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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1297


Mr FREE(3.49) —It is a delicious irony that the Opposition should have proposed this matter of public importance on the very day that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) has dismissed from his front bench the one figure in the Opposition who has clearly demonstrated an appeal to youth. The Opposition may appear to take some comfort from the results of the poll published in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald, but I say to Opposition members and to their Leader that, with the dismissal from the front bench of the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), the Opposition has blown it-and blown it irretrievably. With his departure, this flock of hypnotised fowls opposite, who masquerade as an Opposition, has been left bereft. It is as incapable now of developing policies for the youth of Australia as it is for anyone else. I must, however, commend the Opposition for at least giving the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) a guernsey in this particular debate, as it has created one opportunity for one unemployable youth.

Let us look at the record of this Opposition both in government and in opposition. The Liberal record in government towards youth was one of consistent neglect. Under the Opposition parties in government, youth unemployment mushroomed, educational opportunities contracted and, to make it worse, they blamed the young people, those victims of high unemployment, and used them as scapegoats. It was the Opposition parties which, when in government, in 1981 had the community youth support scheme marked down for the axe-it was doomed in the razor gang report in April 1981. The Opposition parties' approach to youth in opposition has been cynical and opportunistic in the extreme. They have been using a bag of tricks. Let me quote to the House from a document produced by the shadow Minister for education and youth affairs, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), entitled `Talking Points for Young Australians'. It is marked `confidential' on the top and, having looked at the contents, I can see why they would want to keep it confidential. It was tabled in the Senate last year by the Minister for Education, Senator Ryan-one of her more inspired tablings. Let me quote from the Opposition's bag of tricks for youth document. The shadow Minister, in that document, said:

In speaking to many schools this year I have encountered a degree of hostility to politics and politicians in general.

He is half right; there is certainly a degree of hostility towards Liberals among young people. He said further on in that document:

Another of the tricks-

note the word `tricks'-

of communicating with young people is to talk their languages and experiences. For example:

If there is a popular movie, try to draw some lesson from it or use a particular popular phrase (e.g., `make my day' from Clint Eastwood);

if Bruce Springsteen is all the rage, then at least make reference to him somewhere in a discussion;

finally, sport is the great leveller in Australia and every young person takes an active interest in it. Use sporting analogies wherever you can-even in explaining economic problems to them.

That is the Liberal Party's bag of tricks when dealing with youth. He says to keep it sporting and seek their views on sport policy. Further on the shadow Minister's advice is to take their names and addresses. He says:

One method which has had a degree of success is petition campaigns on youth-related issues. The petition gives you a bank of names and if it is followed up by a letter it can be pretty fruitful.

He has some warnings, however, for members of the Opposition. They have to use a bit of guile and a bit of cunning because, as he says:

Young people do share a concern about the size and cost of government, but in using examples of waste unearthed by the Waste Watch Committee it is preferable not to use `peace group grants'. Most young people view such groups as worthwhile.

Another warning is that young people:

. . . are not inherently resistant to the idea that youth wages should be more flexible, but it is a matter of presentation.

Further on he warns:

They do not share our view of job-creation schemes-the ANOP study found job-creation schemes were the most popular single choice for what Government should do for young people.

That is the shadow Minister's advice to members of the Opposition when dealing with youth-use the bag of tricks, use guile and use cunning. It has no policy apart from this collection of slick tricks from the slippery shadow Minister opposite.

In stark contrast, the Government's record is a determination to increase opportunities for the youth of Australia by doing better in the areas of education, training and jobs with the ultimate objective of providing a wider range of opportunities for young people-a range so substantial that unemployment in the future will not need to be an option for young people. That is the overall aim of the Priority One: Young Australia strategy with its eight key goals-to improve the quality and attractiveness of completing secondary education; formal tertiary education; to extend the opportunities or to increase the opportunities for job-based vocational training for young people who leave school early; to rationalise income support measures for young people in secondary and tertiary education; to increase the opportunities for young people to be involved in voluntary community service activities; to aid unemployed young people under a range of labour market programs; to provide a clearer focal point for young people to have access to a wide range of information on labour market, education and income support opportunities; and finally to improve other support programs for young people, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

I put it to the House that the Government has achieved and continues to achieve remarkable success in all of those areas. I turn first of all to the Government's achievements in education and I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a number of tables to illustrate the points I am about to make.

Leave granted.

The tables read as follows-

YEAR 12 RETENTION

SUPPLEMENTARY STATISTICS

Australia:

1982

1985

1986

Males...

32.9

43.5

45.6

Females...

39.9

49.5

52.1

Persons...

36.3

46.4

48.7

NSW:

Retention to Year 12 in NSW rose from 33.7 per cent in 1982 to 41.7 per cent in 1985. In 1986 a substantial further rise to 44.4 was recorded.

Victoria:

Retention to Year 12 in Victoria rose from 34.3 per cent in 1982 to 45.4 per cent in 1985. A further rise to 46.8 per cent was recorded in 1986. These figures refer to schools only and do not include students in TAFE courses.

Queensland:

Queensland's retention rate rose from 42.1 per cent in 1982 to 55.1 in 1985. A further increase to 57.5 per cent was recorded in 1986. (To some extent these statistics are inflated by the comparatively high rate of migration into Queensland but they accurately represent the high growth rate in Year 12 retention.)

South Australia:

Year 12 retention in South Australia was 41.0 per cent in 1982 and rose to 51.2 per cent in 1985. A further substantial rise to 54.8 per cent was recorded in 1986.

Western Australia:

Year 12 retention in Western Australia was 37.4 in 1982 and had risen to 47.5 by 1985. In 1986 a further substantial increase to 50.3 per cent was recorded.

HIGHER EDUCATION

(Universities & Colleges of Advanced Education)

1. FUNDS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

($,000s)

(constant est. Dec '85 price levels)

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

Total...

2,254

2,228

2,197

2,181

2,192

2,214

2,280

2,322

2,382

Change on previous year (%)...

-1.2%

-1.2%

-1.4%

-0.7%

-0.5%

-1.0%

-3.0%

-1.8%

-2.6%

Change: Liberal vs Labor (%)...

1979-1981 Triennium

(Last Liberal Triennium)

-3.7%

1985-1987 Triennium

(First Labor Triennium)

+7.6%

Change: Capital Funds (%)...

1978-82

(Liberal)

-73%

1983-87

(Labor)

+43.4%

2. STUDENT PLACES IN HIGHER EDUCATION

(thousands)

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

Total...

249.3

252.3

255.5

263.1

270.3

278.0

288.9

299.9

Change on previous year (%)...

0.2%

1.2%

1.3%

3.0%

2.7%

2.8%

3.9%

3.8%

Change: Liberal vs Labor...

1978-1982

(Liberal)

3.3%

1983-1987

(Labor)

14%

No. of New Places Created...

8,100

36,800

STUDENT ASSISTANCE EXPENDITURE

($ Millions)

Type

Liberal

1978

1982

(82-78)

% Change

Labor

1983

1987

(87-83)

% Change

SAS...

7.0

9.3

2.3

+32.9%

19.9

55.6

30.9

+179.4%

ASEAS...

4.1

2.6

-1.5

-36.6%

3.3

4.2

0.9

+27.3%

ABSEC...

9.8

10.7

0.9

+9.2%

11.6

13.5

1.9

+16.4%

ABSTUDY...

3.4

6.7

3.3

+97.0%

8.4

17.1

8.7

+103.6%

AIC...

10.9

10.1

-0.8

-7.3%

10.7

10.6

-0.1

-0.9%

TEAS...

124.2

92.7

-31.5

-25.4%

111.6

146.2

37.2

+31.0%

PGA...

7.5

5.5

-2.0

-26.7%

7.7

7.9

0.2

+2.6%

Total...

167.9

137.6

-30.3

-18.0%

173.1

255.2

82.1

47.4%

(Constant prices-CPI Deflator with 1976 as Base Year)

SAS = Secondary Allowance Scheme

ASEAS = Adult Secondary Education Allowance Scheme

ABSEC = Aboriginal Secondary Assistance Scheme

ABSTUDY = Aboriginal Study Assistance Scheme (tertiary)

AIC = Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme

TEAS = Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme

PGA = Postgraduate Awards Scheme


Mr FREE —The tables show that under this Government secondary education has become far more attractive. Retention rates to the end of year 12 have improved remarkably under this Government-from 36.3 per cent completing secondary education under the Liberals to almost half of young Australians, 48.7 per cent, completing a full secondary education in 1986. The contributing factors towards this great success have been government spending on schools, our participation and equity program and our improved student support.

We have also provided increased opportunities in tertiary education. The spending by government in the tertiary sector has improved markedly under the Hawke Government. The Labor Government has provided 36,800 new places in the tertiary sector in the first triennium, compared to 8,100 under the last Liberal Party Government triennium. I ask the honourable member for Tangney: Is this taking higher education access back 20 years? Of course it is not. He claimed that 30,000 students were unable to get places this year but he knows when he says that to the House that it is arrant nonsense. In the area of student support, the table I have incorporated shows the dramatic increase across the board in the Labor years of government compared to cuts or modest increases in the Liberal years of government. That rationalisation process of allowances to youth is proceeding very well.

The Australian traineeship scheme has been mentioned in this debate. I acknowledge that the target set by this Government was ambitious. The target had to be because the challenge was so great. We are pleased with the solid progress that has been made in the Australian traineeship system. We have tackled the difficult area of providing voluntary community service activities, but solid progress has been made and more will be achieved. In providing assistance to unemployed youth through the community employment program, jobstart and the community youth support scheme fine progress has been made, and they are all contributing to providing improved opportunities for youth. The youth access centres, by providing a focal point for youth to get information on opportunities in work and education, have been an outstanding success. The Commonwealth Employment Service job centres are losing their dole office image among young people and are becoming increasingly places where opportunities for employment can be found. In assisting disadvantaged youth I point to the success of the drug offensive, assistance to homeless youth and the training of youth workers.

In this debate the Opposition has been so consistently wrong in so many areas that I think a full refutation of some of its misinformation should be produced. Finally, I will concentrate on one aspect, the position of unemployed youth which was highlighted by the honourable members for Tangney and Gippsland. Let me produce the facts from an article which appeared in the Age on 17 March under the heading `Jobless young served better in Australia than overseas'. The article quite clearly points out:

Unemployed young people in Australia fare better than their counterparts in many other countries, where joblessness is a bigger problem and benefits may be difficult or even impossible to obtain.

That was reported in the annual report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development last September. Australia's 14.3 per cent rate of unemployment is better than in many other countries and is certainly better than the 20 per cent under the coalition.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.