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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1279

Mr SHACK —In the previous answer the Prime Minister mentioned employment growth. Will he please explain to the House why in February 1987 the unemployment rate for young people aged 15 to 19 years stood at 23.3 per cent-2 per cent higher than the figure for the same period a year before and almost 2 per cent higher than when the Priority One campaign was launched by the Prime Minister in August 1985?

Mr HAWKE —I am surprised that any member of the Opposition would address any question to this Government on the area of youth in this country. I remind the honourable member who asked the question of what the facts are: In the last 12 months in which those opposite had the responsibility for managing the Australian economy, they threw an additional 250,000 Australians, including many young Australians, on to the unemployment scrap-heap. That was their record and, as I have said, they did it without benefit of any dramatic loss in the terms of trade. They did it all by themselves. They had neither the courage, nor the competence, nor the wit, nor the intelligence to follow sensible macroeconomic policies.

I remind the honourable member and this House of what the Government has done in this area. We have attacked the problems confronting young Australians in a comprehensive way. The first thing we did was to follow economic policies which have resulted in the highest level of employment growth in Australia's post-war history. I remind the House that three-quarters of a million new jobs were created, with over three-quarters of those in the private sector. Madam Speaker, I ask you and the House to recall this fact: Despite the enormous loss in the terms of trade, some 18 per cent since the beginning of 1985 and including a 3 1/2 per cent further fall in the most recent period, we have still in the last 12 months had an increase in employment of 131,000. That figure included jobs for young people.

We have not contented ourselves with simply dealing with the problems of young people in the area of employment, but we have seriously addressed the question of trying to ensure that as many of our young people as possible will have as long a period in the education process as they possibly can. I remind you, Madam Speaker, and this House of perhaps the single most important statistic affecting young people: By the time those opposite left office they had achieved just about the lowest rate of retention in secondary education of any Western country. They handed over a retention rate of 36 per cent. That was the retention rate of young people in this country staying in the education system beyond the compulsory school age. We set about dealing with that. As a result, by the end of 1987 more than 50 per cent of our young people will be staying in the education system. We also inherited the unbelievable stupidity that these people were making it more financially attractive for people to go on the dole than to stay in the education system. We will have operating from next year a system whereby there will be no financial incentive for young people to go on the dole rather than to stay in the education system.

What have we done about places for young people in the tertiary system? The record of the conservatives in their last four years of government was to create 8,000 additional places in the tertiary system. What has been the record of this Government? We have created 37,000 new places. When one looks at what we have done in employment creation, secondary education and in tertiary education one will see that we have comprehensively and realistically tackled the problem.

The fact remains that, despite all those things that we have done in education and employment, there are young people who would not be able to get a job in the normal productive economic processes. So we brought in the community employment program. The community employment program was calculated to give employment experience and opportunities to the longer term young unemployed. But what is the Opposition's proposal? Under the leaked secret document which the Opposition does not have the guts to reveal to the Australian people it will abolish the community employment program. It will abolish Jobstart. It will abolish every single employment creation or training program that this Government has brought in. As far as this Government is concerned, I repeat that, whenever the election is called, we will stand up on every platform in this country and contrast the abnegation of the responsibility to the young which characterised the seven years in office of those opposite, and we will stand up with pride and show what we have done in our four years in office.