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Youth wages

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i n -


Leader of the Opposition

6 July 1992



E & Ο B - Proof Copy Only

Subjects: Youth Wages


. . . have been meeting for over 4 days in Sydney and it' s been all about jobs, not about statistics hopefully, we've had enough of statistics. It's time, I believe, to get down to hearing from the people who really want jobs, what it's like to be out there in a hopeless situation seemingly.

So they've been talking about it for 4 days and one of the things they've come up with is a minimum youth wage, which would see 15 to 17 year olds paid $114 a week, or around about $3 an hour, 18 to 20 year olds paid $133 a week or $3.50 an

hour for a 38 hour week. Now there's, not surprisingly, differences of opinion in reaction to this and a lot of the welfare groups are saying this is only going to lead to exploitation of these young people.

John Hewson, the Leader of the Opposition, is on the line now. Good morning John.


Good morning Howard, how are you?


Now the question has to be asked, why have you not included mandatory training in this particular idea that you've come up with?

Well it is a training wage and the idea is that kids can get a start in life and get some on-the-job training or other training and we're also doing a lot for training and the availability of training places is part of the package.

The idea is that in many cases they can get off the dole and into a job and start to build a career for themselves.


P arliam en t H o u se , C an b erra, A.C.T. 2 6 0 0 P h o n e 7 7 4 0 2 2 COMMONWEALTH


Will the employer have to provide any of that training?


I think the employer will provide the training. We're not requiring it, sure, in terms of a formal legal requirement. But the concept is that you take these kids on and a lot of the training that they have to get in any position is on the

job. It doesn't matter whether it's just simple training, things like discipline and work practices, work habits, good work habits or whatever, or whether it's formal skill training which may be on-the-job or may be in conjunction with a TAPE

or some other form of training. But the idea is to create the circumstances where they can make a start because right now the system discriminates against young people. You have to pay a young person not all that much different from what you pay an adult and therefore people tend to hire the adults and there's been a collapse in the number of full time jobs available for young people.


Well the fast food industry not too long ago had a bad

reputation of getting rid of employees, young people, when they reached a certain age because they didn't want to pay them the adult wages, now won't this allow, I don't know what they're like these days, but if there were people like that

still around the place to simply take on these kids for maybe a couple of years at most and then give them the flick and get some younger ones again at your cheap wages?


Under our system, of course, the employer and the employee would have legal rights and they would be enforceable rights under the law. Under the present system, the Government's centralised system, I'm sure if the Government were to

approach the Industrial Relations Commission and were to make it a condition of an award that these minimum youth training wages were introduced then those considerations could be taken into account. And I'm urging Mr Keating, in fact, to take a

case like this to the Industrial Relations Commission for adjustment to all awards.


Ok I'm sure you want to hear what reaction has come forward so far, some of the reaction to this, just stay there if you would John, Merle Mitchell is on the line, the President of the Australian Council of Social Services. Merle what do you

think of the package?


I think it's a simplistic response Howard. I think it's not just ...


Do we need complicated responses?


Yes because we've got a complicated problem here. Youth wages are not going to solve the problem as you rightly said. The full time jobs for young people are fast disappearing and

they're fast disappearing because those sorts of jobs aren't around anymore and we do need that structure training. We do need to ensure that employers will send these young people off to the TAPE courses to get the skills that they will need, so that when they do reach adult wage they have some capacity to get into the workforce.


Ok, but John Hewson just said that there will be a component of training in this. Are you saying that the employers should be made to have the kids trained?


The training must be guaranteed and it must be training which will give them skills for the jobs for the future.


Ok, so is that your main concern? What do you think about the level of wages which the Liberals or a Coalition would have these kids paid?


We're also very concerned about those levels because it presupposes that those young people come from families who have the capacity, in fact, to support them and it presuppose that all of those young people are living at home. Some young people under 21 have already formed new relationships and their own families.


Ok, well what do you say to that John?


A number of points, I take the point on training, we've got a lot in the package, this isn't the only part of the package, we actually create jobs as well as offer new training

arrangements and opportunities and the expectation is that there will be training on the minimum wage.

Secondly, it is a minimum, people will be paid more as they get more experience and in fact, in many cases they may start at a higher rate depending on the industry and the firm concerned.

Thirdly, Merle says it depends on people living at home, a kid living at home today gets about $65.00 a week if they're 15 to 17 year olds under JSA or Austudy, we would have a minimum

that's $114, which is significantly above the level for those kids and it's $133 per week for 18 to 20 year olds which is compared to about $77 or $78 they get under unemployment benefits or Austudy for living at home. So it's significantly above that and it's an opportunity for them to make a start in

life. And I can tell you all the unemployed kids that I've spoken to, or most of the unemployed kids I've spoken to would rather have a job and get a start in life.


Well how many kids would that be John that you've spoken to?

Hewson :

Well over Australia Howard, since I became Leader visiting Skillshare centres and voluntary agencies I've met them the length and breadth of Australia and I can tell you, we had some on our platform on Saturday and they said exactly the same thing.


Well Merle shouldn't you be taking notice of them? Shouldn't then ACOSS be taking notice of them?


We have absolutely no argument about that, yes young people do want to work, all unemployed people do want to work but we must ensure that we're not just going to get them work for 3 years, 4 years, and when they then become adults that the jobs

are there for them. And in addition to that Dr Hewson says that there will be training for these people, but under Fightback! proposals, of course, there are huge cuts to the amount of money that is to be spent on training programs and even under the Government' s programs only 1 in 3 unemployed people are actually getting access to those work experience

and training programs.


So John is it likely that Fightback! will be reviewed along the lines that Merle is talking about?


We're not reviewing it. The basic structure of Fightback! stands but we are adding to it or extending it and

foreshadowed over the weekend a number of areas again in relation to training as one of those areas where I've asked say David Kemp and David Connolly and other Shadow Ministers to bring forward further proposals, to extend what's there. We're not going to scrap what's there or jettison what's

there, but we've always foreshadowed that we would be building

on what was there. It is a multi-faceted problem, you've got to be working on creating jobs, that's why getting the economy going and abolishing payroll tax, those sort of things,

concentrate on creating jobs. You've got to work on the education system and that's schools, universities, technical and further education alternatives and funding for those and places and so on. And it's sort of dealing with the human dimension of the problems, the particular hardship, the role that voluntary agencies can play in relation to family crisis, relief centres and their style of training. It's looking at organisations like Skillshare.

As far as we're concerned, there's a lot of training schemes around, a lot of them don't work. To our view it's better to concentrate those on a number that do work, and that's a bigger role for voluntary agencies and I think a bigger role

for organisations like Skillshare, is going to be

fundamentally important. They're more community based, they're more coal face orientated, they're in touch with the problem on a day to day basis. So we really do bring about quite a big shift in the nature of our approach to training and our approach to assisting the unemployed. I think DSS, the Department of Social Security and CES, the Commonwealth Employment Service can only go so far. They tend to be a bit number-orientated rather than people-oriented, and there's another dimension in there...


A bit like politicians.


I think like we've got to stay away from the statistics, and one of the reasons why I insisted on Saturday on a warts and all unstructured convention where people could come along and speak their mind and criticise us as much as they criticise the Government, was that we could get away from the old approach, if you like, of politicians, and that we could just open it up for a genuine discussion of what is a national crisis.


No doubt about it. We must leave it there. Thank you John. Thank you Merle. Thanks for joining us today.