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Wednesday, 12 May 1993
Page: 429

Senator LEES —I refer the Minister representing the Prime Minister to comments made over the past few days by both the present Minister and the former Minister for Social Security that a high level of long-term unemployment will remain a feature of the Australian economy for some time. I ask: firstly, will the Government seriously consider Dr Blewett's proposal to raise taxes and direct the revenue towards alleviating the plight of the long-term unemployed; secondly, will the Government seriously consider a welfare or jobs levy, such as that proposed by the Australian Democrats; thirdly, will the Government reconsider its commitment to further tax cuts in light of the increasing long-term unemployment; and, finally, if none of these measures are to be seriously considered by the Government, can the Minister explain why the Government refuses to appeal to the fair-mindedness of those Australians who have jobs and ask them to contribute a little more towards the welfare of those who do not?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is no doubt that the question of long-term unemployment is probably the most difficult, intractable and serious of the economic difficulties we confront as a nation. We are acutely conscious of that. We are acutely conscious not only of the need to have effective safety nets to deal with the current implications of that problem, but also, of course, of the need to have proper training programs in place so that long-term unemployed can get back into the work force when economic circumstances permit, and we are conscious of the need to do everything we possibly can to generate faster economic growth so as to make it easier to address those objectives.

  As to the particular strategies that we will employ to get there, a number of suggestions have been made, going to the revenue side of the budgetary equation as well as to other possible strategies. All I can say about Dr Blewett's suggestion, the Australian Democrats' suggestion or any other suggestion that might be made, is that the issues raised by those suggestions will be squarely in front of the Government during its consideration of budgetary strategy over the next couple of months. I can assure the honourable senator that every aspect of the available alternative policy paths we can pursue, consistent with what we have said in the past, will be pursued. Beyond that, I simply cannot be more specific.