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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 762

Senator CROWLEY —My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and it follows his answer to Senator Peter Baume's question and also to a question asked by Senator Chaney earlier in this session regarding family living standards. Can the Minister say whether this Government's dramatic increase in the number of child care places, in secondary school retention and Austudy places, in tertiary sector education places, in the Medicare coverage of two million people previously uninsured and uncovered, and in the 600,000-plus people in jobs-to name just a few items-ought to be taken into account in looking at this Government's record in respect of family living standards?

Senator BUTTON —The short answer to Senator Crowley's question is yes. But in order that the members of the Opposition might be better educated on this issue I propose to elaborate briefly on some of the points which Senator Crowley has referred to in her question. For example, when this Government came to office unemployment was well in excess of 10 per cent, and it is now 8.2 per cent.

Senator Hill —It is 25 per cent for young people.

Senator BUTTON —I am talking about unemployment, Senator. If the honourable senator would listen to what I am saying he might understand the point. It is now 8.2 per cent. Personally I happen to believe that that is an unrealistically high figure because of all sorts of odd things that are happening--

Senator Chaney —Do you mean it is not a real figure?

Senator BUTTON —Yes. The fact of the matter is that there has been a significant reduction in unemployment with 727,000 new jobs created by this Government. On the latest figures which I have, 727,000 new jobs have been created by this Government in 45 months, which compares with 340,000 new jobs created in 88 months of Liberal-National Country Party government between 1975 and 1982-340,000 in 88 months. Of course, in terms of community burden, the reduction in unemployment and the creation of new jobs are most important because the very factor of being a social welfare recipient is damaging to community morale and so on. I could go through a whole range of the issues raised by Senator Crowley. The considerable increase in numbers of students completing year 12 in the education system is, for a variety of reasons, a very important change in this country. Senator Parer does not think so. He nods his head.

Senator Parer —There are no jobs for young people.

Senator BUTTON —He nods his head. Is that the reason? Is he a National Party senator?

Senator Walsh —No, Liberal.

Senator BUTTON —A Liberal Queenslander, I am sorry. If he was from the National Party he probably would not be here today. But Senator Parer apparently thinks that that is because of--

Senator Parer —There are no jobs for young people.

Senator BUTTON —Well, can Senator Parer explain why there was not a 30 per cent increase in school attendance when his Party was in government and the unemployment figures were much higher? How does he explain that?

Senator Chaney —Youth unemployment was not higher for a start.

Senator BUTTON —Interest rates were not higher either, Senator Chaney. They were; they were! I am being greatly assisted by all the interjections. Senator Crowley has made some very important points on a number of issues, and obviously members of the Opposition who are not well-informed about these matters want further information. I will certainly see that they get it.