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Setting the record straight criticism of Austrain ill-informed and hypocritical



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NEWS RELEASE JOHN HOW ARD, M.P.

M E M B E R FOR BENNELO NG SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIAL

RELATIONS, EM PLOYM EN T S TRAINING

IRET 69/91

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ’

CRITICISM OF AUSTRAIN ILL-INFORMED AND HYPOCRITICAL

The Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Mr Dawkins, deserves strong condemnation for his ill- informed and hypocritical attack on the AUSTRAIN program in Question Time and during the MPI today.

Mr Dawkins' criticism of the program was wrong on e^yery count.

And it was hypocritical.

In his anxiety to discredit FIGHTBACK, Mr Dawkins may have succeeded only in arousing suspicion about a program that offers those at risk of long-term unemployment a genuine opportunity to get paid work and training.

The Minister should have had the grace and generosity to commend the benefits the AUSTRAIN program offers the unemployed - for their sake.

The Coalition's labour market program has been designed to minimise the number of the most severe casualties of the recession, the long-term unemployed.

The program is designed to minimise the number of long­ term unemployed - those continuously without work for 12 months or more - by keeping the unemployed in touch with the labour market.

AUSTRAIN is an important part of the program. It cuts in after six months. Anyone continuously unemployed for six months will be eligible for employment at a training wage eguivalent to 90 per cent of the relevant award wage.

Anyone continuously out of work for 12 months will be eligible for employment at a training wage eguivalent to 80 per cent of the relevant award wage.

It is apparent from the minister's criticism of the AUSTRAIN program in the parliament today that he either does not understand it or was deliberately misrepresenting it. „"

First, AUSTRAIN does make provision for training. That is made clear on page 216 of the main document. Section 14.11.1 says:

COiVlMOiNWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY l ib r a r y micah

"Those out of work for at least six months and who have been in receipt of a social security payment during that period will be eligible to participate in on the job training through the AUSTRAIN program."

The Coalition also is committed to ensuring that training is structured to ensure that is has permanent relevance and value. That is made clear on page 41 of supplementary paper No.4 in the supplementary papers document. Section

4.2.20 says:

"We are not satisfied with the plethora of labour market programs which presently exist to offer short-term options. Labour market programs will be integrated into mainstream training courses."

Second, AUSTRAIN is not intended merely to displace, existing workers. That is made clear on page 255 of the main document, section 16.11.2, which says:

"Special safeguards will apply to ensure that full-wage employees are not merely replaced by those persons eligible for AUSTRAIN."

It also is apparent that Mr Dawkins was being grossly hypocritical in accusing the Coalition of proposing to introduce a system of slave labour.

The Government already has in place several labour market programs incorporating wage subsidies or training wages. JOBSTART is a wage subsidy program. JOBSKILLS incorporates training wages. So does TASK.

Do they merely displace existing workers?

Are they a form of slave labour?

JOBSKILLS offers a training wage of $280 a week. That is 86 per cent of the federal minimum wage (which is $325.43, or 78 per cent of the base grade fitter's wage).

The Coalition is offering rates of 80 per cent and 90 per cent, depending on the duration of unemployment.

The different rates acknowledge the direct relationship between duration of unemployment and the probability of getting a job: the probability falls as the duration rises.

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Moreover, AUSTRAIN is offering 80 and 90 per cent of the relevant award rate - not the federal minimum rate.

It is little wonder the Government is in trouble.

CANBERRA 27 November 1991

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