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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2392

Dr NELSON —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer advise the House of the outcome of the Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly job prospects survey—

Mr Melham —He writes letters on behalf of the AMA.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Banks will remain silent. Would the honourable member ask his question again? The noise level in this House makes it impossible to hear it.

Dr NELSON —Can the Treasurer advise the House of the outcome of the Australian Bureau of Statistics quarterly job vacancies series released earlier today? What does the survey indicate about the job prospects for those seeking work in my electorate of Bradfield and those of my colleagues?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Bradfield for his question. I think he will be interested to know that this morning the Australian Bureau of Statistics released job vacancy figures showing that in February 1998 trend estimates of vacancies were 71,600 in the public and private sectors. For the quarter of February, job vacancies rose by 4.1 per cent, and over the course of the year job vacancies rose by 14.6 per cent. I think all members of the House will welcome the fact that job prospects are growing in Australia. I think everybody on both sides of the House would welcome the fact that job opportunities are growing. I am sure—certainly on this side of the House—that there is wide acclaim of a 14.6 per cent increase in job opportunities. Isn't that good news for Australians?

Mrs Crosio —It is show and tell over there. Who's being stood over?

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Prospect is one of the deputy chairmen of this place. I suggest that she should show an example to people with her behaviour.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Brisbane, the honourable member for Grayndler and others who are making a noise, I suggest you remain silent. To those of you who are conducting a ballot, I suggest you do it without making it quite so overt—a problem from which some of those casting their votes seem to suffer. When the House comes to order, I will call on the Treasurer who is giving us a very interesting answer.

Mr Melham —Your whips should have blue ballot papers!

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Banks will remain silent. The honourable member for Corangamite, can I suggest you pick up the ballot papers later. The honourable member for Corangamite, would you resume your seat!

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Oppositions members will resume their silence. The honourable member for Corangamite is quite at liberty, providing he is not intervening in debate, to speak and to sit anywhere in the place.

Mr COSTELLO —I can understand the interest of the Australian Labor Party in a trip to Malaysia and Korea, but we on this side of the House are interested about jobs in Australia and the fact that job vacancies in Australia have gone up 14.6 per cent.

Also released today were the Drake International employment forecasts, which show that there is an improving labour market despite the downturn in Asian economies. The Drake survey concluded that employers continue to sidestep any significant jobs fallout from the Asian currency crisis with just five per cent of firms nationwide suffering reduced business opportunities as a result of the Asian financial crisis. The ABS job vacancy figures which were released today show that private sector job vacancies are at their highest level since June 1979, the highest level since we have been taking these statistics.

What is the picture that is emerging of the economy? A low inflation economy with low interest rates and increasing job opportunities: the lowest inflation rate since 1963—that's great news—the lowest interest rates since 1969—that's great news—and the best job vacancies since we started recording in 1979. These are the results of policies. You do not produce outcomes like these without policy. The government's economic approach to getting the budget back into control, to reducing debt, to getting interest rates down and to getting job opportunities going is real policies. It is regrettable that we find an opposition which has been absolutely incapable of coming to grips with policy prescriptions. There can be no greater indictment of the failure of the Leader of the Opposition than that one of his frontbenchers has to write the ALP policy in a book. There can be no greater indictment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition than his failure to ask a question on economics for the whole course of the parliamentary sitting.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I raise a point on relevance. He was asked a specific question on the job figures, to which he is giving bogus answers. Now he has gone way off the point—

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will not reflect on an answer in that way.

Mr Beazley —All right, he has gone to the point of irrelevancy.

Mr Forrest —Mr Speaker, before you call the Treasurer, standing order 55, for the benefit of members, reads as follows:

When a Member is speaking, no Member may converse aloud or make any noise or disturbance . . .

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable members of the opposition will remain silent. The honourable member is raising a valid point of order.

Mr Forrest —There is a constant cacophony of noise that makes it impossible for members to hear, let alone the public in the gallery. I ask you to take some action and ask members to refrain and stay quiet while a contribution is being made in the parliament. The public is watching the behaviour of the opposition. They do not seem to realise how bad they appear.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat. The member raises quite a valid point of order. There is a real difficulty in hearing anything in this chamber when there is such a loud level of conversation and a loud level of noise.

Mr Kerr —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Seeing we are all being so conscientious about standing orders, standing order 58 says that when members enter this House they should take their seat. We have obviously got a ballot going on which is distracting the Treasurer.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Denison will resume his seat.

Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, I was talking about job vacancies and increased employment opportunities for Australians. I was speaking about the lowest inflation rate since 1963—since the Beatles sang Twist and Shout ; the lowest interest rate since 1969—since Neil Armstrong said, `One small step for man'; the lowest unemployment rate since 1990—since Paul Keating said, `This was the recession we had to have'—all creating job opportunities for Australia.

What do you find from the opposition? No questions about the economy these last two weeks, no interest in inflation or interest rates—just the muckraking of the member for Hotham. We saw the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at it this morning, making one of the most disgraceful statements you will ever hear. He came in this morning and spoke about the Prime Minister and said, `This bloke seems to be never so happy as when he's bashing black fellas.' That is what you said this morning. Disgusting statement about the Prime Minister!

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, point of order!

Mr COSTELLO —Show some leadership!

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer is straying way from the question he was asked. I suggest that you return to the question you were asked, whatever the merit of the comments you are making.

Mr COSTELLO —If that is the best economic statement you can get out of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the so-called economic spokesman, disgusting racial slurs which he is throwing around this place, he ought to be condemned and the leader should make him withdraw.