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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 512

Mr VINER (Stirling) (Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs) - We have not heard anything new in the debate this afternoon. It has covered exactly the same ground as was covered in a debate in this House on 25 March this year. The people of Australia are not being offered anything new by way of policy or argument on behalf of the Opposition. It is clear that there is a difference of view between the Opposition and the Government on how to tackle the matter of unemployment. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) made the rather trite observation that nothing but job creation will get people back to work. At the centre of the issue is the question of whether jobs are created substantially by obtaining growth in the economy through private enterprise or by spending the taxpayers' money, that is, by a government-funded job creation program whereby the community is asked to pay higher and higher taxes and to put more and more money into the hands of government and the government decides where to invest and spend that money. That, of course, is the clear distinction between the socialist philosophy of taking money from the people by way of tax and then letting the government decide where to spend it and the Liberal philosophy of leaving money with the people so that they can make their own choices and their own decisions as to investment and thereby produce growth in the economy.

The Government has said very clearly and unashamedly that it follows the private enterprise philosophy. The facts bear out the success of our philosophy not only during the last five years but also in the post-war period. Can anybody deny that Australia has prospered under the private enterprise polices of former Liberal-National Country Party governments? Can anybody deny that Australia suffered seriously under the socialist economic policies of the Whitlam Government, led by people such as Dr Jim Cairns and the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) when he was Treasurer?

As I said in the debate on 25 March, the Opposition is now putting forward precisely the same job creation proposals as it abandoned when the Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer in 1975. 1 refer, of course, to the well-known Regional Employment Development Scheme. This scheme was not only well known but also greatly discredited. It could not succeed and it did not succeed. It was acknowledged by the Labor Government of the day to be a failure. Rather than pour more and more money into such job creation schemes, the Labor Government abandoned that policy in its 1975 Budget. That cannt be denied because it is on record. Let me put one other simple proposition which I am sure the people of Australia will appreciate. If the spending of more and more of the taxpayers' money by the Government were the answer to unemployment, the Whitlam Government would have solved the unemployment problem overnight. Any government in the world would be able to solve the unemployment problem overnight simply by levying more and more taxes on the people and spending more and more money on so-called job creation schemes. Honourable members and the public know that that kind of economic policy and social policy has been a failure throughout the world. As I have said, if the spending of government money were the simple answer to unemployment, the problem of unemployment would have been solved many years ago.

Let me point out to honourable members what has happened over the last 1 2 months in particular to indicate the very strong growth in employment throughout 1979 and 1980. Between June 1979 and June 1980 total employment increased by 1 75,000 persons. That figure comprised 60,700 males and 114,400 females- 77,000 unmarried women and 37,400 married women. Some 130,700 people included in that figure of 175,100 were in full time employment. The bulk of the growth in 12 months has been in full time employment. Between June 1 979 and June 1 980 total employment increased by 175,100. In fact, the yearonyear increase in employment has been in excess of 100,000 persons, since September 1979. That means a persistent and sustained growth in the number qf people employed and compares very favourably with the four years up to 1978 when the average annual increase in employment was only about 30,000. As I have said, since September 1979 the annual increase has been in excess of 100,000 persons.

One of the reasons that unemployment has not reduced in direct correlation to the increase in employment is that the economy has been sufficiently strong to absorb that growth in employment. Because it has been so strong it has attracted more people into the labour force. People know that the economy is stronger and that job opportunities are greater; therefore they are being attracted into the labour force. In fact, this is reflected in the strong rise in the labour force participation rate.

Mr Dawkins - Do you believe that?

Mr VINER - Perhaps the honourable member for Fremantle read some economics at some time, and labour economics in particular, and will understand what is involved in the participation rate. I repeat that this trend is reflected in the strong rise in the labour force participation rate. It has risen from an average of 60.7 per cent in the June quarter of 1979 to an average of 61.3 per cent in the June quarter of 1980. In other words, significantly more people are seeking work because they know that the economy is stronger.

As I advised the House in a debate on 25 March of this year, the cost of the Labor Government's job creation proposals is about $ 1,000m. That has not been denied in this debate today.

Mr Young - Yes it has.

Mr VINER - It has not been denied because the Opposition knows that the costing that I put forward in March this year is correct. The job creation proposal will be a cost to the taxpayer. The Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) provides a domestic surplus of $39m. The Labor Party proposals mean that the Labor Party will have to ask the taxpayer to go into debt by $1 ,000m or will have to increase taxes in order to raise that $ 1,000m. How can the Labor Party put forward a proposition in one breath to spend $ 1 ,000m more on job creation proposals- this can be done only by increasing the debt or raising taxes - and in the other breath claim it will cut taxes?

I am quite sure, come the election time that the honourable member for Port Adelaide was speaking about, that one of the key policies of the Labor Party will be a promise to cut taxes. If that is so, the economic logic - let alone the figures - means that if taxes are cut to finance this sort of program the debt will be increased even further, and so there will be a higher deficit. As I said before when referring the House to the Whitlam days, if money alone were the answer to unemployment we would have seen unemployment dealt with overnight. We know that that is not the answer because of the experience of the Whitlam years. I remind the House again that between August 1973 and August 1975- that might be said to be the heyday of the Whitlam Government - the number of unemployed looking for fulltime work rose from 67,200 to 21 5,500. That was an increase of 210 per cent. The Whitlam Government spent more money more liberally than any other government in Australian history. Let not the Opposition in this House try to tell the Australian people that by spending $ 1,000m unemployment will be solved overnight. The man in the street knows that the only way in which Australia can create work for its people is by economic growth. The only way to see the economy grow is to provide the industrial and commercial environment for private people to be prepared to invest their money, that is, to risk their capital, and in that way to employ people. Over the last 1 2 months, without any cost to the taxpayer and by way of publicly funded job creation programs, employment has increased by 1 75,000.

Let me outline some of the things that the Government will be doing in this year's Budget to help the unemployed and the work force generally. About 236,000 Australians will be assisted under the Government's manpower, training and youth support programs. More than 100,000 people will be assisted under the National Employment and Training Program; 90,000 people will be assisted under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training; and 52,000 will be assisted under the Community Youth Support Scheme. The Government will spend $ 138.57m. I like to think of this as an investment in the future of young Australians and as an investment in the retraining and training of older Australians. The allocation for the manpower, training and youth support programs represents an increase of $25m or 22 per cent over what was spent last year. That is not a bad record for my Department. In fact, the Government is investing $56.6m in the training of apprentices - an increase of $13.8m or 32 per cent on the 1979-80 expenditure.

We will help the handicapped into open employment as distinct from sheltered employment. We will increase by $1 .3m the money that is available to my Department in this area. The total will now be $2.3m. Out of that, $300,000 will be spent on a national program to promote employment and training opportunities for the handicapped. In occupational information, which is so utterly vital for our young people, particularly those leaving school, we will spend $162m - an increase of 1 88 per cent. We aim to provide careers libraries to all Australian secondary schools. Let me repeat that: We aim to provide careers libraries to all Australian secondary schools.

Let us look at the Government's record over the last few years which has been so maligned by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. The programs of the Fraser Government over that time have assisted more than 570,000 people. That number is expected to rise to nearly 800,000 by the end of this financial year. Let nobody in the Opposition say that those figures demonstrate a lack of concern by this Government for our young people or for our unemployed. The figures demonstrate that we are prepared to invest the taxpayers' money effectively in order to provide them with greater opportunities for training and work experience and also to provide support, if it is needed, while they are seeking work.

I mention in particular the new Budget measures to encourage part time work for those unemployed by lifting the allowable income that the unemployed may earn. That is something about which all of us have received representations. 1 think of all the matters that have come forward in the Budget - and there are many, particularly in the social security and the labour and employment area- this one will be of the greatest benefit to the young unemployed. It will particularly help those young people who are suffering from a long period of unemployment. It will enable them to earn more without losing their unemployment benefit. It will keep them in the work force and keep their motivation and morale high while they are seeking full time employment. I draw that matter to the attention of the House because it will be of great benefit to the unemployed.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The Minister's time has expired.

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