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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3400

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters)(5.23) —I am going to respond briefly. I know that Senator Harradine has displayed an incapacity to follow logic in the past, but I will make another attempt. He wanted to know what relevance an increase in the school leaving age has to the proportion of Public Service employees who are under 21 years of age. If the school leaving age were increased to 21 and if it were compulsory, there would be no youth in the Public Service at all. If anyone can follow something logically from that, the higher the school leaving age goes, other things being equal, the lower the proportion of youth in the Public Service.

Senator Harradine claimed that I was wrong in saying that the proportion of youth in the work force in total had declined over a long period. I have a couple of figures. The first is entitled `Unemployment and the Labour Market' report No. 9 of the Bureau of Labour Market Research which covers 15- to 19-year-olds because that is the category it was using. If it was taken up to 20-year-olds, it would not make much difference. In 1966, 13.5 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds were employed. That had fallen to 10.7 in 1974 and 9.2 in 1985. If one looks at the labour force as a whole-this is 15- to 19-year-olds again-the proportion of 15- to 19-year-olds in the labour force, that is employed plus unemployed, has fallen every year since 1978. It has moved around a bit in the previous decade but over the whole period of 20 years it has fallen from a high in 1966 of 13.7 to 10.3. That statement is true. It is also true that it has fallen by a greater amount in the Public Service.

One base figure, and he might have had several, which Senator Harradine used was that the percentage of permanent officers-I am not sure which report this is from; one of the officials maybe able to tell me in a moment-in 1966 had peaked at 22.2 per cent from, incidentally, only 13.1 per cent in 1957 and 12.3 in 1951. It steadily fell every year from 1966. It has in fact fallen every year since 1966, with the exception of 1983 when it rose 0.1 per cent. Every year between 1966 and 1984 that proportion has fallen. There are a number of reasons for that. In 1966 there was an unduly high peak. At that time numbers in the Public Service were growing at the rate of about 5 per cent a year. In 1966 married women were allowed to remain as permanent employees, whereas previously they had not. I do not know whether Senator Harradine wants to cancel that. In 1973 the limit on the age of appointment to the junior grades, which at the time had been 28, was removed. I do not know whether Senator Harradine wants to ban people over 28 years of age from joining those lower grades of the Public Service. They are the facts.

I will try to explain again why if there is a high growth rate there is likely to be a higher proportion of youth. If there is a high growth rate there is a very high recruitment rate. If there were no recruitment at all, within four years there would be zero, no youth, in the Public Service because they do get older. That positive correlation between youth rates and the proportion of youth is very well established.

In 1985 total appointments to the Clerical Assistant range were about 4,700 of which 1,650 were aged under 20. Under 21 years would be something more than that. A total of 1,500 were 20 to 24 years of age. Over one third were under 20 years of age. For appointments to Clerical Assistant Grade 1, the proportions under 20 years of age were considerably lower. I am not sure whether it is compulsory to have some tertiary qualifications. It is certainly common to have tertiary qualifications so that there are not too many applicants under 20 years of age. I do not think there is much point in pursuing this. Senator Harradine asserts that the Public Service Board discriminates against youth. That is an assertion that he is entitled to make. The only evidence he has produced to support it is statistical evidence which is open to varying interpretations. The logical conclusions that one can draw from his arguments are: Firstly, he wants to kick married women out of the Public Service, thereby increasing the recruitment rate. Secondly, he wants to prevent people of 28 years and over entering the lower grades and, through both of those measures, discriminate in favour of youth recruitment.