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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Page: 76

Dr JENSEN (2:38 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. How is the government working to improve the international competitiveness of the Australian economy? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for Tangney for his question. Of course, it goes without saying that Australian exporters need a strong domestic economy from which to launch their operations into the global economy. Since elected, we have been working hard as a government to achieve and deliver that base for Australian business and particularly for Australian exporters. Low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and budget surpluses are all delivering a very, very strong Australian economy. We are also absolutely determined to continue to see the Australian economy grow in a sustainable fashion. That has been underpinned by the report from the OECD that came out today with economic forecasts for the Australian economy, particularly with regard to growth.

Interestingly, the OECD also calls for continuing reforms. We cannot take the pressure off the reform process in making sure that we remain productive, competitive and efficient in the global marketplace. We as a government are determined to make our exporters more competitive. In our tax reform package in 1998 we removed $3.5 billion worth of taxes from the back of exports going out of Australia. In this year’s budget, just released, we delivered $1.8 billion in tax relief to further enhance the competitiveness of Australian industry and exporters. That has certainly been welcomed by Australian business, as represented by the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association. Those industry groups and their constituent members are determined to improve the competitiveness of our economy through their efforts.

This year’s budget also delivers $21.7 billion in personal income tax cuts, continuing our commitment to structural taxation reform, increasing incentives for workers and increasing the efficiency of the Australian economy. As a government we remain determined to deliver these tax cuts and also the certainty that 850,000 Australian businesses need over the next couple of months. We have a business community that is determined to improve productivity and competitiveness in what they are doing in the workplace in the interests of the Australian economy, yet we have the Australian Labor Party standing in the way of these tax cuts. The Australian Labor Party wants to create all sorts of mayhem with the Australian business community not being able to determine anything other than to determine not to determine something. The reality is that, whilst the government and business community of Australia want to get on with improving productivity, efficiency and competitiveness in the Australian economy, the Australian Labor Party is determined to stop tax cuts for Australian workers and create mayhem for the Australian business community.