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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15439

Dr SOUTHCOTT (2:11 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Minister, would you inform the House of the employment figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning? What do these figures indicate about the success of the government's workplace relations reforms put in place over the last four years?

Mr REITH (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Boothby for his question. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest labour force data this morning. The unemployment rate for the month of March was 6.9 per cent. This actually is a pretty good number. It ticked up from 6.7, but when you look behind the 6.9 there are some very good figures. For example, whilst total employment grew by 8,300 in March, in fact the number of full-time jobs created, on the seasonally adjusted basis, was 27,000. That is a very strong performance and reflects the very positive news we have had in respect of employment over the last 12 months, where the number has grown by 2.9 per cent. In fact, more than 70 per cent of that employment growth over the last year has been full-time, real jobs, providing real work opportunities for people. The figure also needs to be seen against the backdrop where the participation rate ticked up on this occasion by 0.1 per cent. The figure was 63.6 per cent in March. That compares very favourably to the figure of 62.4, which was the average figure during Labor's 13 years in office.

Mr Beazley —It was 3.8 when you came into office.

Mr REITH —If you want to talk about `since we have been in office', 662,200 jobs have been created since we were in office and the rate of unemployment has dropped from 8.5, which you left us, to 6.9 per cent now. Just to look at the numbers in detail, one of the particularly good numbers is the teenage full-time unemployment rate. It fell. But the figure for young people looking for full-time jobs, at 4.9 per cent, is the lowest level since 1978. Can I conclude by saying that this obviously reflects many of the changes that we have made in the management of the Australian economy, including workplace relations, the changes that have been made to getting the national budget back into order after the $10.3 billion deficit that we inherited from the now Leader of the Opposition.

While we have been making those changes, which have been producing these good benefits for people—giving them the chance of a job—the Labor Party have been opposing them. They have opposed us every step of the way, while what we have been doing has in fact been providing jobs. Yesterday we saw it again. The opposition now to Australian workplace agreements just demonstrates that, when it comes to policy, if the unions want it the Labor Party say, `Anything you want.' When it comes to doing something to give young people a chance of a job, you do what the unions tell you to do. These figures demonstrate that with strong economic management in the national interest we can continue to do better, and the people who are opposed to further reform and who have opposed the reforms that have produced these good results are the members of the Labor Party.