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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 515


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) is even more dismal in his portfolio than he was as Leader of the House. It is easy to see why he was removed from that job and he will be removed from the Ministry by the electors quite soon, probably at the end of October. Let me set him straight on a few of the facts. First of all, on the question of unemployment, he ought to know that throughout the 1970s the rise in unemployment was a universal phenomenon in the Western world. Whilst it is true that between 1973 and 1975 there was an increase in unemployment in Australia and an end to the 'golden era' of full employment characteristic of Western economies between 1945 and 1974, it must be remembered that in that period unemployment in Australia was well below the average of the 25 countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. One thing that is quite clear is that unemployment in Australia is now well above the OECD average.

The OECD countries with the best employment figures are Sweden and West Germany. West Germany has a Socialist government. Sweden has a coalition government at the moment but honourable members know full well that for the last 50 years the socialist party has been in control for about 45 years. So much for the nonsense that a free enterprise economy will bring Australia back to full employment. It is utter naivety for the Minister to suggest that the remedy for economic growth lies completely in the hands of the Australian consumer, that he will pull money out of his pocket and that is what will decide how the economy will go.

Let us look at what has happened to our economy recently. I refer, for example, to the closure of the General Motors-Holden's Pagewood plant in Sydney. What part did the ordinary Australian consumer have in that? That was not a decision made in Australia. It was not a decision made by the Australian Government. It was not a decision made by the New South Wales Government. It was not even a decision made by the Australian board of General Motors. The decision was made in Detroit and communicated by telephone. There is enormous consolidation towards large scale, high volume but low employing industry and the elimination of many small businesses, which are still relatively very high employers. In the last few years we have the phenomenon of record profits for big business and record numbers of bankruptcy for small businesses.

Increasingly the commanding heights in the Australian economy are being dominated by the multinationals. As a result we are losing control over our economic destiny. The Government, in fact, is losing the power to control the economy and what is even worse, it has utterly lost the will to attempt to control it. These are the commanding heights of the Australian economy controlled not by Australians but by people from other nations: Coal, copper, aluminium, uranium, motor manufacturing, food processing, advertising, computers, drugs, chemicals, plastics and petrol. The only thing we have which is entirely our own is Liberal Party rhetoric and humbug. That, as yet, has not been taken over by multinational corporations, perhaps because they do not see any profitability in it.

There is a complete failure by the Government to understand what is happening in the world economy. They have a complete misunderstanding of economic history. The Government tried to give the impression that since the Industrial Revolution, which began 200 years ago in Great Britain, full employment has been the norm and that current high levels of unemployment are a mere temporary phase, due to reduced levels of demand. In that 200 years since 1 780 in Britain, the characteristic form of employment has been instability. Over a period of 200 years there has been 30 years of full employment, 30 years of war and 140 years of unstable employment with sharp alternations between high and low levels. Even in the period 1919 to 1939, when Britain still had a dominant world economic position, average unemployment was 1 1 per cent per annum.

That golden era to which I referred before of full employment between 1945 and 1974 was an anomoly, not the norm, in countries such as Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What was the characteristic of that period? The characteristic was heavy government intervention in the economy. This was the period when, Great Britain, for example, adopted the economic teaching of J. M. Keynes and the White Paper on full employment produced by Sir William Beveridge. In Australia J. B. Chifley also produced a White Paper on full employment. It was the period of the Attlee Government in Great

Britain, of the Chifley Government here, of Truman's Fair Deal in the United States. That was the first time in 200 years of economic history that Western economies had full employment in peace time.

It is nonsense and mendacious of the Government to suggest that somehow we are just going through a temporary phase of unemployment. It has been quite exceptional to have full employment in peace time and this has always been accompanied by a heavy degree of Government intervention. The period 1945-74 involved a revolution in education, a revolution in secondary education, a revolution in motor transport and in the massive provision of health services. We had vast programs of building schools, universities, roads, public works in Australia - such public works as the Snowy River scheme and the beginning of the social welfare scheme.

It is true that there was also a heavy contribution to employment in that period of the Cold War because of heavy defence expenditure and defence related industries. But honourable members on the Government side should not delude themselves that that transition to full employment after the Second World War was something that just happened. It did not just happen. It was the result of direct Government intervention, of public involvement in promoting all manner of things that are now very much out of fashion. What we have instead is a sharp dose of Friedmanite economic policies, marked by that sharp swing to the Right in the English speaking world during the middle of the late 1970s, with Malcolm Fraser, Robert Muldoon in New Zealand, Mrs Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and to some extent even Jimmy Carter in the United States. The Dr Strangeloves in the Department of the Treasury reject the idea of Government intervention in the economy and rely entirely on the operation of market forces. Look at the dazzling successes of this achievement in Great Britain; look at the 1,800,000 unemployed there. That was because of a government which is following, in a somewhat less inhibited form, the policies that this Government would like to pursue. Of course, Great Britain does not have anything like the National Country Party involved in the Government.


Mr Cohen - What about Friedman's other successes in Chile and Israel?


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Certainly the case of Chile is one of the great disaster areas where the adoption of so-called free market economics has led to a situation so catastrophic that no election of any kind can be permitted for 19 years. The government has made a complete falsification of economic history. Those people do not understand what they are doing. There is also a complete failure to recognise the tragic wastage of human talent and the skill and ingenuity of human beings that is going down the drain. The Minister does not appear to recognise what he ought to recognise and that is that while there has certainly been an increase in the absolute numbers of people who are in some form of work - I include part time work - he spoke deceptively as though the figure to which he was referring was full time work. That is not the case. It is full and part time work. There is also--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Is the Minister taking a point of order?


Mr Viner - Mr Deputy Speaker, I take objection to the use of the word 'deceptively' because I very clearly stated to the House the number of people in full time employment, as part of that 130,000, as part of 175,000 growth in employment.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Does the Minister take this as a personal reflection on himself?


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - It was an attempted deception.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Will the honourable member withdraw?


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Yes, I withdraw. There is a complete failure to recognise what governments can do in order to promote employment here. Let me give an example. Nothing has been done to help small and medium size industry gain access to venture capital. The firm Solarhart Ltd, an innovative Australian manufacturer of solar heating and cooling appliances, could not raise from local banks or government institutions the capital it required for expansion. As a result, Solarhart had to sell a half interest to Royal Dutch Shell. The price of expansion was to sell 50 per cent, in practice a controlling interest, to a foreign owned multinational corporation whose operations represent a complete conflict of interest. That is absolutely scandalous. We have to look at the horror story of the Government's failure to support Ted Pritchards steam car, which was a proven success and which could have been a major world contributor to the energy crisis.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The honourable member's time has expired. I call the honourable member for Kingston.


Mr Young - The honourable member for Mitsubishi.







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