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Friday, 11 October 1985
Page: 1093

Senator BOSWELL —Has the Minister for Finance seen the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment figures? If so, will the Minister join me in congratulating the Queensland Government on its performance in creating 20 per cent of the 41,900 jobs for Queenslanders? Will he also congratulate the 13,000 southerners who have fled southern Labor-controlled States to come to the State which has the fastest rate of employment growth in the nation? Does the Minister agree with me that this growth is hardly surprising when one considers that the Queensland economy has above average performances in exports, retail sales, capital expenditure, construction activity and home ownership levels and the fact that the Queensland Government has given Australian employers a lead in standing up to union excesses?

Senator WALSH —I have seen the latest employment figures which show that there were 56,000 additional jobs at the end of September compared with the end of August, according to the ABS survey, and that the national unemployment rate, in spite of a very significant increase in the participation rate, has fallen to 8.1 per cent. That means that since the National Economic Summit of 1983 almost half a million new jobs have been created and inflation has fallen to almost half the level it was at that time. There are fewer industrial disputes than there have been for the previous 18 years. Unit wage costs have fallen to the lowest level since 1970. We have had two years, and are entering a third year, of real economic growth of the order of 5 per cent, something which has not happened before in Australia. All of those things, of course, are attributable to the accord. Some of the benefits of the accord spin off into Queensland, as they do everywhere else.

It is astonishing, if I may say so, that the Leader of the Opposition, confronted with that evidence, should turn his back on the accord and its demonstrable success and gleefully anticipate five years of industrial warfare under a deregulated or decentralised labour market. Not even Malcolm Fraser at his worst ever gleefully anticipated five years of industrial warfare as the present Opposition Leader does. The Opposition's Deputy Leader yesterday also criticised the accord, something he had done on 24 September following the release of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report and his apparent misunderstanding of it. Between 24 September and yesterday-that is, the beginning of last week-he stepped right away from his Leader's policy on wages deregulation and a free market for labour. He was at one extreme, he went to the other extreme, and now he is back where he started in the first place. Sometimes it is difficult to determine with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition what his real preference is. The OECD report to which I referred was described by Mr Brown in these terms:

The OECD report on unemployment should give the Government cold comfort. Nor is there anything in the report to justify the present course the Government has embarked upon.

That was of course completely in conflict with not only the facts in the report but also the facts which are revealed in the economic statistics I have cited.

Senator Boswell said that employment had grown by 20 per cent in Queensland. I do not know whether it is precisely 20 per cent. I think the most recent figures reflect the same percentage as Queensland's proportion of the total population and, as I recall, Queensland still has the highest unemployment rate of any State. What is really critical is that for the last two and a half years the Australian economy has performed in a way which by Australian standards has been quite spectacular: Three years of real growth of 5 per cent, half a million new jobs, the inflation rate halved, industrial disputes at an 18-year record low and the lowest unit wage costs since 1970. I find it quite extraordinary that, confronted with that record, there could be extremists like the Leader of the Opposition who want to throw all that aside and who salivate at the prospect of five years of industrial warfare.