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Transcript of radio interview: JJJ Radio: 6 May 1994: White Paper on Unemployment



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Leader of the Opposition

6 May 1994 REF: TRANSCR\ab\dj\0053

TRANSCRIPT OF RADIO INTERVIEW JOHN HEWSON MP JJJ RADIO

E & Ο E - PROOF COPY ONLY

SUBJECTS: The White Paper on Unemployment

Hewson:

...they've gone from one training scheme to the next and I've met people who've been to half a dozen or more, still unable to get a job and sometimes the training has been in quite different areas. I've met others who have offered to work for nothing for a month to prove that they can work so that then maybe the employer will give them a job. I've met some of the most difficult longer term unemployed kids and some of them homeless as well, and so yes it is probably the single most important problem we've got.

J m ls t:

Well that's the major thing this package does though. It does train people to be jobs ready. Why don't you approve?

Hewson:

Well training is important. We agree on that. We've got to make sure of course that it's the right training but we also, more importantly, have to make sure that there's a job for them to go to and that's the point I'm making. If you just, as one fellow said on television the other night, sort of get shuffled around, playing the game, going from

one training scheme to the other without getting a job then the system is no good, and what concerned me about the White Paper was that it didnt really create jobs. It trained people and we can debate whether they are training them in the right way and that sort of thing. But in principle it trains people. It does nothing about creating the jobs for those people when they finish their training.

So being job-ready is no good if there are no jobs.

T · .

COMMONW EALTH

PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 Phone 277 4022

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Jmlst:

But in Fightback! you said you'd have training wages, you'd expand TAFE, you'd contract out CES services and you'd abolish the training levy. I mean obviously you like those parts of Paul Keating's package.

Hewson:

Yes there are a number of things that we did like. As you say they pinched a few of the ideas that we had and I'm very pleased to see that they have decided to have training wages and back that up with off the job training as well. Sort of on the job

training and off the job training. I think that's very important. I'm disappointed that it's taken them two years to do it because there were a lot of wasted lives over those two years.

Jmlst:

Mm. They've had to get union backing which you didn't have.

Hewson:

Yes well that's one of the problems with the Government, isn't it. They have to get the unions on side whereas I thought the argument was so clear cut that if you want to help young people, one of the best ways to help them is to get them into the work place. And the hardest job to get is your first and to get that job, to have an

opportunity to get that job, to get a foot in the door and a chance to prove yourself is what a training wage offers, and so we're very pleased they picked it up.

Jmlst:

Well the Prime Minister says that his policies will get people ready for jobs and the jobs will be given by the recovery, the economic recovery will provide those jobs. Don't you think it will?

Hewson:

No we d o n t and in fact the Prime Minister has said that he wants to see our unemployment rate at 5% by the end of the decade. Well to get there he's got to create two and a quarter million jobs. The economy has to grow at about 5% every year and every time we don't grow at that we lose a significant number of those jobs.

Now I fear that because he's committed so much money and he hasn't any way to pay for these schemes but interest rates will go up and that's what will slow down the recovery, and that will cost us jobs rather than create us the jobs. So that's where I really take a different view from the Prime Minister.

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I think unless he can put in place policies that create jobs rather than destroy them then we are going to have a very difficult time over the next few years and a simple point, they created the unemployment with the policies they've now got. You've got to change those policies if you want to create jobs.

Jmlst:

But how do you create jobs without spending money which might put interest rates up?

Hewson:

One of the best ways to do it is to recognise that a lot of the jobs that have to created will be created by small to medium size businesses. And you say to yourself, what have we got to do to get small to medium size business really humming, new ones

opening and so on. Right now there are 800 000 small businesses in Australia and if each one of those just hired one more person, we'd knock over the bulk of the unemployment problem. So how do we get small to medium sized business going? Let's get rid of some of the imposts on them, the taxes that Government puts on them, the restrictions under which they operate. Give them better access to finance, give

them better capital gains tax and other tax structures. Then you'll see the jobs created.

So you need to be doing both. You've got to be training people and getting them ready for the workforce. That's clear. But you've also got to be giving them the jobs and in the end those jobs are principally going to come from the small to medium size businesses around Australia that have really been hit very hard by the last recession. A lot of people have given up on the idea of going into small business now. They think

its not worthwhile. We've got to make it worthwhile.

Jmlst:

But giving tax cuts to small business is also going to cost revenue money. I mean given that we have got, we do owe a lot of money overseas now but isn't this the time that we should just put that on hold. Things are really tough. We can worry about the Budget deficit when things are better and that right now we should concentrate on the

unemployed.

Hewson:

You cant get away with that. I mean it's a nice argument but financial markets as one example that w ont let you get away.

Jmlst:

But they're just crackers, the Prime Minister says.

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Hewson:

Yes he says that. He says everybody, everybody who disagrees with him is crackers but the fact is that they only started to put interest rates up because they've got a bit of news about this Budget and they dont like it. Now if interest rates really do start

to go up and continue to go up then the economy is going to stall. The recovery is going to stall and nobody wants that and you know, there are a lot of things in Government they can address. There's a lot of fat in Government that could be taken out and that money used for the sort of things we've been talking about.

Jmlst:

But if you cut fat from Government, that can often mean cutting Government jobs, people that work in Government. You're just lengthening the unemployment queues.

Hewson:

No not really. I think you can cut a lot of fat. There are a lot of things that

Government decides to do that they dont really need to do. There are a lot of services that Government provides that could be better provided by the private sector and there are thousands of examples but just take the Commonwealth cars that everyone focuses on. Why arent Commonwealth cars, I mean, why do we use commonwealth cars? Why arent they all private operators, small business people out there employing people. They are going to contract out some of the Commonwealth

Employment Service, that is get the private sector to do it.

Jmlst:

But the private sector might use less staff and so then we're back with the original problem of more people waiting for a job.

Hewson:

No, no. I think if you get the private sector humming, that's where all the jobs are going to come from.

Jmlst:

Okay. Well the Government looks like it might slightly pull back on the rate of immigration to help stop so many skilled workers coming in to compete with our new, trained ones under Working Nation. Do you approve of that?

Hewson:

Well we've said that now for nearly three years that as much as we like the positives of immigration, I mean it has made a very big contribution to Australia over the years

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and we have one of the best multicultural societies in the world. The fact is with our labour market the way it is today, bringing people into Australia, additional migrants into Australia, just makes that labour market worse and in some cases, they take the jobs that would otherwise have gone to people who are already here.

Jmlst:

So how much would it be cut back, do you think?

Hewson:

Well they've cut it back a long way. They've cut it back I suppose to 45 - 50 000 net intake which is getting down about as low as you can go, or maybe they, you know, I just noticed today though in the press, you said they're going to cut it. Well the Prime Minister said he wasn't going to increase it. Senator Bolkus, the Minister is saying that he wants to increase immigration next financial year so I dont think they've got a clear cut position but my view is, it doesn't do the migrants much good if they come to Australia and end up on the dole or some other Government benefit.

Jmlst:

So you'd cut it a bit further?

Hewson:

We've said it's just got to be cut in the short term. We haven't set a figure on it because to be honest, I do n t know where the Government has cut it to yet. We havent seen the numbers but we have been calling for them to pull it back and they've done that in response to our call.

Jmlst:

Well the Coalition has been trying to forge new relationships with community groups that you lost before the last election. Most of them are approving of this Working Nation paper's basic thrust. Shouldn't you be more conciliatory just for that reason?

Hewson:

We can support I think, very positive about some aspects of the Working Nation statement and yet I'm not going to give it a blank cheque because I dont think it will ever be delivered. I think the Prime Minister is playing a very cynical political game with

this document, just like he did with One Nation. He used One Nation basically as a way of lying his way into Government and he's going to do the same with this. He knows he cant afford it. A lot of it is unworkable. A lot of it is undeliverable and all he's really doing is, the practical effect of it is to take people off the unemployment numbers, take them out of the unemployment numbers so that the position looks

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better but really, people don't get jobs.

Every time he puts someone in a training scheme or a job compact, or a mature age allowance or whatever, he takes them out of the unemployment numbers and the numbers look better but those people don't have jobs and I think until they do get jobs, they should be counted as unemployed and we should face the reality of the

problem, not try to hide it. Now that's why I say it's a very cynical political exercise and all it's really going to do for a lot of those people is shuffle them around from one training scheme to another and not ever give them a job which is what they want.

Jmlst:

Will you be talking to these community groups you're finding new relationships with in terms of getting another Coalition employment policy up?

Hewson:

Yes. Part of what we're doing is getting them to understand the way we see things and part of what we're doing is listening to what they think we should be doing and I think it has to be that sort of process where we listen to some of their ideas and what they think is important as much as we push our own ideas. In the end we will take some quite specific ideas to the next election, and quite specific policy initiatives to the next election. And the best way to finalise that process is I think to go and talk to all these groups that have quite often a different perspective than what we have in

Canberra.

Jmlst:

Well in terms of new relationships with those groups, given that more tickets are sold to the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras ball than the paid up members of the New South Wales Liberal Party, can't you do something about Tasmania's homosexuality laws?

Hewson:

Look, I think there are some very important principles here. Now don't get me wrong. On the law, I personally dont like it. I wouldn't have it and I think that all the other states in Australia have moved on and have changed.

Jmlst:

But you're the leader of the Liberal Party.

Hewson:

But I d o nt make the laws in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government makes the laws on behalf of the people of Tasmania and if the people of Tasmania d o nt like it, they

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can throw them out and put in another Government. But there is a very important principle here and that is that the Commonwealth Government is looking like using the External Affairs Rower, that is, using a ruling that was made in the United Nations on this law as a reason to legislate against the law.

I d o n t want to see Australia governed by people outside Australia. I want to see Australia governed by Australians in the interest of Australia and in those circumstances, while I do n t like the law and I personally would, if I was in the position to do something about it I would, but my view is that I do n t have the right to override the Tasmanian Government and you know, they have every right under our

Constitution to do what they want to do and if the Tasmanian people d o n t like them they should throw them out.

Jmlst:

Do you think they should?

Hewson:

I'm not making that judgement. I'm just saying that's the way our democracy works and I think we should keep a very clear sense of that. As much as I personally dont like the legislation I think we've got to be realistic about the structure of Government we have in Australia and that's very important that we protect it and do n t sell it out to some foreign institution.

Jmlst:

Okay, well thanks for coming in today Dr Hewson. Here's our JJJ sweatshirt for you. That's a bit of a bribery so next time you can take a bit of talkback from some of our listeners.

Hewson:

That would be fine. Thank you.

Ends