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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2635


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(3.35) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This is a brief report which simply details the expenditure under the special employment-related programs Act 1982 which authorised the expenditure of wage pause money amounting to some $300m-money that was available because of the Fraser Government's 12-month wage pause. I wish to refer briefly to the continuing problem in Australia of high unemployment. This morning Senator Walsh referred to a leading article in the Australian Financial Review. I certainly accept some of the assertions in that article, not least the fact that some of the very good figures in the national account should be welcomed without reservation. I also draw attention to the passages in its leading article to which I referred at Question Time. They point to the fact that there is a continuing intractable problem of high unemployment. All honourable senators would agree that Australia needs to be concerned with that reality, notwithstanding the better economic news. A general unemployment rate of somewhere around 10 per cent for the general work force means, on recent indications, an unemployment rate for the young of about 20 per cent. That means about one in five young Australians have real difficulty in finding a place in the work force, but that figure of 20 per cent is not static. However, some young Australians face real difficulty.

It is a matter of regret to me that one of the items of expenditure of the wage pause money was discontinued by this Government. I refer to the pilot or experimental program which was announced by Mr Macphee and by me when I was Minister for Social Security. Under that program we offered to fund through the States work programs which would have enabled the unemployed to earn the amount of the unemployment benefit, plus $35 per week, by doing part time work at award rates. That was one attempt on an experimental basis to see whether some economically and socially beneficial alternative to unemployment benefit could be found. It was a relatively small project involving just a few million dollars . I think it a pity that it was discontinued by the present Government. I say that in the context of the Government itself having established a substantial make-work program in the form of the community employment program. I suggest to the Government that because of the difficulties we found in respect of the special employment related programs administered through the States, which had given rise to delays in the expenditure of moneys, and because of delays in providing alternative employment programs, that there are warnings in that connection which are now being echoed in the administration of the CEP program.

The Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh) did not confirm the point in precise terms but many Government Ministers have confirmed that Australia faces high continuing unemployment. Therefore, we should be concerned that any expenditure of money which is meant to ease the position of the unemployed should be effective and efficient. There are emerging difficulties with CEP. I mention these to the Government, because I believe that it is incumbent on the Government to try to ensure that moneys are not wasted and that maximum effect is achieved. There are many doubts about whether moneys which are being allocated by the Commonwealth are being spent. I raised that matter in the Senate earlier, and it appears that at the end of this financial year there are likely to be unspent moneys. There are many doubts about the sort of employment that is being provided, some of it through social agencies which provide employment for people with particular skills who are not necessarily very representative of the unemployed. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.