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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1292

Mr STAPLES(3.24) —It is interesting that today the Opposition has raised this matter of public importance, a matter of public importance from its perspective:

The failure of the Hawke Government to expand opportunities for young Australians.

Opposition members are leaving the chamber now. They are not interested in opportunities for young Australians. It is also interesting to note that the Opposition has released only two policies of the whole range of policies which should be out by now and that one of those policies relates to education. It is surprising that the Opposition has released a policy on education when one considers the disarray and argument within the Opposition ranks at the moment. Whichever party or sets of parties one is talking about, it has come to conclusions on one policy-education. Perhaps it is because the Opposition really does not care too much about young people. It is easy to pull up a policy that talks about young people because young people are not really important to Opposition members. They are really after the big profits and getting more money from the white shoe brigade for Sir Joh or whoever.

It is a really sad day today because it shows the sad depths to which this Opposition has fallen. I am tempted to feel sorry for the members of the Opposition, and I would be tempted to feel more sorry for them if it had not been for the gross mismanagement and callous disregard that the Liberal and National parties have shown for the young people of this country. What a load of humbug! The members of the Opposition come in here and talk about the failure of the Hawke Government to expand opportunities for young Australians. They are falling for it hook, line and sinker. By referring to the `failure to expand' they ask us to talk about a comparative record. I would be quite happy to stand here and just talk about what this Government has done. The Opposition has referred to a `failure to expand' and therefore the members of the Opposition will get right between the eyes what they left us and their record compared hard with this Government's record.

I suppose that what prompted all this, what the members of the Opposition are all excited about, is the article in today's Sydney Morning Herald entitled `Hawke and the ALP lose their charm for the young voters'. If that is all they have to get excited about, there is not much joy for them there. All they have is little dull glows in the dark; there is not much to get excited about. Let us look at what this Government has done. This Government is the first government in Australian history to take any real notice of young people. This Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is the first Prime Minister to take any real notice of young people and to recognise that they are not only part of the future but a part of society today. It is just that young people have their own attitudes and places in society; there is not some cheap labour market approach of work for the dole. This Prime Minister understands young people and he cares about their role in the future and the present.

Under the previous Government young people rarely rated a mention. They were shoved around from department to department. For the first time in Australia's history there is now an Office of Youth Affairs which is located in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Prime Minister showed his commitment to young people in his answer in Question Time today. In answering the question from the shadow Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), he showed what has been done in terms of work opportunities and training opportunities. I will reiterate and build on that answer and the honourable member for Lindsay (Mr Free) will talk more about the education areas. I will have my time cut out simply talking about what we have done in terms of employment.

Let us look at teenage employment. The Opposition's record shows that between March 1978 and 1983 teenage employment fell by 10 per cent. There were 67,000 young teenagers who did not get a job during that period. In the period of the Hawke Government from April 1983 to January 1987 teenage employment rose by 11.9 per cent; that is, 75,000 extra jobs. I suppose that honourable members opposite thought that the teenage unemployment rate in February was good for them. They rubbed their hands in glee because they saw a bit of a rise there. Honourable members opposite should not get too excited because that is an isolated monthly figure and, as they know-they are well used to looking at polls because they get a new poll to look at every day-they should not be fooled by a blip; they should look at the trend. The underlying figures show little change. There is no glow of hope for the Opposition in teenage unemployment.

The number of teenagers employed, based on non-seasonally adjusted figures, between August 1973 and August 1983 fell by 10.5 per cent and full time employment declined by 147,000 or 26.3 per cent. Since August 1983 teenage employment has increased by 57,200, or 10 per cent, to 627,000 in August 1986, with teenage full time employment accounting for 24.8 per cent of that growth. That is pretty significant and I do not think anyone can argue with that. The Opposition's record by comparison means that a lot of kids were out of the education system and out of work, and their incomes and their families are suffering now because of the neglect of those opposite when in government. Those teenagers are now young adults, some with families, whose incomes and futures have been blighted by their record in government.

Let us not look at just the Australian comparison, but at the international comparison for youth unemployment-that is, those between the ages of 15 and 24-for those opposite who are not aware of the distinction between `teenage' and `youth'. From 1983 to 1985, the latest reliable international comparators show, youth unemployment in Australia dropped from 17.9 per cent to 14.3 per cent. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figure overall fell only from 17.7 per cent to 16.6 per cent. Australia's performance in youth unemployment has been far better, dropping from 17.9 to 14.3 per cent. The OECD European figure went up from 20.9 to 21.7 per cent. We have taken the problem of teenage unemployment and actually stopped the rise in teenage unemployment. That is quite a significant effort when we consider the changes that have been taking place in our economy.

Mr Cadman —It is still too high.

Mr STAPLES —Of course it is too high, but the Opposition does not provide any reasonable solutions. It has had its opportunity in government to provide reasonable solutions and it has failed. It has not provided reasonable solutions, both in its macroeconomic and unemployment policies.

I return to the program of the Hawke Government. Total government expenditure on labour market programs and services has risen by a massive 98 per cent under this Government. The Opposition would cut into that, of course, as it is going to do away with the community employment program and Jobstart and many other initiatives of the Hawke Government. In the wake of the disastrous 1982-83 recession we were left with a massive unemployment problem. We have turned that around, not only by restructuring the economy and by providing more jobs where the jobs are needed for Australia and for young people, but we have responsed to the need for higher levels of training, skill and education in the Australian community. Work experience assistance under the CEP, which those opposite would throw away, has assisted 109,000 disadvantaged job seekers on worthwhile community projects. Jobstart, the integrated wage subsidy program which was introduced in 1986, will this financial year assist 128,000 people, very many of them young people.

The Australian traineeship system, which the Opposition takes glee in ridiculing and in seeing the low numbers of young people involved, is gradually being introduced. It is a major new vocational training system to help develop the employability of young people, to help give young people the opportunities in non-trades areas of the work force. We now have almost 9,000 traineeships approved in Australia, and approximately 40 per cent of those are in the private sector. The major growth in the traineeship system will, from now on, be in the private sector because that has been the hardest one to get going, obviously because it is very widely scattered and it is very difficult to get people involved in it; but that is where the growth is going to be.

I see the smirks and smiles on the other side, but it is more than they have ever done. Okay, those opposite are not interested in traineeships. Let us talk about apprenticeships and look at their record again. Let us look at what they are saying about this area and about our failure to expand opportunities. Let us look at the opportunities they left to the young people of Australia through apprenticeship programs, which I presume they still support in their policies. When we came to government in 1983 apprenticeships across Australia were down to 34,800. What an appalling record. That is what the Opposition thought about the training opportunities for young people in the trades areas in Australia. That must be a record low. What is it now? Honourable members on the other side would not know, but in 1985-86 it rose from 34,800 to 51,000, and this Government will spend about $122m to assist more young apprentices in 1986-87.

We are trying to build the skills base of Australia, both in the trades area and in the non-trades area, and we are doing that through developing the public education system, the higher education and the vocational training system. Where are the jobs going to be? Under the Opposition's policies they will not be in the heavy engineering area or in the steel, car or textile areas, or wherever. The Opposition, when in government, was in the process of running down the country. All it had people doing was digging holes and quarries for coal and other minerals. That is the level of the opportunities it gave to young Australians. It would give them picks and shovels and send them out to work for the dole digging holes.

The Opposition ruined this country and ruined the opportunities. It gave the young people no opportunities. This Government has set about restructuring Australian manufacturing, where most of the jobs in the cities are-such industries as the steel, automotive, heavy engineering, textile and clothing industries. That is where the jobs are and that is where the training will be. Many of the kids who have been disadvantaged mainly by the atrocious education policies that the Opposition brought in, the kids who do not have the educational ability, the kids who need the training, are often now in community youth support scheme centres, which the Opposition was also going to close down but which have been expanded under this Government. Funding has almost doubled in that area. There are youth access centres to give the kids information so that they know where to go, what their rights are, where they can get training, what they can do and what allowances they can get. The number of youth access centres, an initiative of this Government, will rise from 37 to 100. About one in every three Community Employment Service centres will now have a youth access centre where young people can get information about what they can get from this Government and from society.

This year 15,000 to 20,000 placements are expected in the community volunteer program. I thought honourable members opposite would enjoy hearing that and would applaud it, but no, there is not a word about it from them. We have Jobstart, formal training for youth, the community youth support scheme-that is the only thing those opposite ever did, and even then they want to close it down-the community employment program, the Australian traineeship scheme and the youth access program.

Young people form the focus of this Government's labour market programs. An amount of $430m-almost two-thirds of the Government's expenditure in this area-will be spent on young people between the ages of 15 and 24. It is expected that 280,000 young people will be directly assisted. It goes on and on, and those opposite have the gall and cheek to come in here and talk about the failure of the Hawke Government to expand opportunities for young Australians. I suppose they have been ferreting around in the surveys of the Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls Pty Ltd, surveys which their governments would never have done, to find dull glows of hope in the negativism of those surveys. Well, the ANOP survey clearly shows that this Government's youth strategy is in line with the attitudes and views of young Australians. It clearly shows that there is a substantial and high level of support for this Government's efforts to improve school retention rates and income support, to develop traineeships, and to provide community work opportunities for unemployed young people.

Young people are placing more emphasis on the need for Government policy to be directed towards better training, better education and other mechanisms for obtaining jobs. That is good, and that is what this Government is doing. To increase that even further we have just announced a comprehensive school information program to let young people in the schools know what their futures can be-what they can expect. My time has run out. This matter of public importance has made my day.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.