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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3364

Senator HARRADINE(1.43) —The first Australian Democrat amendment deals with the selection process in the Public Service. I think this is an appropriate time to raise a question which I have raised over the last four years-that is, the recruitment of youth to the Public Service. I note that the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), who is at the table, is interested in this matter. Indeed, last year he gave me some responses to my questions. I do not have the actual quotes of what the Minister said, but in response to the point that I raised last year that youth as a percentage of the total Public Service staff had fallen to a then all time low of 6.3 per cent, the Minister indicated that there were a number of reasons for that, one of which was the question of obtaining trained staff. He indicated at that time that traineeships were going to be made available in the Public Service and that, by the next year-namely by this year-this would be shown to have some effect.

According to the Public Service Board's most recent report, which was tabled in the Parliament last week, the Public Service permanent staff increased in the last year by 3,204 persons to a total of 145,433. But at the same time, the number of youth in permanent Public Service jobs dropped by 913. I do not know whether the Senate understands the import of that. The increase in the total Public Service staff was 3,204 and, at the same time, the number of youth in permanent Public Service jobs dropped by 913. That is rather ironic, given the commitment of the Government to give priority to youth. In fact the result of that-and if I can give you the actual numbers of youth, under 21 years of age--

Senator Walsh —On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Could Senator Harradine identify to which clause of the Bill he is addressing his remarks?

Senator HARRADINE —Yes, clause 41.

The CHAIRMAN —I must consent to Senator Harradine's remarks because they have been in order. This Bill does cover recruitment and other matters, so Senator Harradine's remarks are in order.

Senator HARRADINE —I am raising this, Minister, in a genuine way, and I am quite aware that a number of Ministers are concerned about the fact that the Public Service Board is not giving youth a fair go. I am raising it in the hope that there will be a response which will tell the Public Service Board not to discriminate, as it is doing, by making deliberate policy decisions and instituting a structured bias in Public Service appointment procedures. There is a structured bias in Public Service Board appointment procedures which discriminates against youth employment. The fact is that young people under 21 years of age constituted 22.2 per cent of Public Service permanent staff in 1966. That dropped to 6.3 per cent in the year before last and to an all time low of 5.6 per cent in the last year for which the Public Service Board's report is available.

I consider that that tragic state of affairs has been brought about by a deliberate policy of the Public Service Board and the structured bias in the Public Service appointment procedures. That is what we are talking about: The question of appointment procedures. Those appointment procedures actually discriminate against youth. The Public Service Board's dropping of 913 youth from its permanent employment has meant a cut of 11 per cent in the number of youth on the permanent Public Service payroll. I know that the Public Service Board's report said that 602 trainees were appointed in that particular year. I presume that further trainees have been appointed since. But these traineeships are temporary, short term traineeships, of about a year's duration and there is no guarantee that at the end of that time the youth will obtain a job. I make the point that traineeship schemes have an important role in the Public Service, as elsewhere, but they must not be introduced at the expense of permanent jobs. These schemes, including the schemes in the Public Service, must give a real prospect of permanent jobs if youth are not to be disillusioned with them. The Government really ought to have a good look at what the Public Service Board is doing with its appointment procedures and undertake some explicit policy intervention to rectify the situation that now exists. There is an all time low of youth in the Public Service. It is not enough to say that the traineeship schemes will rectify the problem. Youth will be very disillusioned with the traineeship proposals if there is not explicit intervention by the Government concerning appointments to permanent Public Service staff jobs. Some unions have categorised the traineeship proposals as ultimately being designed to turn permanent staff positions into temporary traineeship positions filled by a succession of youth trainees. It is clear that though 602 temporary part time trainees have been appointed, the Public Service Board has dropped 913 permanent young staff. That requires an answer from the Government and I believe it is not appropriate for the Government to just retain the handouts given by the Public Service Board, because it is a stark reality, a stark fact, that permanent jobs for youth in the Public Service have dropped by 11 per cent while at the same time there has been an overall increase in Public Service staff of 3,204.