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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3399

Senator HARRADINE(5.11) —The Committee was dealing earlier with the question of appointment procedures. I had said that it appeared that discrimination is practised against youth by the Public Service Board in its recruitment procedures. I pointed to the statistics on the Public Service and said that there had been an 11 per cent drop in the number of youth employed by the Public Service. The Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), in his response, made three points, which presumably were the excuses of the Public Service. I refer to them now because one of the points which I thought I had disposed of has been picked up in an Australian Associated Press report. The Minister said that it was true that the proportion of young people in the Public Service had decreased. But he said that this situation was aided by the growing trend of young people to stay at school for longer periods. What is the Minister trying to say? By making that statement, is he trying to make an excuse for the substantial drop in the number of young people employed in permanent staff positions in the Commonwealth Public Service? If he is, it is a nonsense. What does he mean by that statement? In fact, the three points that he made were: Firstly, the work force as a whole in this age group had declined--

Senator Walsh —That is right. That is correct and it is factual.

Senator HARRADINE —Does the Minister want me to give him the figures?

Senator Walsh —Yes, I would be very interested.

Senator HARRADINE —In 1984-85, the period we are talking about, the figures--

Senator Walsh —You were talking about a 20-year period, not one year.

Senator HARRADINE —I am talking--

Senator Walsh —You were asserting that the proportion of youth in the work force had not fallen since the mid-1960s.

Senator HARRADINE —No, I had quoted the figures from the Public Service Board's annual report for 1984.

Senator Walsh —I am not talking about the Public Service Board. I am talking about the whole work force; and you are wrong.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Harradine has the call. The Minister can reply in due course if he wants to.

Senator HARRADINE —I would be grateful for the opportunity to point out what I had referred to. I had referred to the fact that, last year, Public Service permanent staff had increased by 3,204 but, at the same time, the number of youth in permanent Public Service jobs had been reduced by 913; that is, over the period of the Public Service Board's report, which is 1984-85. I gave the actual figures, and I said that this represented a cut of 11 per cent. I also said that youth under 21 years of age comprised 22.2 per cent of total Public Service permanent staff in 1966, and 6.3 per cent in 1984, and the latest figure for the Public Service Board 1985 year, which was tabled in the Parliament last week, was an all time low of 5.6 per cent. The Minister said-I cannot understand what he meant-that that was due to--

Senator Walsh —Can you understand this? They don't stay young for very long. Even you should be able to understand that.

Senator HARRADINE —Let me just explain what the Minister said. He said: `This is caused by the trend of young people staying at school for longer periods'. What does he mean by that? He then went on to say that what he meant by that was that the work force as a whole in this age group had fallen. He has misled the chamber. Let me give him the figures. As far as 1984 is concerned--

Senator Walsh —Oh, you are a mongrel.

Senator HARRADINE —I am talking about the quarterly series. This is an important matter. This Minister talks about youth--

Senator Walsh —You mongrel!

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Walsh.

Senator HARRADINE —The Minister talks about youth. He can call me a mongrel if he likes, but he talks about youth--

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The Minister may not do that.

Senator HARRADINE —He can do it as far as I am concerned. I could not care less.

The CHAIRMAN —The Minister will withdraw that remark.

Senator Walsh —Mr Chairman, I withdraw.

Senator HARRADINE —This is a very important point. The Minister said that the labour force had been reduced. It has not been reduced. The labour force generally has increased since 1984-85. The figures for the persons concerned-I am talking about the 15 to 20 years age group inclusive-are as follows: 975,500 in 1984, using the latest quarterly series figures, and 983,500 in 1985. The Minister has misled this chamber by stating an excuse-presumably, one given to him by the Public Service Board.

The second reason he gave was that the Public Service Board needs to make appointments on the merit principle. On that issue, what has changed between last year and this year as far as the merit principle is concerned? Has there been a change in Public Service appointment procedures between last year and this year? Of course there has not been a change. Yet there has been a drop of 913 young people employed by the Public Service. The third reason that the Minister gave was that in the absence of a positive growth in the Public Service, it is natural that there would be a decline in the number of youth employed. Honourable senators will agree with me when I say that, in all fairness, I tried to raise this matter with the Minister in a proper, quiet, logical, reasonable--

Senator Walsh —You are doing just another one of your phoney grandstanding acts.

Senator HARRADINE —Let me tell the Minister this: It is not phoney when the Government is discriminating against youth in its own area of responsibility.

Senator Walsh —That's your assertion; unsupported by anything.

Senator HARRADINE —No. The Minister made three assertions, each of which has been proven wrong. I have dealt with two of those assertions and I will deal with the third one now. The Minister said that, in the absence of a positive growth rate, it is not unusual that there would be a decline in the number of youth in the Public Service. For the Minister's information, in the period we were talking about there was an actual increase of 3,204 people in the Public Service. I ask the Senate to examine this situation very carefully. The public of Australia and, indeed, unemployed youths and their parents are entitled to know what explicit policy intervention the Government will take to rectify this situation. The Minister has talked about traineeships, but he and the Government had the opportunity last year and years before that to do something about it. I have raised this matter year after year. We have got a situation where the Government trumpets that it is in favour of the youth of this country. The Government-and each Minister of the Government-fails to give those youths a fair go in the only area in which it has total responsibility.

I have tried to mention before that I know of certain Ministers who are concerned about the fact that they do not and are not given the opportunity of getting more youths into their departments. The Minister ought to go back and properly examine this matter. He should not give misleading statements to this Senate, which he has done in response to the points that I have properly raised.