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Preview of the White Paper on employment, industry and regional development -

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QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Tomorrow night the Government announces its big statement on jobs, industry policy and regional development. It's being touted as one of the most significant events of the whole period of Labor Government. Paul Lyneham prepared this preview.

PAUL LYNEHAM: It's just as well that great magician, Paul Keating, master of illusion, has had lots of experience delivering budgets and economic statements, for tomorrow, by the time the smoke clears and the last rabbit jumps out of his hat, he'll have tried to convince you that he's committing megabucks to help the long-term unemployed. The headline figure will be nearly $6 billion, the rhetoric will be all about sharing the recovery and building on the growth that's already flowing through.

At the same time, though, the master of illusion has to convince the financial markets that it's all affordable, that the Government isn't going soft on paying off the old bank card, the Budget deficit. The trouble is the markets won't see any proof of this until Treasurer Willis delivers the Budget six days later. Until then it's all faith. Now, that's a pretty rare commodity, given that the markets usually operate on a mix of greed and fear, and the harder Paul Keating sells the package the more fearful they're likely to be.

Yesterday, for example, the PM said it would be one of the biggest statements since Labor first came to power back in '83.

PAUL KEATING: Its principal features will be a commitment to the long-term unemployed but it has many facets and another will be a commitment to the young people of Australia to guarantee that they are trained for work and that the years of 15 to 19 are regarded as a period of vocational preparation.

PAUL LYNEHAM: Most of the key features have been well leaked - the job compact promising a subsidised job for all those who've been out of work for 18 months or more, plus individual case management by the CES and private firms that have won tenders to do the job. A below-award training wage for inexperienced people with a fast-track system to accredit the training schemes offered by employers, a training support allowance for the under-18s also offering individual case management to try to find those kids jobs before they lose self-esteem and develop the wrong attitudes. Sounds familiar? Well, John Howard thinks so, not just because of the leaks but also because he claims much of it's been pinched from his policy.

JOHN HOWARD: Of course I support a training wage. The concept of a training wage was an integral part of our policy a year ago. It was damned all over the country by the union movement and by the Government as being slave labour. They are now about to embrace the slave labour, as they called it.

AMANDA VANSTONE: Do you remember when the Liberal Party said we should have a youth training wage and we were bagged witless by the Government, saying that we were trying to cut youth wages? You might like to ask the Government why they keep adopting our policies.

PAUL LYNEHAM: Well, whoever thought of it first, maybe now there'll be bipartisan support. But even if it's very worthy, is it affordable? The answer's probably yes - for several reasons. First, the six billion is over four years, which takes us well beyond the next election and well into pie-in-the-sky land, so don't be too dazzled by the big figures. Second, the Government knows that subsidised jobs for the long-term unemployed will reduce job opportunities for other people, so unless economic growth produces real private sector jobs the Government's just churning the pot and wasting billions into the bargain, and they know it. Growth is the key and if the Government gives the markets the impression of irresponsible spending, then growth and investment will be jeopardised.

Also in tomorrow's statement a no-frills industry policy that's all about removing the barriers to growth and exports, without handouts, and a regional development statement that's all about self-help with local communities identifying their strengths and trying to build on them - which is a fancy way of saying they won't get too much money tomorrow.

All up then, a package we probably can afford aimed at tackling a problem that we cannot ignore. As for those markets that have to have faith for six days, they'd be wise to consider the fact that the next Federal election's not due till early '96. This year, despite tomorrow's razzamatazz, the underlying strategy is Mr Pinchpenny. It's next year that the market should start straining their ears for the first distant sounds of that great old political anthem, Roll Out the Barrel.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Thanks, Paul.