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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 329

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to a proposal that the payment of the unemployment benefit to young people should be conditional upon their undertaking a course of instruction in a tertiary institution for a period of two or three days a week? Further, can the Minister say whether the proposal is feasible and what would be the cost of implementing any such proposal?

Senator WALSH —I do not think I can answer off the top of my head whether it is feasible in the physical, mechanical sense, although an obvious implication is that there would be a huge influx of students into institutions. So, prima facie, it would appear that it is not possible, even in the physical, mechanical sense, to do what the present Leader of the Opposition suggested. However, based on the assumption that the cost of providing this tuition for that number of people was the same as the average cost of providing tuition in technical and further education colleges at present, I can tell Senator Jones and anybody else who is interested that the Opposition Leader's proposal would cost $600m a year in additional outlays if the unemployed were to spend two and a half days a week, or 50 per cent of a full time course, at a TAFE college. If they were to do it at a college of advanced education or university the cost would be appreciably higher.

This is just another example of ill-considered ideological prescriptions for vast increases in government spending in a wild and scattergun manner. By contrast, the Government does recognise the importance of youth education and training to develop skills for young people which will benefit them and society as a whole. That recognition was embodied in the youth policy announced by the Prime Minister on Budget night. So the contrast between the two parties on this question is that, whereas the Opposition Leader shoots from the hip in a wild commitment for a minimum additional $600m of expenditure, the Government planned in a rational and disciplined way.

If I may offer a little more gratuitous advice to Senator Messner, who, according to Senator Rae, by grace of the Sydney Stock Exchange has replaced him as the Opposition spokesman for Finance, I suggest that he try to restrain his Leader from his propensity for irresponsible spending proposals lest he lumber the Liberal Party Opposition with yet another prospective $10 billion deficit.