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Monday, 14 October 1991
Page: 1882

Mr CADMAN(10.21 p.m.) —-An air of realism is being injected into the debate tonight from the Government side. At last Government members are beginning to understand the problems, but there appears to be completely no understanding of what the possible solutions could be. This side of the House recognises some of the difficulties that have been outlined. The Government seems to be floundering around looking for quasi-protectionist results, dealing with the dumping problem, which we endorse, but with an unwillingness to take up the main themes of that 12 March statement, to drive them home and bring them to reality. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Martin) should take a step forward and put them into action. Is that what he is suggesting--a promotion to the front bench?

Mr Martin —-Far be it from me to suggest that.

Mr CADMAN —-Perhaps it is warranted. The failure of the Government to show any realism in macro-economic policy and then deal with some of the micro-economic reforms that Australia so sorely needs is evident in the contributions from the Government side. I believe that tonight we are facing a realistic understanding in the Parliament that the matter of preference in trade to developing nations has to be dealt with as a whole. Australia gives concessions to entry of goods into Australia from so-called developing countries. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Macarthur, listed some of these countries--Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. I do not think anyone in Australia, with the wildest stretch of the imagination, could any longer regard some of those nations as still developing.

This legislation adds two more to those favoured nations: Czechoslovakia and Namibia. In legislation proposed by the Government, we have an accelerated wiping out of tariffs for some industries and an increased list of those countries which should receive favoured treatment. I believe that shows the confusion of the Government. At the same time as it is prepared to change its own rules for Australian manufacturers, it is adding to the list of those competitors against Australian manufacturers who are getting favoured treatment to import their goods.

The unrealistic aspect of all of this is demonstrated in the rising dole queues and the increasing number of bankruptcies. The Government has even failed to live by its own judgments and its own statements. It has failed to recognise that if we reduce tariffs for a finished product and not for the components of a product, Australian companies will continue to be disadvantaged. They cannot compete unless they can buy the components of their products at world market prices. A small example which I believe is typical of this Government is that it has chosen to stick with the Florence agreement for audio cassettes and tapes and to move in an accelerated fashion to zero tariffs. In the same legislation it has extended developing country preference to Czechoslovakia and Namibia. That is a complete lack of realism of the real problems facing Australian manufacturers.

The 12 March statement set out some good goals. One of those goals is a reform of the processes of anti-dumping legislation. The Opposition, alternatively, has a broad vision of macro-economic reform, which moves away from comparatively high inflation and high interest rates to low inflation and low interest rates, and a reform of the waterfront and all of the micro-economic areas that are critical to efficient economic production in Australia. Not only does the Opposition have those broad goals and objectives, but it also has detailed policies on anti-dumping procedures to prevent people taking advantage of the Australian market and bringing in subsidised or government supported goods which compete against Australian products.

The Government talks about level playing fields. There are no level playing fields; there is only self-interest in trade. Australia has to become self-interested. We have to convince countries in the rest of the world that they would be better off if they reduced their protection--our great commodities from our great industries have to have a market in which we can sell--and we have to show that we are not stupidly generous or just plain stupid, at the same time as destroying a predictable process of tariff reduction and extending the favoured treatment to others. What inconsistency there is in these policies.

It is impossible for those who are making investments, who are planning to be competitive, who want to take up the industrial relations opportunities that the Opposition is putting to the Government and to the Australian people so that Australians can work in a cooperative environment together and so that the goals of employers and employees are complementary and can be achieved in harmony. The Opposition has put forward policies that the Australian people want to take up and it has also tagged the falseness of the Government's understanding of any of these areas.

The lack of realism of the Government, despite its understanding of the problems, will bring Australia into worse and worse difficulty. The Budget is blowing out with an increasing number of unemployed. I looked at the unemployment figures just for western Sydney today--a mere one and a half million or two million people. They are staggering. There has been a 75 per cent increase in unemployment in western Sydney in just 12 months--that is how inappropriate the Government's policies of high interest rates and reducing tariffs are--without any commensurate action to support people who want jobs and employers who want competition but cannot face it because they have one hand tied behind their backs by a Government that is unwilling to enact reforms that are needed and obvious.

The Government keeps running away from the obvious reforms that are needed. It will not tackle the problems of industrial relations; it will not tackle the problem of having the ACTU put its imprimatur on every Government decision; and it will not tackle the problem of providing leadership. It is no wonder there is disarray on the Government benches as Government members search for someone to provide leadership. They cannot make up their minds whether they want the current Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) or the former Treasurer. The only reason that they are in this dilemma is that no firm leadership or direct goals are being set by leaders of the Government for all Australians.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —-I must say to the honourable member for Mitchell that we are not yet on the adjournment. I am troubled as to how this relates to the legislation before the House.

Mr CADMAN —-Mr Acting Speaker, I regret that you were not here for the earlier part of the debate. Maybe you would have been enlightened by the breadth of this discussion.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —-I am now and I am having trouble understanding how this relates to the material before the House.

Mr CADMAN —-The economic factors related to the imports of goods contained in this legislation before the House are most significant. We are dealing with excise and tariff changes that show a Government unwilling to grapple with small problems, the results of which are most significant for those Australians seeking jobs, whether they are in western Sydney, Melbourne or any other part of Australia.

Debate interrupted.