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Tuesday, 9 November 1976

Mr STEWART (Lang) -This afternoon we have heard the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) talk about the faults of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. Both stressed the fact that we had too large a deficit. The honourable member for Berowra cited figures in his speech to show what happened in August this year compared to August last year and said that this was the comparison that had to be made. As there is so much stress in economic arguments about the deficit which was budgeted for by the Australian Labor Party, let us have a look at how the deficit of this Government is at present operating. In the 3 months to 30 September 1976, the deficit of this Government was $2,275.9m. For the same period 12 months ago, to 30 September 1975, the deficit was $ 1,887.3m. Any excuses that the honourable member for Berowra can give as to why the deficit of this Government is higher than the deficit of the Labor Government in 1975 hold no water. The real reason that the economy of Australia is not improving is because this Government does not know how to handle it.

This is the fifth attempt at economic measures made by the Treasurer. The first was in January. There were two in March, one in May and the major one on 17 August. Let me remind the House of the words of the Treasurer in that Budget Speech. He said:

When this Government was elected on 13 December last, Australia was in bad shape.

Inflation was out of hand, economic activity was falling again and unemployment had risen to record levels.

The Government immediately set about the enormous task of repairing the damage and restoring confidence.

Recovery is no w getting under way.

The private sector is growing again and confidence is gradually returning.

This Budget will aid that recovery and rebuild the confidence further . . .

It is a Budget for confidence; it is also a Budget for reform.

But suddenly over the weekend the Treasurer came out with new economic measures that took most of the people by surprise. A special meeting of Cabinet was called on Friday because the Government did not know what to do or how to doit.

Opposition members are not the only people in the community who are complaining about the economic mismanagement of this Government. Harsh and continuous criticisms are appearing every day from all types of organisations. They include the manufacturing industries, the building industry, the Australian Industries Development Association, the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers, banks and bankers, chambers of commerce, retailers, small businessmen, multi-national companies and the Premiers of the various States. In the 5 attempts to do something about recovering the economic situation in Australia, this Government has not succeeded at all. All of its ideas and all of the predictions of the Treasurer have become unstuck. Most sections of the community are either stagnant at the moment as they have been for the last 12 months or are experiencing conditions which continue to decline. It is no good this Government saying that it is what we did or did not do between December 1972 and November 1975 that created the economic situation that exists in Australia today. Between 1949 and 1972 Liberal-Country Party governments were in office. It was the laissez-faire private enterprise capitalist attitude taken by this present Government or its forerunners that allowed the economic situation to deteriorate to the extent that it did when we came into office.

Honourable members opposite are all inclined to say that it is only the Opposition in this Parliament that is criticising the Government's economic policy. The Premier of New South Wales, after hearing of these announcements on Monday, said:

The recession is now well into its third year and the current series of measures just doesn't give the stimulus necessary to get real recovery under way.

He went on to say:

We have got the highest unemployment on the mainland and our building industry, already hard hit, has been given another kick in the guts by the so-called economic measures.

When we look at what has happened to our economy in the last 11 months m which this Government has been in office, we find that the number of new car registrations has decreased. They decreased alarmingly in August. They increased slightly in September. Unemployment is still increasing. Retail sales are running below price increases. Savings are still rising rapidly. There was $180m in savings accounts in July. The volume of money, broadly defined as M3 was increasing at the rate of 19 per cent in the 3 months to August. There is still a lack of confidence in the business community.

I have quoted from the Treasurer's speech of 17 August in which he said that confidence was returning. Our balance of payments situation is declining. Factories are working below capacity. I correct the honourable member for Berowra and inform him that the rate of overtime being worked at the moment is declining, not increasing. Our personal taxation has been increased. Even the Australian Taxpayers' Federation is asking when this Government will keep the promises made by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he was going to cut out the tax rip-off. The people of Australia cannot even see a ray of light in the economic inflationary tunnel, let alone see this Governmentthe Liberal-National Party Government- live up to its slogan that it would turn on the lights. These new measures will do nothing to increase productivity. The laughable announcement of the establishment of the Department of Productivity will do nothing either to increase productivity or to help the situation in Australia. This is band-aid, patchwork-quilt economic management.

In the few moments left to me to speak I ask what effect the introduction of a Department of Productivity can have on increasing production in Australia when most factories are working under capacity- some as low as 60 per cent of capacity and others perhaps as high as 80 per cent. In this Government there are 4 Ministers concerned with business or industrial management. The first is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who controls business practices, duties on customs and excise, and bounties on the production or export of goods. Then we have the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). His duties take in industrial relations including conciliation and arbitration in relation to industrial disputes, the Commonwealth Employment Service, and the reinstatement in civil employment of national servicemen, etc. The third Minister is none other than the Minister at the table, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman). Some of his duties encompass the building industry and housing.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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