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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1354

Senator COONEY(5.55) —I will follow on from the remarks which Senator Sir John Carrick has made. He took the Government to task on the question of unemployment. He said that the report of the Economic Planning Advisory Council gives a gloomy picture of the future of unemployment in Australia, that the Government accepts that and that, in effect, it intends to do nothing about it because no Minister or member on this side has said anything about it. Page 8 of the report, under the heading `Unemployment', states:

At each meeting, Council members have received a comprehensive briefing on the labour market and on trends in prices and incomes from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Notwithstanding the strong growth in employment that has taken place since 1983, . . .

The report emphasises there has been strong employment growth since 1983 when the Hawke Government came to office. It continues:

Council members have expressed concern that without sustained high rates of economic growth, unemployment will remain a serious problem for some considerable time.

The Government accepts that. It expresses concern; it does not, as Senator Sir John Carrick implies, express no concern. The Government, together with EPAC, expresses concern. It will seek to do something about unemployment and this report indicates what ought to be done. It states:

It is accepted that the most effective approach to the employment problem involves the adoption of appropriate macroeconomic policies. Unemployment needs to be countered on a broad front. Rapid economic growth--

the Government goes along with that-

with low inflation--

the Government has brought down in- flation--

an efficient labor market-

which the Government has achieved through the prices and incomes accord--

strong industrial performance and rapid adjustment--

the Government has achieved this through the efforts of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button)--

and a higher level of achievement by the education system are all important in improving the rate of employment growth. Work has been undertaken on these issues.

Simply to say that this Government has done nothing about our employment, that this report is pessimistic about employment, that this side of the chamber is going ahead, as it were, in a callous and uncaring way is not so. The report makes it clear that that is not so and the Government accepts what this report says. To simply say that it ignores what will be needed to achieve growth in employment and a reduction in unemployment is just not correct.

In a stirring address Senator Lewis said that unemployment must be reduced through an attack on wages and conditions. We ought to examine exactly what a reduction in wages and conditions means. It means that people will have less money to buy a home, they will not be able to afford mortgage payments that they otherwise might have been able to afford, they will not be able to buy cars and they will not be able to get the basics in life which they would otherwise get. It is one thing simply to say that wages ought to be reduced but it is another to analyse exactly what a reduction in wages means because a reduction in wages and conditions means a reduction in living standards. I understand from the Opposition that that should be imposed right across the board so every worker in Australia will be in a much worse position than he is presently. In these circumstances, is it not better to adopt the propositions put forward by EPAC, to adopt the Government's propositions and preserve wages and living conditions while, at the same time, reducing unemployment and taking this country forward?