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Friday, 13 September 1985
Page: 531

Senator COOK —Has the Minister for Finance seen the employment figures that were released yesterday? Is he confident that the Government can reach its target of half a million new jobs in its first three years of office? What is the significance of the fall of 1.2 per cent to 21.6 per cent in teenage joblessness? Is the prediction of Mr Neil Brown that the employment position in Australia will worsen because of the forthcoming wage and productivity cases well based, or is it simply another boring case of Opposition Jeremiahs knocking the economy?

Senator WALSH —In response to that part of the question about Neil Brown, the answer is yes, it is just another case of Opposition knocking. I have seen the employment figures for August, which are welcomed by the Government because they show that there has been an increase in total employment in that one month of another 20,000, bringing to 430,000 the number of jobs created since April 1983 and the National Economic Summit. On a pro rata basis this is well ahead of the target of 500,000 jobs within three years which the Government had set for itself on assuming office. That target was greeted with almost universal cynicism and disbelief and, of course, outright ridicule by members of the Opposition, such as Mr Brown.

Since this Government has been in office it has created jobs at four times the rate of its predecessor, taken over its full term. As I have said, 430,000 additional jobs have appeared in the 28 months since April 1983, which exceeds in absolute numbers the 340,000 additional jobs which appeared in the seven years and four months that the discredited former Government was in office. I think it should be noted for the record that for five of those years the present Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer and, therefore, had primary responsibility for economic performance. In the last year of the previous Government almost 200,000 jobs were lost. Not only did employment cease to grow but also it actually fell in absolute terms by almost 200,000.

In summary, although there are month by month fluctuations in the employment level due to statistical imperfections which, in my view, nobody seems able to explain, the trend is very clear. The trend is that employment is growing at a rate probably without precedent. It is growing at a rate four times as fast as that which existed when our predecessors were in office. The Government is well ahead on a pro rata basis of the target of achieving 500,000 new jobs in its first three years in office.