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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1822

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Treasurer and Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has spent most of his working hours attacking the economic policies of the Hawke Labor Government, particularly since he seized control of the Queensland Treasury after last year's State election? After only 14 months of Federal Labor Government and more than 16 years of Bjelke-Petersen Government , can the Treasurer indicate how the Queensland economic outlook compares with that of the rest of the country and whether sustained criticism of Federal economic policy is justified.

Senator WALSH —I am certainly aware of the fact that the Premier of Queensland, when he is not attacking his colleagues here, Mr Sinclair and Mr Peacock, spends most of his time attacking the Hawke Government, particularly on economic grounds. It is incongruous, to say the least, that the Premier should choose to do that. As I think even the members of the Opposition now can see, there has been a very high rate of economic growth in Australia over the last 12 months, and that rate of economic growth would have been even higher had it not been dragged down by the relatively poor performance of Queensland. Indeed, the March unemployment figures show that Queensland's unemployment rate is 0.5 per cent above the national average.

It is crystal clear from that and other observations, a couple of which I will give in a minute, and from independent sources, that the Bjelke-Petersen Government has no basis at all for claiming any superior performance in the economic sphere. On the contrary, the policies of the Queensland Government are providing no economic benefits. At the same time, they are obviously associated with low standards of public service provision in that State in a number of areas. The record essentially speaks for itself, and the comment comes not only from members of this Government, who have examined the data available to us, but also from quite independent sources, including Queensland sources. For example, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, in the Business-Mail section on the first of this month, stated:

Queensland's economic outlook remains grim with little hope for much improvement despite the further recovery from recession in other states.

In other words, Queensland is dragging the chain. The article continued:

The Queensland Confederation of Industry's latest quarterly survey of private sector performance indicates 'subdued' economic expectations for the immediate future.

On the same day in the Courier-Mail, the first couple of paragraphs of an article by Brian Hale, the Finance Editor, stated:

There is remarkably little economic brightness around the Sunshine State at the moment . . . in fact perhaps we should change our title to the 'Cinderella State '.

The recovery from the pit of recession throughout the rest of the country in the past year does not seem to have had much impact on Queensland at all.

That article appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail, a newspaper which has no connection at all with this Government and which under normal circumstances one would not expect to be even sympathetic to this Government. The record does speak for itself. The record reveals the facts and the facts are that the Queensland economy is doing badly compared with that of the country as a whole. If it were not for that poor performance by the Queensland Government the overall economic situation would be measurably better than it is now. I suggest to the Queensland Premier, if I may be so bold, that instead of attacking this Government and attacking Mr Peacock and Mr Sinclair, he ought to devote a little more of his attention to lifting his own game and ceasing to disadvantage Queenslanders to the extent that he has done in the last year, or indeed for the last 15 years.