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"Very good prospects for the right nation"



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The Hon. Ian Viner, M P

"VERY GOOD PROSPECTS-FOR THE RIGHT NATION1' . .

The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, said today there . was no nation with greater potential than Australia to win the economic .

battle of the 70s and make the 80s a comfortable and satisfying decade the . 60s was, with even greater promise for the 90s. Mr Viner said prospects . . .

for a resumption of economic growth in Australia were better now than they had been for 5 or 6 years. .

Mr Viner was addressing the "Prospects in Employee Relations" Conference - organised by W O Scott & Co at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney.

"The spectacular growth we have had in our capital inflow over the past year - a net $1711 million compared with $364 million the previous year - is evidence of the faith other countries have in Australia’s future. .

"In June alone private capital inflow was $364 million continuing the strong result evident over the past 4- months. Overseas there is a clear recognition of our advantages; what is found so strange by overseas commentators and observers is our apparent reluctance to take advantage of our circumstances",

he said. :

Mr Viner said that Australia was increasingly seeing the conditions for economic recovery gathering strength. "On the employment front we have seen the rising trend in unemployment which has persisted since 1974 halted. ' Figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that in the 12 months

ended May 1979 civilian employment grew by 62,800 with the bulk of the employment growth in private enterprises", he said.

"Australia has all the basic ingredients required for growth and development in the 80s and beyond. We have abundant natural resources, particularly energy resources Mr Viner said. "We are continuing to invest in the education and training o f ’ ; our workforce to ensure that we have the skilled manpower available to meet the

challenges ahead. With enterprise, know-how and the capital.which both local and overseas investors are prepared to provide, the prospects for the future are there. But it will require real efforts on our.part to make the most of our potential and we must not dissipate o u r 'opportunities uhxougb-~industrial · disputation or excessive wage demands." ’ ~ . .

Mr Viner said the particular difficulties faced by young people coming on to . the labour market would ease for demographic reasons within the next few years. "The number of 14 year-olds in Australia peaked in 1976 at 271,000 and will have declined to 247,000 in 1980. .

"There will be as a result of this demographic trend some relief in the increase in the number of young people leaving school and coming on to the labour market."

Mr Viner warned that Australia’s success or failure in adopting new technology at least as fast and effectively as our competitors was likely to be one of the most important single factors to the impact of technological change on employment. "If we are competitive at putting new technology to work I am positive that it

will create more jobs than are lost", he said. .

CANBERRA 24 July 19/9

SPEECH BY THE MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND YOUTH AFFAIRS

, ' MR IAN VINER . . ■

TO THE ''PROSPECTS IN EMPLOYEE RELATIONS". CONFERENCE

HELD AT THE WENTWORTH HOTEL - SYDNEY ON 2A- JULY 1 9 7 9

"VERY GOOD PROSPECTS FOR THE RIGHT NATION"

All of you, I am sure, will be familiar with the job advertisement

.which states, " . ‘ good prospects for the right person. "... It usually

attempts to convey the impression that if the person applying is.

ambitious,; industrious and enterprising enough. , . the opportunities

within the.company are unlimited. . . .

As it is with people, so it is with nations. As it would be for

.a bright young person joining many of your organisations, so it is

for an enterprising and industrious nation. ' "Good prospects", .

indeed, dare 1 suggest in these days of so much gloom about the

future, "very good prospects for the right nation." If Australia

is not to fill that bill, then it will have only itself to blame.

Our hesitancy to apply foi~ the job may be a little understandable.

The seventies promised so much from the perspective of the

sixties. Between 1950 and the end of the sixties real GDP almost

doubled. This w a s 'reflected in strong growth in employment and

broadening of the range of economic activities and the skills of

the workforce. Who would have thought 10 years ago that we should

now be doing other than contemplating·the eighties with anything

other than the great confidence.borne of growth in our wealth and

living standards, allowing an ever greater concern for our

environment, defence, health and" social services. .

Of course, as we all know, the seventies did not turn out as

we expected - not for Australia and not for the rest of the

western developed world. I understand that .the eastern bloc

countries avoided inflation, unemployment and economic growth ■ ■ ■ " ■

problems. They redefined price increases, shortages, queues and

labour surpluses! .

Among all the developed, countrdes , if this nation of ours is not

to restore the promise of the sixties, then which one will? If

Australia, with its enormous wealth of resources, including human

resources its geographical position'in the world: the absence of

the kind of problems being suffered by so many of the developed

countries; if Australia cannot make it, then which country can? ■

2

When energy is the achilles heel of the development of· so many .

economies at this time, Australia, while admittedly·it has some

problems , is a net. energy exporter and has by any standard, an

abundance of energy for its needs this century. ■ .

There is no nation with greater potential than this one to win

the economic battle of the seventies and. make the eighties the .

comfortable and satisfying decade the sixties was, with even .

greater promise for the nineties„

If you don't believe it, then those in other countries certainly

do. The spectacular growth we have had in our capital inflow

over the past year - a net $ 171I million compared with S364

million the previous year - is evidence of that„ In June alone,

private capital inflow was $324 million, continuing the strong

.result evident over the past four months. Overseas there is

• a clear recognition of our advantages; what is found so strange

by overseas commentators and observers is our apparent reluctance

to take advantage of our circumstances. . ■ ' . .

The determination of the government to take control of the

current round of industrial disruption is as much as anything

a determination to see that these advantages and potential

are not. squandered in appeasement of the disruptions.

I do not intend to dwell on industrial disputes but I must say

that the disputes which are affecting our communications,

transport, public services and mining industries seem a good

way to destroy our advantages and potential, .

At the centre of concern of developed nations has been the

twin and related, problems of inflation and. unemployment. They

are problems which have also been at the centre of attention

and concern of the Government of which I am a member„ . .

For those of you who may feel that our concern has not been

matched with results, let me just remind you of a few facts.

3

From, a situation where inflation was running at an annua,1 rate . . .

of 17% during the first six months of 1975) it is now less

than half that rate. From a position where GDP rose by only

1.6/ during .19.74/75 1 and. during the six months ended December

1975 actually fell by 0.3%, over the past 12 months to December

1978 GDP rose by 5·4% . - .

. Economic growth, through revitalised private . , enterprise , ■ .

enjoying expansion of production, investment and consumption, . .

is the only way out of our present problems. ,

' Increasingly we are now seeing those conditions for recovery

gathering strength. Farm income is well up. Factory production

has been growing and with it in recent months we have seen the

growth of employment in manufacturing - a most welcome change.

New dwelling construction has shown a welcome growth and buoyancy.

Private investment in 1978 grew by 2-i% and, in the mining sector,

by 56%. Many major- new investments have been announced - in

aluminium production alone some.$2,000m of investment has been

decided upon in the 3 eastern States and WA. Oil exploration

has been revitalised: confidence is much stronger; and -business

optimism a. great deal higher throughout the economy.

On the employment front we have seen the. rising trend in ■

.unemployment which has persisted since 1974 halted. The most .

recent ABS statistics on unemployment for June 1979 show that

there were 323,800 unemployed persons looking for.full time

wor k , which is 6 per cent of the full time labour force. . ·

This figure is marginally lower than the statistics for June

1978 which was 330,500, or 6 .1%, of the full time work force. I

I do not suggest for one moment that the numbers of unemployed

is satisfactory but I do say that it is important that we have

stemmed the growth in unemployment. ‘

The levelling off of unemployment in the last financial year . . ■

was associated with a modest but significant growth in

employment .opportunities. The latest figures available of -civilian employment show that in the twelve, months ended May , .

1979 civilian employment grew in seasonally adjusted terms

by 62,800,. 1 ■ -with the bulk of the employment growth in ■

private enterprises.: .

Again 1 repeat that there is still a major task before us . .

in dealing with the numbers still unemployed. Our problem . .

with the rate of employment growth has of course been . .

• aggravated by wage increases which have inevitably found their

way into increased costs. They have .affected our recovery in

two ways. They have restrained the rate of recovery of the

private sector - acting as a drag on the restoration of our

competitive position - and they have priced some labour out .

of the market, particularly junior workers. It is a simple

inescapable fact that if overall" wages, and salaries- were lower V

than they now a re, more people would be employed. " ' .

In summary Australia has all the basic ingredients required

for growth and development in the eighties and beyond. We

have abundant natural resources - particularly energy resources. .

We are continuing to invest in the .education .and training of .

our work force to ensure that 'we have the skilled manpower

'available to meet the challenges ahead. With enterprises,

know how and the capital which both local and overseas investors

are prepared to provide the prospects for the future are there, . . ·

Exit it will .require real efforts on our part to make the most

of our potential and we must not dissipate our opportunities .

through industrial disputation or excessive wage demands. .

Given our potential I thought it appropriate' to spend a little"

time in looking at the underlying post war trends that are · ·

going to influence development and. particularly employment :

prospects for Australia in the 1980s. . .

5

We have to recognise that considerable changes' have affected

the industrial structure in the post-war period - changes which

have dramatically.altered the labour market.

Those changes' have implications for the challenges this nation. . . . .

faces if we are to improve our employment situation and provide

opportunities, to satisfy the needs and aspirations of our l a b o u r

f orce. · . ' " . .

I want to underline the fact that t h e .challenge is n o t , and.

never can be, for Government, alone. It is a challenge which

requires an earnest and conscientious approach by all sections

.of the community, ■ . . . . .

To achieve that support I believe it is important to understand

the background to today's economic society. ' . ■ .

The Post-War Reconstruction Cycle lasted a good deal longer

than most·economists anticipated. It certainly was still

helping to sustain international trade and economic growth,

well into the sixties. ’ . .

Its influence has now most definitely passed, however, and

equally important, but far less favourable influences on

international trade, emerged in the sixties and seventies in

the growth of trading blocks and energy problems.

World population growth has been another important influence

on economic . development in the post-war period. „ The world's

labour force is increasing at the rate of aibout 50 .million .

people each year, and whereas workers in the industrialised /

countries represented about one-third of the world's labour

force at the end of World War II, they now represent less than

one-quarter. By the turn of the century, when .the labour .

force, of the developed, countries represents less than one - .,

seventh of the world's labour force., the labour force of the

developing countries of Asia alone will exceed that of all .

industrialised countries. .

!.ί

The levelling off of unemployment in the last financial year _

was associated with a modest but significant growth in

'employment.opportunities. The latest figures available of

civilian employment show that in the twelve months ended May ·.

3-979 civilian employment grew in seasonally adjusted terms

by 62,800,. . with the bulk of the employment growth in . .

private enterprises.■ . . ' ■ ·

Again I repeat that there is still a· major task before us

in dealing with the numbers still unemployed. Our problem

with the rate of employment growth has of course been '

aggravated by wage increases which have inevitably found their

way into increased costs. They have affected our recovery in

two wavs. They have restrained the rate of recovery of the

private sector - acting as a drag on the restoration of our

competitive position - and they have priced some.labour out

of the market, particularly junior workers. It is a simple

inescapable, fact that if overall wages and salaries were lower

than they now are, more people would be employed. . ·

In summary Australia, has all the basic ingredients required

fox·' growth and development in the eighties and beyond. We .

have abundant natural resources - particularly energy resources.

We are continuing to invest in. the education and training of

our work force to ensure that we have the skilled manpower

available to meet the challenges ahead. With enterprises,

know how and the capital which both local and overseas investors

are prepared to provide the prospects for the future are there.

But it will require real efforts on our part to make the most

of our potential and we must not dissipate our opportunities

through industrial disputation or excessive wage demands. .

Given our potential I thought, it appropriate to spend a little

time in looking at the underlying post war trends that are ’

going to influence development and particularly employment ’

prospects for Australia - in the 1980s. .

For the future, this development of population and economies .

in the region in which we live offers great potential for our

own further development too. There may be an uncomfortable

time while we enable the industry of our neighbours to mature., .

but as their wealth grows so we can grow in trade in the

goods. and services in.which we have a comparative advantage.

At current rates of economic development,. the eight economies .

in East and South East Asia will collectively be as important

in world trade within 4 or 5 years as Japan is now. In

addition, China's development programme offers very substantial

prospects for Australia. These changes to .the world’s trading

pattern provides us with unprecedented opportunities to expand

our exports. , ' , . . . t ■

Closer to home, there has been the dramatic impact of

the post-war baby boom and immigration programme. In Australia

people who Mere part of that baby.boom have been coming of age

in the seventies while we experienced the greatest, slackening

in our economic condition of the post-war period. ··

However, children born at the tail end of the baby boom have

now reached the ages of Ik to 18 years. The number of 14 year .

olds peaked in 1976 at 261,000 and will have declined to

2k7,000 in 1980. ' "

There will b e , as a result of this demographic trend, some .

relief in the increase i n . the numbers of young people leaving

school and coming onto the labour market. . ' '

The major demographic change.in the f u t u r e s t a r t i n g in the

eighties , will be the comparative aging of our population.

This has a number of implications for the future.demand for

goods and services. It will also slow the annual renewal of -

the working populations. This factor , together with the related

changes to existing relationships between labour force entry

and withdrawal, could reduce occupational mobility and adversely

affect productivity. This is one reason why it is so important

that we do not prevent or obstruct technο1ogical deve1ooment,

7

Technological advances have clearly promoted our growth and

•will increase in their importance to our growth in the future.

The best way to accommodate technological change is to maximise

its benefits. If we, stay in the forefront of exploiting .

technological progress we will more easily avoid its discomforts

If we seek to put barriers, up against it, the economy, and with

it job 1 opportunities will remain, at best, static.

The flows into the labour force in the future will also, of

course, be affected by changes' to the participation rates of

various groups. It is in this characteristic that we are . .

likely to find, a more favourable influence on the renewal and

mobility of our labour force. . ■- .

Changes to the labour force participation rates of females

have had a major impact on our economy and seem likely to

continue to do so. . ' .

In the mid-sixties , females represented something just above

a quarter o f .the labour force, and about one-third of females

of labour force age were participating in the labour force. .

By 1979, females represent 36% of the labour force , and

kk% of females of labour force age are participating in the

labour force . In fact, in over k0% of u intact1 1 families

both parents work. . .

Nevertheless, even with this remarkable growth, our female

labour force par-ticipation. rates are still lower than those of

a number of other developed countries. · . ■

These and other trends have brought noticeable changes to the . ,

structure of our labour force and industry and have Implications '

for future structural change. . . . . . . , . .

It was, therefore, particularly important to carefully assess what,

effect. changes to our labour supply (including the education arid · .

training of the workforce) and to the demand for labour front ' . ■ .

industry', had had and was likely to have ·on the condition of the .

labour market. . :

The radical changes of the past decade; the increasing

pressures from international trade, community aspirations,

patterns of consumption and demand, and technological advance;, and

the apparent comparative lack of readiness of Australians to accept

any change,, even though inevitable, which might have any adverse *r

characteristics, made it essential to conduct detailed and. thorough

investigations. There was a pressing- need for greater understanding

of the roles and interdependence of various sectors o f ,the economy

and of education and training to the labour market, in order to

proceed sensibly to the necessary decisions about the future economic

structure of the country. ...

So inquiries were set up under Professor Williams, into education,

and. training, and under Sir John Crawford into structural .

adjustment: inquiries-which could cut across lines of demarcation

.between Departments.. ' " . '

Sir John Crawford's report has given us valuable insight into

the pressures of structured change which are on industry and the -labour market, ., .

Professor Williams’ report has highlighted,, among other things,

the reasons why we cannot continue to develop education in the

absence of a firm nexus between education, and employment. Not just,

because of the higher levels of unemployment, but because.the .

9

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pattern of growth and investment in education was becoming .

somewhat out of tune with our needs. The rapid growth of -

universities and colleges over two decade's had seemingly accustomed

educators to uninterrupted expansion to such an extent that by the '

early 1970s numbers in these tertiary institutions were doubling

themselves every 10 years. . . ..·'·,

Through a concern about" the impact of such developments on the .

labour market, the two inquiries are inextricably linked. The third

party in the triumvirate is Professor Rupert Myers who is conducting

an inquiry into technological change. · . . . . .

As I have said, our · success or failure in adopting new .

technology at least as fast and. effectively as our competitors,

is- likely to be one of the most important single factors to its'

impact on employment. If we are competitive.at putting new

technology to work, I am positive that it will create more jobs

than are lost. The Myers Inquiry is thus closely linked to

Williams and Crawford. The report should help us to identify how .

our education and training of the workforce, and the changes

taking place in industry, can be harnessed to best advantage in

our approach to adoption of new technology. . .

It was out of a concern for 1 the employment situation, particularly

as it affects the opportunities for the development of our young .

people, that my portfolio of Employment and Youth Affairs was

created, in December last year. . . . .

It was not intended that the portfolio should deal with the

employment situation in a cosmetic way, which is why I have "

resisted proposals for limited "make-work" type schemes. In mv

view it would be not only economically unsound but socially'

disturbing to propel youth 'into public' make-work type

arrangements which lead to dead-end · jobs, the dulling of initiative

and. diminished prospects of finding more worthwhile employment '

and providing it. . .

Our Government is determined to gear manpower policies to meet

the demands of the future.. We currently have in operation a

comprehensive range of training arid youth support programmes,

10

l Vl

and these are constantly under -review. Briefly there is the· ·

CRAFT apprenticeship scheme, which is building the nucleus of

Australia's /skilled work force; there is,the NEAT programme,

which.provides special assistance'to- those most disadvantaged

by unemployment; we have the SYETP scheme, whi.ch assists young

people who are particularly disadvantaged by providing a

period of subsidised employment and training. More than 150,000

young unemployed people have been assisted under SYETP since it

was introduced in October 1976. Further support for the

unemployed, young is provided through CYSS to help, them improve

their ability to apply for jobs and obtain employment and . .

maintain - their work orientation, and through the Education

Programme for Unemployed Youth, which provides vocational

oriented courses for those whose low or inadequate educational,

qualifications are a primary barrier to obtaining employment.

All told, the Government is assisting some 200,000 Australians .

every year to improve their employment prospects and ultimately

benefit the whole country. . .

Looking ahead I have set out for my Department the objectives

1 believe we should seek to achieve. I think they bear. .

reiterating here:

. the development, of policies which help to improve the

capabilities of -our manpower resource in terms of.

both the range and complexity of the skill it possesses;

. better matching of the supply of .labour to the demands

of industry both now and in anticipation of. the .

prospective requirements·of the 1980s; ·

. improved utilisation o f ·existing manpower resources

through, closer involvement with industry and better

forecasting of future requirements; ,

. improvements to and modernisation of the institutional

framework used, in providing training for employment and

preparation for entry to trades and professions;

. more efficient use of existing manpower programmes -­

which are expensive to the taxpayer - so that we get

the priorities in the labour market more attuned to

industry's needs and. the best possible return, on

expenditure - they must be achievement oriented;

. t h e ·development of programmes· and other assistance which'

. , - serves the handicapped and disadvantaged in terms of · ■ . · .

improving their employment prospects and the job .

opportunities' available to them, rather than in reinforcing '

• · their differences; and ·

.. identifying the range of problems - not just unemployment - .

. of importance to the development of youth and, through :

our investment in young people, to the development of the ' .

nation as a whole. . ■ . ' . . ''·â– .'

Certainly some of the challenges we face in adjusting to

changing" world patterns of trade and domestic circumstances ■

are fundamental and to some 'would appear formidable. But

there are no insurmountable difficulties, provided we are.

willing to adapt and each take seriously our responsibility to ,

contribute, even where it means some temporary.sacrifice of long·

cherished beliefs or goals, to the solutions. .

As you Sydneysiders so eloquently put it,, we must each one of

us get in and have a go ! . . . · - .

There is every reason why you should, because the prospects for a

resumption of economic, growth in Australia are better now'than

they have been for five or six years, which, in politics at any .

rate, is a long time. As I have said, labour market trends are .

showing the first signs of improvement; other economic indicators

show even stronger results. We now- have prospects for

favourable long-term growth in a number of industries, particularly

those making use of our abundant natural resources,. The mining . .

.sector and the resource based'manufacturing industries have .

increased their relative share of GDP in the last decade and .

seem likely to continue to do so. As this generates and sustains

economic growth, .per capita incomes will rise and-the demand for

goods and services will expand. " ,

This will lead to improved demand for transportation, insurance,

banking, communications, and. a range of other services. As the

scale and methods of production, marketing and distribution advance,

so will the demand for a vast range of other highly skilled -services

including legal. managerial, data processing, engineering, .

advertising, marketing and technical services. ■

And it goes o n ; more wealth, more leisure, more demand . ; ,

for health, education, welfare and recreational services and, .

'•"most - importantly, the wherewithal! to provide them. So ■

. employment prospects will mushroom. '

There is no fundamental, reason why this country should not adapt · ·

and flourish and enjoy.an increasing and wide range of job

opportunities. It will require the restoration and fostering

.of economic growth for that, is the prerequisite of increased · '

job opportunities. The enterprise, initiative and. entrepreneurial

skills which gave rise to the success of our economy in . the post- .

war years' energetically promoted into the· 1980s are there.

There are excellent prospects for the right applicant.

Australia, with its resources, industry and skills has all the

right credentials. . 1

As Australians, let us make the most of the opportunities. I .

A believe we can; that we should; and that in the 1980s, given the,

will, we will show that we have. "