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Tuesday, 30 May 1989
Page: 2984

Senator HAMER —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training seen the call from the National Conference of Young Workers and Unions-a call now being studied by the Australian Council of Trade Unions-to eliminate junior pay rates from all wages? Have the movements in the past towards abolition or reduction of junior pay differentials been principally motivated by the desire of adult trade unionists to reduce employment competition from juniors by pricing them out of the market? Is this new campaign primarily directed at increasing union membership? In view of the deplorably high rates of unemployment among young people does this new campaign not represent a cruel hoax on young people by reducing their opportunities for jobs in which they can gain employment, experience and self-respect? Will the Government take action against any such moves to perpetuate this cruel hoax on young people whose consequences can be seen, among other areas, in the widely advertised problems of homeless and unemployed youth?

Senator WALSH —I have not seen the report of the Conference, nor did I know that the Conference had been held. I do not think I am in any position to make judgments or even to speculate about the motives of the people who put up that proposition. The belief which most of us probably subscribe to is that if there is a choice between a conspiracy and-I am trying to think of a more polite term than the vernacular term-a muck-up, then we should go for the muck-up instead of the conspiracy and we will be right nearly all the time. I suspect that that could be applied in this case.

The relationship between wage levels and relative unemployment rates for young people has long been a matter of debate and the subject of academic articles. It has not, nor will it ever be, decisively settled. Many young economists will become doctors of philosophy writing theses about it for the next few decades. I certainly do not want to become involved in that debate other than to draw the obvious conclusion that at some point there must be an inverse relationship between wage levels and employability or employment opportunities. More certain is the conclusion that, if there is absolutely no relationship between wage levels for juniors and employment or unemployment rates for juniors, nothing can be gained from providing wage subsidies to employers to employ such people. That conclusion is inescapable, but some of the people who argue most vehemently that there is no relationship between junior wages relative to adult wages and junior unemployment rates relative to adult unemployment rates are some of the keenest proponents of wage subsidy schemes to stimulate employment for juniors.