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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 470

Senator MAGUIRE —I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. What is the most up to date information on the number of Australians receiving the unemployment benefit? What has been the reduction in the number of unemployment beneficiaries as compared with the number at the same time last year, both for Australia as a whole and for the individual States?

Senator Messner —Don't you get the ABS surveys?

Senator MAGUIRE —They are not published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Senator. How does the latest figure compare with the 1984 Budget estimate of the average number of persons receiving the benefit for the current financial year?

Senator Messner —Why don't you put it on notice?

Senator GRIMES —Oh, do you not want to hear about it, Senator? In the year to the end of August 1984, the number of unemployment beneficiaries has declined by 51, 552 to a total of 570,551.

Senator Boswell —How many were in the CEP?

Senator GRIMES —This represents a decline of 8.3 per cent in the past year. This decline in the number of unemployment beneficiaries began earlier this year and has continued throughout 1984. It represents the success of the Government's policies in terms of achieving non-inflationary economic growth, and the Government's policy, Senator Boswell, of providing jobs for those people who need them, whether they are within the community employment program or anywhere else. Over the last month, there has been a fall of about 9,800 in the number of unemployment beneficiaries.

On a State by State basis, the fall in the number of unemployment beneficiaries is as follows: New South Wales, down by 9.38 per cent, or 22,490; Victoria, down by 13.9 per cent, a decline of 18,525; Queensland, down by 1.2 per cent, a decline of 1,221; South Australia, down by 9.6 per cent, a decline of 5,800; Western Australia, down by 2.65 per cent, a decline of 1,500; Tasmania, down by 3.03 per cent, a decline of 613; Australian Capital Territory, down by 26.12 per cent, a decline of 1,343; and there has been a small increase of 0.5 per cent, or 39, in the Northern Territory.

Of course, the number of unemployment beneficiaries is still too high. The Government is confident, however, that its economic policies will result in a continuing decline. The estimated average in the 1984 Budget, as Senator Maguire knows, is 570,000. It is down to about that average now; but we expect increases over the Christmas and New Year period. Last year the average came down considerably, and expenditure on the unemployment benefit was some $300m below what we expected it to be. All I can say is that this indicates that our policies have certainly been more successful in reducing unemployment than the discredited economic policies of the previous Government. During the last year or so of the Fraser Government, the numbers increased, for example, from 304,700 to 562,600 in the 12 months ending December 1982. This was an increase of 85 per cent, or 257,900, in the number of unemployment beneficiaries in that one year. There has been a complete reversal, and we are sure that our policies will mean a continuing decline in this area in the future.