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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 232


Mr WEBB (Stirling) - I rise to support the motion for the discussion on this matter of urgency. I was rather surprised to hear the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is the Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and Industry, say that in effect we have to relate our unemployment to the figures in other countries. I know that some other countries have higher unemployment than we have. I was at Jamaica at a conference once and I know that there the unemployment rate was IS per cent. But surely the honourable member for Corangamite does not want to relate our unemployment to that of such a country. I am quite certain that this Government would like to see a bigger pool of unemployment but it will not seek it simply because it is frightened about election prospects. This Government can make all the excuses it likes but it is clear that we are faced with the most serious unemployment situation that this country has had for a decade. We of the Opposition prefer to compare like with like and see what has happened in past years in this country. Unemployment is running at a rate well in excess of the 112,000 unemployed revealed in the July figures presented by the Department of Labour and National Service. It is to the eternal discredit of this Government that the unemployment pool was created deliberately by the McMahon Government in order, it was said, to dampen down inflation. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) admitted this in his statement on the consumer price index on 20th January 1972. He clearly admitted that the Government had deliberately increased the pool of unemployment as a measure against inflation. He said:

Twelve months ago many of those who are now demanding major 'stimulation' of the economy were equally strongly demanding vigorous action by the Government to deal with the inflationary situation. It should also be kept clearly in mind that the situation they were then concerned with was itself the product, in considerable part, of that very tight labour market the easing of which is now apparent. If the present position in regard to inflation of cost and prices is grim, it would have been much worse in the absence of the action by the Government which its critics now seek to have reversed.

No Government desires to see unemployment increasing. Those who, like myself, have to play their part in the task of determining the Government's economic policy are well aware of all the points that could be made in this respect, and also of the highly emotional language to which the subject lends itself. Yet there is another side to the matter, and it needs stating.

For the first time for some years, labour turnover is falling off in many areas; absenteeism and the rapid changing of jobs, with all the waste and costs to the economy they involve, are declining. Employers seeking labour can now more readily obtain it.

If that is not an admission that unemployment was deliberately created, I have yet to hear one. This statement was made despite former denials that unemployment was deliberately created. It was this policy that was responsible for the fall off in the purchase of motor vehicles, and this directly caused the closing down of General Motors-Holden's plant at Mosman Park in Western Australia. The excuse was that the facilities at that plant were no longer adequate but the real reason was the credit squeeze that took place. Unfortunately Western Australia has been particularly badly hit by unemployment. It was a doublebarrelled affair. Firstly there was the economic squeeze of this Government and secondly the downturn in the international demand for metals.

There is another factor which is not generally known. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) knows about this. Workers are still coming from other States to Western Australia, particularly to the north, expecting to find work. This is adding to the high unemployment in that State. The downturn in Western Australia commenced when the former LiberalCountry Party Government was in office in the State, and this was admitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service in answer to a question only yesterday when he said:

.   . Western Australian unemployment figures have been running at a much higher level than the national average for a long period of time. The honourable gentleman concurs; I see him nodding his head. The facts are that in the labour market in that State a deterioration has taken place during the course of the past 2 to 3 years.

During the last 2 or 3 years, of course, a Liberal Government has been in office in that State, and a Labor administration has been in office only since February 1971, for about 18 months. The Minister for Labour and National Service went on and admitted that certain factors had been responsible. He said:

Firstly, there has been a turndown in the number of major developmental projects and this has reduced unemployment in, the area from 10,000 to - as I recall it- approximately 3,000. This has had an effect on associated manufacturing, supplier and engineering firms. Secondly, there has been a turndown in mineral activity because of trading conditions-

In the final paragraph of his answer he mentioned the special problems in Western Australia but said that there would be no additional financial assistance for unemployment in the metropolitan area of Perth. That is to the discredit of this Government. The figures show that there are 9,652 persons unemployed in the metropolitan area as compared with 3,194 in the non-metropolitan areas. Does that not justify some financial assistance for metropolitan unemployment as well as for unemployment in rural areas? The Government has given some assistance in rural areas but refuses to assist financially to relieve metropolitan unemployment. The July unemployment figures for Australia as a whole are the highest July figures for 10 years. They reveal that 112,290 persons or 2 per cent of the work force are unemployed. I quote those figures from information supplied by the Minister.

In the past year the number of unemployed has increased by nearly 42,000. Over the same period the number of job vacancies has declined. According to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) there are about 8 people out of work for every vacancy. In 12 months those receiving unemployment benefit have increased from 19,453 to 42,979 to the end of July of this year. That is a tragic situation. Referring to Western Australia, I draw attention to what appeared in the West Australian' newspaper in regard to this matter. The editorial of 22nd June this year stated:

Western Australia has a strong case for seeking additional loan-fund assistance, apart from help with its budgeting problems. Its May unemployment figure is the highest percentage of any State. External factors - particularly in the fall in the international demand for metals - are largely to blame for Western Australia's position, which will not be remedied by Canberra's grants for rural unemployment relief.

There are ample precedents for Federal assistance to a State in special circumstances.

Unemployment in Western Australia is referred to again in another editorial on 22nd July which states:

Other States have industrial diversification that enables them to ride the bumps better than West ern Australia, where expansion and stability depend so much on mining. Canberra's rural help programme is the wrong medicine for this State, where more than 80 per cent of the registered unemployed are in the metropolitan area.

Yet this Government refuses to give any special assistance in this field. A bad feature of our unemployment - I am speaking now of Australia as a whole - is that almost one in every 3 people out of work is under the age of 21 years. Just over 32,000 peple fall into this category. 1 have here a copy of the 'Graduate Careers Guide for Australia' of March 1972. Referring to this matter, it states:

For some time the Council has been concerned that within industry, commerce, Government, the universities and colleges of advanced education there is insufficient understanding of the factors which govern the effective use of graduates. Apart from this very little co-ordinated information for Australia as a whole is available and there has been no Australia-wide investigation or even discussion of the relationship between the output and use of graduates.

It finishes up questioning the value of tertiary education and its relevance to satisfactory employment. This gives cause for concern. The Commonwealth Government is not treating the future employment needs of our young people seriously enough. The Minister for Labour and National Service has been condemned out of his own mouth. He is accused by the Australian' of 15th August of deliberately using smoke screens to hide the situation of the jobless. So unemployment goes up year by year. Each year is worse than the year before and each month worse than the previous month. The Government will go out of office with the unenviable record of being the first government for a decade to have deliberately created unemployment.

The Government now realises that it has made a rod for its own back. The outcry from all sections of the community has caused it to have second thoughts, not because the Government does not want unemployment but because it is concerned with the effect unemployment will have on its electoral prospects. That is why the handouts were given in the Budget last night. The Government has not forgotten 1961, when it came within one seat of losing government.







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