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Tuesday, 22 February 1977

Mr NEIL (St George) - I draw to the attention of the House an extremely serious problem. The Sydney Morning Herald reported recently that Federal Government bungling had deprived the seriously undermanned Commonwealth Employment Service of extra staff promised by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). A decision appears to have been made by the Prime Minister which in one way or another has been thwarted. This is not a matter that should be the subject of political capital. I have had the benefit of some discussions with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) regarding this and I know that he is extremely keen that the Norgard Committee report be made available as soon as possible as the basis for action.

What is occurring in the electorate of St George is not a happy scene. I have recently had the opportunity to look into this matter and in particular to visit the CES offices at Campsie and Hurstville. Those offices have obviously been neglected for two or three years. When the dramatic boom in unemployment commenced in September 1974 nothing of any substantial nature was really done to assist the offices to carry out their functions. In addition to the increase in unemployment they have had to handle various National Employment and Training schemes and a large number of other projects without much addition to staff. In

I understand that one of the most important aspects is speed. Employers want a replacement usually within 24 hours. Otherwise they tend to go elsewhere or there is a tendency to say: 'We can do without that man. As it turns out, we will put someone else in the job.' One of the most vital tools which it appears to me that the CES needs is an on-line computer so it can tell the exact number of job vacancies throughout Sydney at any time during the day. These computers are common in industry. The airlines use them. Medibank has an excellent computer system installed in its new Hurstville office which I have seen recently. It seems to me vital that on-line computers be installed in the CES. I understand that the former Labor Government made some provision tentatively to install on-line computers but axed the program from its 1975 Budget. When the Fraser Government reviewed the matter a decision was not made to go on with the program.

The CES also needs teleprinters to keep in touch with employers. Believe it or not, the Campsie and Hurstville offices do not even have photostat machines, which is quite preposterous. Often staff have to be devoted to the task of copying by typewriter various documents needed or a man has to be sent down the street to borrow a photostat machine. The staff is not able to keep up with the load. Whilst it will not reduce unemployment, anything that can be done to assist these offices to carry out their functions will assist unemployed persons to a very great extent. So I ask the Government to urge that the Committee report be brought down as quickly as possible and that every consideration be given to assisting with additional staff numbers and in particular with the equipment that will allow this very important organisation to do its task. I can assure

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