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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1134

Senator BLACK —Is the Minister for Finance aware of recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures which relate to dwelling units approved, new vehicles registered and retail sales? Do those figures show that while the Australian economy is gradually improving the Queensland economy on the other hand is in a state of rapid decline?

Senator WALSH —The short answer to the principal question that Senator Black asked is that, yes, the rest of the Australian economy is growing at rates which are satisfying and that Queensland is in a rapid state of decline.

Senator Peter Rae —You have a pretty low level of satisfaction.

Senator WALSH —I hope Senator Rae is listening to this because yesterday he was taking a particular interest in retail sales. By way of example, if one were to excise Queensland from the rest of Australia there would have been no fall in retail sales in seasonally adjusted terms in the month of March compared to retail sales for the month of February. Of course, there was a significant decline in Queensland. The Queensland figure dragged the whole national average down. But for Queensland, for Australia as a whole there would have been no retail sales fall in March. The fall which was recorded in the national average was entirely due-I stress, entirely due-to what was happening in Queensland. For the month of February motor vehicle registrations nationally increased by nearly 7 per cent. If Queensland had matched the other States the increase would have been 7.2 per cent instead of the 6.7 per cent it in fact was. Again, Queensland is dragging the chain and is dragging the rest of the nation's performance down. Even more spectacular are building approvals. The figures for new dwellings in February showed a very small rise in Queensland-1 per cent, compared to what they were in January-and the national figure was 6 per cent. Again, if one could excise Queensland it would be 7.2 per cent nationally instead of 6 per cent.

Most appalling of all is that Queensland is the only State or Territory which has double digit unemployment. There was a 20 per cent drop in private capital investment in the September quarter of 1984 in Queensland, while the national figure went up 2 per cent. Official expectations are that there will be a further decline in capital investment in Queensland. Ironically, the Premier said recently in the Queensland Parliament:

Queensland cannot isolate itself from the general situation in Australia.

In fact, Queensland has done precisely that. Queensland has isolated itself from the general situation in the rest of Australia where the economy is growing at satisfactory rates. In Queensland the economy is collapsing.

I refer to a few other statistics which Senator Maguire was good enough to collate and publish recently. Employment in Queensland for the most recent month for which figures are available-that qualification applies to all these figures-was a meagre 0.3 per cent higher than it was in the same month in the previous year. Nationally, it went up by a full 2 per cent. Registration of motor vehicles nationally went up 12 per cent. In Queensland they actually fell in absolute terms by half a per cent. In industrial relations which I judge from earlier questions is an area which interests many members of the Opposition, working days lost per thousand employees due to industrial disputes for Australia for a 12-month period were a meagre 6.4 but in Queensland they were a massive 80.2-13 times the national average. In every area where one cares to look Queensland is dragging down the rest of the country.

Senator Button —A model for the Opposition here.

Senator WALSH —It is a model for the Opposition to follow. Indeed, if Senator Sheil is to be believed, this picture of unrelieved economic gloom is supplemented by physical and, may one even say, moral decay. I quote what Senator Sheil said in the context of a discussion on acquired immune deficiency syndrome during the hearings of Senate Estimates Committee B on 15 April. If any honourable senator wants to look up his full statement they will find it recorded at page 93 of the Hansard record of proceedings for Senate Estimates Committees A, B and C for that day. Senator Sheil said, in part:

The big drug using centres in Australia are in Queensland, on the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and at Cedar Bay.

That is what Senator Sheil said about his home State. He is a member of the same party as the Premier of that State. We have unrelieved economic gloom dragging the rest of the country down and, if Senator Sheil is to be believed, physical and moral decay to boot.

The PRESIDENT —I ask the Minister to hurry up with the rest of his answer.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. From time to time members of the Opposition assert, quite falsely, that Australia is going down the Argentinian road. That is certainly not true of Australia but many people may see that description as being applicable to Queensland. We have the spectacle of a rapidly deteriorating economy; by far the highest per capita debt in Australia; a government which adopts charlatans and crooks, such as Milan Brych, Stephen Horvath and Shrian Oscar; a Premier who is under the spell of the voodoo economics of the Australian League of Rights; a Premier who is about to try to reappoint as Chairman of the Totalisator Administration Board of Queensland Sir Edward Lyons, who as Chairman of the Board persuaded it to invest Board funds in a business enterprise in which he is a shareholder.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is getting far removed from the question that was asked and I ask him to bring his remarks to a conclusion.

Senator WALSH —I will be very quick, Mr President. That was done in contradiction of the provisions of the Queensland Totalisator Administration Board Act. The man is so bad that even Russell Hinze does not want to reappoint him-but the Premier does.