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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1729


Senator ROBERTSON —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been drawn to an article on Australia published in the 7 March 1987 edition of the London Economist? Is the Minister aware that some commentators in Australia have reported the Economist's survey as having been highly critical of the economic policies of the Hawke Government? Are their criticisms valid?


Senator WALSH —Firstly, I understand that a couple of commentators have said the report was highly critical of the Hawke Government. That claim, of course, is completely in conflict with the facts, because the article in question, as a whole-and in some quite specific instances which I will quote in a moment-endorses the present Government's policies. I would like to make a few specific quotations to back that up. In the context of the fact that Australia has serious economic problems, which nobody in a responsible position in the Government is denying-indeed, most of us have been talking about them for some time-the article said:

The fact that Australia is not in much more serious trouble than it is can largely be attributed to a remarkably successful relationship between the Labor government and the trade unions.

In the context of wages and the recent increase in the rate of inflation-recent being last year-the Economist went on to say:

. . . since the floating of the currency in 1983 and the subsequent decline of the dollar, wage costs have not been a huge burden on Australia. They have dropped in real terms in each of the past three years and the official forecast is for a further fall this year. Australia is not a high-wage country.

In respect of taxation policy and the new system of dividend taxation, the Economist said:

This is the purest imputation system in the world. If applied in Britain, it would probably do more to promote small share-holding than the flotation of British Telecom and British Gas put together.

Then later, in the context of a comment referring to the National Farmers Federation and its political preferences-although not only the National Farmers Federation-the article said:

. . . the CAI, the Business Council of Australia and the National Farmers' Federation often speak with different voices on such issues as labour-market deregulation. It is no surprise that the Liberals and their National partners, with such a weak parliamentary team, do too.

Labor, by contrast, is rather impressive. Indeed, the claim that this government is the most capable since the war is a strong one.

Later, as a general summary of the Government, the Economist said:

Australia has a government of exceptional talent, which, free of ideology, is pursuing the right policies and bringing the unions with it.

I do not wish to quote any more collectively self-laudatory quotations. I think I have already done more than enough to demonstrate that those people who are claiming that the Economist article was critical of this Government and its policies either have not read the article or are deliberately attempting to mislead the public.