 21 years. Of the total number of unemployed in the country at the end of January this year some 156 000 were juniors. Although our youth represent only 1 1.2 per cent of the work force, they account for 44 per cent of those unemployed in the work force.

Let us look at particular areas of Australia. For instance, one report reveals that in the nonmetropolitan areas, particularly in the rural areas of New South Wales, some 600 applications were made for every job vacancy registered at the labour exchange. In the western suburbs of Sydney, and in particular the position at the labour exchanges in Granville, Blacktown and Parramatta, the position is that in Granville 3320 people are unemployed, and of that number 1 56 1 or 47 per cent are under the age of 2 1 years. Of that number 657 are females. The position in the Blacktown area, which is represented by my colleague the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), is even worse. Of the 3484 people unemployed, 1948 or 55.9 per cent are under 21 years of age of which 885 are females. The position in Parramatta is that 51.5 per cent of those unemployed-the number of unemployed is not as high in that area- are under the age of 2 1 years. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out the unemployment figures for the western suburbs of Sydney.

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The table read as follows-


Mr UREN -I thank the House. The situation is bad. Circumstances have developed to such an extent, because of the broad brush approach the Government has taken to the whole economy. Because of this attitude the youth of this nation are suffering most. I wish to refer to a survey made by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and which is summarised in the submission of the Australian Council of Social Services. It reads: the long-term consequences of young people being unemployed over a long period are stated as:

(   a ) Loss of faith in society and government.

(b)   Development of anti-work attitudes.

(c)   Development of habits that would mitigate against future employment.

(d)   Damage of feelings of self-esteem.

(e)   Family tensions arise as young people fail to get employed.

(f)   Trouble with the law. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, larceny and vandalism is a potential development.

(g)   Getting used to managing on benefits and seeing no advantage in working for a slightly higher income in a routine job when they have no particular skill to sell.

Because of the position this Government has taken in economic strategy, that is the position in which the great bulk of the youth of this nation find themselves today. The question I ask the House is this: Is the report which has been tabled by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a smokescreen or is the Government really concerned about the youth of the nation? I ask this because we find the following on the front page of this morning 's Sydney Morning Herald:

Government M.P .s urge clamp on ' dole bludgers '.

That illustrates the Government's psychology on this matter. It has tried to stigmatise the young people of this country as dole bludgers. This report of the Study Group on Youth Affairs which has been presented by the Prime Minister does not provide any positive solution to the social problems of young people. The Government is going to continue to play a hard line in the economy. It is going to continue to draw money away from the public sector, which will greatly affect those young people. The Government is going to draw money away from the wage earners and is going to direct it to big business, many of which are powerful foreign-owned interests. That is the psychology of this Government. There were programs that were effectively assisting the youth of our nation. For instance, programs under the Department of Tourism and Recreation, for which the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) was Minister when we were in government, made $6m available for recreation and sporting facilities for Australians, particularly the young, in each of the last 2 financial years in which Labor governed. But these programs were scuttled immediately the present Government came into office although it agreed to admit some of the outstanding commitments. Another program that has been scuttled- of course, opposition has come from even the Government back benchers for this move- is the Australian Assistance Plan.

Mr Bradfield

Mr UREN - The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has publicly expressed criticism of the abandonment of the Australian Assistance Plan. Yet we read at page 10 of the report tabled by the Prime Minister:

Better co-ordination at the local level was given high priority; some favoured the maintenance of an Australian Assistance Plan-type structure for this purpose.

But this Government did not try to develop or to maintain the Australian Assistance Plan or its structures. It scrapped the Plan completely. I believe this Government is a government of hypocrisy. I believe that the establishment of an office of youth affairs is a smokescreen. I think the true intentions of the Government and its back benchers are expressed clearly on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, which states:

The Federal Government will consider issuing identity cards to persons receiving unemployment benefits as a means of cutting down on cases of fraud.

The card, containing a photograph and possibly a number -

The Government wants to give people numbers. They want to brand the numbers on the backs of the young people, the same as is done to criminals, or on the chest, as is done to people in the Army! The article continues to state that this:

.   . would aim to prevent people using false names and concealing earnings.

The suggestion, which has been implemented in North America and some European countries, attracted considerable interest at today's weekly meeting of the Government Parties during a debate of more than two hours on the economy.

Concern over ' dole bludgers ' and ways of clamping down on them was expressed repeatedly in speeches by back benchers.

That illustrates the real philosophy- the real attitudeof this Government and its supporters. It does not want really to try to solve the grave social problems involved. We all know of the record level of unemployment in this country. Unemployment has never been higher. Over 40 per cent of those unemployed are people under 2 1 years of age. As I said, in certain areas, particularly the western suburbs of Sydney and country areas, the position is much worse. I do not believe that the establishment of an office of youth affairs in any way provides an answer to the problem. I might say that even the Prime Minister, in tabling the report, said:

.   . There are important long term social and economic trends which have significant implications for young people . . .

There are long term implications for young people. These are grave and widespread, particularly in the western world. There have been plenty of indications of high levels of unemployment and these high levels are being compounded. A study undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is the club of the rich western countries, has indicated that unemployment in most of the 26 countries represented in the Organisation, of which Australia is one, will stay at the higher levels of 1974 for at least the next S years. The study indicated that this will be the case even if inflation is brought under control and economic recovery is 'efficiently' managed.

Clearly a brave approach has to be adopted by the Government today to solve the problem of the youth of this nation. No action has been taken by this Government. The mentality of the Government and its back benchers which calls the young people of this nation 'dole bludgers' has to stop. We have to have confidence in the young people. Young people have lost faith in we old people. We have to have a better understanding of them. There can be no doubt that the young have lost a great deal of faith in the older people of the nation.

We notice also from the statement made by the Prime Minister that after 6 months or 12 months the Government will set up a youth advisory council. Why does not the Government involve the youth in the early stages and find out what they want. Why does the Government need to involve only old senior bureaucrats from within the Australian Public Service at this stage? Unless the Government understands and involves the young people, who really are suffering psychologically, there will be no solution to this problem and the office of youth affairs will achieve nothing. I say quite clearly to the Government and to all members of this Parliament: Let us drop this term 'dole bludgers'; let us start to have some faith in and some respect for the young people of this nation. If we do we might be able to get better co-operation from them.

Above all, this Government must look at its economic policies because the deep rooted line that it has taken in its policies is the thing that is creating the real problem for young people. I believe that that is the most basic cause of the problem. Let us solve the problem and at the same time let us adopt a more humane attitude. Let us try to re-introduce some of the policies that were carried out under the Labor Government. Let us not scrap the AAP program or the recreation and other programs until we have better programs to put in their places. I believe that if we do scrap those programs there will be a great deal more suffering in this community.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.

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