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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 228

Mr CREAN (Melbourne ' Ports) - I should like to draw the attention of the House to the terms of this matter of public importance, namely, 'The complacent attitude of the Government towards the serious and deep-seated nature of unemployment'. All that we have heard from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) has been a tirade about trade unions. I suggest that this is not what the debate is about. I should like to quote 2 rather interesting passages, one of them from a news release issued by the Department of Labour and National Service on 1st March 1971 when the now Treasurer (Mr Snedden) was then the Minister for Labour and National Service. The news release stated: . . the available labour force was likely to grow by about 170,000 or 3 per cent in 1971, and be expected demand for labour to grow more or less in proportion, thus maintaining overall stability in the labour market.

I cite figures the Commonwealth Statistician issued at the time when Mr Snedden made those remarks. The total number of people in civilian employment in Australia at the end of February 1971 was 4,465,100. One year later - February 1972 - the number was 4,492,700, an increase of 27,600 people in the 12 months for which the Treasurer, who was at that time the Minister for Labour and National Service, had forecast an ' increase of 170,000. That at least is an indication of how wrong this Government can be. To give another example, when that honourable gentleman became Treasurer he forecast in December 1971 that there would be a real increase of 4 per cent in the gross national product to the end of June 1972. In fact the real increase was 3 per cent. The honourable gentleman was $360m out in a space of 6 months. I refer now to information which interestingly enough is appended to the last page of the most recent issue of the review of the employment situation, and will quote from the Commonwealth Statistician's notes about seasonally adjusted statistics. The passage reads as follows:

For these reasons, therefore, it would be neither reasonable nor prudent to regard seasonally adjusted series as in any way 'definitive'. They must be treated with caution as being no more than useful indicators of movements. They can without doubt be a useful aid to critical interpretation, but can m no way be a substitute for it.

I submit that what is lacking is a critical interpretation of the statistics. To illustrate my point - every member of this House can see these figures for himself in this monthly statement - ostensibly during the month of July there was a variation of 21 downwards, and in the same time as employment fell downwards by 21 the number of recipients of unemployment benefit rose by 1,378. Does not that at least imply that there is some difference between the aggregate figures and the constituents of the figures? Again taking the figures directly from this document, even that figure of 21 is made up of increases of 1,060 for adult males, despite the drop in aggregate figures of 21, a decrease of 127 for junior males, a decrease of 387 for adult females and a decrease of 569 for junior females. One set of figures adds to 933 and the other adds to 954, and the difference is 21. But to be complacent about the 21 is to camouflage the reality of the situation.

The difficult situation in Australia at the moment is in regard to adult males, that is, people over 21 but more particularly people over 45. I would hope that the statistics in the future will contain some figures about the age of people as well as the duration of unemployment. As I have indicated, in the 12 months which these figures cover there has been an increase of 50 per cent in the number of unemployed from 64,000 to 99,180 but there has been also almost a doubling in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit. There is a higher proportion now in terms of the total number of people out of work who are recipients of unemployment benefit. That is one feature that ought to be noted.

There is a hard core of unemployment and, as I shall try to show in the limited amount of time available to me in this debate, in the male sector it is in 2 categories, namely, semi-skilled and unskilled manual. Again, if one looks at the statistics issued by the Department of Labour and National Service one will find that in the semi-skilled category the number of unemployed from 1969 to 1972 rose, in round figures, from 30,000 to 69,000, and the number of unfilled vacancies fell from 22,500 to a little over 13,000. In the unskilled manual category there were 19,400 unemployed and 9,565 job vacancies in 1969. In 1972, according to the latest figures, the number of unskilled manual out of work has increased to 44,227 and the number of job vacancies declined to 5,530. In summary, these 2 categories have declined. Whereas in 1969 there were 2 people for every available job there are now 8 people for every job. This is the reason for this discussion - the serious structural nature of unemployment. Let us look at the situation as far as females are concerned. The 2 principal female categories in which there are large degrees of unemployment are in the clerical and administrative field and in service occupations. Over the same period, twothirds of the unemployed are adult males in the 2 male categories I have described, and in the 2 categories of females it is three-quarters of the total number who are unemployed.

We have reached in Australia a situation where we lack certain skills entirely and we are doing nothing whatever to train people to ensure that they are occupied. Meanwhile there are people who cannot find any occupation. We have reached the stage - this is a dreadful term to use in a society that believes in full employment - where they are almost unemployable and they will be unemployable until the general level of the economy rises. The Government is gratified at the fact that this year the level of employment will increase by only 2 per cent. It should increase by 31 per cent. If ever anything illustrated more starkly the decline in the economy, it was that where there ought to be a growth rate of 5i per cent it is just a shade over 3 per cent. In real money terms the performance of this economy at the moment is $900m annually less than it should be, yet honourable members on the other side say that there is nothing to worry about and that it is all the fault of the unions. Incidentally, it is mainly the skilled unions with which this Government is having difficulty. The majority of people who are unemployed are in the unskilled and rapidly becoming the unemployable group, yet honourable members opposite say that no problem exists. I am sorry that they take that attitude.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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