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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2175

Mr PETER FISHER —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the economic and social problems evident in rural Australia, with many families being forced for their survival on to the social security system. As a major cut in fuel excise would reduce inflation and bring about a substantial drop in interest rates, will the Government change this high taxing policy on fuel thus giving efficient, productive people an opportunity to pull this nation out of its economic mess and this Government a chance to govern?

Mr HAWKE —It is very strange that a question of this sort should come from that quarter because the Opposition had a very long period of opportunity when it was in government to pursue a mix of macroeconomic policies which would be in the interests of not only the people it purports to represent but the people of Australia as a whole. I remind the honourable member that as a result of the Opposition's economic policies there was an inflation rate of 11 1/2 per cent when we came to office. That was the rate of inflation which the Opposition inflicted upon the community as a whole. It could have had any range of policies which could have produced much better results, but it did not have any idea of how to achieve the appropriate outcome from its monetary, fiscal or wages policies that would protect the interests of the rural community as well as those of the rest of this country. As distinct from the Opposition's ineptitude and its failure properly to protect the interests of the people it represents, we have pursued policies in every area which, as far as is within the power of this Government, have resulted in a better economic situation. We reduced inflation from 11 1/2 per cent to 5 per cent by the beginning of 1985. That is what we did and despite the massive devaluation of the Australian dollar and the 20 per cent decline in the terms of trade the rate of inflation has not reached the peak that we inherited as a result of the policies that the previous Government followed.

In the areas of wages, monetary and fiscal policies we will continue to produce an outcome which will bring the rural community and Australia as a whole out of the serious situation created for us by external circumstances, part of which has been properly referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. In regard to industrial relations in particular, when we go to the next election the people of Australia will have the chance to judge the record of this Government against the record of the Opposition, which held office for seven years. The people will reject the Opposition on that test alone, but if they have any further thoughts about the matter they will, as the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has already said, also test the successful policies of this united Government against the mishmash of opposing, contradictory sets of proposals coming from two sets of the Liberal Party of Australia and two sets of the National Party of Australia. In both rural and metropolitan Australia we are quite prepared to give the people the test of judging us against the Opposition. I can tell honourable members now what the outcome will be: This Government will be returned-and returned with an increased majority.