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Mr Keating displays ignorance of the labour market

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d ia R e l e a s e

102/92 7 April 1992


The Prime Minister, who excels at making bird calls in

Parliament, had a chance to demonstrate his expertise in

economics in the face of stiff questioning from Kerry O'Brien on the ABC on 6 April.

Mr Keating, saying "with the unemployment, we're still, the workforce is still 25 per cent larger than it was in 1983",

confused the workforce with the employed. The difference between the workforce and the employed, Mr Keating, is that the workforce includes close to a million unemployed people. The workforce has indeed increased by nearly 90,000 people over the past year. However, thanks to Mr Keating's recession, the number of jobs

fell by over 80,000 leaving an extra 169,300 people out of work.

Mr Keating's boast about the workforce growth under Labor betrays his ignorance of what has gone on in the labour market. Any

country in the world can generate rapid growth in the workforce by running a large immigration program. In Australia's case we ended up with the fastest population growth in the developed world, but due to hopeless mismanagement Labor brought in tens of thousands of migrants and dumped them straight onto the dole queue. The real test is not numbers in the workforce but rising living standards, and Labor has failed that test.

Boasting about past employment growth under Labor cannot disguise the massive loss of jobs in the current recession. In particular, there has been a massive decline in full-time jobs, which are now back to 1988 levels.

More fundamentally, the rapid employment growth in the mid 1980s was based on unsustainable boom bust policies which Mr Keating is now attempting to repeat. The jobs Mr Keating generated were paid for with a blow out in foreign debt, and when he failed to

deliver the necessary micro-economic reforms and macro-economic stability the transitory nature of Mr Keating's employment growth became clear.


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