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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1255

Mr BURR(3.38) —We have just heard a most disappointing contribution from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis). During his contribution to this debate he did absolutely nothing to answer the comments that were made by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). He did absolutely nothing to clarify the statements that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) during a speech he made in Perth. He did absolutely nothing to give any hope to the young unemployed people and he did absolutely nothing whatever to clarify the points that were made during the election campaign and the National Economic Summit Conference that gave some expectation to our young people.

I have always had great respect for the Minister, but I am disappointed about the contribution that he has made in this debate. Unemployment, the matter which we are talking about, is a most serious social and economic scourge on this country. I am sure that all members on both sides of the House would accept the extent of that social and economic scourge. Certainly, that point was made by the Prime Minister and other spokesmen for the Australian Labor Party during the election campaign. During the election campaign they gave hope and promise to many young unemployed people. I will remind the House and the Minister of some of the promises that were made during the election campaign and some of the expectations that were built up in the community about what a future Labor government could do for this country. I remind the Minister that on 11 February this year the Age stated:

A Federal Labor Government would cut income tax for middle and lower income earners in the Budget, create 500,000 jobs in three years, and boost the deficit by $1500 million under a national recovery and reconstruction plan unveiled yesterday by the Opposition Leader, Mr Hawke.

What has happened as a result? I will look individually at each one of those promises. What has happened to income tax? The Labor Party promised that it would reduce income tax, but rather than reducing income tax it said, even before it came to office and immediately after, that it had made a mistake and that it could not honour that promise. So it welshed on that promise even before it got into office. Certainly, the Labor Party has done nothing to reduce income tax; in fact it has pushed it up even higher. I refer to the promise to boost the deficit by $1,500m in order to support national recovery. The Budget deficit has been pushed up by $4,000m. That is another election campaign promise that the Government dishonoured; it knew right from the outset that it could not honour it.

I believe that the most cynical, deceptive campaign of all was waged about the unemployment problem. The Prime Minister and many of his spokesmen went into the election campaign and into the Economic Summit promising, without question of doubt, that they would create 500,000 jobs. It was the major thrust of the Government's campaign, and the Australian people believed them. However, what are we hearing from them now? What has been the result of the Labor Party's promises? We have heard from the Minister, in his very timid defence here today, that the fact that unemployment has got worse is the fault of the previous Government; it is not the Government's fault. How long is the Government to continue to make that sort of timid defence?

The people of Australia are looking to the Minister and the Government to give some hope and some promise for the future. What is happening? I remind honourable members that it is up to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) to tell the people of Australia the true position about unemployment. In a statement of 8 September this year the Leader of the Opposition pointed out:

. . . only 100 jobs in seasonally adjusted terms have been created since the Labor Government came to power.

This is the fact. I wish that the Minister would pass it on to the Australian people.

Mr Cunningham —When did he say that?

Mr BURR —This statement is dated 8 September 1983. The Leader of the Opposition, in his statement, went on to say:

Between July and August-

of this year-

52,000 jobs have been lost. Indeed since March the unadjusted figures show unemployment has fallen by an enourmous 68,300 jobs.

I remind Government members of the Government's promise during the election campaign of February to create 500,000 new jobs. That was the great expectation of the people of this country. The Government has been grossly deceptive, dishonest and used political expediency just to gain power for the most cynical of purposes. I believe that deservedly it will be condemned by the Australian people.

We have also heard from the Minister, in his contribution, that the Government is basing all of its economic recovery and an improvement in unemployment around the prices and incomes accord with the unions. That was the thrust of the Economic Summit where the Government managed to bring together employers and unions to get their approval for the prices and incomes accord. However where is that prices and incomes accord going now and where is it leading this country? The Government was forced, in order to try to preserve that prices and incomes accord, to support the union thrust for a 4.3 per cent rise in wages before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But that is not the key to it, as well the Government knows. The whole key to its prices and incomes accord has been waged around the push by the building industry in its endeavour for a $ 19.80 over-award payment. That is now the whole thrust of the union movement's campaign. Despite what might be said by the Government and by some of the union' s spokesmen we recall that at the conference of the Australian Council of Trade Unions two weeks ago the ACTU gave full endorsement for the union movement to pursue wage increases. We now find that the building industry is still pursuing the $19.80 over-award payment that, I believe, will wreck not only the prices and incomes accord but also the economy of this country.

The Government may well say that it has the unions in hand. But we were reminded only today of the seriousness with which the building industry unions are pursuing their campaign. The Builders Labourers Federation would not provide concrete for the Prime Minister to cement the foundation stone for the new Parliament House. It even boycotted that ceremony. That is the seriousness with which it is pursuing its campaign. Honourable members on both sides of the House agree that if there is to be economic recovery in this country, if there is to be an improvement in the job situation, it must also be coupled with constraint on the wage push that is being pursued by the unions and therefore allow for the expansion of private industry. I remind honourable members of the wording of our matter of public importance that we are debating today:

The failure of the Government to fulfil its promises to formulate policies to create jobs.

The Government gave promises in clear and unequivocal terms that it would formulate these policies. I believe that the best that the Government has been able to come up with so far is a very defensive, insignificant job program. It created the community employment program which, on the Government's estimation, will cost $300m to create temporary employment that will last for up to 12 weeks .

Mr Chynoweth —Twelve months.

Mr BURR —Twelve months, good Lord; and the Government still thinks that that is a permanent job. How would the honourable member like to be offered a job for 12 months and then be told that he is back on the dole queues? That is what the Government is doing. It is not only committing these people to now go back on the dole queues, it is committing a great many other workers who work in private industries to the dole queues.

The promise of the Labor Party was to create policies to reduce unemployment. To date it has failed miserably. It has deceived the Australian people. It has shown the duplicity of its policies and the extent to which this Prime Minister will go in order to gain and hold power. I believe that the Government should be roundly condemned by the Australian people because of the deception that it has thrust on this country. I have no doubt that when the next election comes it will receive the just condemnation of the Australian people.