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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2346

Senator ROBERT RAY(4.43) —This matter of public importance reflects on the concerns of Australian families. If there is one concern Australian families have which is pre-eminent, it is the future direction of the Australian economy. If one were looking for any empirical evidence as to what families in Australia think about the economy and this Government one need look no further than the Age poll published a week ago. Its sample of people was asked: 'Who are the best economic managers in Australia?' Fifty-four per cent responded: 'The Labor Government'. Only 25 per cent of those surveyed chose the Liberal Party of Australia, the group that hopes to come into government on 1 December. No doubt when the biggest opinion poll in this country is held, on 1 December, well over 54 per cent of the public will respond in the same way as it did to the Age poll and choose a Labor government. If one asks oneself why, one should look at the key economic indicators, most of which were ignored by Senator Hill in his brief , 15-minute contribution.

The first and key concern of families is jobs. When one looks at this Government's employ- ment policies one finds that over 250,000 jobs have been created since we came to power in March 1983. Let us compare that with the previous 12 months of the Liberal Government, of which each one of the speakers today was a member and a supporter, when 187,000 jobs disappeared down the plug hole, affecting all those families that Opposition senators now profess some sort of concern for today. Where was their concern then, when 187,000 jobs went down the drain? If we look at the unemployment figures in March 1983, 10.4 per cent of Australians were willing to participate in the work force but were unemployed. Today the figure is 8.8 per cent and falling. The Liberals blamed the drought for unemployment; they blamed the world-wide recession and they blamed the unions. The one thing they have never done is blame themselves for adopting policies which encouraged unemployment in this country.

I often wonder, listening to the bleatings of the Opposition, where the Fraserites are now. It has taken 18 months for them to forget their great leader , Fraser. It is a bit like Germany after the war when it was hard to find any nazis. I will not pursue the analogy too far, but there are no Fraserites opposite now-none whatsoever. He is just a terrible nightmare from the past, from those dismal seven years, those dreary, uninspiring, negative years that have all been forgotten about, only because those opposite now lust to get back into power. But the electorate is not so stupid as to forget what happened in those seven years, and it does not want a repeat dose.

Let us look at the second major economic indicator, that is, inflation. When the Liberal Party of Australia left office, in the last year that it had charge of a Budget, in 1982-83, the inflation rate was 11.5 per cent. That was at a time when the Liberal Government itself admitted that the major fight was to be against inflation. The reality is that it did not win one round in that fight. The rate was 11.5 per cent in the last financial year in which that Government had a Budget. Compare that with the figure for 1983-84, when the inflation rate is 6.9 per cent and heading down. We are now able to compete properly with our major trading partners, given the inflation rate we have been able to achieve.

What would happen if by some fluke the Liberals came back to power? I predict that inflation would rocket for two basic reasons. Firstly, the Liberal Party, the party opposite, has never given a commitment to the continuation of the prices and incomes accord. It has given a commitment to destroy it. That would be the signal for a wage push and in turn an inflationary rise. The second thing that would happen-I refer to a document from which Senator Hill just quoted and which he said was a marvellous tax document-is that it would reintroduce indirect taxation with the consequential effect on the inflation rate. Let us look at the figures. The amount of tax it claims to take off is $1,500m. That will be taken into account with an increase in expenditure of $2,500m. The Opposition is also on record as saying that it wants to reduce the Budget deficit by $2.5 billion. That comes to a grand total of $6,500m that it has to find in its first Budget. If it is to find that by way of indirect taxation, inflation will rocket in this country; it will go through the roof. What we have to ask is what sort of massive indirect taxation those opposite will put into place. They keep saying that the Labor Government should come clean. But why do they not come clean? Will it be a value added tax or a consumption tax? What sort of indirect tax will the Opposition put on the people of Australia?

I turn to the third and critical area-interest rates. When the group opposite left government, interest rates were 13.5 per cent for first home loan mortgages . They are now down to 11.5 per cent. The previous Government made heaps of promises that it would reduce interest rates. All it ever did in government was to put them up. We have been in government and we have reduced these interest rates.

One of the most critical things for any family in this country is a good rate of economic growth. The two things families are concerned with are a good rate of economic growth and a fair distribution of proceeds from that economic growth . The Fraser Government, the one of which Opposition senators were part, had a negative rate of economic growth for the first time in several decades. What an achievement that was! Are they proud of that? Will they get up in this chamber and say that they are proud that in their last 12 months of office they had a negative rate of economic growth? I ask people to compare that with the results of the Labor Government-on a June to June basis we have had a rate of economic growth of 10 per cent. No one opposite can deny that that is the highest rate of economic growth in Western countries as expressed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Let us look at just a minor issue-the issue of bankruptcies. The number has declined by 5 per cent since we came to power. Under the Fraser Government from 1980 to 1983 bankruptcies rose by 170 per cent. How many families suffered from the Liberal policy that drove that many businesses into bankruptcy?

One of the other points that the Liberals sometimes make is that the recovery is only a government inspired one. I ask them how they explain the figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which indicate that business investment for the June quarter ending 1983-84 rose by 2.9 per cent in real terms. I wonder what the Jeremiahs opposite will make of those figures.

Opposition senators have started talking about the issue of tax. We as a government were able to promise tax cuts and introduce them. That is the big difference between Labor and Liberal. We both promise tax cuts; we deliver but the Opposition reneges. The history of Liberal governments is one of promises. They delight the masses with their promises and delight their backers with the fact that they never carry them out. The rubbery Budget of 1977 was the clearest indication that the Liberal Party is concerned only with winning and exercising power at any cost. It promised tax cuts in 1977 and within five months it reneged on them. No one opposite denies that; it reneged on them.

What is the record of those opposite when they were in government? One business alone flourished for those seven years-tax evasion and tax avoidance. It became the biggest growth industry in this country and those opposite did nothing about it until the report of the Costigan Royal Commission into the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union came out in 1982. Then, that Government, scared of what would happen to it, introduced retrospective legislation to save its own hide. It has never supported it since. It supported it only because it thought it might be able to pull an early election in December 1982 and pull off an election victory. If it is argued here that bottom of the harbour schemes are pro-family, we are at a ridiculous point.

I move on to another area that is very important for families, that is, the level of industrial disputation. No one can deny that under this Government industrial disputation is at its lowest in 15 years, since 1969. That is a direct result of Labor's relationship with the union movement and its development of the accord.

Senator Peter Baume —Tell us about the BLF too.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Baume interjects about the Builders Labourers Federation. He should know that in the last few weeks we have gradually been reining in the BLF, something his Government could never do. The BLF, with a Labor Government, argued that the lights would never go up. The lights are there . The BLF argued that it would never sign an agreement, but it has signed an agreement. A Liberal Government can never deal with unions or demarcation disputes because it simply does not understand them. It is used to using unions as scapegoats for its own incapacity and pathetic management of the economy. It has to find scapegoats and therefore it allocates the unions to play that role. One thing that is clear from this chamber is that the Liberals are jealous of the accord and like petty little brats they are saying that they will destroy the accord just for the thrill of the kill. That is all they are after. They are not concerned about the future of the economy.

In the time remaining to me to speak, I wish to say that it has been alleged by speakers from the other side that the Labor Party is not concerned about families. The Labor Party is concerned about families. It has developed policies that have got the best response ever from Australian families. We will see on 1 December exactly what the response is from Australian families. They will not forget the Fraser years from 1975 to 1983. They will not forget that under the Fraser Government-and under the son of the Fraser Government; the embryonic government now in opposition, which is linearly descended from the Fraser years- unemployment went through the roof. It cost 187,000 jobs in its last year in office. Interest rates went through the roof. We had double digit inflation, double digit interest rates, and double digit unemployment. The only similar thing at the moment is that Andrew Peacock is still in the double digit area on a 19 per cent popularity rating. That is the prospect the Opposition faces. Australian families have made their judgment.

I say to anyone who may be listening that if they have any concern for the family they will vote Labor on 1 December. I am quite confident that the great voters of Barton will vote for Gary Punch, that the great voters of Casey will return Pete Steedman, and that the voters in Forrest will return Peter Holland. These are candidates of quality. I am equally sure that in the Northern Territory my friend John Reeves will be returned, and that we will be returned with a record majority. We have the score on the board. Those opposite are absolutely insane with jealousy because of the success of this Government.

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator ROBERT RAY —Listen to the cynical laughs of those opposite! What that really reflects is fear-fear of the crushing electoral defeat that will come as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow. I know that my senatorial colleague from Victoria, Senator Lewis, wants to try to retrieve the situation. I will cede the floor to him and listen to the redneck theories from Warrnambool.