Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1980

Senator HARRADINE(3.09) —Unless Australian political leaders face up to the social as well as the economic aspects of the unemployment problem the economic costs will pale into insignificance compared with the cost to society of social and political disruption and dislocation. This warning, which I and others, such as the former Director of the Confederation of Australian Industry, George Polites, have voiced over a number of years is as relevant today as it was four years ago. The problems of the jobless are not going away, despite the much trumpeted increase in the number of jobs. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics seasonally adjusted September figures, 628,000 Australians are unemployed, not counting the 116,000 discouraged workers, the 205,700 part timers who would prefer full time work and the 37,500 full timers who are on short time or who have been stood down. Today I concentrate on the plight of the 155,000 unemployed young people from 15 to 19 years of age who are the victims of our refusal to face the facts of unemployment.

One in every five of our young Australians seeking work cannot find a job. In my State of Tasmania, 33 per cent of the male youth work force is unemployed, with 31 per cent in areas outside the metropolitan area of Hobart unemployed. Girls from 15 to 19 years of age are not much better off, with an unemployment rate of 25 per cent in areas outside the metropolitan area of Hobart. Almost half of the 155,000 unemployed youth have been out of work for at least six months and over 10,000 of them for more than two years. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard ABS figures relating to the duration of unemployment.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

The following chart provides an analysis of the duration of unemployment in Australia both for teenagers and for total unemployed.

Unemployed Duration of unemployment (weeks)

Age 15-19 Total

Under 2 weeks 9,883 34,249 2 weeks and under 4 17,339 56,892 4 weeks and under 8 19,375 64,117 8 weeks and under 13 17,937 58,916 13 and under 26 21,952 80, 478 26 and under 39 33,733 95,086 39 and under 52 8,468 26,284 52 and under 65 7,811 46,904 65 and under 78 974 11,344 78 and under 91 6,791 31,471 91 and 104 546 6,349 104 and over 10,098 92,519 Total unemployed/average duration 154,905 /28.9 weeks 604,61/ 45.5 weeks

(Labour Force Estimates August, 1984 from ABS table UX2 GRP 600 Australian Unemployed Persons-Duration of Unemployment (totals do not balance due to rounding)

Senator HARRADINE —In the 10 years from 1974 to 1984, the average duration of unemployment for male youths increased from seven weeks to 29 weeks and, for female youths, from eight weeks to 29 weeks. At present over 300,000 Australians have been unemployed for over six months and 92,500 Australians have been unemployed for two years or more. The following table from the Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force catalogue shows the average unemployment duration by age and sex from 1966 to 1984. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Males aged 15-19 Males total Females aged 15-19 Females total Year

(in weeks) (in weeks) (in weeks) (in weeks)

1966 2.6 2.8 3.5 3.2 1967 2.7 2.7 3.0 3.3 1968 8.6 7.9 11.4 9.7 1969 7.3 7.9 7.2 6.9 1970 3.9 7.5 6.4 7.1 1971 5.4 6.3 5.4 6.8 1972 6.5 9.5 8.1 9.8 1973 5.5 8.7 10.2 9.8 1974 7.3 6.7 8.1 6.3 1975 12.5 12.7 13.7 12.8 1976 19.5 18.1 17.6 16.7 1977 19.8 21.4 22.3 20.4 1978 19.9 25.4 27.2 27.2 1979 23.0 29.8 24. 9 26.1 1980 21.4 31.7 25.0 28.1 1981 20.2 34.3 23.8 28.7 1982 21.5 33.8 26.7 31.3 1983 32.0 42.5 32.1 39.9 1984 28.6 48.6 29.2 40.1

(ABS The Labour Force Catalogue Nos 6203.0, 6204.0 for various years)

Senator HARRADINE —The cost both to the unemployed themselves and to the community generally is enormous. In just 10 years from 1974 to 1984 the Government pay-out of unemployment benefit alone has increased by over 2,600 per cent from $107m to $2.9 billion. We must add to this amount the taxation revenue that has been forgone, expenditure on government-funded projects and subsidies for the unemployed and departmental administrative costs. It has been estimated by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistics Group that the total cost to the Commonwealth of unemployment in 1983-84 was in the vicinity of $4.37 billion. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


Estimate of total cost to the Commonwealth Government of Unemployment, 1983-84

$m Paid out on

Unemployment benefits 2,970.0 Unemployment relief 30.0 Relocation assistance 4.9 3,004.9(a)

Payments to States

Special Employment Programs (Wage Pause) 97.6 Community Employment Program 243.8 341.4(b)

(c) Estimate of personal income tax and Medicare Levy foregone 1,030.4*


*Budget Paper No. 1, p. 139 indicates an average of 619,600 Unemployment Beneficiaries in 1983-84. For the purpose of this exercise an average taxable income of $10,000 has been assumed and the 619,600 ''taxpayers'' would have paid -tax $1,621.50 and Medicare Levy $41.60 each in 1983-84. This figure of $m 1,030 .4 should be treated with caution, as should the total of $m 4,376.7.

(a) See Budget Paper No. 1, Budget Statements 1984-85, pages 115, 139 and 140.

(b) See Budget Paper No. 7, Payments to or for the States, Northern Territory and Local Government Authorities 1984-85, pages 76, 77 and 168.

(c) Not adjusted for income tax claw-back. Also does not include contributions from State Governments' own funds.

Senator HARRADINE —The costs associated with the criminal activities of the unemployed should not be overlooked. Statistics of crime in my State of Tasmania for 1983 show that unemployed young persons proportionately committed far more offences than other young persons in their age group. For instance, 54 per cent of offences for breaking and entering by 15-year-olds to 19-year-olds placed before the lower courts were committed by unemployed youth. Seventy per cent of motor vehicle thefts, 60 per cent of drunkenness offences, 58 per cent of fraud cases, 50 per cent of shop lifting, 48 per cent of assaults and 41 per cent of possession and/or use of drugs were committed by unemployed youth. The above economic costs of unemployment, even though they are enormous in themselves, are only part of the total cost to the unemployed themselves and to the Australian community.

The total cost including the social and emotional damage will spread over many years and is impossible to estimate. The 621,000 unemployed Australians and their families are under enormous stress. Unemployed bread winners and single persons are losing or have lost their confidence. An unnecessary burden, as indicated in the terms of my matter of public importance, is being placed on marriages and family relations. This surely is a matter of the greatest public importance. It concerns us all-Government, Opposition, Democrats and Independent . Catchcries blaming high youth wages or panaceas promoting job sharing or part time work are just not good enough as answers or solutions to the problem.

In regard to the much vaunted allegation about alleged high youth wages, I have figures to prove that, for example, in the retail industry in New South Wales, although the junior wage percentages of the senior wage have increased, the employment ratio of juniors to seniors-that is full timers-is the same now as it was in 1907. In fact if we take into account casuals, juniors far outnumber the seniors. So it cannot be said that junior wages in that industry are a deterrent to the employment of juniors.

So far as job sharing and part time work are concerned, of course there is a place for part time work. But is this a panacea? Is this panacea any good for those seeking full time work? I know many workers who would like to share their jobs but, of course, cannot share their pay because they do not earn enough.

I sought to bring this matter before the Senate in a purely non-political and non-partisan way. I was prevented from doing so by the Standing Orders because something to do with the Government must be included in the question to be put before the Parliament. What is or has been the Government's response? The Government will say, and I acknowledge, that it has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at reducing the level of unemployment and providing assistance and training to the unemployed. But I think the Government will concede, as I certainly have discovered after study of the subject, that many of these programs have proved expensive and generally ineffective.

If time permits I would like to comment particularly on three programs-the special youth employment training program, the national apprentice assistance scheme and the community employment program. I think time will probably not permit me to go into all of them. But I will make some brief comments on the special youth employment training program. A report published by the Bureau of Labour Market Research in 1983 indicated that over 44 per cent of the program's participants either voluntarily withdrew or were sacked from their positions even before the end of the subsidy period. Unfortunately, figures are not available to show retention rates after completion of the subsidy period. However, many employers have a different attitude to appointees once a government subsidy has elapsed.

With respect to the community employment program, it has not provided anywhere near the level of employment initially forecast by the Government. But, besides these programs, the Government has introduced measures to encourage youth to stay longer at school. It has introduced a number of measures. But I would have thought that, if this Government or successive governments were interested in long term employment for youth, they would long ago have stopped the discrimination directed against youth in employment by the Commonwealth Public Service and indeed by the State public services. The Bureau of Labour Market Research report entitled 'Teenage Employment in the public Sector-Where have all the Jobs Gone?' noted:

If the age structure of the public sector employment in 1981 had been the same as in 1971 there would have been an additional 50,000 teenagers in the public sector in 1981.

From these facts, an inescapable conclusion must be that successive governments, both State and Federal, have sold out our youth during the past 10 years. I am glad to see that the Public Service Board report is coming down today. I will further elaborate on the discrimination that has been exercised against youth by public services under the direct control of successive governments both State and Federal. But overall, and underlying the Government's responses, its major response, when the question of unemployment is raised, is: 'Let us get the economy right and we will get unemployment right'. I heard Malcolm Fraser say the same thing. But recognising all of that, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Bill Kelty, in an address to the annual congress of the Australian Council of Social Service, reminded his audience that unemployment has increased by 400 per cent in 10 years and that Australia faces the possibility of a 25 per cent unemployment rate by 1990. That is a gloomy prospect indeed and one which should be tackled over and beyond party political point scoring. Faced with this gloomy prospect, should we allow a situation to exist which enables jobs to be destroyed by the wholesale application of automation and technological change? Should we allow a situation to exist which forces people to stay in the paid work force when they have better reasons to be out of the very jobs which could be taken by the unemployed. I remind honourable senators of the terms of my motion which are:

The need for the Government to take further action to relieve the unfair and unnecessary burden of youth unemployment.

It is in the area that I am about to address that further action should be taken . I believe that too many people at both State and Federal government levels and in industry worship at the altar of automation. Why do we not call a halt to the introduction of job destroying technology in certain areas which were always areas of large youth employment? I do not have time to go into that. What of the other social aspect, of forcing people to stay in the work force when they have better reason to be out of the paid work force? Included amongst those people are persons who desire to retire but cannot because of the substantial loss in their standard of living. Already statistics show that more and more persons over the age of 55 are retiring despite the fact that they are losing out economically. Why do we not understand this desire to retire on the part of many workers in Australia? Why do we not develop programs and policies which will encourage such retirement and leave the jobs for others at the other end of the spectrum?

Another group of people, numbering hundreds of thousands, are mothers in the paid work force who have no choice but to stay in the work force because they are forced to do so either through socially created want or through need. They are forced to stay in the work force because family policies have not been properly attended to. They are forced to stay in the work force because they have little economic choice. A fact of life is that tax changes in recent years have particularly disadvantaged families with children. I am not talking of only this Government's policies. The family income earner on average weekly earnings, with a dependent spouse and two children, now pays about 20 per cent of his earnings in income tax compared with the 10 per cent that would have been paid in the early 1970s. The family allowance has not been increased. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library showing how the family allowance has decreased in value since 1976.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


($ per month)

Existing Estimated at

May 1976 (a) May 1984 (b) Loss(c)

First Child 15.20 22.80 33.00 10.20 Second Child 21.70 32.55 47.15 14.60 Third Child 26.00 39.00 56.50 17.50 Fourth Child 26.00 39.00 56.50 17.50 Fifth and Subsequent Children 30.35 45.55 65.90 20.35

(a) Actual rates as at May 1984.

(b) Rate from May 1984 if May 1976 rates had been indexed by movements in the Consumer Price Index.

(c) Difference between Estimated and Existing rates.

Senator HARRADINE —The dependent spouse rebate has not been increased, despite the clear undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) before the 1983 election. We have come to the stage where Australia must take a good look at the facts of the problem. For far too long the people of Australia have not been told the facts. Of course the truth is that there is a social as well as an economic aspect to the unemployment problem. I agree that we should have regard to the economic aspect, but I believe that concentration on the economic aspect alone will not solve the problem. For my authority I have no less a person than the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, who publicly recognised this fact in an address in his John Curtin Memorial Lecture of September 1983, when he said:

The plain fact is that no Government in Australia will now, or in the foreseeable future, solve the problem of unemployment solely through the available methods of increasing the supply of jobs. At least equal attention must be paid to the question of reducing the demands for jobs by helping to provide socially constructive alternatives.

What more socially constructive work is there in Australia than the nurturing, care and development of one's own children? So many mothers with dependent children are forced by economic pressures to keep down another job. It is unfair to them, to the young unemployed and to the whole community to allow this situation to continue. What we need is some affirmative action for the young unemployed. In particular, we need some affirmative action in the Public Service . We need affirmative action for mothers and their children.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.