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Fightback! - A new vision for Australia's youth

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Speech by Dr David Kemp MP, Shadow Minister for Education

Public Meeting, Hobart Town Hall

9 April 1992



parmama aapy larary KACAH


Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for the invitation to be here this evening in Hobart.


I know how Tasmania has smarted over the years for having been dropped off the odd map of Australia, and I can well understand why Tasmanians often think they are the forgotten people of Australia.

But your collective decision in 1992 to throw out a bungling and inept Labor administration will be remembered in years to come as the starting point for the rolling back of the Labor tide. I have do doubt that your lead will be followed in Victoria before the end of the year, and then in the federal sphere, South Australia and Western Australia. In this, Tasmania will have been seen to lead the charge.

But, as I am sure you all realise, winning office is just the first step in a long and arduous journey that awaits not just Tasmania, but the rest of the nation.

The spectre of unemployment that haunts the land has cast its grim shadow over just about every family and every household.

Any employment is tragic, but the issue of youth unemployment tears at the very mesh of the social fabric.

How do we instil in our young the need for education, training and qualifications when all they see about them is the dole queue, and an overwhelming sense of futility and uselessness?

As a nation, we have invested conservatively some $4 billion in the education of those young school leavers who cannot find jobs.

The taxpayers of this country have already invested $48,000 in each and every student who completes 12 years of schooling, and $40,000 in each student who completes year 10. Australian taxpayers have invested on average $74,600 dollars in a student who does three years of higher education after twelve years of schooling.

That vast commitment has been betrayed by the failure of this government to ensure that international standards are promoted and achieved within the schools, that the very significant minority experiencing major difficulties in acquiring literacy and numeracy skills are assisted, that there is a flexible labour market which can accommodate these students, that there is a tax system which provides business with the incentives to invest and employ in the creation of jobs, and that there is an education and training system which can provide these students with the access, the skills

and the knowledge they need to obtain - and to hold - secure, internationally competitive jobs over this decade.

There is much talk about creating jobs, but jobs don't get created, they grow. The managing director of one of Australia's most successful companies, MIM, Mr Norman Fussell recently put it this way and I quote:

I doubt whether there is a more worrying problem in Australia today than our alarming unemployment level. But this is just a symptom of an underlying malaise, which is an economy in very serious trouble.The debate in Australia today should not really be about jobs, because employment is a derived demand. You don't set out to create jobs; you set out to achieve economic growth, and that produces jobs. And achieving economic growth in Australia is all to do with making our industries more competitive, because our salvation lies

in competing successfully in world, not domestic, markets.



We in the Coalition parties believe we have addressed this problem and thrown down the challenge. The Fightback! package is the most comprehensive document ever produced by an Opposition, and represents a detailed economic blueprint by which Australia can not only meet change but acquire the capacity and capability to prosper from it.

Education is one area which the Coalition has identified as a priority. It is a sad but inescapable fact that many of those jobs which have disappeared in the 1980s and early 1990s have gone forever. It's no longer a case of living off the dole and hoping to return to the old job once recovery is under way.

No longer will an unskilled person be able to leave school at 15 and walk into a job, because the world has changed, unskilled labour is becoming obsolete, and learning, training and accomplishment are valued by the world as never before.

Our schools, training institutions and universities must encourage a desire for learning, the pursuit of excellence, and ensure that Australians are fully prepared for the challenges of a changing and highly competitive world.

The Liberal and National Parties will implement a strategy to raise the standards of Australian education and training to international level, and to make Australia a leading international provider of education and training services.

Raising the standards of education and training over this decade to international levels will require the commitment of very substantial resources. The Liberal and National Parties have committed themselves to Commonwealth expenditure on education and training over this decade of more than $3 billion on new programs.

Even more important than financial resourcing, however, is our commitment to a program of reform of Australia's education and training systems which will dramatically improve the capacity of these institutions to meet the demands upon them.

Instead of constant interference from bureaucrats and the centralised industrial relations system, educational institutions,teachers and academic staff, will be given the freedom to do their job, subject to professional accountability and to an informed 'consumer' market of parents and students.

There will be a dramatic reduction in central bureaucratic regulation, a much stronger emphasis on ensuring that educational outcomes are monitored and assessed against international standards, greatly strengthened ability for parents and students to choose their school, TAFE or university, and greater independence and flexibility for institutions to meet parental and student demands within a

framework emphasising local and market accountability.

The emphasis will be on funding individual people for their education and training, rather than on funding institutions directly. In this way greater responsiveness to individual requirements can be achieved.

Within this strategy, the Federal government will have a particular role in promoting the national interest in educational and training opportunities and in the proper monitoring and assessment of standards. The Federal government will support the active identification and promotion of best practice, a national market for educational services, national goals for improvement, and raising

issues of truly national importance. The role of government in funding basic research will be fully recognised.

Despite improvements in educational participation over the last decade, Australia still lags well behind other advanced industrial countries. A principal aim will be to ensure that our education and training institutions offer the full diversity of course required by the diverse needs of students, and that opportunities for educational participation continue to be extended up to international levels.


In the decade to the year 2000 there will be an important role for the private provision of education and training at all levels, and a Coalition government will facilitate private initiative and the private contribution of resources. Only by encouraging private effort will education and training be adequately resourced in Australia over this decade.

Private and public sector provision of education and training services in the international marketplace will also be encouraged.

As the Australian economy has become more globalised, so must our thinking become globalised if we are to effectively benefit from the immense window of opportunity that is opening in Asia-Pacific, the most dynamic region in the world.

The standards to which we aspire - industrial, commercial, educational - must be the standards of world best practice: anything less means we are not competing, and not to compete is to miss out.

The political challenge inherent in this is to create the right environment for excellence to take root and flourish.

At the next election, the Liberal and National parties will present the Australian people with a united resolve to put the past behind them and meet the challenges that this new world offers in a way that Labor cannot.

The political challenges of the 1990s lie not in resurrecting old approaches to new problems, but in making a decisive shift, a generational change, to a mode of thinking that takes account of the profound and fundamental changes that have taken place in the past decade in economic and political life.

The FIGHTBACK! release last year clearly rattled the government, and has continued to set the agenda. Indeed, FIGHTBACK! played a pivotal role in changing prime ministers.

Then came Mr Keating's "me-too" attempt at a quick fix. If you compare Labor's slender but deadly statement with Fightback! you don't have to have an economics degree to see that Keating's proposals amount to a spending spree that is not responsibly funded.

The inescapable consequences of Mr Keating's fiscal irresponsibility are a greatly expanded Government deficit, higher interest rates and higher taxes.

There is an eerie feeling of deja vu about this. Soon after taking office, Labor opened the purse strings and spent big, taking credit for creating over a million jobs. Those jobs cost around $70,000 each, and helped pile up the massive foreign that is now oppressing the country and making it that

more difficult to climb out of recession.

This time, however, the jobs Mr Keating claims he will create will cost $109,000 in foreign debt each. Mr Keating is getting less and less efficient at job creation.

The staggering $130 billion in gross foreign debt coupled with a chronic current account deficit makes the Australian economy a fragile entity. As Max Walsh has commented, once imports start running high again, foreign investors will look askance, foreign money will cost more, the dollar will collapse

and interest rates will once more increase.

The estimate of the so-called "Murphy Model" is that under this package foreign debt will blow out to $225 billion.

This is the "put it on Bankcard" mentality that has left our economy so weakened that it is vulnerable to eveiy international tremor.


Keating engineered the recession; denied we were going to have one; refused to acknowledge it had started; then told us it was the recession we had to have.

The man has not a shred of credibility to his name.


It was only with the advent of Fightback! last year that any real hope of change was on the horizon because the document clearly identified the structural problems of the Australian economy, and propounded a series of measures with which to rectify them.

It has obviously played on the minds of the Government. To the Government's credit, it has picked up some of the ideas from Fightback! - for example, those relating to accelerated depreciation for business, the trans-Tasman aviation market, and one-stop development approvals. But in trying to match Fightback!'s measures without adopting its integrated strategy of structural reform and

without its fiscal responsibility, Mr Keating has stolen the style but left the substance.

This is clear in the brief reference to education in which the Government has once again failed to face up to the need to build world class education and training in Australia.

In every respect its statement fails when measured against the comprehensive strategy and the commitments made in the FIGHTBACK! program of the Coalition.

Its promises to build up TAFE are still conditional on the States agreeing to hand over full funding responsibility for the Commonwealth. Its "proposals" for TAFE continue Labor's failure to provide any indication of where TAFE sits in the post-compulsory, post secondary system.

This contrasts with the firm (and fully funded commitment) of FIGHTBACK! to increase TAFE spending - a commitment riot conditional on the States agreeing to hand over full funding responsibility on terms yet to be specified. Further, the FIGHTBACK! commitments are part of a

comprehensive strategy to create an open and flexible training market, and are made in a context where agreement with the States is facilitated by recognition of their financial problems.

Where do Labor's promises stand if the States still refuse to capitulate?

That is a question that the government steadfastly refuses to answer.

It prefers instead to scoff at the Coalition's fully-funded commitment to inject some $520 million into TAFE while trumpeting its own numbers - but never mentioning the fact that the figure has a chimeric quality about it, that it is totally conditional. If ever there was a bird in the hand and a bird in the bush situation, then this is it.

A key element in our higher education policy is the urgent need for far-reaching deregulation, a prospect supported, I must say, wholeheartedly by the Industry Commission, the government's own arm of economic reform.

Our view is that a centrally-regulated system such as exists now cannot possibly deliver the quality and diversity in education that our young people need to compete in the world.

But what does the Government do? It goes about trying to whip up scare stories about full fees.

Let me make our position on fees absolutely clear: all students who are currently funded by the taxpayer and who meet their educational obligations will continue to be funded by the Coalition. The Coalition is proposing that students who do not otherwise have access to university should be allowed to gain entry on fees negotiated between the university and themselves. At present, these students



are excluded completely by the Government's system of quotas. But, unlike the Government, the Coalition believes Australian students are entitled to the same rights as overseas students - an issue on which the Government has yet to give an explanation.

Mr Baldwin, the Higher Education Minister, has claimed repeatedly that the Coalition's proposals for universities to charge fees will not result in any more resources going into higher education. But an analysis prepared by the Minister's own office, selectively leaked to the media, and of which I have a copy, shows unambiguously that the Coalition's plans will result in hundreds of millions of dollars a year extra flowing into higher education.

What we are proposing in education is a vision inextricably linked with a blueprint for economic reform aimed at making Australia internationally competitive. Only by achieving this can we hope to provide jobs - good jobs, real jobs — for our young. This structural reform we are proposing, this generational change, is the framework for a new vision for Australia's youth.

It is the entry ticket into the next century when Asia Pacific will challenge the rest of the world for economic supremacy.

Our concerns about education and training are inter-connected with our concerns about the economic structure of the country.

One thing is certain: there will be no soundly based recovery in Australia until the Government finally summons up its courage and undertakes thoroughgoing structural reform to communications, the waterfront, transport — and above all industrial relations — which are needed to cut business costs and encourage new jobs in exporting industries.

Enterprise bargaining and voluntary employment agreements will make wages, salaries and employment conditions more flexible, opening job opportunities for young people, lifting productivity, creating more wealth, more savings and, most importantly, more jobs.

Education and training reforms will lift the skill levels of those seeking employment through more competitive, responsive and accessible tertiary training institutions.

This is not a wish list. The means of achieving these much needed but neglected reforms are already outlined in the Coalition's Fightback! package.

The tax reforms of which the GST is the central part will increase incentives to create jobs by cutting the tax on business by $20 billion, encouraging savings and making the economy more efficient. Our agenda is all about genuine taxation reform - not just the GST - which has the capacity to introduce greater fairness into the taxation system of this country, but reducing taxation overall and creating a jobs agenda for the unemployed, especially the young unemployed, whose unemployment level has now reached 28.5 per cent. That is a chilling level of unemployment, a level for which Australia will pay a price for many years to come.

These initiatives are not a set of ad hoc decisions, but rather an integrated strategy for jobs for the 'nineties.

The Industry Commission has indicated that such reforms will have a major impact on Australia's growth prospects. For instance, it has identified the costs of not being competitive at $6.7 billion in transport, $4 billion in rail, $1.7 billion in post and telecommunications, $1.7 billion in contracting out not done by this government, $3.4 billion in assistance reform not carried out by this government,

and $1.4 billion in electricity reforms also not carried out.

The cost of not having implemented any of these reforms amounts to a staggering $2,600 for every household in Australia.


One of the particularly damaging failures of the Government affecting employment has been its inability to provide and secure a predictable framework for resource development.

One of the major tasks of the Keating Government will be its attitude to development. It talks about fast tracking development. Why, then, does it not reverse the Coronation Hill decision? Or approve a pulp mill of the type proposed at Wesley Vale? Or open up uranium mining?

In each case, there would be a significant stimulus to economic growth, real jobs would be created immediately and more would follow in the economic ripple effect.

Contained within Fightback! is a real vision -- a vision for a prosperous, productive and internationalised Australia, equipped with the skills to cater to a demanding world market.

There is no better legacy we could wish to leave to our young than for them to be a secure part of that Australia.

Thank you.




3 6 8 CENTRE R O A D BENTLEIGH, VIC. 3 2 0 4 TEL. (03) 5 5 7 4 6 4 4

FAX. (03) 5 5 7 2 9 0 6


8 April 1992



Labor is totally responsible for the lack of job and training opportunities being suffered by young people in Wills, and voters will not be fooled by Mr Keating's futile last minute attempt to buy votes by throwing a few thousand dollars at training in the dying days of the Wills by-election.

Labor has neglected TAPE for almost a decade. Mr Keating's mate, the Treasurer Mr Dawkins, forgot TAPE and destroyed the Colleges of Advanced education in his stampede to turn them into universities.

Having failed to provide 50,000 qualified young people with places in universities, and having caused a shortage of up to 150,000 places in TAPE, Mr Keating is now asking the voters of Wills to believe that Labor really cares about providing education and training opportunities after school.

The Liberal and National Party Coalition has committed itself to funding a major expansion of TAPE, in accordance with the recommendations of the expert Committee chaired by Brian Finn, and to do so in partnership with the States. Mr Keating says Labor will provide the money only if the States agree to hand control over TAPE to the


Voters will not be impressed by Mr Keating's attempt to impose more bureaucratic controls on TAPE from Canberra. Colleges of TAPE need to be responsive to the needs of their local community, and to have greater autonomy to manage their own affairs. Mr Keating has admitted he wants to do to TAPE what Labor has already done for universities. This would be disastrous!

Mr Keating was caught out in another deliberate misrepresentation in his press conference yesterday when he said that the Liberal Party believes increased funding for TAPE is irresponsible. Mr Keating's whole unfunded package is irresponsible and cannot be relied upon. Expansion of TAPE is essential and a Liberal/National Coalition government will fund TAPE expansion in a genuine partnership with the States. John Hewson undertook in the Fightback! package to immediately fund 25,000 additional places in TAPE.

It is the Coalition which has made education and training a top policy priority. Education and training will be better funded and offer more places under a Hewson Government than under Labor.

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