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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1256

Mr CUNNINGHAM(3.48) —I have listened very carefully to the previous two Opposition speakers and was interested to see at what point they would get around to discussing the matter of public importance which they brought before the House. It is:

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

It was in the very last moments of the speech of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), that he finally got around to addressing himself, in some way, to the matter but he did not put forward any arguments to support his case. To say that this Government has not formulated policies is an extreme position for anybody to take. Before detailing what the Government has done in the formulation of policies I will spend a few minutes covering the remarks of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. During his speech I was really struggling to find any basis for what he was trying to put forward in argument in relation to the matter before the House. He seemed to be basing his argument on the fact that this Government made a promise to produce 500,000 extra jobs over a three-year period and was saying after seven months that nothing had been done about it. That is about the extent of what I could get out of what he had to say other than that he was quoting a few remarks by other people in relation to the accord.

The honourable member for Wilmot, of course, bored in regardless. He talked about how the present Government had made certain promises prior to the election in relation to cutting taxes and boosting the deficit by $1,500m and said that it had deceived the people. He has conveniently forgotten, although I am sure the public has not, that in the four days before the election when it became quite clear that the previous Government-and they are the people who now constitute the Opposition-had deceived the Australian public by its estimates of what the Budget deficit was to be. Had we been fully aware three weeks before the election of that situation-in fact, had the public been fully aware-the campaign waged prior to the election would have been totally different. But we did become aware just prior to the election that things were not right and that we would not be able to implement all of our policies immediately. The Prime Minister-to-be at that time, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Hawke), was aware of that and made it quite clear. So some of the things that we promised in the run up to the election had to be forfeited for a period simply because of the mess that we had inherited in the economic field. Nobody coming into power at that stage could have responsibly continued down the path the previous Government was sending this country. I commend our Cabinet for the measures it took when it realised what the situation was and acted to put our policies into operation. Otherwise if we had continued on the basis of action by the previous Government more and more people would have been thrown out of jobs.

Let me get back quickly to the matter before the House which is the discussion of the matter of public importance concerning whether the Government has formulated policies to create jobs. The first matter that was taken up by the Government immediately after the election, of course, was the setting up of a situation whereby the Government could make more current information available to the community so that decisions taken right across the board could be made on the basis of genuine information. That was done, of course, at the National Economic Summit Conference. The Government set out to establish an Economic Planning Advisory Council. We established an advisory committee on prices and incomes. We worked towards the return to a centralised wage fixing system. These are only just some of the policies. I will go through a few of them.

In regard to the improvement in the current information base, the first step in this direction was taken immediately after this Government came to office. The Government convened the National Economic Summit Conference. All sections of the Australian community were present at that Conference, as everybody knows. The Conference created a climate of common understanding, something that this country had not seen for many, many years under the previous Government. That information base was put forward so that we could explore policy options. Even though prior to the election we had fairly clear indications of what we would have liked to have done on coming to office, when the information was put before the Government, it had to announce this clearly to the Australian public so that it would we well aware of the directions and policies that the Government would have to take. It was agreed by all parties at the Summit that the frank exchange of information and views at the Conference had greatly enhanced mutual understanding of Australia's economic problems. To say that we have not formulated any policies is absurd. The National Economic Summit Conference was the first step-the major one as far as the economy was concerned-to let everybody know just what the situation was. The Government will not create jobs by going down the path of ignorance. We can create jobs only by looking at some of the facts in the community and using those facts for the betterment of the nation through the development of proper policies.

The next step was the establishment of an Economic Planning Advisory Council. This Council will continue the process of consultation and information exchange started at the National Economic Summit Conference. If we are to put the economy into the correct shape to create jobs it must be an ongoing process because, as the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) said, we have to create 120,000 jobs to preserve the status quo before we can even make inroads into the unemployment problems that have developed. It is intended that the Economic Planning Advisory Council Act 1983 be amended in the Budget sitting to provide for representation from the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, another important section of our economy. This country has gone downhill as far as employment in small business is concerned. Our small manufacturing industries have really suffered in the economic recession. Unless we have policies designed to bring them back into operation, we certainly will not create the jobs that we want to create.

We have established an advisory committee on prices and incomes to monitor and to advise on the implementation of various elements of the prices and incomes policy, to advise on the co-ordination and consistency of the policy at Federal and State levels between income groups and to review and to report at regular intervals on the effectiveness of the policy. All these measures have been taken . Yet the Opposition comes into this House today and, without any basis of argument, tries to tell the Australian public that the Government has not fulfilled its promises to formulate policies. One could go on and on in relation to the number of things that have been done. Let me go on to a few more. As the Minister has clearly said, we have worked towards a centralised wage fixing system. The Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has just brought down a judgment in relation to this. We have been through the period of the emergency wage pause which was brought in by the previous Government virtually as a panic measure because it never had any policies. We are now back to a centralised wage fixing system, a system which will allow industry in this country to know just where it is going in relation to wages over a lengthy period, so it will be able to plan for the future. Without that proper planning, one certainly cannot create jobs.

We have developed other areas of policy to create employment. In regard to the industrial development area, we have implemented a comprehensive industry development policy. We have given infrastructure support to the steel industry in different regions. We have heard plenty about that in this Parliament. We have introduced our job creation programs. The honourable member for Wilmot set out to denigrate these programs. The Government has never said that its job creation program was the be all and end all as far as job opportunities are concerned. It was a measure that had to be taken simply because of the situation at the moment, where we have so many people out of work. We need short term measures to put people back to work and give to the Government time to re-adjust the economy and to get it going again. We also have many training and retraining programs. The Government is looking forward to putting people into the proper training programs that will mean something to Australia as we come out of this recession. The policies of this Government will regenerate the economy to such a point that we will need more trained people.

In the last couple of days, the Government has announced its new housing package which, if the indication from my office in McMillan is any indication at all, will really generate a lot of employment very quickly in the community. I expect that right across Australia today in this very first week many young people will be in the position of being able to say: 'This is for me. I can at last look forward to getting my family a home'.

They are the sorts of policies about which Opposition members have come into this House today and said that we have failed in our promises. They have not put forward one iota of evidence to justify what they have had to say. After seven months in office, this Government has possibly done more thay any other government to turn this economy around to the position where we can look forward to taking up the slack in employment and gradually moving in to counter unemployment. I have many other facts and figures here, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, we do not have the time to go through them. The figures clearly show that there has been an enormous structural change in employment in Australia. If we had the time to go through them, we could. One of our real problem areas concerns our young people, and our young female unemployment problem and the change which has taken place in this area over the last 10 to 20 years. This problem is one which this Government will be able to address when it has the economy in its right order.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The discussion is concluded.