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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 338


Senator WATSON (3.18 p.m.) —Today the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gareth Evans, spoke about the government's achievements. He talked about standards of living and indicated that we had something to be proud of in this country. So I thought I had better check the record. We went to the OECD national accounts and got some figures out from 1975 to 1992. Surprise, surprise: Australia has not been doing all that well. These are the figures that Australia subscribes to. In fact, we seem to be doing less well than the average of the OECD. These are the sorts of countries with which we have to compare. What sorts of comparisons do senators think are relevant? How do we look at living standards and how well off people are? We looked at the figures on gross domestic product per head of current prices and the current PPPs in terms of US dollars. Of course, the PPPs are the rates of currency that equalise the purchasing power of different currencies.

  The record really does not speak for itself. When we look at and read the documents that were presented yesterday, we find that they are long on rhetoric but short on practical measures. They are also short in explaining how this package of $6.5 billion will be financed. We were told that it was to be financed by growth. How often have we heard that before—the investment boom will be financed by growth? We heard that at the last election. What has happened? Investment has not really risen. People are uncertain. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the country. What can these young people be faced with? Australia is really going to be trying to trade itself out of debt. It has an international indebtedness second to none around the world and second to none in terms of its rate of increase over the last 11 years.

  But when we look at it, what do we find was the real reaction to yesterday's news? If we look at it in terms of the perception of the international community, things are not looking all that good. The exchange rate movements or interest rates on long-term bonds really do not set the scene for a strong

economic recovery or for an environment in which these young people with these so-called added training incentives will get jobs. Today young people have said to me, `Where will the jobs be at the end of this training scheme?' The outlook is not particularly good. Unless there is a strong investment environment, those jobs simply will not be there.

  I believe that this document is strong on rhetoric and that it is a good public relations document. But when we look at the detail—regional headquarters, for instance—we find that it does not contain the sorts of initiatives and incentives that are found in comparable countries overseas. Again we see the borrowing of a term, enterprise bargaining, from overseas regional headquarters. But what do these regional headquarters concessions amount to? There is the paltry elimination of a 10 per cent dividend withholding tax.

  I put it that these sorts of measures are not enough. We have tried pool development funds before. What are we trying to do this time? We are just trying to lower the tax rate. Lowering the tax rate for companies has not brought about the investment boom that the government anticipated prior to the last election. In fact, investment is just not there; it is very shaky.

  So the government is launching this attempt to try to lower the unemployment level onto a very unhealthy economy, an economy that it is responsible for. It is an economy which I think needs more fundamental directives if we are to get this hopeless unemployment level down to a more satisfactory level. I seek leave to incorporate the table I referred to in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The table read as follows

[TABLE OMITTED FROM DATABASE - SEE HARD COPY PAGE 340]