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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 78

Senator ROBERTSON —I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to the important package of initiatives contained in the Budget designed to improve the position of young people in the community. Can the Minister comment on the importance of these initiatives? In particular, what does the Government plan to do about one of the main disincentives--

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator ROBERTSON —I can understand those on the other side being concerned because they did nothing.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator will ask his question.

Senator ROBERTSON —What does the Government plan to do about one of the main disincentives to the employment of young people, namely, payroll tax and workers compensation?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Robertson is right as usual in his perceptions about some of these matters. He is an astute politician. He has analysed some of the key elements in the Budget and has drawn attention to them in his question. Of course, that has not been manifest in any questions which have been asked from the Opposition side of the House so far today.

Of course, I think one can modestly say that the Government has had some success in bringing down the rate of youth unemployment in Australia. But the problem of opportunities for young people is still significant and is much wider than the simple question of statistics in relation to employment. Since the Government came to office, about 76,000 more jobs have been created for young people. There have been, of course, structural changes in the economy. The difficulties which young people have had with welfare needs, housing and health necessitate positive government action.

The Budget contains a series of related measures, perhaps for the first time in the history of Federal government in this country, to deal with some of these problems. First of all, there is the provision of a traineeship system which is targeted to produce 10,000 traineeships this year and 75,000 traineeships when fully implemented in 1988-89. Secondly, from January 1986 a new wage subsidy program will be brought in which will integrate the existing schemes of which there are a number. That will be done at a cost of $142m in that year.

There will also be an increased allocation to the Commonwealth Employment Service of $2.9m to enable it to improve the quality of its services to young people. Further, in Senator Ryan's area-if I might stress again, a very importantly related area in terms of trying to grapple with this situation-an extra 20,500 places in higher education will be provided over the 1985-1987 triennium. There will be increased expenditure on tertiary education for that and other purposes. There will be a rationalisation of income support and higher levels of assistance for young people out of work. Additionally, there will be a range of improved support services for young people.

Details of the extensive range of these measures, which represent a very positive commitment to the problems that young people have in this community, are contained in the Budget and in the Budget Papers. As I said at the beginning of this answer, they also represent an integrated approach to a very complex and difficult problem. I commend to the Senate the reading of the Budget Papers in respect of those matters.

Finally, Senator Robertson particularly asked me about the relationship between workers compensation and payroll tax and young employees. That is an important issue across the whole area of employment whether it involves young employees or adult employees. Yesterday the Prime Minister wrote to all State Premiers seeking early discussions on ways to remove these impositions or impediments to the employment of young people. I am speaking about the add-on cost of payroll tax and workers compensation premiums. Of course, these are State imposts, not Federal government imposts.

The Commonwealth is hopeful of reaching early agreement with the States to eliminate these imposts. This is another measure related to the broad package of youth employment and training initiatives to which I referred early in my answer.