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Thursday, 21 June 2001
Page: 28415

Mr SAWFORD (1:16 PM) —The recent UK election had a particular interest to me on three counts: firstly, it was the first time the British Labour Party had won consecutive governments; secondly, I had a family connection through the involvement of my cousin, Phil Sawford, the member for Kettering, who was elected as the most marginal Labour member in 1997, and whom I met in Westminster in June 1997. It is interesting that Kettering, which is just outside Northampton, is where my great-grandfather came from in 1850. He arrived in Australia in 1851. Phil Sawford is a Labour member, and I am a Labor member. There is some continuity in the family. The third reason that I was interested in the UK election was that I learned in a newspaper article that Patricia Hewitt, an Australian by birth, the daughter of Sir Lennox Hewitt, was also a victor in that election for Labour and was appointed to the Blair ministry.

Patricia Hewitt is a very important person in the employment debate in the developed world. She was once the chief executive officer of the London institute of public affairs. One of the arguments that she put forward, I think in the late 1980s, was that consideration be given to the reduction in working-time organisation. This is a proposition that has been discredited by financial writers, academics and people within the labour studies faculties around Australian universities. But they are wrong and Patricia Hewitt was right.

What she was saying effectively was that, in the employment debate around the world, no debate is complete unless you take into consideration the reduction in working-time organisation. One of the great criticisms of this reduction in working-time organisation is that it suffers from what the critics say is a `lump of output' fallacy. What they mean by that is that there is only a certain amount of work to be done and people can only move in and out of employment. I think that that is nonsense and is fallacious in itself.

If you look at the records in the United Kingdom of how British men have worked for the last 100 years, or rather from 1881 to 1981, you will find that they used to work 154,000 hours over a period of 56 years, but that in 1981, they were working for, say, 88,000 hours over 48 years. The economists' argument is basically that if you have a reduction-of-hours policy, like the French have, you actually reduce opportunities for employment. That is absolute nonsense.

We have a situation around the world where more and more people are working longer and longer hours. Productivity in the last 20 years has actually stalled. The big grunt in productivity increase happened in the period after the Second World War up until 1980. If you examined and made an analysis of what had happened in that particular time, you would find that capital investment in the world quadrupled. You would also find that manufacturing output tripled and energy consumption tripled. But—and here is the real catch—employment growth actually grew by one-third.

Patricia Hewitt, I hope, will be one of those people in the Blair Labour government who will work assiduously to make the employment debate far more complete. When people look at the raw figures about unemployment in this country they generally think: seven per cent unemployment, 700,000 unemployed—and the figure goes up, the figure goes down. That figure, before 1980, was an accurate figure because overemployment and underemployment were not significant. But today those two issues are. Overemployment impacts on over a third of Australians who are working more than 50 hours per week. Underemployment—those who want to work full time but unfortunately are only offered limited hours—now affects at least seven per cent of the population—700,000. Those people who are not even included in the ABS statistics—those who want to work but who are excluded from the labour market figures—also equate to 700,000 people. (Time expired)