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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2042

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(6.27) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

Again, I do not think that this is the appropriate time to have a full scale debate on this matter, but I wish to put this Government on notice that the Opposition is concerned about some aspects of the Government's employment programs. I want to do that now because I think that some concerns are emerging in the community about the effectiveness of the Government's approach to employment creation. It is a matter in which debate can be difficult during a period when there is a general community wish to see employment increased, the young, in particular, given employment opportunities, and when new proposals will generally be given the benefit of the doubt for some time. I fear that we face a regional employment development scheme situation in which, again, there was the same sort of atmosphere; there was broad public support for the Government's attempts to create employment and it was only because practical difficulties emerged that criticism and, I think, sensible debate about that proposal became possible. Then, of course, the previous Labor Government discontinued that scheme.

I think that there are great dangers for the Government in allowing this scheme to develop without the most careful scrutiny. It is apparent that there are some difficulties in getting available moneys spent. There are difficulties in matching some of the proposals which are brought forward and which are funded with the actual labour which is available. I do think that given the social importance of the problem and the seriousness of the situation of many individuals with lengthening periods of individual unemployment it is important that we should have very frank assessments of what is being done by the Government itself and an opportunity to examine what progress has been made. Indeed, I think there is perhaps an obligation on the Opposition to act as a spur for the Government to make sure that what it is doing is effective and where it is clearly ineffective to discontinue programs. I believe it is important that there should not be long periods of under-performance which will simply produce in the community a great cynicism about the ability of government to do anything about people who are caught in this web of unemployment. I hope that we will be given an opportunity to debate this paper and some of the issues which are emerging and which I think are extremely serious.

I simply add the comment that we do face a situation in which the Government is embracing economic, industrial and wage fixing policies which, on its own prediction, will involve continued high rates of unemployment in Australia over the foreseeable future. There is no sign that the balance between the young unemployed and the older unemployed will change. Therefore, a very significant proportion of young Australians will be without work. I believe this is probably the most serious overall issue that the Government faces. I regret that in the period which remains for these sittings, with the very large amount of important business with which we have to deal, it is unlikely that we will spend much time on this central issue. Therefore, I wish to use these five minutes simply to remind the Government that there is no problem which is more central to the well being of the Australian community and there is no problem which seems to be less likely to be solved than this one. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.