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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 81

Senator CROWLEY —Is the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Youth Affairs aware of a recent finding reported by Senator Messner following a meeting with Young Liberals in South Australia that the greatest problem facing youth today is unemployment? Can the Minister make clear that the Government understood this prior to coming to office and has, under Minister Ryan, set in train a number of initiatives for Australian youth? As this is the International Year of Youth, can the Minister elaborate on the current provisions of this Government, the plans to provide training and financial assistance for young people and when these projects will be set in train?

Senator BUTTON —I read many things but I regret that I have not read all of Senator Messner's Press statements. On second thoughts, I do not regret that I have not read all of Senator Messner's Press statements. Senator Crowley's question is in two parts. One part is directed to what the Government is doing in respect of International Youth Year. The more important part relates to the general question of youth unemployment. In connection with International Youth Year, the Government has embarked on a five-point plan to assist in drawing attention to issues in that designated year. This year the State and Territory governments as well as non-government organisations will receive funding for International Youth Year from the Commonwealth Government. The sum of $2.3m will be spent on International Youth Year matters over three financial years. Of that sum, $140,000 was spent in 1983-84, primarily on publicity, consultation and training. For 1984-85, $600,000 has been offered to the State and Territory governments for projects, co-ordination and promotion of International Youth Year. Approximately $200,000 has been granted to national youth organisations, and funds have been devoted to national promotion, public relations and publicity. In addition, all State and Territory governments have committed funds for International Youth Year.

Among those projects which are to be funded is a project involving the appointment of officers to strengthen networks of voluntary organisations, particularly linking organisations working for the welfare of young Aboriginals, disabled youth, young women and youth in country areas. There will be similar projects for youth arts festivals, for the youth component of more general arts festivals and for a number of initiatives of that kind. All those things having been said, I am quite happy to make available to Senator Crowley a more detailed answer in respect of the programs for the International Youth Year initiatives. This Government and all thinking Australians will be very concerned about the high level of youth unemployment in Australia and about the steps which may be taken to alleviate that high level.

Senator Harradine —Even in your own government departments.

Senator BUTTON —Even if it embraces the subject of Senator Harradine's interjection. The most relevant action taken in relation to this issue is the Government's current examination of youth income support programs and more particularly the review of the report of the Kirby Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs and the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on labour market programs. The Government, as a matter of urgency, is conducting a review of both of those reports and is examining the sorts of initiatives which it might take in response to them. Having said that, I reiterate that youth unemployment, though quite dramatic and stark in its incidence, is part of an overall unemployment problem which we have in Australia. That overall unemployment problem can be addressed in the longer term only by sustained economic growth. Of course, we have to deal with the special incidence of youth unemployment but it is part of a wider problem which involves the question of continuing and strong economic growth in this country, which is perhaps the subject of more questions and of other venues for debate.