Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Address to National Press Club



Download PDFDownload PDF

3*

ί

>Y

74/88 1-V5/74

SPEECH BY THE LEADER OF THE· OPPOSITION - NATIONAL PRESS- CLUB, CANBERRA 14 MAY' 197-4

S .· -Λ.Χ ,

.tr! gentlemen of the press, members of the National Press

ί - press club was established 12 years ago and for the last • yv't-r o - 6 Federal elections - it has been one of the focal "...-...its of viic ej.ect.Lon campaign. · ·

During this election campaign I have endeavoured to give fair ’roafcmont to the press and media people who have travelled with mo, as well as to the local reporters at each stopover. Never b. fore has thoi’e been such free and open, access to a Party leaner.

'Lis has been a hard fought campaign. Mostly fair but punctuated with rumor mongering of untruths. Two of which are of such importance I take time now to scotch. All pensions will be increased in the next budget and thereafter adjusted automatically each half year. National service will not be re-introduced.

1" now review this election campaign and the period of Government unlor the Labor Party which led directly to the crisis i n our national affairs which brought the election about.

Labor grossly exaggerated its 1972 mandate.

It: 1972; the Australian electorate - and to a certain extent the :..oaia - endorsed new and extensive action by the national Govern - ii'.ont in a number of areas. ' ·

■cut that result, which was by no means a landslide, did not give Labor a mandate.to recklessly overturn the institutions and relationships which are an integral part of Australian life and the Australian community. · · . [ - ·

Labor sot off on a head-long rush of talk mixed with action. ' They decided to implement the full' range of their policy totally- disregarding the ability of the economy to absorb the consequences o : l cost. . . ' ■

Of equal importance Labor proceeded to implement a wide range of policies in total disregard of the ability of the Australian ' community to assimilate rapid change. They pretended the public in f97-2 voted forτ total change whereas in truth the public gave Labor a narrow win because they believed not much, real change ' ■ would occur with a change of Government. An attitude which

Labor carefully and deliberately encouraged during the campaign.

Many will see a very marked parallel between these last-18. months of Labor Government and the thesis so well summed up in Alvin Tofflor’s book "Future Shock". . . ·

..Labor "Party has tried to force a p>rcgram on Australians whic. . : · . • j. i. y didn't consciously choose· but also to do it at a pace· beyond ;Ac communities ability to absorb change. . '

Its approach has boon to impose its policies directly on individual momoers of the community, deliberately by-passing the institutions ana methods that have over the years become an integral parr of Λα:- era Iran life. ' . · ' ' ■

1 ad hue trying to Argue that existing institutions'may not ·

require some redirection of their' activities. ■ ·

Indeed, they may need' to alter their priorities and perceptions to bring them more into line with today's society and with.the goals of Government. ' · . · ' · ’ '

Bur in trying to force the pace of change and by ignoring established institutions and settled lines of- corrununication, the Labor Government has created hostility and uncertainty and . ' insecurity.' ' . ;

In this w a y , it has undermined the chance of achieving real ' improvement in the well-being of the Australian community,.rather than advancing it. .

Let me outline to you some of the areas where· the evidence cf the future shock affect af Labor can be '

icier tif ioci.

fake the economy. Jov^rnncnt sp^ndin ; in 1973/74 was :tcd to gro’ .r by about 1 97= ov :;r the 1972/73 f ixture. In: Γ-act it will. I believe, grow by somewhere between ?') - 2 3'/ - "v a cured against the last 10 years average . of jus t , over 1 07/ . .

Unroovcr, this increase in spending by the public sector was grafted onto an economy xfhich "was already on. the upswing following -r.y budget of Augus t 1972. The last .Tenths of 1972 _Liad achieved a fully employed eccuoa/ in which inflation was

kg l at n very successful 4-l>. 1973 required careful and . precise short ter:.: economic management „ .

Instead we had. Labor's vastly increased public spending and arrogant public postures which served only to unsettle in­ dividuals and groups-and tc erode confidence, .

Chronic shortages developed in particular sectors. Building and housing construction are a pri :.e example.

Strikes at very high levels regularly disrupted the provision of essential services to the public.

Cost and wage increases took place at a rate which - by the Marcl: quarter of this year - gave us a level of inflation of approx, 14$ for the 12 months past..

Only Japan amongst Australia's trading partners of significance has experienced inflation in excess of this rate..

For 6 months or ore there have, been numerous independent economic forecasts predicting a rate of inflation approaching 20% compared with the long term record of Liberal/Country Party Government of aroqnd 37= - 4^ο„ i

Until the 11th hour, Labor has acted as though there were no inflationary problem, or if there was., it was inevitably imported and little could be done about it, '

sir. hhitlnn launched his election campaign on this basis , and it was only last week - 10 days before polling day - that he gave in to the pressure of his political advisc-rs and agreed that inflation is our first national problem.

It is worth recounting the details of this economic somersault in judging the Labor record. Pirot, the nation was told b y ‘the Labor 'Government that inflation was not a problem. Then we were told the Government had beaten it. The corollary to this was that the anti-inflation plan and tax.relief which I was proposing was

inflationary. T h a t ’s what hr. Unit 1 am - v/as saying on national television one night last week. He described tax cuts as economic vandalism. By the next morning he iras talking about his own tax cut and the need to reduce inflation by budgetting for a domestic

surplus, It is not I who is a vandal but ikitlnn who is a Visi­ goth. He even endorsed our idea of voluntary restraint. He had earlier endorsed my proposal (if it is necessary) for. a freeze.

2a.

'7bon Mr. WhitIan in April., agreed to call a special Premiers' Conference "to consider an income and prices policy", he told hi press conference "there wag good reason to believe that a ninety- day freeze" similar to that ccolled by President Nixon "would be effective". Mr. Halfpenny bluntly commented: "We don't nird

"cheir considering it, so long as they don't try to implement it."

That was the visi-goth's last statement on that matter.

3.

I immediately pointed out that there vras no way Labor or any other Government for that matter - could achieve a situation of tax cuts 'and domestic surplus while maintaining Government spending at its present rate. . ·

Therefore, I challenged Mr. Whitlam to say whether he intended to reduce government spending. If not, it was inevitable that he would be obliged in the next Budget in September to raise an extra « 5 0 0 million to $1,000 million in indirect taxes.

The response has been an uncharacteristic silence. I suppose it i.- not so surprising given Mr. Groan's fundamental disagreement with. Mr. Whitlam over the nature of and .extent, of taxation relief. combined with Mr. Whit lamf s. demonstrated inability to control the

free-spending ambitions of his unwioIdly band, of .27 Ministers.

Having waited in vain for any attempt to justify the grea.t Labor economic switch,' in Brisbane yesterday, I released my detailed; analysis of the consequences of what Mr. Whitlam is promising. . • There is nothing but nonsense in a pieced together patchwork .

which says we will increase government spending. We will reduce personal income tax. We will budget for a domestic surplus. We will not increase indirect■taxes. '

Not one single economist or writer will endorse this program. No one will believe .it bi.it that is Mr. Whitlam1 s undertaking. It is a formula for national disaster. ' It is the epithet of a Prime Minister failed. In contrast my action program has been

on public view for 5 months. It has been nibbled at the edges but it remains in tact - endorsed by the professors of economy. .

But l et’s go back before Mr. Whitlam1s sudden if incomplete · conversion. ’ Labor had completely ignored the distractive effects of inflation on community life.. .

i

It had been acting as though good intentions were enough, ignoring rhe fact that none of its promises could really succeed without affecting short term economic management.

Without stable growth, real improvements in the welfare of · disadvantaged groups will be apparent rather than real. Measured against this test,· the Labor Government has failed disastrously, If allowed to continue, inflation will destroy that confidence which is essential for effective government action and individual

and commercial decision making. Inflation destabilises economic and social relations and adds vastly to the money income of the . ■ government sector at the cost of the taxpayer. The Labor Party refuses to· recognise publicly that this is the inescapable effect

on the· community, because inflation: fosters the illusion that ever-expanding government expenditure represents a solution to. genuine social .problems. The Labor Party is unable to a ct: against the illusion and.instead feeds it. '

The rate of inflation is an indictment of Labor:s 'failure to under­ stand that any program must be geared to the ability of the economy co pay. It is already clear that if all Labor*s programs are to be ■ ’ ■ · ■ · .

. . ./4

■ 4. .

fu ; ι( .1. 1 1- will bo at tho cost of personal living standards of the· gr.’Cii. ma j cri cy of Australian tax payers. The electorate needs to re aware of this choice.

budget.ary stimulus in tho present economic climate vould eansn even πιοχό economic havoc . If Labor · continues on i ts . pros'tic course, as foreshadowed by Mr. ’ .Gilliam, a total breakdown rf the economy could occur. It is inconcciva ole that taxes will nv,t. rise, strikes accelerate and shortages worsen, as particular

interest groups fight to hold their position. The longer . inflation goes tho harder it becomes to restrain. That is the principal problem which Australia's electors need to ponder as they decide who shall govern them after May 18 .

Take the example here in Canberra. Labor Ministers have frequently cited Canberra as a model of the quality of administration that would accompany its takeover of major areas of community life. (in gaining government, Leibor introduced a whole range of

administrative changes to introduce Labor’s particular vision of utopia to the one part of urban Australia over which it had unfo fctered control. Thus in due course that same government which manages Canberra hopes to duplicate its performance nationally

in areas such as social welfare, hospitals, housing and land price control, urban transport, and education; To evaluate Labor’s competence, tho electorate can do no better than examine how well Labor has exercised its responsibilities in Canberra. The record of the last 18 months is appalling. Canberra, for example has had a system of price contrdl fo.r some 12 months. If ■

administered prices are to be effective nationally over an extended period, price control should certainly work in Canberra.. The . March quarter Consumer Prices statistics tell a different story.. ' Canberra’s rate of increase at just ever 14$ exceeded the six .

capital's average increase for the rest of Australia by nearly a full percentage point, Similarly, land arid housirig shortages are very serious and, despite a-cumbersome administrative system, the opportunity for speculative gain is rife.

Mr. Uren has the temerity to suggest a comparable system will be. effective Australia-wide. ' ·

Rents are administered for the whole territory, yet there are no flats available for rent. Garbage collection is a shambles, with many areas, unserviced for want of equipment and staff. · . · '

Open government is a myth. Canberra has the most secret and most .autocratic, urban government of any town or city in Australia. If Canberra is a model of Labor’s administrative competence, the rest of the country'· had better prepare for siege. ·

L e t ’s look for a moment at some other aspects of this election ' campaign. Both you, the media, and the. Labor Party have endorsed, my consistent determination to bring the issue of rampant inflation before the Australian people as the most urgent priority problem demanding the attention of governments■in Australia. .

It is nine months since I first outlined the basic elements of the economic action plan for a total national and cooperative attack on inflation.

If I remember correctly from my earlier days, that is the accepted gestation period for an Australian conception.

^4-U ο

I oven noticed in the Australian the other day that John Edwards was kicking himself!" We used to be accused of kicking various types of cans around but if J ohn·can kick himself then no one . else needs to do it for h i m „ · . .

By now, yc>u all know very well the basic proposals I have made; slackening the growth of government spending; tax relief; voluntary restraint; and, if necessary, a short, sharp circuit­ breaking freeze of all prices and all incomes to interrupt

inflationary expectations. ...

5

j, -

Lone of you have heard me talking about the failure of the Labor experiment and tie umbrella issues of inflation to the point of . 'Tour ο’ ,ιη despaii': · ·

ha τ . Z want to remind you of today is that an election campaign is -n, v just a travelling source of news" stories about whether I am going to destroy the Arbitration Commission, or import rump steak, or wave the magic wand over interest rates next Sunday morning, ·

I am going to do none of those things. I'think in ycur hearts you knoT' those sort of things are nothing more than the bush lawyer’s approach to the travelling press conference that forms part of the election campaign process.

Let me make it clear that I don't mind. Anyone who aspires to national leadership ought to be 'willing to be quizzed and questionned and probed and picked over .and have his innards examined on television.

Skiir enough. That is a fair go and X make no plea. .

L u : , d o n ’t let us lose perspective. The realities of this election campaign are the policies I and. my colleagues put to the public and the criticisms we make balanced agc.inst the same from our opponents. .

hhen you get right down to the core of it, it's the responsibility of you in the media to make your judgment on the competing arguments.

I t ’s also a fact of modern life that you must make your judgment on the basis of the personal performance of the opposing leaders. I . accept that. . · . · ·

I think I can claim' to have been cross-examined by you more closely mid incisively in the concentrated period of this election campaign than anyone vfho ever held this position. ■

Because of that, 1 think i t ’s time x had a chance to ask a few questions myself. And 'I’ll ask them, with your assistance, of Mr. > v hit lam. .

I ’m firmly convinced that Mr. Thitlam and his team stand condemned on their performance. . Mr ,. hhitlam himself has demonstrated sad ignorance and lack of economic leadership, or even an understanding of the pace and method of change acceptable-to Australians.

His Ministers have directed disasters in' aboriginal affairs and environmental matters: They have stopped exploration during an y energy crisis: They have allowed the big unions to dictate their decisions: They have, substituted cost-beneift for human benefit

in social welfare: They have replaced reality " - rith raillery, in ■ foreign policy: They prefer defeatism to defence: They, want to defer rather than to develop our natural resources: They want to impose uniformity and single standards set by Canberra on a ’ .-/hole continent: They want change' ahead of achievemerit. .

6

. ' . . b. · ·

1 ·Ï‡.ν . v "Lr;:ply fail to discern that arrogance is no substitute for undt. rstanding; that .hope is no substitute for experience. '

Some· -f this misguided team have discredited themselves to The < . f disqualif ication by their own. leader in their first tt-si. before the people. .

- - - - - - - - - - - . . . .

S ,-nt · · · . ■ >r Murphy, that darling of the Croatian community,, was transformed into a mushroom on the stroke of midnight of the ejection campaign„ Mr Connor is down a mine somewhere with an . eye to taking it over. Where is Mr Barnard, could anyone tell me? .

Doug Anthony will be rny Deputy Prime Minister. Can anyone dispute that Mr Barnard is to be buried on Sunday and some Cairns built on top of his political grave? That is, if Labor is allowed to · continue. ' ·

And what of Mr Crean, the Treasurer for not-intolerable inflation. Will he get John Armstrong's job in. London, that long-awaited, respite from the rapacious financial demands of his fellow Ministers which he has never been able to refuse?

Will Mr Hayden climb to glory on our banknotes over the fallen wreckage of his health scheme.? , .

Will Frank Stewart and Bill Morrison and Gordon Bryant and Reg Bishop really be replaced by Clem Jones and Merv Everett and Mick Young? . . ' ■ · '

I have been interested ""to read some of the endorsements our opponents have been receiving - particularly the one from. Betty Archdale. . ’ ■ . ■ .

I'M told on very good authority there is another coining out tomorrow. It's called; unemployed lion tamers, woodcarvers, and glassblowers for labor. . .

I put it to you that there are some very real questions to be answered by our opponents before Australia goes to the polls on Saturday. ' . · . . . · · " · . ■

They concern the economy, and inflation and they arcs

' 1 . Will Mr Whitlarn match my firm undertaking not to increase indirect taxes in the coming Budget? ' · "

2. By how much will he reduce, government spending and in which specific areas ! .of government activity? ·

3. When will Mr Whitlarn.and Mr Crean agree on tax cuts and , announce their extent and application? . . .

;Mr Whitlarn should no longer be allowed to dodge these questions. •.The people have the right to know. ' . · ' .

It's time for the Labor Party to come clean,, to bo honest .with the Australian peoples . .

v