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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 574

Senator BLACK —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen statements reported in today's Courier-Mail by the Queensland Premier and Treasurer which claim that Queensland's current economic downturn is the result of national and international factors? Does the Minister agree with this assessment of the causes of Queensland's economic slump? Does the Minister also agree with the Queensland Treasurer's assertion that the State currently has the economic and financial basis for sustained long term economic growth?

Senator WALSH —Yes, I have seen the apologia for the sick state of the Queensland economy, published in today's Courier-Mail, coming from the Premier. Among other things, the Premier said in that statement that the primary responsibility for economic management in Australia rests with the Federal Government. Of course that is true. What the Premier fails to explain, however, is why the rest of the country is doing so well and Queensland is doing so badly, all under common Federal Government policies. For example, the unemployment rate in Queensland currently is 11.3 per cent, by far the highest of any State in Australia and some three percentage points above the national average. In the year ended February, employment in Queensland fell. The number of people employed in Queensland actually fell. Queensland has the lowest percentage of job vacancies in any State. A 20 per cent drop in private capital investment occurred in Queensland in the September quarter of 1984, compared with the same quarter of 1983, when nationally private capital investment increased by 2 per cent. Private capital investment was up 2 per cent in the rest of Australia but down 20 per cent in Queensland. There are official expectations of a further decline of private capital investment in Queensland.

The Queensland economy is pulling down the national economy through its Government's inept handling of the State. I notice that the Premier had the audacity to say today that the nation's performance was dragging down Queensland. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's understanding of the national economy, as revealed in the statement published today, is telling testimony to his Government's economic ignorance. For example, in contradiction to his comments about the economy nationally, the consumer price index increase for the December quarter of 1984 was the lowest it has been since 1972. The inflation rate has been halved since this Government took office. In conjunction with adjustments of the dollar exchange rate, that has enhanced substantially Australia's international competitiveness.

While the economic indices in the rest of Australia are favourable and going in the right direction, in Queensland they are almost all going in the wrong direction, in spite of the $3.3 billion, representing more than $1,300 per capita, which the Commonwealth Government paid to Queensland for 1984-85. The fact is that although the Queensland economy may have the potential for sustained long term growth, as Senator Black suggested, a pre-requisite to realising that potential is the removal of the present Government. It is really no wonder that the Queensland economy is in the dreadful condition it is. The Premier and his Party have long been economic disciples of the League of Rights and its voodoo economics. They have pushed cargo cultish economic policies which have been sustained temporarily by incurring enormous amounts of debt-by far the highest per capita debt of any State in Australia. Ultimately, of course, the chickens had to come home to roost. They have done so in the last couple of years. As I said, if Queensland is to realise its great economic potential, it is essential that the Bjelke-Petersen Government reform itself, which is unlikely. That leaves only one option-its removal.