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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3506

Mr HOWARD —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the significant fall in the living standards of Australian families under the policies of his Government. Is he aware that a single-income family on average weekly earnings and with two children was $31 worse off at Christmas last year compared with at March 1983 when the Hawke-Keating Government was elected? Is he also aware that this figure has increased to almost $41 a week since last Christmas? Is it not a fact that one of the real reasons for his calling an early election and breaking yet another election promise is that, under his policies, the living standards of Australian families will continue to fall further through 1987?

Mr HAWKE —The Leader of the Opposition has been peddling this untruth for a very long period. As anyone who has studied it understands, it is based upon a series of assumptions that are completely untenable. Rejecting as I do the figures used by the Leader of the Opposition, I make this point: When we came to office, as is well known, there was in this country the worst economic recession for 50 years. The great damage that the Leader of the Opposition as Treasurer had inflicted on Australian families was best exemplified by the fact that in his last 12 months in office an additional quarter of a million Australians were thrown on the unemployment scrap-heap. That was the damage inflicted on this country, on the living standards of Australians, by the current Leader of the Opposition.

In the task that we faced, and that we cheerfully took up, of rescuing this country from its worst economic recession in 50 years, the Government, and I guess the trade union movement in this country, had two alternatives. We could have embraced the unemployment ideology of the Opposition and said: `We do not care how many more people go out of work. We will ensure that those who stay in work get the benefits of economic growth'. Fortunately for the people of this country both this Government, and, to its eternal credit, the trade union movement made the clear decision that it was both economically more sensible and morally more appropriate that the economic growth which was to occur under the policies of this Government should be distributed by way of increased employment rather than by growing real wages. In that context the very significant economic growth that this Government effected resulted in record employment growth. That was the way in which substantial economic growth was distributed. This has resulted over the four years of this Government in the record 800,000 new jobs. Alternatively, we could have taken the Thatcher-type approach, if one likes to call it that: Let there be over three million employed; let unemployment go up to 13 per cent and let those in employment increase their standards.

A clear and deliberate decision was made by the Government, and shared by the trade union movement, that the sensible, moral way of sharing the fruits of economic growth was by significant employment growth. The trade union movement acquiesced in that process and real wages declined over this period by some 6 per cent. In other words, this was no accident; it was the result of the deliberate policy of this Government, with the co-operation of the trade union movement and the Australian business community, that growth should be shared by a growing number of jobs. I will not take up the time of the House by explaining to the Leader of the Opposition and the various Opposition groups, who cannot agree with one another, the effects of their policies. At this point, Madam Speaker, I will just interpolate this little bit of news from Sir Joh in America because this gives an indication of the sort of co-operation that will characterise the other side in the election.

Opposition members-Hee, hee hee!

Mr HAWKE —Laugh, laugh, laugh! They will not be laughing for too long. A question was put to one of the Opposition leaders, the one who is in America. I will share his response with honourable members. He said:

No, I won't be campaigning with John Howard or Ian Sinclair at all. You can send that back home if you like. I have told them and I have made it quite clear that I won't support their policy . . . they can support my policy if they like, and I'll talk to you about that at another time.

I will not take up the time of the House today in telling the House and the people about the disastrous impact there would be upon living standards in Australia if by some inconceivable chance this motley collection were ever to get into government. I assure honourable members and the people of Australia that in the days and the weeks between now and 11 July the Australian people will know in detail the disastrous impact there would be upon the living standards of Australian families if the policy of the conservatives were to be brought into effect-that is, the ideologically unacceptable policy of giving money back to the rich at the expense of the poor.