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Table Of Contents
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- Start of Business
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 3) 1992-93
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 4) 1992-93
- LOAN BILL 1992
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1992-93
- SOUND REINFORCEMENT
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Prescribed Payments System
(Mr PROSSER, Mr DAWKINS)
(Dr CATLEY, Mr KEATING)
Prescribed Payments System
(Mr CONNOLLY, Mr DAWKINS)
(Mr NEWELL, Mr KERIN)
Prescribed Payments System
(Mr LLOYD, Mr DAWKINS)
Motor Vehicle Industry
(Mr SCHOLES, Mr DAWKINS)
(Dr HEWSON, Mr KEATING)
Reserve Bank of Australia
(Mr BEVIS, Mr KEATING)
- Prescribed Payments System
- PRESENTATION OF PAPERS
- AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY AUTHORITY
- AUSTRALIA'S STRATEGIC PLANNING IN THE 1990s
- CASH TRANSACTION REPORTS AGENCY
- FAMILY LAW COUNCIL
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- TARIFF PROPOSALS
- NEW BUSINESS AFTER 11 P.M.: ADJOURNMENT OF THE HOUSE
- PIPELINE AUTHORITY AMENDMENT BILL 1992
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1992
- SWIMMING POOLS TAX REFUND BILL 1992
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1992-93
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Australia Post: Registered Publications Service
(Mr Andrews, Mr Robert Brown)
Port Kembla and Newcastle Ports: Rail Services
(Mr Hollis, Mr Robert Brown)
Australian Wool Corporation
(Mr Campbell, Mr Crean)
Research and Development Projects
(Mr McGauran, Mr Beddall)
(Mr Bruce Scott, Mr Crean)
Motor Vehicles: SES and Senior Officers
(Mr Downer, Mr Beddall)
Supportive Wage Package
(Dr Bob Woods, Dr Blewett)
Pensioners: Telephone Allowance
(Mr Connolly, Dr Blewett)
Pensioners and Social Security Beneficiaries
(Mr Andrews, Dr Blewett)
Airport Terminals: Smoking Bans
(Mr Cobb, Mr Beazley)
- Australia Post: Registered Publications Service
Wednesday, 9 September 1992
Mrs BAILEY (9.19 p.m.) —The Australian public has had enough rhetoric—and certainly enough of the sort of rhetoric that the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Lavarch) has been going on with tonight. It has had enough of the economic theories and the so-called economic statements by this Government. In the past year we have had the 1991-92 Budget, the job statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating), the One Nation statement, the national youth employment and training statement and now another Budget.
We have had a total of 17 economic statements by this Government, yet look where we are today. We have intolerably high levels of unemployment, an appalling lack of investor—
Mr Lavarch —This is not rhetoric, Fran?
Mrs BAILEY —These are the facts. We have an appalling lack of investor and consumer confidence, falling living standards and an unprecedented number of business bankruptcies. With this Budget the Australian community was actually looking to this Government to take responsibility for its mistakes and to take action on the fundamental economic problems that we have in this country, but the Government has let them down once again. Instead of concentrating on the causes of our economic problems and developing constructive and real, long term solutions to those problems, it has opted yet again for the quick fix solutions, which will do precious little to stem the swelling tide of unemployed and even less to overcome the fundamental deficiencies in our economy.
This Budget is no different from those in the past. The only thing that has changed is the rhetoric. We no longer have the Budget that is going to bring home the bacon, but we are supposed to have the caring Budget. The terminology would be almost farcical if it were not such a serious matter, but there is nothing caring about this Budget. The end result of the policies of this Government and the Budget is record unemployment and making more people more dependent on government for their very survival. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker: what is caring about that? It is a tragedy that more and more people are having to depend on government assistance through no fault of their own, whether they be on unemployment benefit because they have lost their job or, in the case of young people, because they simply cannot get a start in life, or whether they have jobs but pay so much tax that they have to rely on government assistance to make ends meet.
This Government and this Budget deny Australians the opportunity to independently fulfil their basic needs of housing, feeding, clothing, educating and nurturing the members of their family unit. What Australians really want is the opportunity to provide for themselves and not to be increasingly dependent on government. What they want is the opportunity of a job, perhaps with some overtime, and to be rewarded for their hard work rather than to be penalised. They simply want a fair go.
The most critical problem facing us as a country is the distressing unemployment crisis. We have a country that has abundant natural resources, a hardworking and talented work force, and the most well-educated young generation in our nation's history. Yet, despite that, officially one million Australians are out of work, 680,000 children are living in homes where neither parent has a job, and those numbers are increasing by more than 500 a day. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are able to find only part time work, and many more are worried about losing their jobs or their loved ones losing theirs. As Trevor Sykes, writing for the Bulletin said, Australia now has:
. . . one in nine of its people out of work; where regional unemployment is high enough to be labelled depression rather than recession; where a large proportion of our youth has been condemned to the dole queues for so long that they are probably permanently unemployable; where greater inequality of income exists than ever before in Australian history; and where large sections of Australian manufacturing industry have been dismantled.
Mr Cobb —So much for social justice and compassion.
Mrs BAILEY —Exactly. And if we need further proof of the fact that our standard of living is slipping further and further behind that of other OECD nations, it is this: at the beginning of federation we had the highest standard of living per capita; we are now 6 per cent below the OECD average and falling. The nation's foreign debt has climbed past $150 billion after expanding almost six times more quickly than the general economy during the past financial year. In fact, our net foreign debt now takes up 40 per cent of our gross domestic product.
This is the real picture of Australia today, and this is what this Government had the responsibility to address with its Budget. The Budget provided it with the opportunity to tackle the causes of the unemployment crisis and the 144 per cent increase in business bankruptcies. However, just as the Government deliberately chose to maintain high interest rates, it chose to keep drifting—at our expense. The Prime Minister has refused to acknowledge that there are very serious problems with the economic structure in which we must all operate, whether that be running our own businesses or working for others who provide employment.
Instead of tackling the problems that are forcing thousand of businesses either to cut back on working hours or to close their doors, the Prime Minister chose a very short term cosmetic program. The Budget contains little good news for most sectors of the Australian community and in particular for farmers and rural communities, who are suffering from falling income and the recession.
As recently released statistics from the ABS national agriculture finance survey 1990-91 show, the rural economy is in a perilous state. Farm incomes are down by one-third, cash operating surplus is down by 36 per cent nationally and 40 per cent in Victoria, farm capital expenditure is down nationally by 36 per cent and again in Victoria by 40 per cent. All of those figures combine to paint a gloomy but, unfortunately, realistic picture of life on the land. As I drive through country towns in my electorate of McEwen, I see all too clearly the evidence of the damage that this Government's policies have done to the rural sector. Shop after shop, business after business, dealer after dealer are either empty, closing down or have laid off staff. These businesses have been forced to close their doors and put off their staff because they simply cannot afford to operate in an economic climate where business costs are too high and demand is stagnant or declining.
Despite these hardships, rural communities and farmers are to get no relief from this Government. Instead, the situation may get worse. It is predicted that as many as one in five farmers will leave the land during the next five years. According to the Weekly Times, the Department of Primary Industries and Energy has warned rural counsellors around the nation to prepare themselves for major structural change. Counsellors have been told that there is a potential worst case scenario of 20 per cent of farmers leaving the land—the biggest demographic shake out in memory. The flow-on effect this will have on small country towns will be devastating.
The National Farmers Federation has said that the Government has chosen a short term job fix rather than the creation of permanent jobs through sustained economic growth in this latest Budget. The Budget does not remove the high add-on costs or tackle the problems that make our exports, including our primary products, uncompetitive on the world market. We need to encourage production and encourage our farmers to export. To do that we need to remove the cost burdens that make our products uncompetitive, and only Fightback will do that. Only the Fightback plan will give farmers and rural communities the relief they so desperately need.
In fact, the Treasury analysis has confirmed this. It has found that under the Fightback plan costs in the agricultural sector would fall by $1 billion and costs in the transport and storage sector would fall by $2 billion. Further support of the benefits of Fightback comes from the NFF's independent study of the Fightback plan undertaken by ACIL Australia Ltd. It found that the savings for farm businesses range from 8 to 29 per cent if there was no road user charge, and from 7 to 22 per cent with a road user charge, on which the Government must make up its mind, and that farm families with low incomes would benefit by up to 11 per cent, while the real disposable incomes of families in higher income groups would increase by about 3 per cent.
It is the responsibility of this Government to provide the economic environment in which business can thrive and develop, but this Government has abrogated its responsibility in relation to the business community. Businesses—indeed, all of us—have been let down by this Keating Government because it refuses to show the resolve to tackle the causes of our current problem and refuses to make the changes necessary to reform our economic structure and allow us to take our place among the top modern, competitive trading nations and, most importantly, help create secure and long term jobs for the future.
Despite that massive potential for job creation and growth in small business, there was not one mention of small business in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Dawkins) and there was nothing in the Budget Papers to encourage business to employ or invest. Already, business investment is one of the weakest sections of the economy. Statistics show that it has fallen by more than a quarter in the past two years, and the Budget Papers forecast another fall.
Labor's policies make it expensive for employers to employ people. In Victoria it is estimated that employers are paying almost $4,000 a year in administration costs on each employee. Businesses are further hampered by a restrictive taxation system which burdens them with excessive add-on costs such as payroll tax, sales tax, fuel tax and training tax, to name just a few. We could dramatically cut unemployment levels by abolishing payroll tax alone. The Prime Minister himself said that the abolition of payroll tax would create between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs. The coalition is not going to abolish just one tax; we will abolish seven major hidden taxes.
The Government had the opportunity to take this action with its Budget, but yet again it frittered away the opportunity and ignored the plight of those hundreds of small businesses in my electorate of McEwen who are struggling for survival through this recession. I have only to pick up a copy of one of my local newspapers to see that yet another business has shut down in my electorate. The local paper in Yea recently ran an article highlighting the number of businesses that have been forced to close. Its investigations found that in the main business district there are 16 empty shops, while at the new shopping centre nine stores, plus the large supermarket, are vacant.
These businesses were hoping for some relief in this Budget, but they got none. All they got was more of the same. The only measure in the Budget which will affect small business was the Government's announcement of a $10 a week wage rise, a rise which small business simply cannot afford, especially when it comes on top of the superannuation levy and the recent increase in the training levy. For many small businesses this wage increase may well be the last straw which pushes them over the edge into closure or bankruptcy.
The question I am most asked by businesses in my electorate is when will they get relief from the crushing level of add-on costs they are forced to pay now. This Budget has demonstrated that this Government has absolutely no answer for them. Given the level of youth unemployment, especially in rural and outlying urban areas, such as Craigieburn and Epping in my electorate, it was to be hoped that the Government would take some real action on this problem. But rather than try to tackle the causes of youth unemployment, the Government has once again chosen to disguise the causes of the problem by throwing more handfuls of money into training programs which in the past have had poor or dubious outcomes—spending, yet again, what it does not have.
In the Jobtrain program, Labor's own figures show that in 1991 only 22 per cent of young people who actually completed a Jobtrain course were employed three months after completing Jobtrain. Additionally, one-third of those who enrolled for Jobtrain courses drop out before they are completed. In this Budget the Government has provided for a range of temporary make-work schemes and training programs costing $3 1/2 billion. These measures are entirely cosmetic exercises aimed at reducing the unemployment queues by shifting the young into education or training schemes. Sadly, there is no guarantee that any of those involved with these schemes will have a job at the end of their training.
Another example of the lack of resolve of this Government to really address the causes of our unemployment can be seen in its decision to spend millions of dollars on short term job creation schemes, the major one being the local capital works program. No-one objects to local facilities being upgraded or extended, but what happens to those who get some short term employment, when the money runs out? Once again, by not tackling the causes of our problems, the problems will not only continue to exist but they will get worse. Would it not be more honest and make more sense to tackle the causes of the problems now?
This Government has presided over the worst unemployment in this country's living memory. Unemployment hit a post-war record of 11.1 per cent in June, but in my home State of Victoria things have been much worse for much longer. Unemployment passed the 11 per cent barrier months ago and is now at 11.9 per cent.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Budget is that with it the Government has embarked on a massive unfunded spending spree which will do precious little to help our unemployment crisis and nothing to overcome the fundamental problems in our economy. The long term ramifications will be disastrous. It is economically irresponsible. This Budget of spending now and paying later is just that: economically irresponsible.
Already under the present Prime Minister we have witnessed one of the greatest fiscal turnarounds this country has ever seen. In two years the Government has gone from a forecast Budget surplus of $8 billion to an official deficit for 1992-93 of $13.4 billion. As I sat listening to the Treasurer on Budget night when he was making his Budget Speech, I had a distinct whiff of the Kirner Government, because this Federal Labor Government is spending money it does not have and selling assets to reduce its Budget deficit. We have heard and seen that many times in Victoria under Cain and Kirner.
The Treasurer has even admitted that the Government will consider and implement a number of tax changes to reduce the 1995 Budget deficit, which has been increased in order to fund the spending spree. In short, the Government will impose massive increases in taxes and charges to pay for this year's and last year's unfunded spending spree. Already we have had increases in the Medicare levy, tobacco excise and fringe benefits tax. It is the responsibility of government to provide a framework for business, industry and consumers of this country in which they can be dynamic and innovative. This Government has certainly failed that.
It is going to remain for the coalition when it forms the government to introduce those changes which are so desperately needed in this country. All it takes is determination, courage and commitment. We have an example of that determination and commitment: firstly, to admit that we have real problems in this country; secondly, to identify the causes of those problems; and thirdly, to strategically set about fixing those problems. A small country across the Tasman has already faced up to its responsibilities. I might add that it was a Labour government that initiated the changes and showed that courage and determination.
In conclusion, I will quote from a letter in the Australian Financial Review on 31 August 1992 which I believe summed up this Government's Budget beautifully. It reads:
. . . as a taxpayer I demand more honesty from those in power. Instead, at the moment we're heading for the resurrection of George III's taxes on windows and tea leaves, which simply resulted in windows being bricked up and the US declaring its independence from the government responsible.
This is not a Budget which makes any genuine or serious attempt to face up to Australia's real economic problems. Sadly, it is a Budget which offers absolutely no hope or genuine security for Australians of any age because it has failed to provide that economic framework that will enable people of all ages to thrive rather than to merely survive. (Time expired)