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Keating shows himself to be a phoney

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ί John Hewson Leader of the O pposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

84/92 26 March 1992


The Prime Minister at Question Time today showed himself to be what so many know he is - a phoney and a fraud.

Yesterday, he tried to score a cheap point in the Wills by­

election by threatening to undermine the bipartisan consensus on tariff reductions.

Today, he was confronted with his record, and he backed off. Instead of talking, as he did yesterday, about how protection would safeguard jobs, he boasted today of his credentials as a tariff cutter.

The fact is that his cheap tactics yesterday backfired. Today, he tried to slip back quietly into the bipartisan mainstream.

Yesterday's line on tariffs from the Prime Minister cut across years of statements from him on the issue.

He obviously did not like being reminded of what he said on the John Laws program on 14 March 1991 when, in relation to tariff cuts, he said:

"At the end of the phasing, which is 1997 and 2000, we will have removed tariffs altogether."

The Prime Minster said that he could not be pinned down by that quote because it was just "a radio program" and it was just "a way of telling the listeners".

The problem for the Prime Minister is that over the years there are numerous statements from him to precisely the same effect.

On 12 March 1991, for example, he said in the House that:

"within this decade, Australia will have renounced once and for all the fallacious doctrine that prosperity can be found behind the insular wall of protection."

The Prime Minister's attitude to the Garnaut Report provides another example. He said yesterday that the Garnaut Report, which recommended the abolition of tariffs by the year 2000, "has no relevance whatsoever to the Government's tariff policy. None,

absolutely none."

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But in November 1989, he said, in relation to the Garnaut Report, that it would be a "desirable position that all trading barriers be removed" and that abolishing tariffs by the year 2000 was an objective.

And there are many, many more statements from Mr Keating's past to show just what a cheap political stunt he tried to pull


He knows as well as anybody else that, since a floating exchange rate can bring about major changes in levels of effective

protection as the exchange rate varies, there is no substantial practical difference between a policy of negligible tariff protection and protection of 5-10 per cent by the end of the decade. By way of example, since Labor came to power there have been 12 quarterly changes in the exchange rate of 5 per cent or more.

The basic point is that there is little substantive difference between our policy and the Prime Minister's, except that he has implemented it disastrously. He has cut tariffs, but doubled interest rates, caused the appreciation of the exchange rate and

failed to address cost disadvantages in infrastructure and the labour market. The result has been record unemployment.

The lessons of his policy back-flip over the past two days are clear.

The Prime Minister panics under pressure. Anything he says is negotiable. Nothing he says can be trusted. Any promise can be reneged on. Any position of principle can be abandoned if he thinks that doing so will save his political skin for the next day or the next week.

The Prime Minister has tried a cheap trick to scare the people of Wills and today he backed off.

None of his scaremongering can distract attention from the fact that this Labor Government has turned its back on the people of Wills, that this Prime Minister's policies have created record unemployment and that, in the Wills area alone, have put more

than 9,000 people out of work over the past two years.

The lesson of the Prime Minister's performance over the last 24 hours is that you simply cannot trust his words or take his scaremongering seriously. The lesson is to look at his record, not his words.


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