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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3483

Mr BRUMBY(11.41) —The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill and the Customs (Valuation) Amendment Bill are before the House today. The debate has been fairly wide ranging, but I feel that I must respond to the comments of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) who, in a typical fashion, has made what can only be described as a very entertaining speech in this House. The fact is that, on any assessment, this Government's economic policies have been good for manufacturing industry in Australia. If the honourable member for Denison cared at least to look at the national accounts figures released yesterday-he made a number of comments about export and import volumes-he would have seen that those figures show that for the six months ending March this year export volumes climbed at an annual rate of 29.8 per cent. That is how much exports are up under the policies of this Government. Imports were virtually static over the same period, increasing by only 0.8 per cent. The honourable member for Denison shakes his head.

Mr Hodgman —I talked about last year's figures.

Mr BRUMBY —They are not last year's figures; they are the figures for the last six months. They show that export volumes are up by 29.8 per cent and that import volumes are up by only 0.8 per cent. In anyone's terms, that represents a dramatic turnaround in the Australian economy. Under the policies that we have put in place, the Australian economy is turning around. It is meeting the challenge, it is lifting exports and it is reducing imports. The national account figures released yesterday show that the economic growth that we have experienced in Australia in the past year has come from either net exports or import replacement. That is a policy setting that Australia could well have done with two decades ago when the rot first set in under previous Liberal conservative governments.

It was the honourable member's government that allowed Australia to have an artificially high exchange rate for years and years. That is what obliterated manufacturing industry in Australia. When we came to government in 1983, manufacturing industry was down in the dumps. It had been cut to its bones by the policy of the Fraser Liberal Government, which had kept the exchange rate far too high, allowing cheap imports to flood into Australia and making our exports, be they primary products, resources such as coal and iron ore, or manufactures, totally uncompetitive on the world market. It is the fundamental realignment that this government has put in place over its four and a half years in government, involving the floating of the dollar, moderate wage levels and movements and progressive reductions in the Budget deficit, which has made this nation more competitive now than it has been for the last 25 years. That is a great achievement.

The honourable member for Denison, rather than stand up in this House, and knock, knock, knock, as he does perpetually, ought to acknowledge the turnaround that is occurring in Australia. He ought recognise that the Australian community acknowledges that if we cannot get into manufactures, if we cannot add value to our exports and if we continue to have all our eggs in the resources basket, or in wheat or wool, we will never have a sustainable higher standard of living. Therefore, we have to get into manufactures, high technology and the export of services. All of that is happening under this Government, but it will not happen overnight, by next year or by 11 July. It is a long term project, but it is happening now and the momentum is building.

I might say that it has saddened me to see the honourable member for Denison come in here for what I think is fairly described as his valedictory address. It is the last we will see of the honourable member. He has been a colourful character in the Parliament. He has made a contribution over the years. He has gone from being a Minister, to being an Opposition front bencher and he is now an Opposition back bencher. There is only one place that he can go now, and that is why I say that he has given his valedictory address. That saddens me. I do not agree with the honourable member's politics; I believe that he is a negative person, always knocking and never having a positive idea. He has never made a big contribution to manufacturing industry. He would have locked up Australian manufacturing industry for decades under a regime of a highly overvalued dollar, a wage system under which the Government had no control and protection levels which, far from making us more efficient, would simply lock us into an inefficient structure for years and years down the road.

It needs to be recognised-again, I make this point for the benefit of the honourable member for Denison-that there is nothing innately special about our nation or our people that gives us the standard of living that we enjoy today. Basically, we have earned our standard of living through export of resources, wheat and wool. If the world turns against us, as it is doing now in paying us a lower price for those products, we are in a position that is no different from that of any country located in Asia. We will have to pay and earn our way, make things better than we have in the past and get into the fastest growing areas of the world economy, which are manufactured goods and services. That is true, and the honourable member for Denison knows it. He knows that this Government has the runs on the board. He knows that manufacturing in Australia is turning around.

I mentioned the national accounts figures before. Export volumes are up 29.8 per cent and import volumes are up 0.8 per cent. Our strategy is on track, and it is working. I will give honourable members some local examples in my electorate of Bendigo. Firms such as Empire Rubber (Australia) Pty Ltd, car component manufacturers, are now winning contracts on the open market in Europe and Japan. Fancy thinking that that could have occurred five or 10 years ago under the clumsy policies for which honourable members opposite were responsible!

Mr Barry Jones —And the textile firm in Stawell.

Mr BRUMBY —I will come to that. Another small firm in my electorate, J. P. B. Products in Bendigo, exports 90 per cent of its product to the American market. It is only a small firm, employing 50 people. It makes tailored, high quality lambs wool seat covers for Mercedes and Jaguars in the United States market. It is exporting 90 per cent of its product. That company did not exist four years ago, and it could not have existed under the policies of the Fraser Government. The Bendigo Ordnance Factory, a government instrumentality, is virtually paying its way through exports that it wins in the free market. We are exporting turbine bases to the United States of America to the value of $10m a year. We are exporting Hamel guns to New Zealand. Firms in my electorate are exporting suits to the Middle East. We are exporting from Sandhurst Dairies Ltd in Bendigo-the honourable member for Denison will like this-feta cheese to the Greeks. That is not bad, is it? A company in Bendigo is achieving that.

So the Australian economy is turning around; we have the strategy right. A moment ago the Minister reminded me about a textile firm in my electorate in Stawell, Norwellan Textiles, which the Minister and I had the pleasure of visiting-I have visited that firm many times but I believe that it was the Minister's first visit-last week. That firm will double its exports in the next 12 months. The honourable member for Denison should note that. It has already increased its exports considerably. It is supplying the high quality furniture market and the knitted fabrics market in New York with furniture coverings, using pure Australian wool, which is the best wool in the world, at the top end of the market, and it is doubling its exports. That sort of thing is going on everywhere in Australia. That firm is not atypical in my electorate, although my electorate has been extremely well represented. These are typical examples of what is going on all around Australia.

I will conclude, because the time allotted to me in this debate is limited, by saying that this Government has put in place industry policies and a broad macroeconomic policy which have given us an extremely successful economic outcome over the last four years. We have seen the creation of 780,000 jobs. More than 80 per cent of them have been created in the private sector, which is the sector in which we like to see strong job growth. Do honourable members know that that is the fastest rate of job growth that has occurred in any Western economy in the world over that period? That is not a bad achievement. Interest rates and inflation are coming down. We have had a dramatic turnaround in the vol- ume of exports which we are producing and selling overseas. Because we have floated the dollar we have cut imports. We have given impetus to Australian produced products through the `Australian made' campaign. All of those things are good news.

As we look towards an election on 11 July, I do not think any member on this side of the House is afraid to go into his or her electorate and stand by the Government's record of what we have achieved for industry in Australia. Australian people are realists. They are not knockers, like the honourable member for Denison. They are not at the twilight of their careers, as he is. They recognise that the decisions that are being taken now will shape Australia's future into the 1990s. They recognise also that we simply cannot go on, as we did in the fifties and sixties, putting all our eggs in one basket; by putting all of our standard of living eggs into coal, wheat and wool. If the price of those products falls, we have problems in Australia. That is why we have brought about this fundamental realignment in industry policy.

Next year, the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd will export $400m worth of motor vehicles from Australia. Who would have thought, a dec- ade ago, that it would be possible for an Australian car manufacturer to export $400m worth of products overseas? No one would have thought it was possible. That was impossible under the policies of the previous Government. That company will export its products next year because we have created an environment that gives incentive for producing manufactured goods, gives incentive to add value to manufactured goods and gives incentive to export products overseas.

I emphasise those statistics which were released yesterday. They confirm that this Government's economic policies are right on track. They are dead right. Economic growth is good. It has come about through exports and import replacement. That is exactly what needs to happen in Australia. Export volumes are up by 29.8 per cent. That is dramatic. Import volumes are up by 0.8 per cent. They are the national account statistics. The Government formed on 12 July, the third Hawke Government, will continue with those policies which will see us become an increasingly strong export nation. They will see us as a nation meeting the challenge which has been imposed by a tough international environment. I know that under this Government Australia has a good future. In the next few years it will not be easy, but we are meeting the challenge.