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Wednesday, 16 February 1977


Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) -In the time available to me I want to focus attention on what I consider to be the chaos that exists amongst industry in Australia today, specifically manufacturing industry and to make some comment on the rather amazing statements yesterday of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in their so-called economic statements that everything occurring in Australia today is going according to some grand plan which the Government hatched when it came to office on 13 December 1975. 1 put it to you, Mr Speaker, that when we talk about the industries in Australia today we have to do so in the context of the manpower policies which may be available to a government or in which a government may be interested. Today I think we have to talk about the feeling of the Government for people in employment who are threatened by unemployment, what lies ahead for the industries of Australia, and what the Government is doing to see that any structural adjustment affecting our industries has the full confidence and participation of the community.

At the outset, I wish to quote from the 1945 White Paper on full employment which was delivered at the time of the Chifley Government. There is no doubt that it was a key instrument in giving Australia a guide after the war as to what its objectives in manpower should be. The White Paper said:

Full employment is a fundamental aim of the Commonwealth Government. The Government believes that the people of Australia will demand and are entitled to expect full employment ... the maintenance of conditions which will make full employment possible is an obligation owed to the people of Australia by Commonwealth and State Governments.

Let me repeat the last couple of lines: the maintenance of conditions which will make full employment possible is an obligation owed to the people of Australia by Commonwealth and State Governments.

That was the philosophy of the Chifley Government as presented to the Parliament in 1945. The string of conservative governments from 1949 to 1972 changed that philosophy. In 1967 the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Leslie Bury, made the following statement:

Australia is one of those countries which does not engage in manpower planning. We are fortunate in possessing vigorous product and resource markets in which demand and supply forces can operate freely.

One can see from these 2 approaches to employment that the Labor Party when in office was continually concerned about the people employed in various industries and the industries themselves whereas conservative governments prior to 1972 were not concerned. Today we ave a Government which is not concerned about the industries, does not know what to do about them, and subsequently has no feeling for the people who are placed in the queues of the unemployed.

Although we have heard some rhetoric from the various Ministers of this Government about what they would do for industry and the unemployed we have seen no action on this front. Obviously, when this Government came to power it did so with the overwhelming support of industry. Of that there can be no doubt. But a lot of people are now doubting the words uttered by the Government when it came to power in 1975 in relation to what it would do. The Labor Party faces the inevitability of change in industry. We know that change will take place. In coming to that conclusion one has only to observe what has occurred in the work force since 1945- the gigantic build up in the tertiary industries, the dismantling of the manufacturing industries, the lowering of the work force substantially in the rural industries and the maintenance of a very small work force in the mining industry. On most occasions we have been able to observe those changes when we have been living in a very buoyant economy. At the moment we are watching the grotesque dismantling of Australia's manufacturing industry, when the Government has no plans either to deal with the industry itself or the people employed in it.

The changes in industry at the moment are quite significant. The Government, I charge, does not know in which direction the change is heading. It does not indicate to the public whether it agrees with that change or whether it encourages the change and the way it is occurring. It is about time that the Government told the people of Australia exactly what changes it wants to see taking place in Australia 's industrial affairs and in industry itself, and exactly what lies ahead. I want to give some evidence of what is occurring in Australia today in manufacturing industry. I do not want to rely upon Labor Party views or philosophy for this; I want to give evidence that has been supplied to me by people who would normally be labelled as supporters of the present Government. If we look at some of the surveys which have been made available to both the Government and the Opposition we see some very frightening features of what is occurring in industry in Australia today.

The first thing I shall refer to is the Foundry Industry Statistical Survey which was taken in the last quarter of 1976. Employment in the foundry industry when compared with a year earlier had declined nationally by 10.5 per cent. Forward orders based on weeks worked is down nationally by 27.6 per cent. I shall now state the industries to which the foundry industry is related. They are the auto industry and the rolling stock, rnining, building and other general industries. All these industries are in some way or another related to the foundry industry. Therefore, if the figures for the orders and employment as given to us by the foundry industry are correct we can see that there is some limit to work going on in all the industries related to it.

Let us look at the auto industry. Two years ago the Government told us that there would be great changes in the auto industry. In 1976 there was no growth at all in the sales of vehicles units in Australia. The industry itself is extremely pessimistic about what might happen in 1977. The Government, of course, will point to figures for December 1976 and will say: 'This is the answer to all our prayers'. The rise in December 1976 in motor car sales and in sales of many other imported products occurred because people tended to buy the imported product. There was no great assistance for the Australian manufactured article. The figures do not give a lead as to what will happen in 1977. The Australian Automobile Dealers Association has put forward a series of reasons as to why things are not occurring in the industry which are all related to the policies of the Government. I shall list the reasons they give: Lack of consumer confidence, Government sales tax policy, availability of finance. Industry as well as the Bank of New South Wales is saying that there is a credit squeeze, but the Prime Minister tells us that there is not. It is a rather amazing piece of theatre to watch the leading spokesman for the Bank of New South Wales, Mr Prowse, telling Australia that there is a credit squeeze and the Prime Minister telling us that there is not. One would think that if there was one institution in Australia which would know whether or not there was a credit squeeze on it would be the Bank of New South Wales.

The automobile people have put forward answers to some of their problems. They want sales tax reduced immediately in order to stimulate the automobile industry. It is not just the manufacturers or the dealers who are involved; an enormous component industry is related to the problem. If the Government were serious about improving the work opportunities of the people in Australia, of course, it would take action to stimulate those industries which can employ a lot of people.

We are now talking about a situation in which we have a recession in the economy. We are not talking about a buoyant economy in which we can get some sort of stable structural adjustment. We are talking about designing policies to keep people at work, and that is missing from the policies of the Government today. If everything is going according to plan, these mass sackings that are taking place in industry today must be part of that plan. Let me read to the House what the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures told the Government 2 weeks ago about what is occurring in industry:

The VCM's December/ January survey of 103 employers in 12 industries continues to reveal uncertainty and little optimism in manufacturing industry as a whole in Victoria.

Cost rises are still evident and imported material cost increases of up to 20 per cent have been reported.

That is the brief report made by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Let us now look at what John Garland-that name will send a shiver down the spines of many honourable members opposite- the Joint National Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers' and Shipwrights' Union in Sydney, had to say to me on 3 February. This has occurred since Christmas. I shall just read out the names of the firms which are now in the process of sacking people. They are: Kirby 's, Victa, Sunbeam, Bradford Kendall, Crompton Parkinson and Smith Industries. They are the names of the firms from which skilled people, members of a craft union, are being dismissed right now. When is the last occasion on which honourable members of this House can remember mass sackings occurring following Christmas? If the fat has to be cut off industry it is normally done before Christmas. But here we are told of hundreds and hundreds of people being sacked. Honourable members opposite do not have to go to John Garland- they would not like to do that-the Joint National Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers' and Shipwrights' Union, of course. They can go and ask their own people about these things. They should ask the Metal Industries Association about what has happened. I understand that since I received these figures 1000 men and women involved in only 4 industries have been sacked in the Bankstown area in the last fortnight. We are receiving the same sorts of reports from all over Australia to the effect that people are being dismissed, that there are no orders coming in, that the Government is not taking any action, that the whole of manufacturing industry has a question mark hanging over its head.

Let us have a look at the effect that that is having on young people, because it is extremely important to do so from the point of view of manpower. The Liberal and Country parties formulated the terms 'dole bludgers' and 'lazy surfies' and all the other terms that were used to denegrate those people, young and old, who could not find employment in this country. Let us have a look at what the Brotherhood of St Laurence says that the Government's policies are doing to young people who cannot put their feet even on the first rung of dignity by being able to find employment when they leave school. Let us see how that organisation appraises the effect on young people of the Government's policies. I shall list its comments in order:

(a)   Loss of faith in society and government.

(   b ) Development of anti-work attitudes.

(c)   Development of habits that would mitigate against future employment.

(d)   Damage to feelings of self-esteem.

(e)   Family tensions arise as young people fail to get employed.

(f)   Trouble with the law. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, larceny and vandalism is a potential development.

(g)   Getting used to managing on benefits and seeking no advantage in working for a slightly higher income in a routine job when they have no particular skill to sell.

That is what the Brotherhood of St Laurence said that the Government's policies are doing to the young people of this country. The Government tries to avoid the responsibility by saying that those young people are dole bludgers or that they do not want employment. If everything is going to plan, as the Treasurer and the Prime Minister would have us believe, what level does unemployment have to reach in this country before the plan is changed? For how long are the people on the back benches on the Government side going to sit idly by and watch people in their own electorates join the dole queues or the young people are to be refused the unemployment benefit when they leave school? That is what has happened in Australia. There is no bright future. There is no great optimism for 1977. The fact is that the Government's plan is not working. There is no structural adjustment plan for industry in Australia, whether for the proprietors of industry or for the people who work in it.

The fact is that we are facing complete industrial chaos as a result of the policies of the Government. One cannot predict with any certainty at all what level unemployment will reach. The Government should not be believed when it says that perhaps the figures are being coloured or camouflaged by the number of people who have left school. The people who are now making up the extra numbers of unemployed are those people who are being sacked right nowtoday, tomorrow and on Friday in Sydney and Melbourne and in all our large manufacturing centres. That is what is occurring as a result of the Government's policies. Government supporters do not have to ask us if they want that verified; they can ask their own supporters, because they are forever at our door telling us the results of the present Government's policies and the present Government's refusal to recognise the real problems of manufacturing industry in Australia.







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