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Keating's economic policy for leadership launch



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Peter Reith

DEPUTY LEADER of the OPPOSITION PRESS RELEASE SHADOW TREASURER

KEATING'S ECONOMIC POLICY FOR LEADERSHIP LAUNCH

The Treasurer's speech to EPAC today reads like the economic reform program of a leadership challenger. Despite being replete with breathtaking hypocrisy and major admissions of policy failure the Treasurer creeps towards the realisation that radical

labour market reform is inevitable.

Whether as Treasurer or Prime Minister he has obviously yet to understand that radical reforms of the sort necessary will always be vetoed by the institutional forces built into any Labor government.

The Treasurer effectively calls for the adoption of enterprise based bargaining in the industrial relations area. However, Mr Keating can do no more than "hope" /that in its wisdom the Industrial Relations Commission will accommodate the system he

feels is necessary.

If Mr Keating is serious about enterprise bargaining he knows that the Government cannot simply stand around waiting for the Commission - which he severely criticised - to change its

national wage case decision. His speech invites the conclusion that, if Australia is to move down "the path of greater deĀ­ centralisation in wage bargaining" the Government must take the

lead and he is the person to lead the Government.

Anyone can see it is the Accord that is the obstacle to genuine de-centralisation of the wages system. It is the Accord and its feather bedding of union leadership that has stopped all the major micro economic reforms that Australia needs.

Unless the Accord is scrapped the necessary labour market reforms are simply not possible.

I wonder how many of the EPAC members laughed during the meeting today when Keating boasted on page 6 of his speech:

"...the structural problems of the 1980's have been substantially corrected"

and when he said:

"There is no longer a barrier to higher productivity growth"

COMMONWEALTH P A R L IA M E N T A R Y LIBRARY M IC A H

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I note on page 7 Mr Keating concedes that several areas are still crying out for micro economic reform and he quotes Industry Commission research as to the billions of dollars in increased national production that would result from railway, electricity

industry, water services, domestic water transport and

international line shipping reforms.

What Mr Keating fails to emphasize in his speech is that the bulk of the gains would only come from major labour market reforms. That is something neither he nor the Government have been

prepared to do in the past.

Indeed Mr Keating even quotes in his section on the electricity industry the possibility of other states achieving similar productivity levels to Queensland, "the state with the most efficient industry". The productivity levels of Queensland are the result of the agreements and labour market reforms introduced by the previous State Government and basically stopped by the new Labor State Government. They were stopped because they did not comply with the Labor Party's and Trade Union's belief in

centralised wage fixing.

Why has it taken Treasurer Keating so long to realise that

breaking down the higher centralised wage system is a necessity? He is soon to be the longest serving Labor Party Treasurer since Federation - he must be a slow learner. He has presided overman increase in the centralisation of powers in the labour market.

Mr Keating is very good at delivering insults but now faces a real test - what is he like at delivering some genuine labour market reform?

SOMERVILLE 19 APRIL 1991 CONTACT: 06 277 4277

D49/91