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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1758

Madam SPEAKER —I call the honourable member for Groom.

Mr Young —The Leader!

Mr McVEIGH —Madam Speaker, I think you should protect me, otherwise I will report government members to Sir Robert and Sir Joh. My question without notice is directed to the friend of Sir Joh, the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the workfare program currently operating in 39 of the 50 American states, and which is under serious consideration by the Thatcher Government, whereby social security payments to the unemployed are cut if they refuse to undergo some form of community employment or training? Will the Prime Minister give consideration to the introduction of a similar program in the light of our increasing welfare bill?

Mr HAWKE —I have noticed some discussion in the Press about programs in the United States. I must confess that I did not hear the precise title of the scheme.

Mr McVeigh —Workfare.

Mr HAWKE —I have seen reference to this in the Press. I have seen also some memoranda which refer to this scheme. But let me make it quite clear to the honourable member that we on this side of the House reject the concept of a compulsory work scheme.

Mr Connolly —You wanted it last year.

Mr HAWKE —I must say to the honourable member that he cannot have it both ways. The fact is that if we were to establish a compulsory work scheme we would require a totally new layer of bureaucracy to administer it and the calculations are that it would cost about $700m a year. The Government, through my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, has established a community volunteer program after very extensive consultations with voluntary organisations in the community. The idea, which I think the honourable member would agree with, is that we want to get as many voluntary organisations as possible in the community to provide opportunities for doing valuable community work which will be made available to the unemployed. That would make sense both from the community's point of view and, most significantly, from the point of view of the unemployed themselves because the survey that we have undertaken of attitudes, particularly of young people, has found that overwhelmingly the young unemployed say that they would prefer to be in a situation where they could do something of value for the community rather than having the totally negative relationship with the community of taking the dole cheque. We believe that that is an admir- able attitude on their part.

We have certainly received from community organisations in Australia a great deal of positive, constructive co-operation. It is my belief that when this program gets under way it will encompass the idea that is in the honourable member's mind-that is, that there should be something done by the unemployed where there is not normal work available. That is what is in the honourable member's mind. That idea makes sense. It certainly makes sense from the point of view of the young unemployed themselves. What we are trying to do is match the desire of the young people themselves with the attitude of community organisations. We believe that what we are doing will be successful and that it makes more social and certainly more economic sense to approach this matter in that way. I do not believe that we can begin to justify the creation of a new bureaucratic framework costing $700m to do something that, in any event, would not work.