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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 389

Senator JACK EVANS(3.23) —Firstly, I commend the Government on initiating the Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs. Secondly, I commend the writers of the report. I believe it is a very valuable step forward, provided that it is followed through. A number of areas are covered within the report, some in detail but some not yet in sufficient detail for implementation to follow automatically. Those areas include several that the Australian Democrats and I for many years have been endeavouring to have addressed. Amongst those is one of the major recommendations of the report-the introduction of a traineeship system outside the apprenticeship system. This recognises that employers cannot in all cases continue to bear the brunt of training their employees from the very start of that training process.

Senator Harradine —In what industry?

Senator JACK EVANS —In many industries. The proof of this is that so many employers have opted out of the apprenticeship system and instead rely on paying above award wages to steal apprentices who have been trained by other employers. That applies equally to other semi-skilled employees who are stolen as soon as they are trained by the responsible employer.

Senator Harradine —Apprentices have a training wage already.

Senator JACK EVANS —Senator Harradine has made his speech. I want to make my points.

Senator Harradine —Apprentices have a training wage already.

Senator JACK EVANS —Indeed. I address particularly the fact that this report concentrates on youth. There is a similar need for adult retraining. We have become willing partners-we in the Parliament, the Government, employers and particularly government departments-in the acceptance of the phrase 'natural attrition' when redundancy is part of an agreement between government and an industry. Provided natural attrition takes place, we will accept reduced numbers in the enterprise or industry. We must realise that natural attrition means that fewer youths will be employed. Fewer people will enter the industry or enterprise as older people leave. We have to realise that that is one of the major causes of youth unemployment. The Liberals' cure for it, the quick, off-the-top-of-the-head cure of cutting youth wages, has been proven by responses around Australia to lack any depth or capacity for realistic implementation.

The Liberals have been challenged: 'By how much would you cut youth wages?' Silence is the response. 'What is the impact on older employees when you cut youth wages?' Again, silence is the response. 'Do you really create more jobs when you cut youth wages?' Silence, again, is the response. I put it to Senator Sir John Carrick that the approach by the Liberal Party of Australia is epitomised not by just shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic but rather by the approach that was evident for many years of abandoning the bridge while the Titanic was heading for the icebergs. Now we have struck the icebergs, and the sufferers are the young people in this country. I think we can get unanimity in the Senate that what is needed is an increase in the skills of, and making more formal training available to, young people and linking that with employment where and when it is appropriate. That has to be linked with the increased educational opportunities both in and out of the school system.