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Monday, 22 September 1997
Page: 6556

Senator CONROY —My question is addressed to Senator Hill, Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the minister confirm whether Senator Vanstone responded to the latest disastrous job figures by saying:

I feel like a farmer who is watching the clouds and saying, `This drought is going to break.'

At a recent CEDA dinner she stated:

You have to have lessened job security.

Do you fully endorse these statements?

Senator HILL —What I endorse is the fact that the government has put in place a foundation for job growth. It started when we inherited a domestic deficit of $10.3 billion. Whilst that remained, pressure was constantly going to be on interest rates and inflation. It tackled that expenditure and, in fact, will achieve a surplus within its first three years of government. We are seeing the benefit of that now in terms of lower interest rates, which I talked about earlier in this question time—five reductions of interest rates within 18 months of government. We have seen the benefits in terms of lower inflation rates, which give confidence to business to invest.

We have put in place the Workplace Relations Act which will free up the industrial relations system and therefore encourage employment growth. We are wrestling with taxation reform, which is another of the major pillars of economic reform which is necessary and which Labor was not prepared to tackle. We have made a number of reforms and changes in relation to small business, which have been applauded, changes to the capital gains tax and changes to the fringe benefits tax. The point is: all of these changes together add up to a better environment for job opportunity. It is as simple as that.

Labor has a short memory. Labor was the party which drove unemployment rates up to record levels, the highest level since the Great Depression. That is Labor's record, Madam President.

Senator Cook —That's not true!

Senator HILL —It is true that the coalition inherited high unemployment rates. It is true that the reforms that have been necessary to turn that around have required radical change. Those changes have been introduced and largely passed. It therefore logically follows that with a continuation of positive economic growth we will achieve our job targets as well. As I have said several times already in this question time, that is good for Australia. We do have the fundamentals right. We have been prepared to take the hard decisions to introduce the economic reforms that are necessary to create real jobs, not make-believe jobs. I have every reason to believe, on that basis, that the prospects for employment growth are good as well.

Senator CONROY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Vanstone said:

I feel like a farmer who is watching the clouds and saying, `This drought is going to break.'

Will you fully endorse those comments?

Senator HILL —Obviously the honourable senator was not listening. The point is: reforms have been put in place which will encourage economic growth and will achieve and improve job outcomes. That was the point that Senator Vanstone was making. As has been recognised by most independent and objective authorities, the foundation has been laid for improved job outcomes, and that is the objective.