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Unemployed being used as pawns in Government's media games



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P A R L I A M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A

H O U S E O F R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S

P E T E R S H A C K . M .P .

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR TANGNEY SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT. TRAINING AND YOUTH AFFAIRS

c o m m o n w e a l t h

PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY

C. I . s.

P.O. B O X 1 2 0 6 . B O O R A O O O N . W .A . 6 1 5 4 SUITES, GATEWAY MELVILLE CITY CENTRE BOORAGOON

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MEDIA RELEASE.

31ST AUGUST, 1988. 66/88.

UNEMPLOYED BEING USED AS PAWNS IN GOVERNMENT'S MEDIA GAMES

"The Keating/Hawke Government's labour market program announcements are a fraud being perpetrated against the unemployed", according to the Shadow Minister for Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.

"It is all very well for the Treasurer to claim that this year's Budget is the one which 'brings home the bacon', but the unemployed will need more than the labour market programs it encompasses if they are to get any real benefit.

"No matter how many labour market programs the Government devises, or how carefully those programs are named and promoted, the real facts of.the matter are that they raise false hopes.

"The unemployed can hardly be forgiven for initially thinking that programs described in glowing terms by the Government may be the answer to their prayers.

"Sadly, however, all too often the expectations raised by these programs are just as quickly dashed. The promised jobs fail to materialise. The Government changes tack, and the average duration of unemployment lengthens.

"Time and time again over the last five years we have seen the Keating/Hawke Government announce labour market programs such as the PRIORITY ONE TRAINEESHIPS, JOBSTART, JOBCLUBS with a great deal of fanfare.

"And, time and time again we have also seen those highly publicised programs fail dismally to reach their targets.

"Based on such a record it's impossible to see either the NEW­ START or JET programs announced in last week's Federal Budget as being anything more than a public relations exercise, with the unemployed being mere pawns in the Government's media games.

"Labour force statistics show that there are more than half a million people actively looking for jobs in this country, and there are no doubt many thousands more we don't know about - they are the discouraged job seekers who have given up any hope of

getting work and who no longer show up in the figures.

"The Government - · can continually boast that it has created one million new jobs, but we expect governments to provide a climate in which job creation keeps pace with population growth.

"Until such time as the Keating/Hawke Government realises the imperatives of addressing the issue of structural reform of the labour market, no number of gimmicky labour market programs will help achieve a sustained fall in unemployment."

Further information: Peter Shack/Delys Newman (062) 77 4157. N.B. Appropriation Bill No.l speech attached.

APPROPRIATION BILL NO .1 SPEECH BY PETER SHACK

Shadow Minister for Employment, Training & Youth Affairs

Madam Speaker,

In rising to address this Bill, I wish to spend the bulk of my time addressing measures in my Shadow portfolio : the areas of employment, training and youth affairs, and the labour market programs which the Keating/Hawke Government

has set in train.

I wish, first, to make a few general remarks about the Government's Budget strategy and political ethics.

This Budget is the one which, in the words of the Treasurer, "brings home the bacon".

But the real issue is that for the past five years the nation's unemployed would have been lucky to have been able to afford bacon.

And even the Government's new found commitment to social justice is unlikely to produce any significant benefits for them.

What should we think of a Government which has lost its moral authority on the question of unemployment to its mates in the trade union movement?

A Government which during its first five years in office has tolerated an average monthly unemployment rate of 8.6 per cent.

And it has tolerated such an inhuman waste of the talents of more than half a million Australians simply because it has not had the moral fibre to stand up to the unions.

The unemployed have been sacrificed by the Keating/Hawke Government as a trade-off for peace with the ACTU.

Now I realise that the Government will try and sweep all this under the carpet and fall back on its chorus that it has created more than 1,000,000 new jobs.

The first point about this is that it is not the Government which has created these jobs, it is private enterprise.

And the second point is that providing the right macro and micro economic framework to stimulate job creation is what we expect of government.

There is nothing exceptional about the fact that jobs are created during a government's term in office.

Employment growth is the very least we would expect to have in a growing population.

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It is one of governments' responsibilities to see that policies are always be tailored to ensure that growth in the labour market keeps pace with population increases. That the number of jobs available rises along with demand for places in the workforce.

And if a government fails in this regard then it deserves to be harshly judged by the electorate.

This Keating/Hawke Government, therefore, has nothing to be proud of in relation to its labour market policies.

During its time in office unemployment has remained at an exceptionally high level.

As its own Budget Paper No.1 shows, the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) is anticipating that there will be an increase in people registering for employment in 1988/89.

Sadly for these additional people hunting for jobs and registering with the CES the NEW START and JET labour market programs announced as part of this year's Budget are nothing more than a token gesture towards the unemployed.

They are just two more names in a long line of catch phrases given to a range of labour market programs since 1983.

The single distinguishing feature of all these labour market program names being that are designed to sound positive - to give the impression that the Government is really doing something for the unemployed.

Labour force statistics, however, tell a very different story.

They show that despite all the fancy names - and the accompanying glossy promotional material produced at great expense to Australia's already overburdened taxpayers - the average duration of unemployment under the Hawke Government has leapt from 33.3 weeks in March 1983 to 51.6 weeks in July 1988.

The stark reality is that almost one in five young Australians cannot find work, and there are 127,000 adult Australians aged 21-54 years, with 90,000 dependent children, who have had to eke out an existence on

unemployment benefits for more than twelve months.

Meanwhile, the Keating/Hawke Government has been tinkering at the margins of the problem of unemployment and achieving nothing in the face of marked increases in the average duration of unemployment.

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Its highly publicised labour market programs such as the Priority One Australian Traineeship System, have failed dismally to achieve the targets set.

It is now over three years since the Prime Minister launched Priority One in a nationally televised address, and announced that the Australian Traineeship System would deliver 75,000 traineeships by 1988/89.

So far, over those three years, just 20,951 traineeships have been created - that's not even a third of what was promised.

Budget Paper no. 2 for 1988/89 shows that in 1987/88 almost $44m was appropriated for the Australian Traineeship System, but only $28.8m was actually spent.

On that basis alone, it is hard to see the justification for increasing the appropriation for 1988/89 to more than $45m.

That means a hike of almost 60 per cent over and above what was actually spent on 10,166 traineeships last year.

And yet the Government is expecting that only 15,000 traineeships will commence in 1988/89.

Even if this target of 15,000 is reached in 1988/89 though the Australian Traineeship System will still be around 40.000 places short of the Prime Minister's promised 75,000.

So, next year, four years after all the media hype which accompanied the launch of the Priority One traineeships, even on its own reckoning the Keating/Hawke Government will have failed to do even half of what it pledged to do for young Australians.

Given this track record with the Australian Traineeship System, how can the Government expect anyone to believe its latest commitment that the NEW START and JET programs will do so much for the unemployed.

Does the Government honestly think that the Australian people will swallow its line that NEW START will deliver an additional 25,000 places - that is a total of 50,000 places a year for re-skilling and training long term unemployed

adults in the 21 to 54 years age group - in programs such as JOBSTART, JOBTRAIN, SKILLSHARE and JOB SEARCH TRAINING?

How can the Government expect Australians to believe that when the JET program is fully operational it will provide 12.000 employment and training places each year for sole parents?

It is laughable that the Government should hold up JOBSTART as part of the salvation of the unemployed given that earlier this year JOBSTART seemed to exist in name only.

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Prospective employers were not being told about the program, and those employers who knew about it as a result of the fan fare which accompanied its launch were being fobbed off by the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) staff they approached.

Unemployed people who qualified for inclusion into the JOBSTART program were not being told about it.

And those who had been accepted as qualifying for JOBSTART, but, who had been unlucky enough to lose their canvassing card - their means of demonstrating to a potential employer that they could attract the JOBSTART subsidy - they were not being reissued with cards.

So there we have it. Once again the Keating/Hawke Government has revealed its true colours - it announces labour market programs with a blast of trumpets and then quietly changes the ground rules.

Expectations raised are continually being dashed. And it's the unemployed who are being used as pawns in the Government's media games.

Another element of the NEW START program which the Government has proudly announced is that officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) will be conducting around 40,000 interviews a year with the long term

unemployed.

The purpose of these interviews being to find labour market programs to assist them to re-enter the workforce.

What is so amazing about this so-called new initiative is that surely this is what should have been happening all along.

If the CES has not been conducting interviews with the unemployed - not been trying to find labour market programs to assist them - then what has it been doing?

Are Australia's taxpayers footing a bill of around $185m in 1988/89 for an employment agency which has not been trying to help the unemployed?

Why has the Keating/Hawke Government chosen to address labour market difficulties by means of labour market programs - rather than by pursuing much needed structural reforms - if it has not followed up, has not seen that the CES is introducing people to those programs?

What we are talking about here is a publicly funded employment agency.

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About that wing of government charged with the responsibility for helping the unemployed find work, for matching job offers with job seekers.

And yet the Government is talking as though its plans to provide 40,000 long term unemployed adults with interviews and information to assist them in job hunting are radical departure from the norm - a daring innovation.

Perhaps this is because it is embarrassed by its mismanagement of the implementation of the CES's JOB SEEKER computer system. A system which has the potential to radically improve and speed the delivery of service to CES

clients, but which has been bungled from the outset.

More than four years and millions of dollars later the JOB SEEKER system has still not achieved the objective of being able to deliver an integrated information system which could match people and jobs on a national basis.

But the Government is saying nothing about this.

Instead it is trying to pretend that NEW START, JET, SKILLSHARE and the like will offer the unemployed a whole new deal.

I have already expressed reservations about the likelihood of NEW START and JET being able to fulfil the Government's optimistic targets.

In relation to SKILLSHARE, the general thrust of this program is a welcome acceptance by the Keating/Hawke Government of key policies, directions and strategies developed by the Liberal and National Parties.

The Opposition has argued long and hard that this nation's problems will only be solved if we pay greater attention to the guality of our workforce - the skills, initiative and creativity of working Australians, and the ways in which our workplaces are organised.

The increased emphasis on training which is to come into effect under SKILLSHARE will be of greater benefit to the unemployed than some of the basket weaving and photography oriented outfits which have operated under the programs which it will subsume.

Nevertheless, there is serious cause for concern about the future of the many extremely effective Community Volunteer Program projects which seem to have no place in the new scheme of things.

There is a good case for reconsidering the role of established volunteer groups and agencies, and the contribution which they could make to the successful outcome of the SKILLSHARE program.

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It is welcome that the Government is demonstrating that it has learnt something from the past. That it's make-work job creation schemes, such as the Community Employment Program, do very little to improve a person's long term employability.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the Keating/Hawke Government's biggest labour market program - or job creation scheme - has been in employing people to come up with catchy names for other labour market programs.

GO FOR IT, GET IT TOGETHER, JOBSTART, JOBTRAIN, SKILLSHARE, JOBCLUBS, PRIORITY ONE - these are just a few of the programs which have been launched on an unsuspecting public by the Keating/Hawke Government.

Programs which have failed to address the fundamental and underlying causes of unemployment - the Government's inappropriate economic policies.

Programs which reflect the Government's failure to move with the times - to speed up the pace of structural reform - to develop labour market and industrial relations policies which are in tune with this day and age and which can take

us forward into the 21st century.

In this Bicentennial year Budget the Government has failed to take the action necessary to safeguard our standards of living. It is instead relying on illusion, deception and a large measure of luck.

Complacency has replaced competence, and more than half a million Australians are paying the price for the Government's lack of courage, for its loss of moral authority to its masters in the trade union movement.

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30th August, 1988