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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1445

Mr GEAR —Has the Acting Treasurer seen a recent media report that, according to a recent United States of America survey, Australia's credit rating has been substantially downgraded? If so, will he advise the House as to the accuracy of this survey?

Mr HURFORD —Yes, I did see this report. I was so surprised by it that I took some notes about it and received some advice on it too. To say the least, I am a little more than just surprised that the financial journal printed the article, let alone gave it the prominence it did on its front page. The article is misleading. There is a need to put it into perspective, although I pay tribute to the rest of the media in this country for not taking it up. It is important that the article be put into perspective because one or two members of this Parliament have been misled by it and have drawn attention to it. In short, the article is totally inaccurate. The report is not based on any official credit rating. It is based on information from a poll of bankers conducted by the United States financial magazine Institutional Investor. The poll has been described to me as a popularity contest. It has also been described to me as a sort of beauty contest. I will come back to that in a moment.

The second point I need to make is that, of course, the report is based completely on out of date information. It relates to the Fraser Government years . For the benefit of the honourable member for Tangney, let me quote some of the things it says. It states that this country is passing up its chance to establish a substantial manufacturing base. That applied to the previous Government. We are reversing that trend, and have done so to an extent. The article states that the Budget deficit is $10 billion. That was the Liberal Party's deficit, not this Government's. It states that the balance of payments deficit is $2 billion. That was the National Party's deficit. The article even went on to say that we are suffering from the worst drought in 200 years and, with the supreme being on our side at present, we have even done something about that too. In other words, it is yesterday's news of a past, discredited Administration and it has nothing to do with this Hawke Labor Government's performance. I said that I was going to say something about beauty contests and I think I might indulge in a little immodesty.

Mr SPEAKER —That might not be relevant to the question, of course.

Mr HURFORD —There is no doubt that if the good looks of the present Treasurer had been involved instead of old baldy, indeed, we would have done a lot better. How on earth we got into the top 10 last time, I do not know. Actually, there is less of an adverse nature to be said about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition than there is about the Leader of the Opposition. There is no doubt that the reprehensible conduct of the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the election, when he speculated about our currency, may have had something to do with that poll of bankers.

Let us look at what is the fact about our credit rating. This needs to be put into perspective. As recently as July we have confirmed a triple A rating. Two official institutions do these ratings. They are Moodys and Standard and Poor. Both of them have confirmed a triple A rating for this country. The news of only two days ago of the terms of current Australian borrowing in United States dollars in the European market confirms our position. The terms are below those of the United States Treasury. The weighted average length of the maturities offered was 11.6 years and that is well in excess of that achieved in the Euro- dollar market for borrowings of a comparable size in recent years. In short, the article is totally misleading and under this Government our country's rating is superbly high.