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Tuesday, 3 March 1998
Page: 176

Mr BEAZLEY —I understand that the Leader of the House is going to facilitate a suspension motion at the end of question time, and on that basis I will not persist in this matter.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —That is my understanding.

Mr BEAZLEY —My question therefore is to the Prime Minister. Are you aware of Mitsubishi's concern at the implications of the Asian economic meltdown, which led them to send 3,000 of their workers on compulsory leave? Have other automotive companies told your government of investment plans to be put on hold? When are you going to snap out of your complacency and put a strategy in place to address this situation? In particular, why have you failed to finalise the new export facilitation scheme for the automotive industry which you promised last June? How many more workers must have their security threatened before your government acts?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —It takes a special kind of gall from the $23 billion deficit man over there; the man who misled the Australian people month after month and week after week during the election campaign; the failed finance minister who is now the Leader of the Opposition who went around during the election campaign swearing blind that we had a surplus when he knew all the while that we had a deficit of $10.3 billion—as the Treasurer pointed out yesterday, in just two years he racked up $23 billion worth of deficit—

Mr Beazley —Mr Deputy Speaker, I have a point of order in relation to relevance. My question was quite clearly about the circumstances of the Mitsubishi workers in Adelaide and, in particular, the relationship of the new export facilitation scheme—and the Prime Minister who as Treasurer left us with a $26 billion deficit has nothing to talk about.

Mr HOWARD —Mr Deputy Speaker, I repeat: it takes a special kind of gall for the man who gave us the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression, the man who gave us, over two years, $23 billion worth of budget deficit, to now have the nerve to tell the Australian business community that he is going to produce three surpluses if he wins the election. He really is a magician. He is going to produce three surpluses. He is going to spend literally thousands of millions of extra dollars. He is going to give us all income tax cuts. He is going to provide this and that in Mandrake-like fashion in every area of government spending and every area of taxation. I have trawled through the history of the leadership of the Australian Labor Party. I thought they had had some economically irresponsible leaders in the past, but the way this one has been behaving in recent weeks takes the cake; he absolutely tops the bill.

Mr Crean —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My point of order goes to the question of relevance. He will not meet the Cobar workers. Why will he not defend the 3,000 Mitsubishi workers either?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr HOWARD —I am delighted that the honourable member for Hotham makes reference to the motor vehicle industry. I just remind the member for Hotham and the House that, under our government, motor vehicle sales in Australia are at an all-time record high. As a result of the industry policies—

Mr Crean —What is your target? What is your policy?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Hotham!

Mr HOWARD —How many hundreds of thousands of vehicles were they able to sell under your government? They have gone up and up ever since we were elected to office. That is what has happened to motor car sales in this country. They have gone up. They have not stayed flat; they have not gone down. They have gone up. I know you are tremendously unhappy about the $1.8 billion that General Motors is investing. I know you are unhappy about the money that Toyota is investing. The fact is that, under our government, we have given them confidence with our industry policy. They are not only producing more cars; they are selling more cars. They are attracting more investment, far more investment than was ever attracted under your administration.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Before I call the next question, I would just like to say to the House that I know it is an exciting time, but we have a responsibility to the people of Australia to conduct this chamber with some decorum. I invite all members to behave as their constituents would like them to behave.