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Thursday, 12 September 1985
Page: 501

Senator HARRADINE — My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters. Does the Minister recall my asking him a question in the autumn session which revealed that, whereas in 1966 youth constituted 22.6 per cent of the Australian Public Service staff, this figure has now fallen to less than 7 per cent? Does the Minister recall stating on that occasion that the Government had under consideration youth employment policies which would go to that question? How will the policies which were announced in the Budget give youth their fair share of Public Service jobs? Can the Minister put a figure on the percentage of jobs that youth will have as a proportion of total Public Service jobs at the end of this financial year? Will the figure be less than 7 per cent or will it be 9 or 10 per cent?

Senator BUTTON —I do not recall saying the things that I allegedly said on the previous occasion.

Senator Withers —Shame! Why don't you resign?

Senator BUTTON —Just listen for a minute, Senator Withers; do not get excited. I was about to make the point that Senator Walsh may have said them and not me. I am only acting for Senator Walsh today.

Senator Harradine —I am sorry, it was you.

Senator BUTTON —Senator Walsh is the Minister responsible. As I recall it, there has been some discussion of this matter in the context of the introduction of the Government's youth traineeship program which was announced last month. It is thought by the Government that that program will improve prospects for youth in employment in both the private sector and the public sector, and that, of course, includes the Commonwealth public sector-the Australian Public Service. All public employers will participate fully in that program of youth traineeships. As I recall it, one of the early areas of take-up in respect of traineeships was expected to be the Commonwealth Public Service.

Insofar as the facts adverted to by Senator Harradine are concerned, I am advised that juniors comprised 6.8 per cent of permanent officers in 1981; 6.6 per cent in 1982; 6.7 per cent in 1983; and 6.3 per cent in 1984. I think that Senator Harradine suggested in his question a figure of 7 per cent or upwards as being the desirable figure.

Senator Harradine —No, that is not so.

Senator BUTTON —Perhaps I misunderstood that aspect of the question. As I understand it, that was referred to. I can, if the honourable senator wants me to do so, make some comments about those figures. For example, it is said that there has been a decline in youth employment in the Australian Public Service, but a report by the Bureau of Labor Market Research noted that the proportion of permanent officers in the Australian Public Service aged under 21 years fell from 22.2 per cent in 1966 to 6.7 per cent in 1983-that is, over a 20-year period. It is said that there are very complex reasons for the decline. Part of it is due to the removal, almost 20 years ago, of the marriage bar; part to a substantial increase in the number of adults, both men and women, applying for base grade Public Service jobs; and part to changes in the growth rate of the Public Service and then the effect of staff ceilings and new technology on the availability of new jobs traditionally occupied by young people.

What I have just said is in some way a comment on the problem to which Senator Harradine has adverted. By way of answer to his question, I repeat that the Government believes the youth traineeship program will be beneficial in encouraging youth employment in the Australian Public Service. Insofar as there are some other factual matters in his question, I will seek an early answer and provide it as soon as I can.