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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 1778


Senator WEBSTER (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the unemployed in Australia. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that more than 90,000 people, viewed as being employable and registered as unemployed, are receiving unemployment benefits from the Australian community? Is it a fact also that the potential work which these people could do, to Australia's benefit, is being entirely lost because no community use is being made of their nonworking week? Will the Minister consider proposing some method for the use of the unemployed for a part of the week, such as reporting for work to local municipalities prior to the payment by the Commonwealth of unemployment benefits? Does the Minister consider that this action may be in the interests of the person concerned, the municipalities and, indeed, the whole of the Australian community?


Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON -

The honourable senator's question relates to unemployment figures, lt is worthy of note that, a few days ago, the Minister for Labour and National Service released statistics which indicated that the number of registered unemployed in the recent period was lower than the number in the previous period. Indeed, the situation, not only in relation to the number of persons registered but also in relation to job vacancies, has improved. The honourable senator quotes a figure of 90,000 in this respect. I presume that that is a rounded figure. What we must always understand is that beoaw.se or Australia's geographic and economic structure and the varying demands of primary and secondary industries there will always be a movement in terms of unemployment as between job vacancies and job opportunities. Therefore it would be quite wrong even to assume 90,000 as a permanent figure in relation to unemployment. The Government does not believe that this can be assumed. As a member of a Party which has a very real interest in primary industry Senator Webster will recognise that the Government believes that the seasonal movement of employment is a significant factor.

Also in secondary industry, having regard to the seasons of the year, there is the possibility of an alteration in the figure. What the honourable senator suggests, therefore, is that if this figure is about 90,000 there should be a system whereby the unemployed would be gainfully employed. Reference has been made to local government and productivity in this situation. I do not believe that the figure of 90,000 would justify such a proposal. It is true that the Commonwealth has already made money available to the States and to local government so that in certain rural areas additional work can be made available. Of course they are doing constructive and purposeful work. I believe that that could and should continue to be done. I realise that at question time a case cannot be completely made out. But I do not believe that there is a case for what the honourable senator is suggesting as an answer to the problem. Even allowing that the figure of 90,000 persons unemployed is intermittent, 1 believe that in the forseeable future it will be significantly reduced.







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