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Monday, 6 December 1976

Mr FALCONER (Casey) -When the Labor Government first came to office it inherited an unemployment rate of about 135 000; when it left office the rate was 328 000. Again, when it came to office the rate of unemployment amongst young people under twenty was 80 000; when it left office that figure had risen to 1 52 000. 1 suppose we have to give Labor Party members some credit in this debate. They are experts on creating unemployment so they ought to be able to talk about that subject to some extent. In their 3 years in government the rate of youth unemployment doubled. I suggest that the answer to the problem of youth unemployment is not in more and more government spending as honourable members opposite often tend to suggest. That was the solution tried by the Labor Government when it was in office. The huge increases in government spending, together with the high wage explosion that was brought about at least partly through the use of the Public Service as a pacesetter in wage fixation, and the consequent lack of competitiveness of Australian industry, led to the high rate of unemployment. It was that very lack of competitiveness of Australian industry which largely brought about the recent devaluation. That devaluation has in fact saved the jobs of 400 people at Mount Lyell in

Tasmania. I was interested to note the comments of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) that devaluation would not save jobs. He should tell that to the Tasmanians. They certainly will not accept that for a moment. Many other jobs will be saved as a result of devaluation.

Most of last year's school leavers have been employed. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) said earlier in this debate that 95 per cent of last year's school leavers have found jobs. I suggest to the House that the major difficulty in youth unemployment is not so much with the school leavers but with the young person who perhaps left school at an early age without obtaining a high degree of skill and who has had two or three jobs which he has lost for either good or bad reasons. As a result that person looks a very bad prospect for any potential employer. That person would look to be a potentially unstable employee. I suggest that it is in that area of youth unemployment that we have the major problem; it is not so much with the recent school leaver. Most employers will give the recent school leaver a chance at least in his first job. It is when he develops some record of instability, combined with a lack of skill and a lack of qualification that he becomes, in an employer's eye, a bad risk.

I want to tell the House what has happened under the special youth employment training program which this Government introduced. I think it must rate as being an outstanding success by any measure. Some 2300 young people have now been placed in training under the program. It has been particularly pleasing to note that almost half of the trainees have been placed in New South Wales where previously it had been extremely difficult to obtain vacancies for young people. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) would be quick to tell me that Tasmania has had the best pro rata achievement with respect to this program. In Tasmania alone 153 young people have found jobs under this program. In Victoria 385 people have found jobs under the program. In New South Wales the figure is 818 people. This is the largest number in any one State, as I mentioned earlier. The honourable member for Gellibrand also said, as I understood him, that the careers guide was not being printed. I want to inform him and the House that the careers guide is being printed in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. Next year a national careers guide will be printed with supplements for each State. The project is definitely going ahead.

Mr Willis - It is not available now.

Mr FALCONER - It is being printed.

Mr Willis - It will be available next April.

Mr FALCONER -The honourable member for Gellibrand was saying that it was not going to be printed. To continue with my own remarks, I would like to say a little more about the work that this Government is doing in offering vocational guidance to young people. Again I thought the honourable member for Gellibrand was quite scathing in his criticism of what was happening in that respect. Through the officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service the Government provides not only job placement assistance but also job information and counselling. I would like to quote what the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said on 7 September in a debate on a similar subject. It is to the discredit of the honourable member for Gellibrand that he apparently did not take any notice of what was said on this occasion. The Minister said:

In relation to job information, career reference centres have been established in all capital cities and some major provincial cities throughout Australia. Over 200 000 inquiries were made at career reference centres in the last financial year.

The offices of the CES also have several hundred counsellors who visit schools through the year with advice and information on careers. In the last financial year over 140 000 school leavers received such information and advice. Both the employment offices and the regional offices are equipped with trained psychologists, who provided vocational guidance to over 24000 people in the last financial year.

It may be argued that more could be done. I do not quarrel with that proposition. I assure the House that a considerable amount is being done. I think more is being done than the House was led to believe earlier by the honourable member for Gellibrand.

The Government believes that, in its measures to assist the young unemployed, it should concentrate on programs which give them real job experience in a real commercial and industrial environment. I suggest that one of the problems with programs such as the former Regional Employment Development scheme is that job creation programs can too easily become job replacement programs. Quite often these programs do not necessarily give the people employed a degree of skill which will make them an attractive employee to a potential employer. The programs keep them busy for a while. Such a program may keep them occupied for several months or even longer depending on now long the project lasts, but it does not necessarily impart any skills that will be of continuing use to

I know of some municipal authorities which used the RED scheme not to create additional jobs for unemployed people but which, in fact, used the scheme as a way of getting their maintenance work done on the cheap- replacing the work that would have been done by other fulltime council officers. I think we need to consider the disadvantages of a scheme such as the RED scheme. Let us not examine the short-term solutionsthe short-term palliatives- but try to introduce schemes which will give to the unemployed real job experience.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.

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