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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1739

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to his not too immodest comments in recent times in respect of this Government's achievements and performance in the creation of jobs during its period of office. I ask him: Is it a fact that since February 1983-I use that as a bottom line, to assist him-and August 1984 there has been in fact a decline in employment in the productive areas of Australia such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, transport and storage but only a very modest increase in construction, to the extent of something slightly less than 1,000, and a very modest increase also in wholesale and retail services? Is it a fact that by comparison there has been a significant increase in employment in public administration and community services-areas of course dominated by government employees? Is it a fact that employment in these two areas has increased by 8.4 per cent and 11.4 per cent respectively since the Labor Government took office, and is it a fact that collectively these two areas have accounted for 139,000 of the jobs created, which this Government claims is some sort of achievement? In that case, is it not a fact that the great majority of jobs which this Government claims have been created are in the public sector and not in the productive private sector?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Crichton-Browne asked me about 28 questions and I shall endeavour to deal with them. I say at the beginning that, even if the statistics which he bodgied up for the purpose of this question are correct--

Senator Crichton-Browne —They are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They are not bodgied up.

Senator BUTTON —The honourable senator should not get excited. The important question is: So what? Let me explain the position. It is true that there has been a slight decline in agricultural employment in the last 18 months, as I believe there has been a decline every year for the past 20 years, and certainly a marked decline over a period of two decades.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Mining?

Senator BUTTON —It is true that there has been a decline in mining employment. Senator Crichton-Browne will recall the heady days of the resources boom, of which he was one of the most articulate sorcerers in this place. The resources boom was to lead to the creation of up to 500,000 extra jobs in the mining industry. Those were the sorts of anticipations that were falsely created by previous governments in relation to mining employment-something that was always dissented from by the then Opposition. In regard to manufacturing employment, yes, there has been a slight decline in that sector.

Senator Boswell —What else is left?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Boswell asks: What else is left? If the Australian community as a whole were employed at the low rate of activity at which Senator Boswell is employed in this place, an enormous area would be left, but most people are much more productively employed than he is. I do not know whether Senator Crichton-Browne's figures are correct in regard to transport, but if they are they are very marginal. In order to make a point out of his question, Senator Crichton-Browne points to the increase in public sector employment. It is true that there has been an increase in public sector and community service employment, something that has been happening for a number of years and happened under the previous Government. The increase in State public sector employment under the previous Government was quite considerable. I would think that it is difficult to draw any particular political point from that.

There are two areas which Senator Crichton-Browne very carefully leaves out of his question. I refer, for example, to the financial services area where there has been a significant increase in employment but, because he wants to make a point, he does not mention that. Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in employment in tourism. Again, because he wants to make a political point, he does not mention that aspect either. The substantial increases in employment in the finance and tourism sectors-Senator Boswell ought to know about the tourism sector because it is the only area in which there has been an increase in employment recorded in his State, as I recall-are most important.

Senator Crichton-Browne might know that over a number of years in all Western economies there has been a move from primary sector employment and manufacturing sector employment to so-called tertiary sector employment. That is a move from which Australia is not immune and has not been immune for many years. If one examines employment changes in Japan, one sees that the employment change from the manufacturing sector to the tertiary sector is extremely significant. In fact, it is enormous compared with this country. The same sort of pattern of events has occurred in the United States of America. This Government, in common with any responsible government, has to be concerned about aggregate levels of employment. The Government cannot say that there will always be employment for 500 candlestick makers in Australia if people are not particularly interested in using candles. I use a simple analogy so that it will be understood by Senator Boswell, Senator Lewis and Senator Crichton-Browne. One cannot say that employment will be fixed immutably in particular trades, occupations, professions or industries. That will not happen. Governments have to be concerned with aggregate employment. This Government is concerned about aggregate employment and has reduced the unemployment rate by several percentage points since it came into office. The Government has created 250,000 new jobs, which should be compared with the shabby record of the previous Government-a government that produced the highest unemployment since the Great Depression.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a supplementary question. Will he confirm that the majority of jobs created have been in the public sector? Will he please explain how finance servicing in terms of creating employment directly and tangibly affects our export earnings?

Senator BUTTON —That is an extraordinary question coming from Senator Crichton- Browne, who I always thought was an advocate of freeing the financial sector and encouraging employment in that area. That is not a supplementary question, though the first part of the question was. I cannot give precise figures, but I would concede that at least half the jobs created have been in government services of one kind or another-in Federal, State, or local government, statutory instrumentalities or companies run by those various arms of government . There is nothing magical or new about that. All it indicates is that the private sector, which has been undergoing great change in manufacturing in particular and is alert to the importance of new technology, is not employing as many people as it might. I could be asked a further supplementary question about private sector investment some other time and we could deal with that.