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Thursday, 9 June 1994
Page: 1635

Senator O'CHEE (3.56 p.m.) —Mr Deputy President, when my contribution to this debate on the appropriation bills was interrupted earlier today, I was discussing how remarkable it is that this government can make economic forecasts buoyed by nothing but its own hot air, because that is exactly what we have seen. We have seen forecast after forecast which, if pricked with a pin, would burst in our faces like hot air balloons.

  In its white paper on unemployment, the government predicted that economic growth between now and the end of the decade would average 4 3/4 per cent. Yet only one week later the same government is telling us that at no point in the next four years would economic growth exceed 4 1/2 per cent. Even Senator Burns on the other side of the chamber would have to understand—

Senator Burns —Four and a half is not bad.

Senator O'CHEE —Four and a half this year, 4 1/4 next year, and four per cent for the next two years—if Senator Burns can add that up, divide it by four and get it to equal 4 3/4 per cent, which is exactly what his government said economic growth would average from now to the end of the decade, he is a better man than I am, Gunga Din. It does not work; it does not figure out.

  Those opposite can have all the glib answers they like but, at the end of the day, they cannot defy the natural rules of mathematics. The natural rules of mathematics are that 4 1/2, plus 4 1/4, plus four, plus four, divided by four does not equal 4 3/4 per cent. Even the government's own backbenchers must be embarrassed by that one. That is how appalling this government's economic forecasting has been.

  These are the same people who told us not to worry about foreign debt because it is `only' $210 billion. I hasten to add that that is more than the foreign debt of just about any other country in the world with the exception of the United States, which has 17 times our population and about five times the foreign debt. But these people say, `Don't worry, you can trust us with the economy'.

  Mr Deputy President, let me put a few facts on the record. At $210 billion, foreign debt in this country exceeds the foreign debt of Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, or any other Latin American country anyone might wish to name. Yet the government seems to make light of this fact. On this side of the chamber we do not make light of the fact that this government is compromising our economic sovereignty.

  On behalf of the National Party—I am sure that my Liberal Party colleagues agree—I am happy to say that we support the statement made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Downer, when he said that the coalition in government would not sell the farm and would not compromise this nation's economic integrity.

  Those on the other side are pawnbrokers—that is what they are, Australia's new pawnbrokers. They pawn this country to foreign interests, they grovel to the President of France, and all the while they are telling us not to worry about Australia's foreign debt.

  This bunch of snivelling apologists for their own failed economic policies do not deserve to be heard on this matter. This bunch of snivelling apologists on the other side have sold this nation short for too long. It is a shame that this debate only affords me 20 minutes because it means that I have to let Senator Ray and Senator Burns off a good scolding for what they have done to the state of Queensland. But the state of Australia is a parlous one, and this government has contributed—no, not contributed, this government has manufactured—the very problems with which Australia is saddled today.

  Worse still, this government has not just created problems for us here and now; this government has created problems for future generations of Australians who will sit in this place. Twenty years, 30 years, 40 years hence, when all of us have left this chamber, there will be another two or three generations of Australians grappling with the economic catastrophe that Labor has wreaked upon this country. That is the legacy we leave. It is not a legacy that can be fixed now; it is not a legacy that can be fixed in five years; but a legacy which will haunt future generations of Australians.

  That is why those of us on this side say that enough is enough. We say that we are not going to compromise this nation's economic sovereignty. We say that we do not believe it is acceptable that our current account deficit should be $18 billion. We do not believe that $18 billion a year should leave the shores of our country and go into the coffers of foreign bankers overseas and the government not be worried about it. We do not believe that that $18 billion which could create however many hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs is not an issue. We believe it is the major issue. We believe that foreign debt will continue to be a major issue. We believe that this government is contemptible in its economic mismanagement of this country and ought to be condemned by every generation of Australians which will have to live with the consequences of its mismanagement of our economy.