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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3946


Mr McARTHUR —In today's Australian , Glenn Milne reports on the latest contribution to the philosophical repositioning of the Australian Labor Party. The intellectual leader and top policy mind of the ALP Left, the member for Melbourne (Mr Tanner), has cautioned the Labor Party against a knee-jerk return to the interventionist industry policies of the past. He is reported to have said in a paper to his colleagues:

. . . most of the backlash against economic rationalism is mainly empty slogans masquerading as common sense. Parroting a line like `there is no such thing as a level playing field' might make us feel good, but it is not a policy.

The member for Melbourne accepts some need for a slowdown in tariff reductions but states:

There is a danger, however, that Labor will allow tariffs to resume the unduly dominant role they played in the industry policy of the past . . .

We cannot afford a return to the 1970's. There is a serious risk that Labor will become a prisoner of the populist nostalgia such as that peddled by Pauline Hanson.

While supporting some industry specific policies, he says:

. . . in general, Labor should approach notions such as industry plans and MITI-style strategies with caution. If we focus on enhancing the core factors of competitiveness, to a large extent the winners will pick themselves.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) and the member for Hotham (Mr Crean) would do well to heed these sentiments in light of their calls for a return to the discredited and outdated notions of industry policy based on picking winners and second-guessing the free market.

In 1992, Bill Clinton made his successful bid for the US presidency, referring to himself as a `new democrat'. His major contributions have been to balance the US budget, reform welfare and pioneer free trade agreements. (Time expired)