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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1345

Senator VALLENTINE(5.01) —I share the concern expressed by honourable senators from all sides of the House today about the levels of youth unemployment and the consequent devaluing of young people in their own and in others eyes. It has been my experience that many young people feel helpless and hopeless in their short and long term views of their future. I agree with Senator MacGibbon that young people need to look with idealism towards the future. But I totally reject what he claimed in this place yesterday and again today as being the reason for the disillusionment from which they suffer at the moment. Young people are disillusioned because in the short term they are worried about the lack of jobs and in the long term they are worried that there will be no future due to the threat of nuclear war which hangs over us all.

I will deal with the short term concerns first. This requires the redefinition of employment. Most economists agree that we can no longer look forward with any optimism to anything like 100 per cent employment in the future. Obviously, we need to look beyond the traditional definitions of work. We need to look at it in terms of doing something worth while and doing something which gives meaning to one's life. Unfortunately, there is still a perception of and a preoccupation with trying to solve unemployment within the existing economic structure; that is, we are still wedded to the fundamental precept of economic growth and consumerism.

I believe that young people do not want to be slotted into this materialistically based system. The fact that it is not working, it is not solving the unemployment problems of youth and it cannot be solved within the existing structure, provides an opportunity for fundamental reassessment. The traditional ways of looking at youth unemployment are inappropriate. We need alternatives for youth, based on this new philosophy, that have meaning, creativity and a sense of shared purpose as their basis. Such an approach involves radical and creative alternatives-job sharing, co-operatives, emphasising small-scale, renewable, labour-intensive projects, rather than capital and energy intensive approaches.

Again, as I said in my first speech in this place, we ought to listen more to young people, many of whom have creative ideas about useful expenditure of their time in ways that are socially useful and environmentally sound. If, as I have often heard said, youth appear to lack motivation actively to seek the jobs which are available, there is a very good reason-that is, 75 per cent of youth fear that there will be a nuclear war in their lifetime. No wonder a percentage of youth take a hedonistic cop-out when they see so many older people apparently unaware of the problem or consciously choosing to ignore it because they do not know what to do about it. It is very necessary for people like us to instil some hope into young people's view of the future, to work with them in helping to turn not only Australia but the world away from the insanity of the nuclear arms race and from the ever-consuming tentacles of the growth economy syndrome, towards a just, participatory and sustainable society in which there will be ample opportunities for all people to lead worthwhile lives.