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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1337

Senator HILL(4.11) —I congratulate Senator Vanstone on raising the following matter of public importance today:

The failure of the Government to give real priority to the issue of youth unemployment.

Much in the recent spate of announcements of both Federal and State governments on youth unemployment smacks of political opportunism rather than genuine attempts to help young people. Youth unemployment remains a major problem. According to the August figures 21.6 per cent of teenagers were unemployed and looking for work. On my calculations that is 180,000 young Australians. It is a highly emotive problem and so it should be. Not only is this figure staying up but also the period during which young people remain unemployed is lengthening. The social and economic costs of a generation of young unemployed are enormous. In a country with a small population and the great natural advantages that Australia has, it should simply not occur. That it does occur is to the discredit of all of us.

Instead of having sound policies for youth the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), as honourable senators will recall, made a nationally televised address for the primary purpose of promoting his Government. We recall the circumstances after the farce of the National Taxation Summit when the Prime Minister demanded of his handlers an emotive issue, something which would touch people's hearts-and what better issue is there than youth unemployment? I will argue in the short time allowed for me to speak that he so compromised principle by political expediency-that is balancing the trilogy of big government, big business and big unions-that his package will fail to hit the target of those genuinely needing help. It is worth mentioning in passing the definition of a trilogy-a tragedy in three parts-because it seems apt to these circumstances. The Prime Minister's political opportunism pales into insignificance when compared with the political cynicism of State Labor Premiers in their desperate bid to hold office. In my State of South Australia Premier Bannon, who spent some $350,000 of taxpayers' money promoting a dressed-up portion of the Commonwealth package as his own initiative, must head the bill. The State Government called its adaptation `YES' and I suggest that, YES, it is a confidence trick at the expense of the young.

As we know, the heart of the Federal Government's proposal is traineeships. The Government will offer employers $1,000 to train a youth for at least one year. The employee must take at least 13 weeks off-the-job training. If the unions will co-operate he will be paid less than the minimum award wage. I say `if the unions will co-operate' because the announcement was received only coolly by Joe de Bruyn of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association who said that there had been no consultation with the union by the Government. This is further evidence of the Prime Minister's rush to meet a political objective rather than a genuine need. Of course the SDA is the union for representing one of the largest industries for potential traineeships.

Apart from the attitude of the unions which have shown little compassion for the young unemployed-we do not see too many applications for trainee wages in logs of claims-the real problem is that the traineeships are not targeted to those particularly in need. The report of the Kirby Committee of Inquiry into Labour Market Programs-it is a good report-saw a need to target the scheme to disadvantaged youth. Under the Government's proposal confident kids, kids with initiative, kids from higher socio-economic backgrounds, kids whose parents have some clout in the business world, will get the traineeships. They are the kids who would have got training in any event; they are the kids who would have got jobs in any event. But the taxpayer is now to subsidise their employment and their parents and further subsidise their training. As we know, resources are not unlimited so those most in need of training-the disadvantaged youth-will miss out again.

The Government will continue the current six-month employment subsidy for the long term unemployed although we note from the Budget Papers that the figure will be reduced. That is very hard to follow. Why will the figure be reduced? Presumably it is because the Government wants the scheme to have the widest electoral appeal. Why pay employers? In Germany they are not paid. The dual system, where employers accept their responsibility for taking on trainees as part of their general social responsibility to society, works well. Presumably, the reason is to keep up the trainee wage in order to lessen union objection to a fear of trainees undercutting full time employment.

We support the concept of trainee wages. However, we believe that if they cannot be negotiated between employer and employee according to circumstances-that is the ideal, the best system, because some employment circumstances may require one, two or three years; some may require more time away from work, some less time away from work-they should be written into all awards which give all kids the chance to compete for traineeships. The government subsidy should then be targeted to the disadvantaged, who would otherwise be unlikely to gain traineeships.

The Government has been spending 70 per cent of the budget in this field on short term job creation and employer subsidies. We on this side of the chamber believe that the emphasis is all wrong. Some of the community employment program money might be fulfilling other social goals but it is not training kids or giving them a long term employment future. When I see CEP money spent in Adelaide to rip up a bitumen road and reapave it in brick, I despair. When I see money being spent on foreshore beautification in the Iron Triangle to help those who have lost their jobs in the steel industry as a result of structural change I think perhaps it is a worthwhile social goal but it is a confusion of goals if we are looking to give young people an opportunity for long term employment. I wonder why the Government cannot wake up.

We would like to see much more of that money going into universities, colleges of advanced education, technical and further education and, when necessary, supporting kids to be trained to their full potential. Mr Deputy President, as you know, statistics show that the better educated, the better trained a young person is, the better is his job potential. Therefore, we believe that a great opportunity has been lost to assist the young of this country. This leads me to Mr Bannon and his attempt, at public expense, to woo the voters on this issue.

Senator Crowley —Ah, now we know why you are on the speaking list.

Senator HILL —Senator Crowley should just wait patiently. Mr Bannon has announced programs to provide an extra 6,300 jobs of which, he said, 70 per cent would go to young people. The publicity literature that followed stated that all of the jobs-6,300-will go to young people. The State Budget Papers state:

Traineeships are an innovation to be introduced into South Australia in 1986. They are designed to enhance the long-term labour market prospects of young people by providing a period of integrated education, training and employment activities. Private and public sector employers will provide work placements and on-the-job training, while TAFE and other relevant bodies will provide a minimum of 13 weeks off-the-job training, generally on a two day week basis. Traineeships will be of about 12 months . . .

If that statement sounds familiar it is because it is taken from the Federal Budget Papers. There is no State initiative in this at all. But for the State campaign Mr Bannon has picked it up and has turned it into what he has called YES, the State youth employment schemes. In actual fact, the 1,600 jobs that he says he is going to create relate to a Commonwealth project. As I have suggested to honourable senators, by virtue of the inherent weaknesses of the Commonwealth scheme, they are jobs that would go to young people who would get jobs in any event.

If we go further through the State Budget Papers we see that Mr Bannon expects an extra 200 young people to take up benefits of the Commonwealth Government's program known as the experimental training program. That is surprising because the Commonwealth Budget figures show that the program is going to fund only 600 places for the whole of Australia. He talks about an extra 200 places for South Australia. One can be excused for having grave doubts about the reality of that situation. If one works through the programs, as I hope Senator Crowley has, one will see that Mr Bannon mentions in his Budget the steel regions assistance scheme, which, by the way, is being reduced; pre-vocational training; the group apprenticeship scheme; and the self-employment ventures scheme. All of these programs are Commonwealth funded or Commonwealth supported. Any objective analysis will show that what the South Australian Government is offering is grossly oversold. In fact, if one adds up the totals, as I have done, and one takes into account the private enterprise schemes such as those that have been promoted by Rotary International, one still finds that one is about 3,000 jobs short on what Mr Bannon says his Budget contains. What it amounts to is that the youth and unemployed are being used as pawns in the Government's electioneering strategy.

There is very little the South Australian Government is contributing to the long term employment future of South Australia's young people. What South Australians will remember when it comes to a crunch on election day is that despite all the hype about skills, training and employment, the Bannon Government has cut the funding for technical and further education in real terms in 1985-86. It is not surprising that the highest level of unemployment of all the mainland States is to be found in South Australia at the moment-a level of 22.6 per cent. The South Australian handout says:

What about me?

YES is the answer.

If you're young and unemployed and wondering where to turn, you'll be glad to know there's someone who can offer some positive answers.


YES-Youth Employment Schemes-is busy creating 6,300 new employment and training positions for young people.

That is not true. It is time governments stopped misrepresenting the position. It is time they stopped using kids as political pawns. It is time they stopped wasting taxpayers' money on advertising campaigns for self-aggrandisement, particularly those which unfairly raise expectations. It is time they cut back on short term band-aid jobs which are primarily designed to improve the employment statistics. It is time that money saved went into greater educational opportunities, particularly in secondary schools and TAFE. It is time that greater support went to kids wanting to continue education but who are unable to afford to do so. To the extent that the Commonwealth package helps to do that, I applaud it. But it is too little too late.

The Kirby report reminds us that despite free tertiary education, there has been no improvement in access of the lower socio-economic groups to university training. It is time we allowed particular employers and particular employees to negotiate training agreements for young people. It is not beyond the wit of man to draw into that registration procedure to provide for protection if that is not necessary. It is time that all appropriate awards provided for training wages, terms and conditions. It is time that training subsidies the Government is going to provide on an across the board basis were redirected to disadvantaged youth. It is time that governments met their responsibility to employ their fair share of youth, particularly in training areas. This is a matter which Senator Harradine has raised very validly in this chamber before. No doubt he will do so again today. It is time the private sector was educated to its responsibility in the training challenge. Fancy paying Ansett Airlines of Australia $300,000 to induce it to take on 300 young trainees. Notwithstanding all the State support that Ansett receives, that company has to be induced by this further massive payment of taxpayers' money.

The Labor Government has not served Australia's young unemployed well. There have been too many promises, too many calls for praise, too little vision and too little achievement. What I have attempted to put very briefly in this short presentation is the coalition's alternative approach which we believe is more realistic and will at least give the young people of Australia an opportunity to be trained for the work which they so readily deserve to be able to undertake.

Senator Crowley —I take a point of order. I notice that Senator Vanstone was attempting to interject from a place other than her own.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jones) —I noticed that. However, I did not know whether she was talking to Senator Peter Baume or interjecting. Senator Vanstone should remember that she should be in her own place.