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Thursday, 20 March 1980
Page: 1089

Mr FITZPATRICK (Riverina) (10.44) I speak tonight to support the penetrating speech made by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) during the grievance debate this morning. The honourable member for Sydney spoke up for the forgotten people of this nation- the unemployed and the school leavers. His speech was an indictment of this Government. It is distressing to know that, although in 1979 we had a buoyant metal market, record prices for our primary industries, record profits for the big mining companies and record revenue from the Government's oil pricing policy, this Government, as the honourable member for Sydney pointed out, showed no concern for our unemployed. One might well ask why, in this election year, the Government is able to get away with this and why there has been no softening of the Government's policy. I want to point out why this has come about. The Government has been able to get away with this callous approach by filling the front pages of the media with stories about Afghanistan and the boycotting of the Olympic Games, by causing industrial confrontation in this nation and by continually repeating that the workers' wages have priced the workers and others out of employment.

What is the truth? In the first five years of this decade the average weekly earnings rose more than the consumer price index, but from 1975 onwards the average weekly earnings rose at a lower rate than the CPI, in spite of the record metal prices and buoyant rural industries. The knockers of the unemployment benefit which is paid to youth tell us that it should be lower. The unemployment benefit paid to youth is $51.45 a week- 25 per cent below the poverty line. The honourable member for Sydney was pointing out these matters to the House this morning. School leavers who are under 18 years of age receive only $36 a week and every dollar they earn over $3 a week comes off their unemployment benefit. One can see how much this group is underneath the poverty line of $69.60. To add insult to injury, the school leavers have to wait six weeks before they get any benefit whatsoever. But all this is not enough. Some people say that the school leavers cannot get jobs because of their standards of numeracy and literacy. They never seem to produce any evidence to prove this. But evidence can be produced to show that the market value of education dominates all other values. This means that higher education credentials are now required for jobs.

The Government's oil pricing policies are causing greater unemployment in rural industry. People in my electorate have lost the markets in Queensland and other areas to which they used to cart primary products. Those markets have been lost because the carters had to increase prices to cover the extra fuel costs. The producers are losing markets and the youths in these places are losing employment. If this Government does not do something about the oil parity pricing and the unemployment problem it will pay for it dearly at the next election.

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