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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 335

Senator SHORT (3.02 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans), to a question without notice asked by Senator Short this day, relating to the Government's white paper on employment and growth.

Senator Gareth Evans, in a very convoluted attempt to answer the question, said, I think, that he believed that the government did in fact require economic growth in excess of 4 3/4 per cent each year.

Senator Gareth Evans —No. I didn't say that. I said, `In excess of four per cent.'

Senator SHORT —In excess of four per cent. He has at least gone part of the way. In doing so—

Senator Kemp —He has revised the green paper.

Senator SHORT —He has absolutely revised the green paper which, only three or four months ago, stated that a figure of—

Senator Gareth Evans —That is why it is called the green paper. The white paper is what matters. Green papers are only for discussion.

Senator SHORT —It just shows how little Senator Evans actually comprehends about the subjects that we deal with in this chamber, because the green paper said that the government needed 4 3/4 per cent to achieve a five per cent unemployment rate by the end of this century. The government's white paper yesterday stated that it had targeted five per cent for the end of the century.

Senator Gareth Evans —I said, `within grasp by 2001.'

Senator SHORT —Not only have we moved off the economic growth figure, we have even moved off the commitment to the five per cent and, therefore, automatically we have moved away from the jobs creation number that the minister has been bandying around, which we all know is a fraud anyway. The minister has confirmed that today in what he said.

  Coming back to the actual point, it is a damning indictment of the charade of serious analysis that the minister claims has gone into this statement to now have moved away from the green paper figure for growth and, indeed, to have cast serious doubts on the job creation figure that he has quoted.

  I repeat that in the last decade of Labor administration a four per cent-plus growth rate has been achieved only three times. Indeed, if those opposite look at the last 20 or 30 years of government in this country, they will see that that growth rate has not often been achieved. For the government to suggest that, at a time when it is impeding micro-economic reform—the very micro-economic reform that is required to increase our growth rate—it is suddenly going to be able to run four, five, or six consecutive years at growth rates of that level puts its credibility beyond stretching.

  The industrial relations legislation this government introduced last year has set back further the process of reform, of freeing up the labor market and producing the flexibility that is so essential to achieve the sorts of results being talked about. We saw yesterday with the balance of payments blow-out that we still have a very serious balance of payments problem in this country, and it is not getting any better. All the fine words about growth in exports are only fine words. When we compare our relative situation in the world, we find that we are going backwards.

  So four per cent-plus growth is going to be very difficult, if not impossible, under the present regime. If by any fluke the government happened to achieve that in the first few years, it would very soon run into the balance of payments problem that has bedevilled the Australian economy for so many years, and this government stands absolutely indicted for having failed to do anything about it. The inevitable result of our balance of payments situation is restraint through increases in interest rates and all those other measures that impede growth, not enhance it. The government stands indicted for that. (Time expired)