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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1754


Mr TUCKEY —I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I remind him that it is a question asked on behalf of Australia's 625,000 desperate small businesses, who are entitled to a rational answer. I refer the Prime Minister to the fact that a typical small business which in 1983 required an overdraft facility of $100,000 to operate now requires an overdraft of $140,000 to accommodate the inflationary effect on the value of its stock. What is the Prime Minister's explanation to the thousands of such typical small business proprietors throughout Australia who have seen interest rates on their overdraft increase from 13.5 per cent to 19 per cent under this Government-which has, by the way, resulted in an increase in loan repayments of $1,250 a month, whilst competing overseas employers have seen their interest rates generally halved?


Mr HAWKE —I refer again to the fact that it is surprising but unfortunately true that the level of ignorance on the Opposition side about economic forces is such that it exceeds the understanding of the Premier of Queensland. I repeat what the Premier of Queensland said--


Mr Ian Cameron —Oh!


Mr HAWKE —Well, one has to say this about the Premier of Queensland: He knows more about economics than the Leader of the Opposition, certainly the honourable member for O'Connor and any of this mob opposite that the honourable member for Maranoa is so disillusioned with. I can understand why the honourable member for Maranoa wants to get rid of them and bring Sir Joh in. He knows more about economics than they do. It is amazing, but he does. I repeat to the honourable member what his friend the Premier of Queensland said. I suggest that when the Premier of Queensland goes over to Western Australia-as he is, to throw the honourable member for O'Connor out and replace him with a representative of the National Party so that we will have a National Party member for O'Connor and not this irrelevancy-he read out to the current member for O'Connor what he said in the Bulletin. I remind this House again of what he said:

You cannot force interest rates down arbitrarily. You cannot do that because it would be a disaster.

Will the honourable member for Maranoa tell the Premier of Queensland when he is campaigning against the honourable member for O'Connor to replace him with a member of the National Party just to give him a lesson in basic economics? The honourable member might also remind the Premier of Queensland to make the point, when he is throwing out the honourable member for O'Connor and replacing him with a National Party member, of the ignominious, inglorious economic performance of the coalition when it was in government. Under the coalition in government we had higher interest rates than have ever occurred under this Government. Tell Joh to tell that to the honourable member for O'Connor when he is campaigning against him.

I give the honourable member for Maranoa the information to give to the Premier to use against the honourable member for O'Connor because Joh is right-they are losers, and they are losers because they understand nothing about economics. The honourable member should get the Premier to say this about what happened to interest rates under the coalition: I remind him that in April 1982 90-day bank bills reached 22 per cent. He should tell Joh to use that in O'Connor in his campaign against the present member. I also remind him to tell the Premier that that 22 per cent was 2 per cent higher than any point reached under this Government. That is why the Premier is right in saying that they are losers. Ninety day-bank bills reached 22 per cent, 2 per cent higher than under this Government.

I remind the honourable member for Maranoa, when he takes the message to the Premier to use against the honourable member for O'Connor, that the 10-year long term Commonwealth bond rate hit 16.4 per cent, which was more than one percentage point higher than at any time under this Government. In other words, he should take to the Premier of Queensland for his campaign against the honourable member for O'Connor that under the failed coalition-the born losers John Howard and Ian Sinclair- interest rates were higher than at any time under this Government.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will--


Mr HAWKE —Yes, the Leader of the Opposition and--


Madam SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will address the members by their--


Mr HAWKE —I said the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party.


Madam SPEAKER —Thank you.


Mr HAWKE —Under their failed leadership interest rates were higher than at any time under this Government. That is why the Premier is right. I remind the honourable member for O'Connor of the sorts of things that this Government has done as specific assistance for the financial and taxation problems of small business. The imputation legislation brought in by the Treasurer will be of very great significance to small business, as will the decision in regard to Division 7 tax. When one looks at the relative performance of these born losers opposite-the failed coalition and the record interest rates under it-I believe that, like the rest of Australia, the small business sector will be making the sensible decision and saying that not only can leaders of the coalition not keep themselves in order but they are also hopeless economic managers and the small business sector will never again trust the economic management of this country to such a mob of failures and born losers as the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party.