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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 619

Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(6.04) —It is 75 years since a government of any persuasion introduced a motion of this character. On that occasion, Mr Deputy Speaker, your predecessor ruled it out of order because of its trivial contribution and its inability to meet the by-laws and Standing Orders of this place. I move:

That all words after `that' be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

`this House, noting the Government's belated acceptance of the Opposition's calls for a mini budget, and appalled by the damage to the nation and the burdens imposed on Australians by the failure of the Government's economic and other policies, calls for further urgent action to-

(1) heavily reduce Government spending and public sector borrowings;

(2) fundamentally reform the tax system to lower the burden of tax on all Australians, particularly families; and restore incentive and equity;

(3) lift restrictions on foreign investment except those vital to protecting the national interest;

(4) free Australia's over-regulated and over-controlled labour market;

(5) significantly increase immigration, and

(6) lift the burden of Government intervention in and regulation of the economy.'

The last two weeks of parliamentary sittings have been characterised by the total inability of this Government to address the fundamental and serious problems of the Australian community. On each day in this House at Question Time and on matters of public importance I and my colleagues within the coalition have asked the Government why it has misled the Australian community. We have presented to it the comparable statistics from 1983 when it came to government and the statistics today. We have asked it about interest rates, housing, inflation, Australia's overseas borrowings and Australia's credit rating. We have asked it why it has allowed the standards of living of ordinary Australians to fall. We have asked it why the Australian farmers are going broke, why small business can no longer invest and why young people out there searching for jobs still represent 21 per cent of the number of unemployed. We have asked the Government why it is unable to manage this country.

What has happened is that the Government has given us no answers. It has provided us with no more than constant rhetoric that really relates more to its own misdoings than to any real explanation of what it is doing. Today we finally had from the Treasurer (Mr Keating) an admission that there will be a mini-Budget. As always, the mini-Budget is too late and too little. It will be introduced on 14 May-and the Government did not even know that it would happen because 14 May happens to be an occasion when the Parliament was not due to sit. That is how great its co-ordination is. What exactly is the excuse for all these errors and inactivity over the past four years. There are two fundamental mistakes, according to the Government. First, it is all the fault of the Europeans, the Americans and the United States Farm Bill and the fact that the Labor Government of Australia is unable to cope with the world. Secondly, it is all the fault of the last coalition Government.

In the few minutes allocated to me I wish to tell the people of Australia that there is an alternative and that alternative is set out in a few simple steps that are included in our amendment to the motion tonight. It is not a matter of there being any search for what needs to be done. It is a matter of identifying, and identifying tonight-not on 14 May-those steps that can and should be taken to bring Australia back into a position of economic responsibility.

It is not a matter of the Government saying that it is all too hard, too difficult and someone else's fault. It is not a matter of looking for other solutions. It is not a matter of the band-aid ministerial reshuffle, with the Minister for long lunches putting a new multicultural coat on his Paddington Bear. It is not a matter of the Treasurer, who cannot add up, being out there still unable to fill in his travel allowance form, let alone his tax form. It is not a matter of the maestro, that former Australian Council of Trade Unions bully-boy, now a wimp in prime ministerial clothing, just pursuing expediency yet again instead of principle. We have the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) who has yet to learn the meaning of diplomacy. We have a Minister from Tasmania who is a Minister only because the Prime Minister could not get the numbers. The Socialist Left has been left right out. Of course all the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has done is to reshuffle a well thumbed and somewhat powdered pack of cards without regard to public interest or the flaws and improprieties of his Ministers. Indeed, we need to remember that the only Minister to take a stand on principle is the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes), who has told the Prime Minister to go jump.

There are immediate ways in which the coalition would address the problems of Australia. It is important that the people of Australia should comprehend that the practices and procedures of this Government are designed to conceal, not to reveal, the maladministration for which it and it alone is responsible. If one looks at the media headlines and then at the position of Australia today one sees that that banana republic prognosis of the Treasurer has been fulfilled-`Wages policy farce', `The dollar's unnerving fall', `Inflation on the march once more', `Gloomy future for Australian economy', `The black hole beckons as our deficit deepens', `$101,366,000,000: We're a nation in the red', `Australia's foreign debt has hit a record $101 billion', `Huge foreign debt to put pressure on interest rates' and `Mortgage belt feels pinch of tight times'. The Real Estate Institute of Australia has revealed that average home loan repayments have soared by $117 to $678 a month in the past year. The Institute's survey shows that repayments now exceed 25 per cent of before tax income, a barrier that formerly was set in cement.

Mr Hand —Tell us which tax package you support.

Mr SINCLAIR —And, of course, the honourable member from the Socialist Left is left right out in the cold, and one wonders why. The Institute's figures showed that, while mortgage repayments have risen 21 per cent in the past 12 months, salaries have increased by only 8 per cent. That is a result of the famous accord of this Government-a discord if one has ever seen one. The number of home loan borrowers who fell behind in their repayments by more than four months jumped a dramatic 50 per cent in the last year. That is the economic record of this Labor Government. That is something for which it cannot blame overseas people; it cannot blame European governments; it cannot blame the Government of the United States of America; and it certainly cannot blame the Government of Malcolm Fraser and Doug Anthony. It must accept the blame itself.

We are in a position today where, first, the Government must reduce government spending and public sector borrowings. We were told that this Government had an expenditure review committee. The Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) and the Treasurer, the Minister who today comes into this House with a somewhat tatty image, tell us that they went through all those public sector expenditures and did the best they could. We all know that the result has been an increase in inflation and an increase in government sector spending, to the point where this Government is the biggest spending, biggest taxing government in Australia's history-a government under which the Australian dollar has reached the lowest value ever achieved. We know that home interest rates, bankcard interest rates, prime rates, small overdraft rates, rates for business and rates for farmers have increased from about 13 per cent to up to 20.5 per cent in the last three years.

We know that in this climate steps must be taken. The first and most important thing is that the Government has to reduce government spending and public sector borrowings, and it cannot wait until 14 May to do it. Secondly, it must fundamentally reform the tax system. A person on average weekly earnings, even after the tax cuts on 1 July, would need another cut of $15 a week just to put him in the same position in terms of tax paid as when this Government came to office. On our side of the House we undertake to lower the burden of tax for all Australians. We intend to implement a family tax policy so that the single income family is not disadvantaged on the basis that it is by this Labor Government. We undertake to restore incentive and to restore equity for the Australian taxpayer.

Where is the legislation for the foreign tax credits and this much vaunted dividend imputation system of the Government? Where is the certainty and predictability for those who are out there in the market-place trying to earn income with their funds for themselves and their families? Where is the incentive to invest? We undertake to lift the restrictions on foreign investment except, of course, those vital few to protect the national interest. That is a third measure which immediately could and would be put in place were we in government.

Fourthly, we undertake to free Australia's overregulated and overcontrolled labour market. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr N.A. Brown) has already produced for the people of Australia a very far-reaching and comprehensive industrial relations policy. It is a policy which provides opportunity for freely negotiated wage agreements amongst those in small business. It is a policy which, unlike the restrictive policy of the Labor Government, provides an opportunity for Australians not to have to belong to trade unions. What was the response of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) this week to the decision of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board? We have a government that is committed to compulsory trade unionism and, if it does not implement it, the New South Wales Labor Government and other Labor governments around Australia will ensure that they do so. This country, which has been told by this Labor Government that it needs a Bill of Rights to guarantee individuals the right to join a trade union, has been told by this Government that it is not prepared to provide for Australians the right not to join a trade union. This Government is not prepared to free the labour market in the way that our published, prepared, available industrial relations policy would do.

Mr N.A. Brown —A charter for freedom.

Mr SINCLAIR —Precisely. The fifth thing that we would undertake immediately is to increase immigration significantly. We on this side of the House all know that within the migration flows into Australia have been a large number of people who have contributed enormously to the development and growth of our society. We know that those people have not only enriched our culture but also enlarged our economy. We believe that every new migrant to our country brings something like $30,000. We seek to increase immigration significantly, to ensure that we will have enhanced domestic demand and to advance further the whole of the development of our society so that once again we can lift our living standards and be competitive with the countries that are growing so rapidly in our geographic vicinity.

Finally, we intend to lift the burden of government intervention in and regulation of the economy. All members know that the Government set up a much vaunted Business Regulation Review Unit and that all it has produced is statistics. It is interesting to note that business regulations may be costing the Australian economy, according to that unit, $60,000m a year, almost 25 per cent of the gross domestic product. The figures suggest that some 60,000 public servants are engaged in the regulation of business, of which around 60 per cent work for State and local governments and about 40 per cent work for the Federal Government. The cost to the taxpayer of employing these regulators is around $2,700m a year, $45,000 per public sector regulator.

Let us not have any of this rubbish from the Government about our not knowing where we are going. That is what we would do, and it is what we would do tomorrow were we in government. This Government is bringing Australia to its knees. None of the bluster of the Prime Minister, none of the boasting of the Treasurer, none of the empty rhetoric of members opposite can change that. This Government has set new records in economic vandalism. It is the highest taxing, biggest spending government in our peacetime history. It has pushed interest rates and our overseas debt to record highs and the value of the dollar to a record low. It has pushed inflation to the worst level relative to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since the formation of the OECD 26 years ago. It is the first government to lose Australia's AAA international credit rating. The point is that these statistics bite home where it matters-in the pockets of the people of Australia.

Because of Labor's policies family living standards have fallen by $31 a week. Under Labor the average tax rate for a single income family on average weekly earnings has risen from 17 1/2 per cent in March 1983 to a projected 20.5 per cent in July 1987, even after the Treasurer's much vaunted, so-called tax cuts. Under Labor monthly repayments for a typical $50,000, 25-year home loan have increased by $172. Under Labor our gross foreign debt has reached over $100 billion-more than $25,000 for every Australian family. Under Labor bankruptcies in the last six months of 1986 were up 35 per cent on the same period 12 months before. Under Labor the housing industry is in crisis; the motor vehicle industry is collapsing; the health system is in chaos; our great export industries are being discarded; and the union movement is out of control. Under Labor ordinary Australians, and especially families, are ground down by taxes. Under Labor our international relations are being put under strain; the vital ANZUS alliance has been split; and we have disturbing attempts to win favour with the Soviet Union, now the fastest growing Pacific power.

The measures that we call for are the only way to give hope to the nation. They are the only way to ensure that all Australians, whatever their ages and wherever they live, can look to the future with confidence. If they are rejected an historic opportunity will be lost.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The right honourable member's time has expired. Is the motion seconded?

Mr N.A. Brown —I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak at a later time.