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Thursday, 31 October 1996
Page: 4872

Senator MACKAY(12.22 p.m.) —I wish to pursue the line of questioning that other senators from this side have pursued recently in relation to the issue of higher employment levels. I really do not think that the points raised by Senator Hogg, Senator Bishop and Senator Jacinta Collins have been adequately answered by the parliamentary secretary. In order to focus Senator Campbell's mind at bit in relation to this policy matter on the issue of employment, which is the most fundamental issue facing Australia today, I would like to restate Senator Bishop's question, which is: what does the government regard as an acceptable level of unemployment? That is the first thing. Senator Campbell really ought to be able to answer that question, given the statements made by the government recently in relation to employment growth and the fact that the government's better pay for better work promise clearly stated its policy of high productivity and high wages.

Perhaps it would focus Senator Campbell's mind if I draw his attention to the Business Review Weekly report on the Dun and Bradstreet survey of small business in which small business was asked if the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 1996 would lead to greater productivity. Eighteen per cent of those surveyed said yes, and 82 per cent of those surveyed said no. This is a survey of small business, so I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary precisely where this employment growth is going to come from, given that the government has stated small business would be one of the critical generators.

So I have two questions. The first one restates Senator Bishop's question: what is an acceptable level of employment? The second one is that I would like him to respond to the empirical data I have just given in relation to job creation in the small business sector. I would like a response, through you, Mr Chairman.