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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3756

Mr McGAURAN —My question is directed to the Prime Minister and follows his professed concern for the family expressed in reply to an earlier question.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr McGAURAN —Touching, is it not? In March 1983 the average period of unemployment was 31 weeks. After 3 1/2 years of his Government, the average period is 61 weeks. When will this period be reduced?

Mr HAWKE —We on this side of the House never cease to be amazed by the Opposition's hypocrisy on the question of employment and unemployment. Let me remind the House again of just what those opposite inflicted upon this country. In the last 12 months of the previous Government, they added a quarter of a million to the unemployed of this country. I ask the honourable member to direct his mind, if he is capable, to what that meant in terms of waste.

Mr Howard —Answer the question.

Mr HAWKE —I will come to the specifics of the question, but I give some idea of what that additional 250,000 unemployed meant. In terms of earnings lost, it meant about $4.9 billion and, in terms of additional unemployment benefit, it meant about $1.5 billion. So if we look at both those aspects, forgone income and expenditure on additional unemployment benefit, we are talking about costs of the best part of $6.5 billion that the honourable member's colleagues in government, as they then were, inflicted upon this country. We promised that when we came to office we would create jobs and bring down the level of unemployment, which was in double digit figures. We have done that. We have created jobs at the most rapid rate in the history of this country. I remind the honourable member again of the facts: In half the time we have created double the number of jobs and the rate of unemployment has been brought down from the double digit figure which the previous Government inflicted on the country to about 8 per cent. Those are the facts, recognised within this country and internationally, as to what the previous Government did, as to the devastation it wreaked on the country and what we have done to reduce the level of unemployment.

Of course we would like to be in a position now where, by macroeconomic policy, we could increase the level of activity and increase the rate of growth. We know that, if we were to bring in such policies, they would wreck this economy. Interest rates would go through the roof, the exchange rate would collapse and we would go back to the sort of unemployment figures that the colleagues of honourable members opposite unleashed on this country. At any stage of the electoral debate we will put our record on employment against that of the parties opposite.