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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2394

Mr BEAZLEY —My question is directed to the Treasurer. It follows the answer he has just given. Treasurer, is it not a fact that these are the best job vacancy figures only since February 1996, as opposed to what you actually happen to be saying.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Hotham!

Mr Crean —Ha, ha, since you came to power!

Mr BEAZLEY —Isn't it a fact that since you came to power there has been job vacancy growth of 18 per cent in the last two years as compared to job vacancy growth of 40 per cent in the two years prior to when you came into office? Isn't it also a fact that the other figures out today show a decline in weekly overtime hours per employee of some 2.4 per cent in the quarter for an annual decline of 7.3 per cent? That indicates something about where this economy may be going. Instead of boasting bogusly, Treasurer, start dealing with some real figures.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —Don't we love it when he asks a question about the economy? Don't we absolutely love it when he shows his ignorance in this House about all things economic? The strongest private sector vacancies, the highest level ever in the history of the series since the June quarter of 1979. Isn't that great news? Don't people welcome the highest private sector vacancy since the series began in the June quarter of 1979. Read the document. It is there, you poor old thing.

Then he says, `Oh, yeah but there were good vacancies coming back into 1994.' Why? Because we were coming off the worst recession in 60 years. He goes back and he says that Labor ought to be congratulated for taking unemployment up to 11.3 per cent and then he says, `Why don't you congratulate us for getting it down to the nines again?' This is the lowest unemployment rate since who put Australia into recession? Since you put Australia into recession. Who was the employment minister when unemployment hit 11.3 per cent? The Leader of the Opposition. Who was the finance minister when Australia went $25 billion into deficit?

Mr Kerr —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: earlier today you raised the point—

Mr SPEAKER —What is your point of order?

Mr Kerr —That ministers should address their comments to the House through the chair.

Mr SPEAKER —And so they should. The honourable member should resume his seat.

Mr Kerr —Repeatedly they have not and the Treasurer is not now.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Denison, resume your seat. The minister should direct his answer through the chair.

Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, I direct my answer through you. I love getting questions on unemployment from the Leader of the Opposition who, as employment minister, presided over an unemployment rate of 11.3 per cent. Let us have a guess at who was the employment minister during Australia's worst post-war period of unemployment? He knows all about it. He produced the best unemployment rate Australia has ever had and we do not congratulate you for it.