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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 124


Mr CADMAN —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that, comparing the number of bankruptcies in the first half of the 1986-87 financial year with the year before, there has been an increase of over 35 per cent? Is the half-year bankruptcy result not only the highest ever recorded in Australia but also the highest ever in those States with Labor governments? Are we looking at the prospect of Australia's largest ever number of bankruptcies-an horrific number of 8,000 businesses going broke this year due to the Government's policies? Do these half-year figures follow last year's record breaking result of 6,408 bankruptcies, which was also the highest number ever recorded?


Mr KEATING —Surely the implication of the question is not that the Australian economy has not undergone a period of growth from 1983-84 through to the present. Even in this financial year, when we heard howls from the Opposition at Budget time about how we would be in deep recession and how unemployment would rise, the Opposition again has been proven to be wrong. Unemployment has stabilised; the growth has slowed. We are not in negative growth; we are still running at around the Budget forecast, after three years of very strong economic growth. Has it entered the minds of Opposition members why the Australian stock exchanges are about to move into their fifth year of growth, breaking their records for the fifty-second time last year, through 1986? Has it ever entered their minds why the profit performance of Australian business has been the way it has been? It is because of the restraint of the work force and the policies of the Government over the last four years. Has it entered their minds that the whole process of adjustment to the terms of trade, and the fact that the Government has kept Australia on its feet by adjusting the economy of this country without moving into the kind of recession that the Opposition urges upon us, has been anything other than simply good for Australian business?


Mr Cadman —What about taxes?


Mr KEATING —Has it entered their minds, when they talk about taxes, that in the past three years, the first three years of this Government, the increase in gross company tax rose by 60 per cent, or $10.8 billion, to $28 billion? Do Opposition members know that the tax from unincorporated enterprises-that is, small businesses, unincorporated enterprises--


Mr Cadman —What about--


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mitchell has asked his question; he will now listen to the answer.


Mr KEATING —The tax on unincorporated enterprises in the first three years of this Government rose by 50 per cent, or $8.3 billion, to almost $25 billion. What do Opposition members think is the explanation for this massive lift in profitability through these years, and for the buoyancy of Australian business? It is because of the policies of this Government and the product of restraint in the accord. That is in marked contrast to what we had in 1982-83 when the economy was in collapse, and major companies were going backwards and, for the first time in their corporate history, were posting losses. There were not just bankruptcies. The honourable member for Mitchell makes no point about bankruptcies of small businesses. They occur all the time. Many people move in and out of small businesses. What one must look at is the buoyancy of the Australian economy, and the buoyancy of business in particular. That is what this Government has delivered to businesses, which is in contrast to what the previous Government gave them in 1982-83, when the terms of trade were massively more advantageous than those we have now. The previous Government, or in fact the present Leader of the Opposition, managed to give us the first domestic negative growth for 30 years. That was all his own work-not the work of international commodity markets, but all his own work. Opposition members should go out and ask people in business what they think of the policies of this Government compared with those of the Opposition, and they will get the answer. If Opposition members had been around over Christmas, as we were, they would know what the answer is: It is a big thumbs-down to the politics and the economics on their side of the House.

I conclude the point: Australia is adjusting to the worst terms of trade since the Great Depression. It has done so, producing growth. It has done so, lifting the profitability of Australian enterprise. Even the inflation rate, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred recently in a question, is the product of that very process of adjustment, of lifting the profitability of the traded goods sector of the Australian economy so that it can draw the investment and produce the kind of current account outcome that we want. I reject any implication whatsoever in the question that the profitability of Australian business is other than what it has been on the record, in the taxation statistics over the last three years, and I reject any implication that the health of the Australian economy is not vastly improved by the policies of the Government and the policies of the accord.