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Transcript of Dr John Hewson, MP Interview with Alan Jones, 2UE Radio, Sydney

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Leader of the Opposition

10 May 1991 REF: TRANSCR\0165\BQ



SUBJECTS: Unemployment figures, unemployed, Senator Bolkus.


... (inaudible) ... Well the unemployment figures came out

yesterday and they prompted the Leader of the Opposition, Dr John Hews on, to raise this issue in the Parliament as a Matter of Public Importance. I do think it says something of the contempt for the process and for the figures themselves that the Prime

Minister wasn't in the Parliament when Dr Hews on made his

statement, Dr Hews on took the trouble to say that it was the ninth Matter of Public Importance that he had raised and yet again he said, the Prime Minister hadn't the decency to front the Parliament, I think that is unfortunate in the extreme,

especially when issue ... (inaudible) ...

Anyway, Dr Hewson raised some very interesting statistics we all knew the unemployment rate was 9.9%, we know that is the highest since October 1983 with youth unemployment, I have talked about these issues many times in the recent past, and youth

unemployment has now reached 27% if it gets to 30% it will be unequalled in history. Dr Hewson made the point that it was the Labor States who led the way on unemployment, NSW being the only State still with a single digit unemployment rate, 8.6%. But, this is the point that I want to speak to Dr Hewson about, he is

suggesting that the unemployment figures could be far worse than the public figures suggest. He is saying, and he said in his Matter of Public Importance, that if you work for 1 hour a week you are not included in the statistics and Dr Hewson was saying yesterday that if you then took the people who worked fewer than

15 hours but aren't regarded as unemployed, and let's face it if you got $10 an hour you would be lucky that means you would be $150 a week which is not much, Dr Hewson is saying that if you added them your unemployment rate would be 19.3%.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 77 4022

REF: TRANSCR\0165\Q 2.

There is one other issue that I want to canvas with Dr Hews on and that is another one that I have talked about on several occasions here as late as yesterday, this business of alleged interference by Senator Bolkus which came to light in early April, the

Minister for Administrative Services in a Tender Contract for Computer Services. Now an Australian company lost the tender and Senator Bolkus wrote to his Department saying 'I direct that you reconsider', and he named the company, ' I direct that you

reconsider the company's bid' . His Department wrote back telling him to get lost but an inquiry was carried out by the Department of Administrative Services into Bolkus' intervention, it has not been made public despite repeated requests for the Opposition that the contents be made known. What we are asking I suppose, all of us, is how many times does the Government intervene in the issuing of tenders and if Senator Bolkus wanted this company to have the tender independently of a tendering price does it mean the price doesn't matter, the poor old dopey tax payer will fork out anyway. Dr Hewson has been raising this along with the unemployment issue and he is on the line. Dr Hewson, good



Good morning Alan how are you?


Not to badly thank you. Now could we just go that very important statistic that you raised in the Matter of Public Importance. Is it true that someone who works for an hour a week is not

regarded as being unemployed?


It is important to be clear about just one thing there are two ways that the unemployment is measured in Australia, the official statistics that are released that reveal the 9.9% unemployment rate are based on a survey done by the statistician and in that

survey they don't count you as unemployed if you work for more than one hour a week. There is an alternative set of data which is collected by the Commonwealth Employment Service and no longer published which lists the number of people looking for work and to which you can add those who have worked say, as you said less than 15 hours and that is where you get the 1.6 million people.


And so where did you pull that 1.6 million from? Are you aware of how many people are working for fewer than 15 hours, but

nonetheless working?

REF: TRANSCR\0165\Q 3.


One of the newspapers took the CES data, the Commonwealth

Employment Service data, they obtained that by a Freedom of Information request and that appeared in laist weekends press and I have added to that the data that is available and those that work less than 15 hours.


And so if you add the 9.9% to those people who aren't regarded for the purpose of this survey as being unemployed but they are working fewer than 15 hours a week, you get an unemployment rate of 19.3%?


You don't actually add it to the 9.9 it is a different bas e .

Looking at the alternative base, I think it is important to understand that people looking for work, which the CES data is, and then those that work less than 15 hours give you that 19.3%. But there is a broader point as well and that is that the nature of measuring unemployment has changed over the life of this Government and a lot of people have been moved from unemployment benefits to sickness benefits or invalid pension benefits or

training schemes, all of which have tended to understate the official.


Does it obscure the reality?

Hewson: ~

It hides the full extent of unemployment, the full extent of the pain that people are feeling by ...


Now how many of those are on benefits, we must know that musn't we?


We are looking today, you can add almost another couple of

percent to that 19, I think, for those on some sort of training scheme, so it is quite frightening.

REF: TRANSCR\0165\Q 4.


So we are talking almost up to a quarter of those people who

would want to work may well be on these figures, out of work?


That is right there are a lot of people who aren't what you would say, fully employed or anywhere near fully employed compared to what they would want to be and some of them are on other

benefits, some of them are on training schemes and that will hopefully bring them back into the workforce. Moving people into other categories so that they don't recorded as unemployment ...


Now October 1989 is about 18 months, heading towards 2 years ago, you said in your speech yesterday 350,000 Australians have lost their job since then?


That is on the basis of the official data yes and I think that is the most disturbing thing, that is the pace at which

unemployment has increased over such a short space of time.


How does Dr Hewson the alternative Prime Minister relieve the level of unemployment?


There is no easy solution obviously the only way is to make our country more productive and to boost our export capability which really is calling for a massive shift, a massive shift in the way we determine wages for example in Australia would be a

fundamental element in changing unemployment, you have got to get back to genuine enterprise bargaining where individuals can sit down with their employer and negotiate the terms and conditions of their work. Recently, for example, we have had the case of

SPC in Shepparton where the workers were faced with the reality of losing their jobs unless they changed the nature of their wage contracts and so they offered to give up leave loadings and ...


I was just about to say can we afford all this, can we afford 4 weeks leave annual leave automatically, 17.5% holiday loading, high rates of workers compensation, sickness benefits which are unaffordable, has that day ended?

REF: TRANSCR\0165\Q 5.


In general it has, I believe, but it has to be done at each work place. In some work places obviously where the companies are productive, the industry is booming or whatever, sure they can afford to pay their workers or then they can determine what ...

(inaudible) ... pay, but in a lot of other cases it is those

leave loadings and penalty rates and so on that are costing people jobs.


But have interest rates just knocked the guts out of Australia?


Absolutely. There is no doubt that the intensive reliance on interest rates is the fundamental reason for this unemployment.


And that can't be redeemed, once businesses go down they don't grow just as readily do they when the good time come?


Well that is the most disturbing feature of this recession I think ... (inaudible) ... wealth generating sector of Australia. So many people have people felt those record levels of personal bankruptcies, record levels of small and large business failures and a lot of those people will never come back. Actually in a

lot of cases they will try and find a Government job rather than go back and put their money into Australia.

Jones: .

Just quickly because time doesn't allow us much more but Bolkus, where are we on all of this? Did he intervene or didn't he and does he intervene or doesn't he in Government contracts and is that behaviour, what do we know about it, what exactly happened?


Well we certainly know that he directed his Department to

reconsider a bid and to add a company's name back to the list of approved suppliers ...


Because that company's tender was too high initially?

REF: TRANSCR\016 5\Q 6.

Hewson: ■

That their price that they quoted apparently was too high. And a senior officer of his Department sent by way of a minute to him and I quote .. "it would totally compromise the tender process and place that company at an unfair advantage over other

tenderers". Now to me, the issue here is the integrity of the tender process ...


This is the only one we know about.


It is one of the most important things that Government's ever do, it has to be totally above board.


I agree with you and we will keep following it and I thank you for your time.




Dr John Hewson, the Leader of the Opposition on that rather appalling story about unemployment.


For further information contact Tony Abbott on 03 - 614 2826.