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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3889

Mr CARLTON(3.30) —I hardly believe all this. Here is this fellow telling us that if we look out there we will find enormous confidence in the Government, that in the business community there is enormous confidence in the Government. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) is saying that out there in the boonies, out there in Bankstown, where he is supposed to live but does not, there is enormous confidence in the Government. I have one piece of evidence here, produced by Mr Morgan, of an opinion poll of 1,827 electors. That is a pretty large number of people to use as a sample. The Treasurer a moment ago was telling us: `You're on the outer'. What does the Australian Financial Review say about the poll? It states:

The full document shows that not only is Mr Keating performing badly, his disapproval rating at 57 per cent is, according to Morgan, almost 20 per cent higher than the previous most unpopular Treasurer . . .

How about that? The report goes on:

. . . his approval is not up to scratch in key sectors which usually should be the home base of the Labor Party.

Mr Martin —Tell us about the polls.

Mr CARLTON —We are ahead of the Labor Party in the overall polls, so what is the honourable member talking about? The poll asked respondents about what they approved of in the Treasurer's performance. The poll people had to do a bit of scratching about to find anybody who could think of anything they approved of, but here are the results:

Reasons given for approving of Mr Keating included the belief that he's doing the best job he can (11 per cent . . .

Another reason why those polled approved of the Treasurer was that his was a hard or tough job. Four per cent thought that. This is a beauty:

About 3 per cent regarded him as economically astute.

The people who were asked by Mr Morgan what they thought might have been from the investment houses in New York who were here on a holiday-some of the people the Treasurer was conning in New York-but 3 per cent said that, and 2 per cent agreed that he makes tough decisions. The Treasurer has been telling us that he has been making all these responsible and tough decisions and that everybody out there understands that it is difficult, that when it comes to the point they will understand that he is making tough decisions. If they thought the Treasurer was making tough decisions they surely would be saying it now. If there is any degree of hurt out there it ought to be there now, yet only 2 per cent of the sample say that the Treasurer makes tough decisions. What about the other side of the coin? The report on the poll goes on:

Reasons for disapproval included taxes such as the fringe benefits tax, or that Mr Keating was thought to be incompetent or arrogant-

Heaven forbid, this performance here is a prime example of incompetence, to which I shall refer in a minute. The arrogance is well known to the House. It is also quite evident to the general public. It continues:

. . . with each category being mentioned by around 6 per cent of electors in unprompted interviews where they could come up with any reason.

Obviously, what the Treasurer is saying about his general popularity and the degree of confidence in him and the Government is sheer, utter bunkum. One has only to walk around any electorate and talk to the general population to know that that is correct. When we come in here and listen to what the Treasurer says, we know that the fellow is in cloud-cuckoo-land. He lives in Canberra, he is driven around in a car with tinted glass windows, he travels to Japan and gives lectures there on how it should manage its economy--

Mr Robert Brown —They all listen, too.

Mr CARLTON —Does the honourable member say that the speeches are different? The speeches he gives there are quite different from the speeches he gives here. They are also quite different from the speeches the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) gives.

There are two points I want to pick up from what the Treasurer said. He harped on and on about how the previous Government supposedly decimated the whole of our capacity to export outside the rural and mineral sectors. He said that over and over again. He had the hide to say that we destroyed manufacturing industry in the 1970s. Do we remember the 1970s? Do we remember the peak of destruction in the 1970s? Do we remember 1974? Do we remember when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister and Mr Hawke was the leader of the trade union movement, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Have we compared the strike record of that period with the rest of Australia's history? Do we know that in that year six million man days were lost in strikes-the highest we have ever had in our history? It was Hawke and Whitlam who did that. Was 1974 the year in which manufacturing industry was destroyed, with a 30 per cent wage increase in one year, in addition to the highest level of strikes ever? The Government should not come into the House and tell us that we destroyed manufacturing industry. We also have the word of the Treasurer on a more recent matter. In Hobart he said to his mates in the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union: `You've got dead men around your necks from 1981-82-100,000 jobs, 100,000 dead men around your necks'. He said that when the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Hand) was there for the economic debate and he would recall it.

We have the evidence of the statistics in 1974 and we have the evidence of the Treasurer at the Australian Labor Party conference, speaking to a different audience, admitting that what cost the jobs, what cost manufacturing industry in 1981-82, was not the Fraser Government but the unions. The Treasurer said it himself and it is on record. The other canard that he keeps bringing up is that we destroyed manufacturing industry and the farmers through the overvaluation of the dollar.

Mr Robert Brown —You did it and you know it.

Mr CARLTON —The honourable member for Charlton has enough economic sense. He taught people in schools, and if he does not support this he ought to withdraw his textbook for schools. He knows that when his Government came to office in 1983 it devalued the dollar by 10 per cent but then managed the dollar up again. For nine months it managed it up again under the management system. It was at that level for nine months before the Government floated it and it stayed in a free float for 13 months, at the level it was under the previous Government. If the previous Government was overvaluing the dollar by management, why did not the Hawke Government keep it down for the first nine months and why did it not fall for the first 13 months after that? The Treasurer's argument falls to the ground. We had a new argument today. The decline in the terms of trade, which is the very nasty thing this Government is facing has been with us for 15 or 20 years, so the Treasurer says.

Mr Hand —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. What has the fact that the Fraser Government destroyed manufacturing industry in this country got to do with the subject before the House? The Opposition, not this Government, destroyed the manufacturing industry.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) -Order! There is no point of order.

Mr CARLTON —The other point the Treasurer keeps trying to make on the question of interest rates is that the present interest rate regime is an essential component of his strategy of being on course. Whenever we have had bankruptcies in Australia to any great degree it is because interest rates have been high for a very considerable period. It is now 12 months since interest rates went through the roof. It is now 12 months since confidence was lost in this Government's economic policies on an international scale. The only thing that is keeping the dollar propped up today is the fact that interest rates in Australia are higher than they are every- where else, attracting short term foreign investment. The whole country is being kept on a knife edge by this Government keeping interest rates artificially high. They have been high for a year. They will continue to be high for another year, according to the Treasurer talking to his Japanese audience. Soon the businesses will fail. They will not invest under this lack of confidence regime, and very soon they will be crippled by the excessive costs of high taxes and high interest rates. It is time that this fellow woke up. Everybody else has woken up. The public has woken up. It is time the Treasurer of Australia woke up.