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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 48

Senator MURPHY (5.21 p.m.) —Like Senator Spindler, I am somewhat confused by the matter of public importance raised by Senator Short, which refers to `The need for the government's industry and employment statement to address the fundamental problems that continue to hold back Australia's potential for jobs and growth.' Senator Short said that the government has had 23 economic and employment statements.

Senator Short —Twenty-two.

Senator MURPHY —Sorry, this is the 23rd and 22 predecessors have sunk without trace. Senator Short also said that the rich have done okay, middle Australia has missed out and the unemployed have no hope of a job. I listened to all of this hollow rhetoric but heard nothing from Senator Short about what the opposition would actually change if it were in government.

Senator Short —We told you precisely.

Senator MURPHY —Not at all. At least Senator Gibson made a couple of points which, if implemented, would help rectify some of the problems confronting this and other countries that are coming out of the recession. Australia is not the only country that has had a recession. Strong economic growth is important; but we have to go back further than this little foray today to look at the way this country has developed over time.

  From an historical point of view, for many years this country had an inward looking economy. This country based its wealth purely on the very minor development of its resources; it got rid of them in the rawest possible form and rode on the sheep's back for many years. When this government came into office one of the things it was confronted with was changing the fundamental focus of industry in this country. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to change it all. There have been some significant successes. Many of our industries are now export-orientated and are very successful and will become more successful. That will lead to employment and strong economic growth.

  I use as an example one industry in which Senator Gibson used to participate, namely, the forest industry. Yesterday I listened to the Premier of Tasmania make a major announcement about some benefit from the forest industry, by saying that we need to export another 1.1 million tonnes of woodchips per annum to really give a boost to the Tasmanian forest industry. Something is drastically wrong if that is the conservatives' logic on how we should get on with industry development in this country. That certainly should not be the case, given that we know there are so many other value-added processes into which the forest industry could enter.

  Senator Spindler raised some interesting points about the training of workers. He has now left the chamber; nevertheless, with regard to the history of education and training this government's record stands alone. I think Senator Gibson claimed that the training guarantee levy was an impediment. One of the fundamental reasons the government introduced a training guarantee levy was that employers out there in all industries were not making any effort to actually train their workers and provide them with an opportunity to improve their skills because we had this tailoristic approach to the old ways in which industry operated for many years. We needed to do something, and we did it. If it has done nothing else, the levy has focused some industry participants on the need to train people.

  Senator Short raised a matter of public importance without even knowing what is in the government's white paper. That bemused government members and provided us with a source of information. However, I want to quickly turn to the one relevant statement by Senator Short, that a leopard never changes its spots. I found that interesting, given Dr Hewson's new approach to things. I quote from an article by Laurie Oakes:

Hewson's idea of damage control is trotting out the old tried (and untrue) lines

John Hewson, after four years as leader of the federal Liberal Party, finally discovered what most Politics 1 students could have told him at the start of their course. "Politics," he announced, "is about building constituencies in support of you, not building constituencies against you." Liberals must have felt like echoing that well-known academic, Professor Henry Higgins: "He's got it! By George, he's got it!"

I do not think the opposition has got it because it certainly did not come in here with it today, and it does not look like it will have it in the future because the opposition has really missed the point—it has provided no policies and it has no idea about where we should be heading. At least the government has its achievements on the record, and it will keep on making those achievements.