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Effect of the Coalition's economic policies on rural areas

ALLAN KNIGHT: Rural Australia will be devastated by spending cutbacks being proposed by the Coalition parties - that's according to Federal Employment and Education Services Minister, Peter Duncan. Speaking from Orange in New South Wales, Mr Duncan says the Opposition's rejection of subsidies for industry would prevent many firms relocating in country towns and would hinder attempts to decentralise. He says that some Coalition policies would actually encourage the drift to the cities.

PETER DUNCAN: Well, certainly in the area of employment, education and training, the cuts that the Liberal policy is proposing would be quite devastating to many many rural areas. They're proposing to chop $61 million by closing the whole of the Skillshare program and that program, in many areas, provides the only hope for young country people to actually get the sort of training that will enable them to get into the work force.

ALLAN KNIGHT: But the Deputy Leader of the National Party, Mr Lloyd, said on the Country Hour last week that these programs really don't help very many country people.

PETER DUNCAN: Look, I must say I am astounded to hear him say that. The numbers of country people who are assisted by these programs are very great indeed. They're proposing to chop $50 million out of the CES. Clearly that could only be done by closing a range of smaller CES offices in country areas and that would be a devastating blow to not only many unemployed people, employees or potential employees in country towns, but also employers in country towns because it's pretty clear that private enterprise are not going to move in to fill that void in many country areas.

ALLAN KNIGHT: But Mr Lloyd says that the Coalition will be generally helping people in country areas. He says that there will be changes to the asset tax, there will be changes to local calls. He says that they will be abolishing capital gains tax.

PETER DUNCAN: Yes, well I heard those comments - delightfully vague, I must say. The specifics they've given us however, very clearly indicate that the way that they propose to attack the labour market programs will have a drastic effect on many many rural communities across the nation, and of course, you need to take into account the fact that we already have a drift of people away from the rural areas to the cities. This Government has been trying to temper that by providing education, employment opportunities and particularly training in country areas, so that country people can get skills in their own areas. If all these training programs that we have introduced, are chopped, the effect of that will be that young people particularly, in country areas, will drift to the city in ever greater numbers than before.

COMPERE: Peter Duncan and Allan Knight.