PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 10187


Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 04/12/1996

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 10187

Fax from~ 04/ 12/ 96 16: 64 Pg:
E O E I.
Thank you very much Amanda. To Mr Holloway, to my other Parliamentary
colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. I am gratefual for the opportunity to just say a few
words to you of a general character about some of the Government's goals in the
employment area, with particular reference to the great importance we attach to
policies that affect regional and rural areas of Australia. I understand that Senator
Vanstone would have already announced a number of policy directions in relation to
the role of the Area Consultative Commnittees and I hope that those announcements
have been greeted in a positive fashion because we do see a very important role for
your comnmittees in implementing the new directions the Government has adopted in
relation to labour market programs.
All of us recognise the continued importance of trying to find better solutions to the
challenge of high unemployment in Australia. It still remains, and I don't mind
repeating it because it's a fact, it still remains the biggest social and economic
challenge that Australia has. The fact that we have a youth unemployment rate of 27%
throughout the nation rising to much higher levels in certain regional areas and certain
outer metropolitan areas of the big cities represents a very big challenge to the
Government and represents a very big challenge to the community. There will always
be debate about the best way of responding to that difficulty and that is the stuff' of the
whole political process. We have chosen to make a number of policy changes from the
direction adopted by the previous Government. We are trying to put a great deal more
emphasis on the role of small business in employing people. We have recently secured
the passage of our Workplace Relations Bill through the Senate. We believe over
time, and I have to stress over time, that that will produce a more flexible labour
market that will increase employment opportunities.
Now people will debate that and I respect that there is a political divide in the
commnunity on that but the Parliament has finally resolved the issue in favour of a piece
of legislation which, although it was not precisely in the original form presented by the

Fax from 64/ 12/ 96 16: 04 Pg: 2
Government, it did incorporate a lot of amendments put for-ward by the Australian
Democrats and some amendments I might stress that were picked up after discussion
between the Minister and representatives of the trade union movement because not all
of what was put to us by the trade union movement on that pielee of legislation was
regarded as unacceptable. Quite a number of the amendments that were put forward
by the trade union movement were accepted but it has now been resolved and its the
responsibility of all of us to try and make the new system work and I believe if it is
allowed to work it will produce better outcomes at the workplace level. It will
importantly produce more flexibility. It will importantly preserve the present margin
under the system for younger employees through the preservation of the junior wage
structure which was marked down for abolition on the first of July next year and if that
abolition had proceeded in the Government's judgement, the jobs of a lot of young
people around Australia would have been put at risk. That is a very, very important
element in the Government's approach and I think over time as it does work, it will be
of very, very great value.
I have recently established an employment committee of Federal Cabinet which I will
chair and which includes all of the senior Ministers, including Senator Vanstone and
Mr Kemp who are involved with employment and labour market issues, and the whole
purpose of that commiittee was to focus the attention of the Government on a day to
day basis, if you like on the problem of employment and the challenges that remained
in the community to reduce unemployment. Once again, I don't believe for a moment
that there are some magical, wand-waved solutions but if you can have a proper policy
focus on it as the most important priority of all, it will make a significant difference.
We believe that there are great employment benefits for regional Australia if the
Natural Heritage Trust which of course is linked to our proposal to sell one third of
Telstra can be realised. There will be A capital investment of a billion dollars over a
period of time, the largest investment ever from a capital side in the environmental
future of Australia and if we can get that up and running and I guess we will know in
the next few days, I don't know as I speak whether the legislation will pass through the
Senate. I mean, it's the delicious vagaries of Australia's political system and I suppose
it is a reminder that all of us are ultimately controlled by the collective will of the
Australian people and we really don't want it otherwise although it does sort of keep
you at the edge of your seat, and if you're a Member of the House of Representatives
you keep a weather eye on what your colleagues are doing in the Senate, but it's all a
delightful part of the political process so we will know I hope in a few days but I
certainly don't know as I speak, but that billion dollar investment will have very
important employment consequences for regional Australia, in particular, more so for
regional Australia than the cities, and I do hope very much that we can get it up and
running. But the most important message that I would like to leave with you ladies and
gentlemen is that community involvement and community consultation and the process
of the Government listening to what the community says is what the Area Consultative
Committees are all about and particularly as Chairmen of the various Area
Consultative Committees around Australia is what your role is all about. I have often
said that political leadership in this country consists on some occasions of standing in
the middle of the road and daring people to run you over. On other occasions I think

Fax from 641/ 6 1: 4P'
political leadership does consist in sitting down and listening to people before you've
made up your mind what you're going to do. The trick of course is to choose the
issues that are appropriate for the first treatment and also the issues that are
appropriate for the second treatment. Sometimes when you adopt the first approach
you're told that you don't listen and sometimes when you adopt the second approach
you are told you don't lead so the trick of course is to get the right mix. Now very
much the contribution that you can make to some of the new policy directions that the
Minister has outlined and others will outline is very much in the second category.
I don't pretend for a moment that the new labour market approach can work
effectively without the co-operation of the community and that involves the cooperation
of educators, of trainers, of union leaders, of people involved in small and
large business. We all have a common commitment, whatever our political beliefs may
be in better outcomes, particularly for young people and in lower levels of
unemployment because if governments and communities can't solve those sort of
problems then faith in the whole system is undermined and we don't pretend that we
can sort of send directions from a federal government that will solve all those problems
without your involvement. I want you to see the new initiatives and the new approach
and I know for some of you it's very different. Some of you, you may not feel initially
comfortable with the new approach but I do want you to see them as a bona fide
attempt on the part of the Government, albeit in a somewhat different fashion to tackle
problems which other governments have tried with varying degrees of success and I
am not here to bag my predecessors. I am here to promote the different approach that
the new Government is adopting and I hope you will accept from me, and I know I
speak for Senator Vanstone and for the other Ministers who are involved accept from
me that we do have a very strong commnitment to involving the community, a very
strong commitment to consultation and to listening. We think the new system will
work better. We do think the more market-oriented approach to job placement, the
new competitive approach will open up fresh opportunities for people that are not now
available and we would like you to give the system your co-operation. We would like
you to give the system your input and your support and in conjunction with some of
the other measures that I have alluded to today, I do hope that it will be seen and
supported as a very positive contribution to tackling what remains Australia's biggest
social and economic challenge.
I again thank you very warmly for coming. I hope you find today's meeting productive
and I hope you find the announcements that the Minister has made, and others will be
made later in the meeting, announcements that you can support and enthusiastically
participate in implementing. 04/ 12/ 96 16: 04 Pg: 3

Transcript 10187