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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2093

Dr KLUGMAN —My question is also directed to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister recall the election promise to help create half a million jobs in the first three years after coming to office? Has there been a significant increase in employment since March-April?

Mr HAWKE —I am, of course, indebted to the honourable member for Prospect for his penetrating and very relevant question. There have been a number of very promising signs of economic improvement over recent times. The September employment figures are particularly encouraging. I hope that all honourable members of this House, whether they are on the Government side or the Opposition side, would welcome the fact that, in the period since April, in seasonally adjusted terms there have been an additional 80,000 new jobs. I remind the House that that increase of 80,000 jobs in that period this year under this Government compares and contrasts with a decline of 8,000 in the same period last year under the former Government. That is what has happend on the employment front.

On the inflation front we are now, for the first time in two years, down into single digit figures with the September quarter consumer price index rise of 1.6 per cent. Having said that I am not saying that there is any cause for complacency; rather we must build on the improvement which is reflected in those facts. Obviously also there is, however, cause for a degree of comfort in the downward trend in interest rates which has been reflected in the trading following the latest bond tender. We hope, indeed we believe, that that downward trend in interest rates will continue.

When we take all those relevant economic indicators into account we on this side of the House believe that we can say with a considerable degree of confidence that this Government is on target in regard to its objective of the creation of half a million new jobs in its first term of office. I acknowledge quite frankly that the achievement of that target will depend upon our policies as well as on a number of factors outside our control. It will, within this country, depend upon an adherence to the prices and incomes accord and on an improvement in the inflation performance. The important point is that this Government will play its part, as it has effectively in the last seven months, in producing these results.

I must say that the attitude of this Government in respect of the question of employment and unemployment contrasts starkly to the attitude of the Opposition. The Opposition, not content with creating three-quarters of a million unemployed during its term of office, is now showing a totally callous disregard for the victims of its own policies. The honourable member for Darling Downs and shadow Minister for Primary Industry told the National Party's Federal Council meeting in Sydney last weekend-I ask honourable members of the House to note this-that the unemployed should be issued with identity cards. Not content with that he went on to say, and I ask honourable members of the House to note the statement by the shadow Minister: 'Let us bring these people to heel and make them real Australians'. There he is. That is what he is saying about the victims of the Opposition's own callous policies. He is now saying: 'Let us bring them to heel and make them real Australians'. I trust that all honourable members of this House will regard that statement with repugnance. Does the Leader of the Opposition associate himself with those remarks? If he does not, why does he not repudiate them? Or does the Leader of the Opposition accept what is accepted increasingly as the fact in this country, that the running of Opposition policies is now with the National Party and not with the Liberal Party?