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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1097

Senator CAMPBELL (4.32 p.m.) —I want to make a few brief comments on the Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 1994, particularly as it relates to young Australians. One of the features of 1994, as we see Australia coming out of a deep and unnecessary recession, is that whole groups of Australians are being locked out of the benefits of the upsurge in economic growth. One group worst affected is young Australians.

  Earlier, I heard my colleagues Senator Watson and Senator O'Chee mention that the massive foreign debt with which Australia is burdened will fall on future generations of Australians. One of the future generations closest at hand is young Australians who are presently in high school or in their early days at university—Australian youth, an area for which I have shadow ministerial responsibility.

  The industrial relations legislation came through this place in a marathon debate in 1993. It has already been amended here and more amendments have been flagged this week. This legislation freezes out young Australians from being able to benefit from any growth that occurs in employment. That growth is very low, but because of the government's incredibly close relationship with the trade unions and organised unions it is prepared to freeze these young Australians out by bringing in a whole lot of onerous provisions in industrial laws.

  It is important for the Senate to understand that young Australians do not have a lot of bargaining power. They are not an organised part of the work force. They are virtually insignificant to people like Bill Kelty and Martin Ferguson and the bosses of such big unions as the Transport Workers Union. We do not see those people worrying too much in union elections about 15-, 16- and 17-year olds. These young people are unorganised, are not well represented, and are being frozen out of an Australia that is more and more becoming a country where, if one does not have a bargaining table when it comes to things like native title, the budget, and industrial relations, one does not get a slice of the pie.

  Sadly, young Australians are missing out. The government would argue that the massively high levels of youth unemployment will be addressed by the white paper. After the white paper was brought down reporters and cameras from virtually every television station in the country went out into the streets and young unemployed Australians were bailed up and asked, `What do you think the white paper will do for your employment prospects?' I do not profess to have seen every piece of television coverage of the white paper or Working Nation statement, but virtually all the people I saw said, `It won't help me. It might give me a bit of extra training. It might give me a training base. But at the end of it I want a real job.'

  Most young Australians want the same sort of security that their parents enjoyed. They want the opportunity to get well educated, to make their own choices in life, to one day buy a home and to move about the place in an aeroplane, a motor vehicle, a bus, or on a boat. Young people want to be able to make those choices. They realise that training schemes—no matter how important they are in the short term—do not offer them the opportunity to have a real job and to be able to build up their financial security and self-esteem.

  Young people are extremely cynical about the white paper and the Working Nation statement. They have been promised a lot before but nothing has been delivered. The government should not just see that as the cynicism of youth, but rather as a deep and endemic problem in Australian society. Hundreds of thousands of Australian youth have lost hope in this government and in the future of Australia. It is incumbent on the Liberal and National party opposition to rebuild some of that hope. I expect that under the leadership of Mr Downer and Mr Costello we will be able to do that.

  In state elections in the last couple of years masses of young Australians have turned to the Liberal and National parties and have voted for us. The Tasmanian by-election sticks in my mind. Some 54 per cent of young Australians voted for the Liberal Party. I do not believe there is a National Party in Tasmania at the moment but it is being looked at.

Senator O'Chee —We have one, actually.

Senator CAMPBELL —That is great. It makes us all very happy. There are enormous problems afflicting Australian youth, and the government's industrial relations policies are an important part of those problems. I believe that it is fair to regard the Brereton industrial relations laws as basically the door—

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator West)—I think, Senator, it would be helpful to use the minister's full title, thank you.

Senator CAMPBELL —I am referring to the legislation, and I am referring to it as the Brereton legislation. If you think that Mr Brereton wants to disown this legislation—as I would if I were he—then I will agree with your ruling and call it the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Laurie Brereton's, industrial relations so-called reform bill 1993 as amended in 1994. I hope that makes it a lot clearer for the Senate.

Senator Bell —It is not in fact what we are talking about.

Senator CAMPBELL —That has never stopped us before. It is very sad that young Australians are being frozen out of the benefits of the recovery and the benefits of employment growth. It is also sad that the policies of the Labor government leading to massive foreign debt, higher than average international interest rates, the boom-bust economic cycle that was inflicted upon us, the cost of servicing our high debt and the burden of taxation that falls on Australia, will fall very unfairly on young Australians.

  It is all very well for all of us who are moving into middle age not to have to worry about foreign debt. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Gareth Evans) said here in question time, we do not have to worry about the foreign debt, `It'll all be okay.' The reality is, maybe he does not have to worry; he is getting on in life. It is the young people who will have to worry about these things, like the failure of the industrial relations system. It is the young people who need the jobs; they are the people who want to get their feet on the first rung of the employment ladder—the rung that is being chopped off by Mr Brereton in his industrial relations bill.

  It is the young people who will have to bear the burden of taxation as they move into the work force. They are the ones who will have to bear the cost of education, health and social security. This generation is failing to build a public policy that deals with all those costs. We are basically saying, `We will not worry about it. We will hand it on to the next generation.' That next generation is at school at the moment or is just entering university. There is a massive group of young Australians in that 16- to 25-year-old age group who are very worried about the future and who are very cynical about this government. If we are honest, they are probably cynical about all politicians. We owe them a lot more. The Liberal-National party coalition must really work to ensure that those people do have something to look forward to in their lives. I assure you, Madam Acting Deputy President, that the government's approach to industrial relations certainly could not give them any hope whatsoever.

  The first step that this government could take to ensure that young Australians do have some hope in the future is actually to repeal Mr Brereton's legislation of last year. At least that would give young people a little more hope of getting a real job, rather than being chopped off before they even get their feet on the bottom rung of the ladder.