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Wednesday, 17 November 1976


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

 


Mr COHEN -I thank the Minister. The number of people unemployed, which was 2175 in November 1975, is now a fraction under 4000.

It rose under the previous Administration to approximately 3500. Under this administration it has risen to over 4000 and has remained at that level ever since. In fact, unemployment is now running at between 20 and 30 per cent higher than it was in the last months or at any time of the previous Labor Government.


Mr Baillieu - Will you say that again?


Mr COHEN - I will repeat that. Unemployment is now running at 30 per cent higher than it was during the period of the Labor Government. The local candidate promised the world. He promised the building industry and the housing and construction industry that under a Liberal Administration things would start to happen again. He promised that men would be back at work, profits would be raised, and activity would start again. However, virtually nothing has happened. Industry has remained stagnant. The lights have not been turned on. In the last few months I have been approached by a number of industry groups, including the building and construction industry and the local automobile industry, both of which are desperately worried about this situation. These are the people who, by their donations and electoral support, enabled the Liberal Party to poll its highest vote for years in that area. It did so throughout the country.

These are the people who expect results. They are certainly not getting results in New South Wales and least of all in the area of the central coast, which depends on 3 factors for its prosperity. It depends on the building industry primarily and on tourism and retirement. Let me quote some of the figures. There are 3994 people unemployed on the Central Coast. Of this number, 451 are directly attributable to the building industry. These people consist of bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, painters, plumbers, tilers and electricians. But there are many, many hundreds more who are in the allied trades. These include storemen and packers, unskilled labourers, clerks and salesmen. There are hundreds more who are affected by the failure of the building industry and the inability of this Government to give that industry the impetus that it was promised. What is going to happen in the next few weeks when school leavers come on to the labour market? I have said that 4000 people are unemployed in my area at the moment. The number must reach somewhere near 5000 and above early in 1 977.

Let me mention the specific breaches of promise that were made by the previous candidate in the last election and supported by the then Liberal shadow Minister and the alternative Prime Minister- the janitor at the time- who is the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He promised that funds would be made available in regional areas of sewerage; that there would be a continuation of building programs for schools and hospitals; and one of the most blatant breaches was that the commitment made by the Labor Administration in respect of Old Sydney Town would be honoured. All these specific promises have been breached. In the electorate which I represent activities in the areas of sewerage, schools, hospitals and tourism depend on the injection of funds to enable the area to acquire the prosperity that it so desperately needs. There has been some minimal activity in the area of roads, preschools, child care and welfare facilities. Although I do not want to go into the details now, it is almost nothing.

A great deal was said by the then Opposition about the Labor Government's proposal to establish a growth centre in Warnervale- Wyee. The Liberal candidate opposed it and said that under a Liberal Government funds would be spent to rehabilitate and to resuscitate existing areas. What a laugh! There is absolutely no sign of any funds coming through for those purposes. Much publicity has been given to the problems of the areas of Maryborough and Queenstown. I accept that something must be done in these areas. My Party accepts that the areas have significant problems, problems of great social need. My Party accepts that we as a parliament and the Liberals as a government must do something about Maryborough and Queenstown. We have been told that because of the Fraser Island decision and because of the closing down of the Mount Lyell copper mine 300 to 400 people could lose their jobs and probably double that number could be affected indirectly. But what is going to be done about regional areas like the Central Coast which has the highest unemployment rate in Australia? Nowhere has another area of that size 4000 people out of work. The percentage of people out of work is about 14 to 15 per cent. I have great sympathy for Maryborough and Queenstown. But what about the problems of an area where the rate of unemployment is way above that of Maryborough and Queenstown?

There are things that can be done, which this Government promised would be done, but of which, as I said before, we have seen no sign. The first thing that is needed is the injection of funds into areas of public works. Sewerage grants are an essential. If the building industry is to proceed sewered areas are needed. But the provision of sewerage is years behind because of the neglect of the previous State Government and of the present Federal Liberal Government. We had just started to catch up when the previous Labor Government was in office. Some $5m worth of federal funds were injected by that Administration. As a result we were starting to catch up on the years of backlog.

Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), and I outlined the changes that a Labor Government would make in a regional employment development scheme. If ever there was a need for Regional Employment Development schemes, it is in areas such as the Central Coast and in regional areas.


Mr Corbett - How did your RED scheme go?


Mr COHEN -The RED scheme went particularly well. Thank you for your interjection. In my area there were 850 people employed. The number of people unemployed came down from over 3500 to about 2700. This scheme solved many of the unemployment problems of the Central Coast.


Mr Corbett - Why did you cut it out?


Mr COHEN - It was stopped for a while because of cutbacks that were made in the Budget of 1975, but we were assured by the then Treasurer that if unemployment was still high in 1976 the RED scheme would be reintroduced.

Finally I want to quote from a paper that I do not often quote in this House. I think in this case Nation Review is worth quoting because it points to the inadequacies of this Government. The article which I wish to quote was written by Mungo Maccallum and it states:

The deficit was running out of control. Investment had slumped. The stock market was at a disastrous low. Interest rates, already high, had risen yet again. Australia's international reserves were running down at the rate of $200m a month. Unemployment was at its highest rate for 40 years, and expected to climb still further when the new crop of school leavers hit the market. The climb out of the international recession was faltering: Indeed, the budget, designed to restore business confidence, had reduced it to a new low. Industrial unrest was widespread. Productivity was almost at a standstill.

That is the legacy that we have had of 12 months of Liberal Government.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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