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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1727


Mr BRUMBY —I direct my question to the Prime Minister. First, does the Government stand by the projection in the Budget Papers that employment would grow by about 1 1/2 per cent or about 90,000 people over the course of this financial year? Secondly, how can this be reconciled with today's labour force statistics which show that employment increased by 119,300 in the month of September alone or by 52,000 when seasonally adjusted figures are used?


Mr Howard —Don't you trust either of your Ministers on this?


Mr HAWKE —I would keep quiet if I were the honourable member because he will get his now. Mr Speaker, the Government, as distinct from the Opposition, is naturally delighted at the strong employment growth shown in September. The figures confirm the increasing signs that the disastrous decline in the economy which my Government inherited-the two-year decline-has now been stopped and that recovery is beginning. Just one month ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gloated both inside this House and outside it over figures which showed a decline in employment in August. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, dishonestly and opportunistically, used the raw non-seasonally adjusted figures which showed a much larger decline than the seasonally adjusted figures. There is not a person in this House, in the light of events in the last few days, who would not remember the criteria which the pious Deputy Leader of the Opposition sought to impose. He referred to the double standards of another member of this House. We will find out about the standards, the integrity and the honesty or otherwise of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Just one month ago in this House the Deputy Leader of the Opposition set up his standards. He looked at the raw unadjusted figures which showed a decline of over 50,000 and said that they showed the failure of the Government's policies. I want to make it quite clear, using the language of this Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that I am not embracing his standards; I am simply saying that he set the pace and that he is the one who said: 'I am saying that the Minister for Finance set those standards and he has to keep by them'. The Minister has answered that, of course. Let us apply the approach of the pious Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Last month he used the raw figures and said that they showed the failure of the Government's policies. On the standards of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, what has happened--


Mr Howard —You said I was a man of principle the other day.


Mr HAWKE —I know the honourable member is worried, but all his interjections--

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. I invite the Prime Minister not to provoke interjections from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I also ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to continue interjecting. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HAWKE —Okay, Mr Speaker, we will use the approach of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I emphasise that at this stage I am using the approach of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; I will come to the proper approach in a minute. According to the approach of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition we should look at the raw unadjusted figures for the month, draw our conclusions and make our judgments about the efficacy of the Government's economic policy. Last month the figures were down by 50,000. Just this morning the figures for September came out. They show that in September there was the largest increase in employment since the statistics began to be collected in February 1978. The raw employment figures went up by 119,300.

According to the standards of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we should look at those figures and say that last month the Government's economic policies failed. I presume that as a man of honour, decency and integrity he will say: ' According to the standards of a month ago that I impose, and I am not a man who changes my standards, I must, as a man of honesty, decency and integrity, say in the House that that increase of over 119,000 in employment we are witnessing is proof of the overwhelming success of the economic policies of this Government'. I suggest, however, knowing the nature of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that we will wait for a long time to see him apply the same standards that he set a month ago in this House. Those are his standards. Of course, he will not abide by those standards which he set a month ago. We will find, as I will indicate in a moment, that he is a man who slips and slides from one standard to another. Mr Speaker, as distinct from this miserable hypocrite, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition--

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that description.


Mr HAWKE —I withdraw, Mr Speaker. As distinct from this man of miserable double standards, we on this side of the House believe that the seasonally adjusted figures give a more reliable indicator of the state of the labour market, whether those indicators are of good or of bad news. As the honourable member for Bendigo observed in his question, these seasonally adjusted figures show an increase in employment of 52,000 in September. That is the figure on which I am concentrating, not the increase of 119,000. When we look at that seasonally adjusted figure of 52,000 for September, it represents an increase of 80,000 since we began to change the course of Australian economic policy in April of this year.

Unlike the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who opportunistically and dishonestly used one disappointing figure last month to throw doubt on the growing confidence in the economic recovery in this country, I have no intention of extrapolating the September figure into the future and saying therefore that we have completely succeeded in defeating the very significant unemployment problem in this country. Mr Speaker, those who--


Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Earlier this day I canvassed with you the matter of the total abuse of Question Time. I suggest to you that this is an appropriate matter to be raised by the Prime Minister by way of a statement and not in answer to a question on notice-it is not a question without notice. I suggest that the Prime Minister be called on to bring his answer to an end.


Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the National Party knows-he has been reminded- the Standing Orders with respect to this matter. I hope the Prime Minister is near the end of his answer.


Mr HAWKE —The unemployment figures and the employment figures vary from month to month. We believed last month that the August figures probably were an aberration and the figures for September show that that is so. Some of the improvement for September we believe takes up part of that aberration. While it may appear on the figures to date that we are running ahead of the 90,000 increase in jobs for the financial year 1983-84 that we indicated in the Budget, it is probably too early yet to revise those figures upwards. I wish to make it clear to all members of this House and to the people of Australia that in the early stages of an economic recovery many people who have been discouraged come back into the work force. One of the features of the statistics for this month is that there has been a huge increase in the participation rate from 60.3 per cent to 60.8 per cent.

The dishonesty of the Opposition does not end with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition slipping between the seasonally adjusted and the raw figures. I remind the House, in direct answer to the honourable member's question, of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. I throw his words into his face. When he referred to the loss of jobs in the raw figures in August he said:

It is a clear warning to the Government of the consequences of its reckless policy of full wage indexation.

Do we find him saying, now that there is an increase of 119,000 in September, that we were not reckless after all? What sort of story will he concoct? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been revealed as a person who simply cannot be believed when it comes to economic policy.


Mr Peacock —I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is fundamental to the conduct of this House that your requests, indeed your rulings, be followed. Many minutes ago you asked the Prime Minister to wind up. He not only turned his back on you physically but also he has turned away from your advisings. You sought to sit a member down yesterday who asked a question. The matter was canvassed this morning. You made it clear that you would seek to have succinct questions and answers. The current occupant of the prime ministership completely ignores your request. I ask you to draw him to a close.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the means by which control of the House is maintained by the Speaker are the Standing Orders that are given to him by the House. Those Standing Orders have accumulated over a number of years. I cannot alter those Standing Orders without the will of the House. I can make a request but I have no power to terminate the answer. I call the Prime Minister in conclusion.


Mr HAWKE —The agony of members of the Opposition is coming to an end. I remind the House that one month ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told the people of Australia that the decline in the participation rate last month meant that the decline in the unemployment rate was misleading. Today the Leader of the Opposition opportunistically fails even to mention the huge increase in the participation rate when he refers to the increase in unemployment. I come to the conclusion of this answer. There will not be one single person in this House who will be surprised in any way by the opportunism, the cynicism and the dishonesty of both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is a matter--


Mr Cowan —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order.


Mr Howard —Would you like to have a debate on unemployment?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that one of his colleagues is raising a point of order.


Mr Cowan —Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that one-third of Question Time has been taken up by the Prime Minister answering one question.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! That is not a point of order.


Mr HAWKE —It was a much greater disappointment to the Government and to me personally to see that the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has engaged in a massive distortion of the truth. In a Press release today he referred to a seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment of 9.6 per cent when my Government took office in March. That is an absolute distortion of the truth and I express my great disappointment in the shadow Minister. The Australian Statistician has made it quite clear that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I ask the Prime Minister to conclude his answer.


Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I accept what you said about the Standing Orders per se but I have to remind you that you made a request to the Prime Minister. He is consistently ignoring it.


Mr SPEAKER —I have now made another request. I suggest the Leader of the Opposition resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister in conclusion.


Mr HAWKE —The seasonally adjusted rate in March was not 9.6 per cent; it was 10. 1 per cent. We make no apology--

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! When the interjections cease we may get a conclusion to the answer. The House will come to order. I hope the Prime Minister will take notice of my request.


Mr HAWKE —I certainly will respect your ruling, Mr Speaker. Everything I have said has been relevant to the question asked by the honourable member. I simply conclude by saying that we on this side of the House regard and have regarded unemployment as the major issue confronting this country. In the period the Government has been in office it is quite clear that its policies have been successfully directed to that issue.