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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 388

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(3.19) —I comment very briefly on the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs. It demands a most lengthy debate in this Parliament and it demands documents more detailed and more comprehensive than this report. I am not satisfied with the report. I believe that it looks at symptoms and not at causes and it does not advance cures. I believe that this is one of these things that we do so often-we deal episodically with these situations. Of course, the long term situation and cure is for Australia to create more productive jobs which will give career opportunities not only to the young but to anybody-be that person a married woman or anybody else. It is not good enough merely to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is not good enough merely to replace married women on higher wages with young people.

Young people need to be able to see clearly an expansion of our manufacturing industry, and industries which are now contracting very rapidly in Australia, so that we can have this progress. I was very puzzled because inherent in this is the fact that when youngsters leave school they need to have more training, and I do not question that. However, the retention rate in Australian schools is considerably lower than that of our major trading nations, and we should be examining the cause of this. We should be looking at what has emerged from the various programs in recent years.

We know that each year in Australia between 50,000 and 75,000 young Australians come onto the labour market who through no fault of their own are basically unemployable, even if there are jobs for them. A lack of reasonable self-esteem has been identified as a problem. What kind of community are we, what kind of society and education system do we have, which brings forward people with unduly low self-esteem? It is not a reflection on those young people but on society itself that they lack motivation. In fact, in the original research for the education program for unemployed youth scheme it became quite clear that, although they lacked basic skills, the fundamental problem is unduly low self-esteem. They undervalue themselves and do not have motivation.

We ought not to be looking only at new schemes. We should look at early childhood and at schools and ask ourselves a couple of questions. How is it that 50,000 to 75,000 people are turned on to the scrap-heap each year? How is it that we are destroying our youth? What goes wrong in the family, the primary school or the high school? What is wrong with parents and primary teachers helping children along and motivating them? Why is it that we have unduly early school leavers at 15 years of age who say repeatedly: 'School is not for me; it does not give me anything'? We should look into that. Why do we not have reports into that? Why do we not look into whether the Wyndham type of system in high schools is still relevant? We ought to have a general comprehensive scheme of education, but perhaps those who seek trade training, who are looking towards a technical training, should look more to an intermixture of technical as well as other skills. Hamlet's soliloquy is not necessarily applicable for all in terms of a full life.

We should look at two things. From the family through to school leaving age, are we equipping people with the drive, motivation, willingness and eagerness to learn basic skills? Are we equipping them with a choice and, of course, with a job at the end? I am terrified that what we are busy doing is creating palliatives and excuses for ourselves. I regret that five minutes does not allow the expansion of something that deserves some days of extensive debate. I regret that this report is too limited in its substance and its detail for us to identify the real cause and effect.