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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1353

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(5.50) —The Economic Planning Advisory Council was set up by the Hawke Government as the major economic planner and adviser for the Government. The Government, in general, has commended the Council for its work and reports. Therefore, I take it that its central reports, which it has made in recent times, must have the support of the Government. The reports advise that unemployment in Australia will remain between 8 and 9 per cent for the next 10 years. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say `I commend this Council for its good work' and then not say that it accepts its advice which, if true, paints a picture of dismal depression for Australia. It is of no use at all talking about a lot of other things. What has been said here is that something like three-quarters of a million Australians over the next decade, year by year, will be condemned to perpetual unemployment. Generation after generation will be so condemned.

The simple fact is that in the seven or eight years of the Fraser Government most of the time unemployment was quite low. It was 4 or 5 per cent. In the two years 1981 and 1982 it was of the order of 6 or 7 per cent. But we are being told that for the next decade it will be 8 or 9 per cent and so far not one Minister or Government member has either rejected that statement or sought to point out that if this statement is true, it will destroy the very fibre of the young in Australia as they seek jobs.

This afternoon we have had a debate on employment, a debate about the young and the ordinary desire of the young to study and to choose a job of their own choice. That choice has been virtually destroyed. What is being said is that that destruction will continue for a decade. There can be nothing more important before a parliament than that statement. If it is untrue let us have the evidence that it is not true-that next year or the year after there will be a significant decline in unemployment from 8 or 9 per cent. The truth of the matter is that the indicators suggest that not only will unemployment not decline but also it is likely to rise to 9 per cent and beyond. Indeed many analysts have pointed out that because of the low participation rate the true state of unemployment is not revealed. Many people have given up indicating that they want a job in the labour market and have opted out. Therefore, the true percentage of unemployment-this has been indicated by many economic analysts-is already at about 10 per cent.

I cannot believe that a government faced with that advice from its main planning council has not made a major statement on unemployment, not made a major analysis of it and not rejected it. The key point to remember is that there has been no rejection of this statement. So we can assume that the Government accepts that for the next decade, year after year, the rate of unemployment will be 8 or 9 per cent and as we reach 1990, year by year, three-quarters of a million or more Australians will be unemployed, that generation after generation will be unemployed. There has been no rebuttal of that statement and no indication at all that the Government does not accept it or that it is wrong.

If EPAC has done any one thing it is to place its finger on the one great issue for Australia-unemployment. It has made a projection which, if correct, is depressing for Australia and destructive for the generations to come. I can only hope that this cannot be true, that there must be constructive policies that will reverse this situation. Certainly the Opposition will be working towards that end.