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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 190

Senator ALSTON —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Was it his Prime Minister who described the 1992 One Nation statement as `the largest single package of constructive measures that I have been associated with', the 1990 pre-recession budget as `the Rolls Royce of budget documents', the 1989 pre-election budget as `a budget that puts the nation's interests first' and, of course, the infamous 1988 budget as `the one that brought home the bacon'? We are now told that the white paper will `show the value of having Labor in office.' Would he please tell the Senate: what is the value of having Labor in office when we continue to have one million people out of work, infrastructure investment at a 40-year low, national savings through the floor and now a $6 billion bill to clean up the mess? Why should anyone believe that this latest effort will be any more successful in bringing home the bacon than the Prime Minister's failed piggery investment?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The value in having a Labor government in office is demonstrated by having an inflation rate running at an annualised 1.4 per cent at the moment. The value of having a Labor government in office is shown by having a country with a growth rate now at the highest evel in the entire OECD—over a four per cent growth rate; the highest growth rate of any country in the 24 developed nations that make up the OECD. The value of a Labor govern ment is shown in having productivity increase by 30 per cent over the last 10 years. The value of a Labor government is shown by having business consumer confidence at the highest level it has been for years.

  The value of a Labor government is shown by having official interest rates at their lowest levels for 20 years. The value of a Labor government is shown by having increases in international competitiveness that have produced already an environment in which 60 per cent of our exports are now penetrating the fastest growing region economically in the world—namely, east Asia. The value of a Labor government is shown by the whole range of industry, trade and economic policies which have positioned us far more than was ever the case under any collection of policies ever advanced by any previous government to take advantage of the dynamism that is around us.

  Of course we have a difficult environment in terms of unemployment. We know that. That is why we have this particular package coming down this afternoon. This package comes after a series of earlier measures, all of them in their own way contributing to a situation where the Australian economy is healthier than it has been at any time in the last generation—and certainly healthier than it was at any time in the period between 1975 and 1983, when those opposite were in office, and certainly healthier than the period in the 1960s when they were in office before that.

  Those opposite have absolutely nothing to crow about or brag about. When they see this package this afternoon they will realise just how hollow and how empty their contribution to the public policy debate in this country has been; how hollow and how empty their contribution to the hopes of young, middle-aged and elderly Australians has been, because we have the answers and those opposite will see them this afternoon.

Senator ALSTON —Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Did the Prime Minister seriously say of this document: `Only Labor could conceive it. Only Labor could execute it'? I presume that is dead right; no-one else in his right mind could dream up such a solution. After 11 budgets, nine economic statements, three ministerial statements and one One Nation statement, why should the public not see what the Prime Minister now claims as the biggest statement since 1983 as simply another beads and mirror, media circus event, designed to distract attention from the fact that Australia is still heading firmly down the boom-bust road to economic ruin?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The last time the Australian public had an opportunity to compare the Labor government's contribution to good economic management and our policy outlook with those of the opposition, the Australian public made a very clear-cut decision. The opposition fell flat on its face with the Fightback package that it put forward as its answer to the nation's economic prayers. The opposition won no confidence at all from the Australian public or from the Australian business community. The reaction will be exactly the same when the opposition criticises this package this afternoon.