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Tuesday, 12 November 1985
Page: 1981


Senator LEWIS(4.59) —I am pleased that Senator Ryan is in the chamber because I want to talk to her. I take advantage of the debate on the Appropriation Bills to talk about the young unemployed and the young people of this country who are being deprived of the opportunity of a tertiary education. Last year over 25,000 young Australians who qualified for tertiary education were unable to obtain places at tertiary institutions in Australia. At present over 25,000 young people in Australia are doing their higher school certificate examinations and it does not matter how good a mark they get; they will not get into the tertiary institutions of Australia because they will be kept out by the quota system. So it does not matter how good the result; it does not matter how hard they work; it does not matter how high their marks are; 25,000 kids must be excluded from tertiary institutions because we are at least 25,000 places short in this country.

What is this Minister doing about that shortfall? I will tell you, Mr Deputy President, what she is doing about it; she is providing precisely 2,300 additional places. Some people have said that we ought to keep the foreign students out of Australia as that would help the situation. I think there are less than 2,000-about 1,800-foreign students in Australia. If we applied Senator Walsh's fees to these young people from other countries and kept them all out of Australia it would still not go anywhere near providing places for the over 25,000 kids who cannot get into the universities and the tertiary institutions of Australia because the Minister for Education is not prepared to do anything about it. She must sit there and listen to her mate Senator Walsh, who no doubt says that she cannot have any more than X dollars this year, and so the places are not available.

The thing that really annoys me is that it does not matter how hard the young people of Australia work, it does not matter what their results are-if they all raise their marks up to enormous heights; if they all improve 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent or 50 per cent, if they all got five Bs-25,000 or more must be excluded. For gosh sake, what is this nonsense that is going on in Australia at present? We are short 25,000 places. Let us look at some simple solution to that. What about the Government trying to use these institutions at times other than from nine in the morning until 3.30 in the afternoon. Would that not be a solution? It would be a partial solution. The Government sits on its hands and says that it cannot do anything about that at present; it is one of the economic problems of the nation and we have to put up with it.

Senator Ryan and her colleague Senator Grimes, who used to make all these speeches way back in 1981 and 1982 criticising our Government for coping with the situation far better than this Government is coping with it, ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing a Budget, as this Budget does, to provide an additional lousy 2,300 places for the young people of Australia when there are over 25,000 people presently excluded by the system. The Minister indicated by way of interjection that she did not accept my figure of 25,000. Let me just talk about the figures for last year. On 11 September at page 449 of Hansard, when the Minister answered a question without notice she said:

In regard to the question of unmet demand, the current estimates-or the estimates that I am most familiar with from the Tertiary Education Commission-are that it would be similar to what it was last year-that is, nationally, in the vicinity of between 5,000 and 10,000.

If it was between only 5,000 and 10,000 that would be a disgrace. If that figure was right, it would still be totally wrong that 5,000 or 10,000 young Australians who qualify to go to universities and tertiary institutions in Australia cannot get into those places. The Minister wrings her hands and says that the figures she has are only 5,000 or 10,000. Senator Peter Baume correctly interjected, and I quote the interjection from Hansard:

Too low. That is not correct. It is 10,000 to 29,000.

Senator Ryan responded:

I have seen no evidence that that is the case.

Senator Ryan might be listening to the TEC and it might be providing her with some figures; but let us have something of what the journalists of Australia were able to find out. I see that Senator Ryan is walking out of the chamber. No doubt she does not want to listen to what I am telling her about these matters. The Sydney Morning Herald on 2 February this year reported that New South Wales colleges and universities refused 13,500 applicants, according to preliminary figures supplied by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Centre. In New South Wales alone in 1985 there were 13,500 places too few. The Minister has the audacity to suggest that the unmet demand at present is only between 5,000 and 10,000. In 1985 in New South Wales the problem was 13,500. The Australian on 6 February this year also reported that figure of a 13,500 shortfall in New South Wales.

Other reports indicate that more than 5,000 young people will get rejection slips in Victoria and 3,000 in Queensland. The Western Australian University reports that it had 5,933 applicants for 1,930 places, the Adelaide University reported that it had 4,700 applications for 1,680 first year places, and the South Australian College of Advanced Education reported that it had received 7,832 first preference applications but that the intake quota had been cut from 3,600 to 2,900-a total in unmet places for 1985 in excess of 25,000. I am saying to the Senate that the Minister for Education, who says that there are only 5,000 or 10,000 places unmet and is apparently satisfied to accept that, is facing a situation in Australia where over 25,000 young people-it does not matter what results they get in their examinations this year-will be excluded from tertiary institutions in Australia because of the quota system. The Government is providing an additional 2,300 places.

No doubt Senator Walsh, who has now come into the chamber, is responsible for that because no doubt he has put his foot on any moneys the Minister for Education might have to increase the amount allowed for tertiary teachers and lecturers. So this Government, under Senator Walsh, who no doubt thinks it is a rort or something going on in the universities and tertiary institutions, is increasing the number of vacancies available around Australia by 2,300 when we have over 25,000 young people excluded. It is not just that higher education in Australia has fallen back. I am not saying that it has fallen back. What has happened is that Australia has not kept pace with other countries. In 1950, for example, about 3.5 per cent of Australia's labour force entrants had tertiary qualifications compared with one per cent in Japan. By 1980 the Australian figure had doubled to 7 per cent but in Japan the figure was 40 per cent. While Australia had managed to get up from 3.5 per cent to 7 per cent, and we congratulate ourselves and pat ourselves on the back, the Japanese went from one per cent to 40 per cent. That is what is wrong in Australia in tertiary education. The Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission Supplementary Report for 1986 and 1987-that is the triennium 1985-87-states:

For 1984 the Commission estimated that up to 10,000 additional places in higher education could have been filled with suitably qualified students; for 1985 unmet demand is at least of the same order. For the past three years, the entry scores required for admission have risen substantially, if not uniformly. This indicates that many of those who have failed to gain admission could have been successful higher education students.

The Commission says that in order to keep out students who are getting better and better results every year, it has to keep raising the quotas all the time, raising the figure. The Tertiary Education Commission, looking at it overall, is saying that if students could have qualified in 1983 and they are being excluded in 1984 and even more are being excluded in 1985, if they could have qualified in 1983 they probably would not have been able to cope with their higher education. That is a very academic argument, Mr Deputy President. You and I would know-because we are old enough to recall, and Senator Walsh is probably just old enough to recall-that most of the people who qualified for their higher school certificate when there were no quota systems managed to get through their university degrees.

I recall that a very good friend of mine, who struggled through his higher school certificate-in those days it was called matriculation-just managing to get 50 per cent passes, got into Melbourne University to do medicine. Nowadays he would not manage to get into any tertiary college or university. He realised within a few months of starting to do medicine that he had a chance of being a doctor in six years. He took that advantage by the throat and in six years he was a qualified doctor, having not failed one subject in the whole of that time. Yet, on the assessment of his matriculation examination results, he would not have got into any tertiary institution today. For the Tertiary Education Commission to be saying `If you got into the quota in 1983 you probably would have managed to pass the exams in 1985' is a very academic nonsense.

Of course, kids doing their HSC do not work as hard as they will when they begin to see their future careers opening before them-the opportunity of becoming a scientist, an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor or whatever they might choose to be. Once they get that prospect in front of them and the opportunity to go ahead-when they realise that they are no longer just going to school, having to pass exams at the end of the year because the teachers want them to pass exams-and that they can pass exams and become qualified to practice in a particular job and get a job, the will grab the opportunity. Over 25,000 young Australians will be excluded from taking that opportunity because this Government is not prepared to do anything about it.

I see Senator Button walking into the chamber. I remember a number of speeches that he made in 1981 and 1982, complaining bitterly about the fact that my Government-the Fraser Government-allegedly was not doing enough for tertiary education in Australia. What is Senator Button's Government doing for it? It has provided a pathetic 2,300 additional places for this year, notwithstanding the enormous increase in the number of children who want to get places in tertiary institutions. Why do they want to get places in tertiary institutions? It is because of the difficulty of getting jobs in this country under this Government.

Let me now talk about jobs in this country. On 9 November this year the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), addressing a Rotary conference in Sydney, acknowledged that there were 135,000 young men and 95,000 young women unemployed, seeking full time work. He said that these raw figures did not reveal what youth unemployment meant in terms of loss of human dignity and self-respect. They are words with which I thoroughly agree. He then went on to outline a traineeship plan designed, he said, to generate 10,000 jobs, with progressive expansion to an intake level of 75,000 jobs in the year 1988-89. This all sounds great and reads well in the newspapers when the Prime Minister says it but the truth is that this has managed to generate a promise of 300 jobs from Ansett Airlines of Australia. That is the only promise that this Government has with regard to this traineeship plan that is supposed to generate 10,000 jobs. It has managed to get a promise that Ansett will take 300 of these young people under this plan.

On the same weekend that the Prime Minister was making this grand speech, getting all the publicity, talking to the television cameras and to all the journalists, Mr Peter Kirby, the fellow who worked out the scheme, was saying that he was `very pessimistic'-they are his words-about the chances of the program succeeding. He said that great divisions had arisen between the Government, the unions and employers about implementing the traineeship plan. Of course, the great problem is the union movement. I know that Senator Button at least understands that. The union movement does not want to do anything about providing these jobs because it is involved in protecting the people who are employed. The union movement is not interested in finding jobs for the young unemployed or helping the young unemployed to find jobs for themselves. We all know what the problem is. We all know that the jobs are available. Unemployment in Australia at present is standing at 8 per cent overall, but unemployment for young Australians is standing at 25 per cent.


Senator Button —That is wrong. Catch up with the figures, for goodness sake.


Senator LEWIS —Senator Button said it is wrong. Let him table the figures to prove to me that it is wrong. What are the figures? It is just on 25 per cent, anyway. It might be a little less, but it is just about 25 per cent. Why is that the situation? The answer is very simple. If the wages of the young people were reduced to a reasonable level they would get the jobs. I suggest that honourable senators go to a hotel to see who is available to carry in their bags. There is no one. There are such jobs available for young people. Senator McKiernan from Western Australia laughs, but many people who have risen to the top of the hotel industry in Australia started off carrying bags from a car at a hotel entrance. There is nothing wrong with that. That leads to all sorts of opportunities. People find out that there are other jobs in a hotel that they can do-that they could become accountants, receptionists, barmen or managers. There are all sorts of opportunities in the hotel trade but unless people start working in that trade they will not know what those opportunities are. Unless employers get an opportunity to meet young people and find out whether they are suitable and hard working the opportunities are not created.

When I was a senior partner in my firm of lawyers I used to employ every year two young typists straight out of the fifth form. I did not wait for them to do their HSC; I would take them straight from the fifth form. Of course, they were of little value to me during the first year or two that they worked. Nevertheless, they learned the routines of the office. They understood where the papers had to go and what happened with the files. They got to know about the routine of putting documents away in the strongroom. They got to know where the court house was, how to serve a paper on someone, how to deliver documents and how to file documents at the court. They got to know all the simple routines, and by the time they had been with me for about 18 months they started to be--


Senator Elstob —You sacked them.


Senator LEWIS —What nonsense! Not on your life. Senator Elstob is quite wrong. Believe me; he really does not understand employers. Those kids became the most valuable people that I ever had. Some of them became so good that when they wanted to move to Melbourne I was able to give them references and I had solicitors in Melbourne ringing me and saying: `Glory be, where do you get such great secretaries down there in Warrnambool? You are able to produce fantastic secretaries'. We were able to produce such fantastic secretaries because we took them young and let them find their way in the organisation and work as they wanted to work, developing and becoming good at doing the sorts of things that legal secretaries need to do. Senator Elstob should believe me when I say that it is not an easy job. When an employer has a good legal secretary he wants to hang on to her for as long as possible. For the information of Senator McKiernan, he pays her good wages, too. He makes sure that she does not leave because of the wages situation. Senator Elstob does not understand it. That is the problem. He has never been an employer and he has no idea about how marvellous it is for an employer to have great young people working for him. It is a tremendous situation.

Let me tell the Senate what happens now. The wages for young typists are so high that the firm I used to be with before I came to the Senate cannot now employ a young girl. It will not employ a young typist. The typists have to be fully qualified because, from the day they start work, the work is of very high pressure. The firm will only take women-we do not have any male typists in Warrnambool-who are fully qualified, first class shorthand typists. Where do kids learn to become fully qualified, first class shorthand typists unless they get a job when they are young enough to do it? That must be clear even to Senator Elstob and Senator McKiernan.

I come back to what Mr Kirby said about having grave doubts about the way the program was being sold to the unions and employers. He said that only a new approach would make the scheme work. But what has happened? The shop assistants union has rejected the plan and other unions are clearly very wary. The PM has placed great store on this proposal but, as I said before, all that it has managed to germinate up to now is a promise. We cannot yet see the 300 jobs. It is only a promise from Ansett which, no doubt, wants to curry favour with this Government. Sir Peter Abeles, a great friend of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), said to him: `Look, Bob, I will tell you what we will do. We will find 300 jobs to see whether we can keep this going for you'. How will that deal with the over 225,000 young men and women of Australia who are looking for work? Let us look at what some other people have had to say. In the 1984 E. S. Owens Memorial Oration, Sir Arvi Parbo said:

Unwilling or unable to take corrective action, the expedient short term solution for closing the gap is to extract more from the wealth generating sector, even if this is at the cost of the sector's long term health. If I may borrow from a recent paper by my colleague, Hugh Morgan, the wealth generating activities have come to be much like the Mediterranean donkey which, as you may know, is an essential but much abused beast of burden in that part of the world. Ill treated, fly-blown, over-laden and ill nourished but always expected to carry more and go further, sagging at the knees and in danger of toppling over, its main preoccupation is necessarily with survival.

One might add that its predators are this Government and the trade union movement. McDonalds is the well-known restaurant chain that so many members of the Government party want to attack as allegedly being an organisation which uses up the youth of this nation. On the contrary, it has an innovative youth training scheme and management training program. I have spoken to the General Manager of McDonalds in Australia. He has pointed out that when the kids reach the age of 18 or 19 they leave of their own volition to go on to tertiary courses at university. They probably work at McDonalds during their first or second year at the institution, but when they get to their third year they probably find that it is too much for them to be working at McDonalds. The General Manager wants them to stay on because McDonalds's problem at the moment is its shortage of management. It is not short of staff; it is short of management. If it could obtain management personnel it would be able to expand even further around Australia. So it is absolute nonsense for honourable senators on the other side to make statements that in some way or other an organisation such as McDonalds is using up the youth of Australia. It is clearly not so. The Executive Director of the Confederation of Australian Industry said:

The issue is now dead. We saw the chance for 5,000 to 10,000 jobs for juniors, but in July we said the commission's decision would not work. (If an employer went before the Bench having reached a less than award agreement with a junior proved that it could not pay the award rate then it would consider sanctioning such agreement).

One can only wonder at the attitude of unions which just keep saying to Australian youth: `You have to carry the burden of the higher wages that we want our employers to retain'. They are frightened to allow employers in this country to pay anything less than the highest possible wage that the unions can extract from the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, treating these young people as if they were fully qualified young adults instead of unqualified trainees. The union movement is saying to the youth of Australia: `You must carry the burden of these higher wages because we do not want you competing with the already privileged employed of Australia'. I believe that that would not mean that these people's jobs would be in jeopardy. The youth of Australia and the world are great spenders. If we got those young people jobs, I would bet that any money they got would go straight back into the system and would be turned over to provide a better economy and more money. More jobs would then become available.

One of the most important results would be the reduction in the cost to this nation of the unemployment benefits which have to be paid to these 225,000 young people. If only they could get jobs. This Government can do something about it. I say to the back benchers that they will not be in government for ever. They should forget their Ministers. They should forget Senator Walsh with his tight money grabbing, saying that we cannot spend any more money here or there. Money should be cut in the areas where it can be cut and put into the areas where it is needed. Government back benchers can stand over their Ministers. They do not have to put up with them running the country this way. They are ruining this country. I am sure that Senator Button feels ashamed that there are over 225,000 young unemployed in this country. I am sure that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, are ashamed that you are in a party which has allowed over 25,000 young people who will qualify for tertiary education not to be able to get places because they will be outside the quota. The Government is not doing anything about it, as I said before, other than providing a lousy 2,300 places. On looking at the figures, that is an absolute nonsense. It will not matter what exam results those 25,000 kids obtain. It does not matter that they might all get four Bs and one A. About 25,000 of them will not be able to get into tertiary institutions. That is shameful and those opposite probably are ashamed. I hope that someone on that side--


Senator Townley —How many did you say will not be able to get in?


Senator LEWIS —Over 25,000 young people-


Senator Townley —In New South Wales 30,000 will not be able to get in.


Senator LEWIS —There will be at least 25,000. The Minister is talking nonsense about the figures but the truth is that it does not matter what results these 25,000 young people will get-if all the students obtained four Bs and one A-the institutions around Australia would still have to exclude at least 25,000 of those young people. I hope that someone on the other side of the chamber is listening to this terrible fact and to the plea which I make today for them to do something for the youth of Australia.