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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1995

Senator JONES(4.46) —This afternoon we are debating a matter of public importance, the terms of which are:

The need for the Government to take further action to relieve the unfair and unnecessary burden of youth unemployment.

I think it is worth while noting at this stage that every speaker on either side of the Senate certainly showed some genuine interest and concern for youth unemployment in this country. While I would not agree with some of the points put forward by the various speakers where they argued for a better deal for unemployed youth, I believe that they were genuine in the way in which they argued that matter. I think congratulations should be given to Senator Brian Harradine for at least bringing forward this matter of public importance. Although it is couched in these words 'to relieve the unfair and unnecessary burden', it had to be couched like that because of the way in which matters of public importance are placed before the Senate. He certainly brought forward a matter that really needed to be debated by honourable senators in this place because of the problems facing this country and the problems facing youth unemployment in Australia generally.

I believe that one of the points that should be made from the Government's point of view is the Government's economic performance in the recent Budget that was brought down. That Budget will increase the demands within the community and , by increasing those demands, it will increase the opportunity for employment. I suppose it is reasonable to say that it has to show some confidence in economic growth in Australia. It is also reasonable to say that it is very easy for a senator of the Government to claim that there is a certain amount of confidence in the economic growth that is taking place in Australia at the moment.

I think it is worth while at this stage to deal with some of the reports from groups within the community that very clearly outline their confidence in the economic growth that will take place in Australia in the future, which I believe will tend to provide better opportunities for youth employment and, for that matter, general employment throughout the community. One of those reports, which I think was referred to by Senator Peter Baume, was the report of the Westpac Banking Corporation. While I believe that there is some criticism of the prices and incomes accord in that report-I will quote from the report in a few moments- it stated very clearly that there is a certain amount of confidence that there will be growth in the economy in 1985. The Reserve Bank of Australia said very clearly in its overview that it had confidence in the Government's economic approach. For that matter even the Legislative Research Service wrote a report which clearly shows the confidence in the Government's Budget strategy and clearly shows that there is confidence in the way in which the Government is setting about trying to relieve the unemployment that exists in this country. Let me just return for a moment to the Westpac Banking Corporation Review. I quote from the Review which is headed 'The Accord and the Budget' where it states:

The prediction of relatively strong economic growth in 1984/85 (up 4 per cent in real terms, compared with 1983/84) should be borne out. Moderation in the annual growth rate of wages and prices (both forecast to rise at an annual rate of 5 per cent-5.5 per cent . . .

That is the view of the Westpac Banking Corporation which I believe is a very unbiased view of the Government's Budget strategy. Let us go a little further and look at the report and financial statements of the Reserve Bank of Australia dated 30 June 1984. If we turn to the overview on page 1 of that report we find that it states very clearly the Reserve Bank's view of its confidence in the economy or in the Budget strategy of this Government. The report states:

In 1983-84 the Australian economy returned to forward gear, with strong growth and lower inflation. The breaking of the drought, the stimulus inherent in the large Commonwealth budget deficit and the turnaround in the stock cycle combined to produce a substantial rebound in domestic demand. A concurrent though modest improvement in the international environment gave some support to exports. The resumption of economic growth, at a pace much sharper than had been expected at the start of the year, meant that Australia's recession was shorter, though no less severe, than in other industrial countries. Wage moderation, helped by the wages pause and the Prices and Incomes Accord, was a major contributor to the general improvement in the economy.

The report goes on:

Inflationary pressures were reduced and employment rose strongly.

So there is an indication that there will be further increases in the employment rate in Australia. The report continues:

A significant part of the early fruits of recovery reflected in company profits , forming a basis for future investment.

That is the view of the Reserve Bank of Australia which very clearly outlines its confidence in this Government and in its strategy. Let us turn to a further report entitled 'The 1984 Budget', a discussion paper written by Caroline Boyd, James Jordan and Michael Porter from the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash University. We only need to read the introduction of that report which clearly outlines the strategy set down by the Government and clearly outlines where that strategy is taking us. The report states:

The objective of the government's economic policies, as indicated in the 1984 budget, is the restoration of full employment through economic growth.

I think that clearly outlines the government's position in relation to the Budget, its policy in relation to the future of Australia, the opportunities for future employment generally throughout the community and for youth employment in this country. To emphasise this point one needs only to turn to an article written by Kenneth Davidson that was published in today's Age. He was referring to some of the statements made by John Stone but he clearly indicates that there will be an opportunity for growth in Australia's economy and there will be a better opportunity for employment in this country. I quote from Kenneth Davidson 's comment:

All that is required is an assumption that the economy will grow by just under 4 per cent, and that inflation will grow about 6 per cent in 1985-86, to give a nominal growth in national production of 10 per cent.

That is a forecast that would be accepted as reasonable by most economists who are in the forecasting business.

That comment was made by Kenneth Davidson, one of the most noted financial writers of the Age. The growth that is forecast by those reports in the Australian Government's Budget strategy should improve employment for youth and adults generally. Although one can be very concerned with youth unemployment I do not really believe it is very difficult to talk about youth unemployment and not unemployment generally. I believe it is very difficult, from a Budget point of view, or even from a business point of view, to talk in a negative way about youth unemployment and not discuss the possibilities of job availability, employment of the population and general employment throughout the Commonwealth.

If we compare the employment opportunities that were provided by the Hawke Labor Government to those provided in the last days of the Fraser Government we see quite clearly that the strategy of this Government is starting to work, and that it will work even better in 1985-86. Since the National Economic Summit Conference in April last year the Hawke Government has created 264,000 new jobs to September 1984. So we are more than half way to creating 500,000 new jobs which we promised to create in our first three years of government. Growth in employment last financial year, 1983-84, was 234,000-the highest number in a single year in Australia's history. That is the sort of result that is coming out of the Budget strategy of this Government.

In the last days of the Fraser Government there was a fall in employment of 186 ,000. The number of jobs created in the last five years of the Fraser Government was about the same as the number of jobs created since the National Economic Summit under the Hawke Labor Government. We could go on and make a further comparison, this time on unemployment. The reduction in the number of unemployed since the Economic Summit is nearly 85,000. Since Labor came to office the unemployment rate has fallen by more than 10 per cent, down to 8.8 per cent in September 1984. There was a rise in unemployment of a quarter of a million in the last year of the Fraser Government. The unemployment rate rose to more than 10 per cent of the work force in the last months of that Government. That was happening under the policy the Fraser Government was putting forward prior to the election of the Labor Government.

Let us return to the figures for youth unemployment in Australia and consider the prospect. Figures released last week show the general unemployment rate dropped even further in September to 8.8 per cent from 8.9 per cent in August. That is well down on the 10.4 per cent recorded in December last year. At the same time the labour force increased to 7.15 million last month from 7.04 million in September 1983. According to the latest figures, seasonally adjusted, for 15 to 19 year olds looking for full time work, during September the number dropped from 145,000 to 136,000. Let me repeat: In September the figure dropped from 145,000 to 136,000. That is not much of a drop as the Government, honourable senators on the other side of the House who spoke today or honourable senators on this side of the House would like, but a drop of 9,000 in one month shows very clearly that the policies of this Government are certainly addressing the problem of youth unemployment as well as general unemployment throughout the country. The September 1983 figure, by comparison, was 164,000, so there was a drop of 28,000 in one year. The figures have shown a consistent decline over the past year, which I believe shows that the policies of the Government are working quite well in relation both to general unemployment and youth unemployment.

Time does not permit me to deal with all the things done by the Government during its period in office which may in some way assist the unemployed youth in the community. The participation and equity program, the community youth support scheme and the increase in apprentice intakes all show an improvement and show the support from the Government in relation to youth unemployment in this country.

One of the speakers today mentioned a report, by Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls Pty Ltd. One point that was not raised by the previous speaker was the fact that this report was brought about by the action of the Special Minister of State (Mr Young). In November 1983 the Department of the Special Minister of State commissioned the ANOP market research organisation to undertake a major national study of the attitudes of young Australians aged between 15 and 24 years. I believe the report on that study, which is now in the hands of the Government along with other reports that were referred to today-the Kirby report of the Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report-provide information to the Government which will allow it in the future not only to continue the programs it already has but also to make adjustments and changes to the youth employment programs which I believe, with the projection of the Budget and the future growth of this country, will provide full employment and educational opportunities for the youth of this country.