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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 880

Senator FORSHAW —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training. The minister would be aware of the good news announced over the past two months regarding the unemployment rate. He would also be aware that more recently, in August, encouraging labour figures were released. Can the minister inform the Senate of employment growth and how it affects jobseekers, particularly the long-term unemployed, and what progress has been made in implementing the white paper on employment?

Senator SCHACHT —I can confirm that for the last two months employment figures show that we are making significant progress in creating additional jobs and reducing unemployment. The August ABS labour force figures show that the number of people out of work fell to 831,500, the lowest level in three years.

Senator Kemp —This question is three weeks old.

Senator SCHACHT —I know that Senator Kemp would not be interested in the reduction of unemployment in Australia because he sees that purely in terms of reducing his chances at the next election. That is typical of the cynicism of Senator Kemp and others in the opposition. In August, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 per cent—

Senator Kemp —It wasn't falling; it was unchanged.

Senator SCHACHT —Yes, down in seasonally adjusted terms, with the trend unemployment rate falling to 9.5 per cent, its eleventh consecutive monthly fall. Again, all Senator Kemp is proving is that the opposition—

Senator Kemp —There was no change.

The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Kemp!

Senator Kemp —I am being provoked.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Schacht, are you proceeding with your answer?

Senator SCHACHT —I was waiting; I thought you would have given a substantial chastisement to Senator Kemp. Total employment is now at a level 24,000 higher than the peak employment rate in July 1990. Trend employment has continued to rise and is now 4.3 per cent higher than the January 1993 low point. Also encouraging is the fact that the long-term unemployed have not been forgotten. Long-term unemployment is now 290,000, down 44,000 on a year ago, a fall of 13.3 per cent. Whilst these results are encouraging, long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high and the lessons—

Senator Kemp —They are lamentable because you caused the recession.

Senator SCHACHT —If Senator Kemp wants to act like Downer's fag all the time—

Senator Kemp —Mr President, I raise a point of order. What Senator Schacht is failing to point out is that it is his government's policies, particularly Keating's policies, which caused the recession and the long-term unemployment in the first place.

The PRESIDENT —That is clearly not a point of order.

Senator SCHACHT —Again, it just shows the sheer embarrassment of those on the other side that, whenever unemployment is coming down and the economy is growing, the opposition will use every tactic to ensure that that information is not explained to the Australian people.

  The initiatives taken in the Working Nation white paper further enable us to tackle the problem of the long-term unemployed. Combined with strong growth, this government will consistently put forward policies to ensure that the long-term unemployment figures come down. Substantial progress has been made to implement the initiatives of Working Nation, including the national training wage, which is now starting to come on track. We have a number of measures which are particularly helping small business. Again, Senator Kemp would not be interested in assistance to small business in Working Nation, but the small business community has responded strongly. All in all, these are excellent figures that show the success of the government.

Senator Kemp —Mr President, I raise a point of order. This is the second time I have been attacked by Senator Schacht in his answer. I point out to you, Mr President, that I was at a meeting this morning at which small businesses were asking him for help and relief and he refused to give it.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Kemp, you are abusing question time by making statements instead of raising points of order. I must say it does not help matters to bait people on the other side, Senator Schacht.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I think it is more than time to put this question time out of its misery. I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.