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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2453

Mr LUSHER (Hume) - It is interesting to come into the Parliament and see that again the Opposition has brought forward a matter of public importance about economic management. It seems that only yesterday we had a discussion on a similar subject of public importance. What interests me is the fact that the Opposition gives this Government credit for economic management. It may not agree with the way in which this Government is going about it, but at least it says that economic management exists. That, I think, is something for which we cannot give credit to the previous Administration. Honourable members opposite spent 3 years wallowing around in some form of economic activity which could not be blessed with the title 'management'. They come back to this chamber again and again attempting, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) says, to talk the economy down, attempting, for some political advantage no doubt, to cause disruption in our community and attempting to create confusion in the economy as a whole. I believe, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that there is a degree of confusion among the members of his own Party.

Mr Hurford -I did not say that.

Mr LUSHER -No, I retract that remark. The honourable member did not say that; I said it. The honourable member for Adelaide said that the Budget is the most important instrument that a government has available to it. It is not so many years ago that one of his predecessors as spokesman for his Party on economic matters, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who was the Treasurer at the time, said that the time had come when budgets were not to be regarded as the most significant instrument available to a government. He said that economic management should take place on a continuing basis and that we should get away from the emphasis that is traditionally attached to a Budget. Today we are getting back to the more traditional line and the honourable member for Adelaide is rejecting the prognostications of his predecessor in that respect. We have further confusion between the honourable member for Adelaide and his Leader. We are told by the honourable member for Adelaide that what this Government is doing in its economic strategy is attempting to delay economic recovery until the next election.

Mr McVeigh - The thieves cannot even agree among themselves.

Mr LUSHER -That is absolutely right. He said that we are managing the economy in terms of electoral strategy. That seems to me an interesting process because we .have been told on the other hand by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that we are about to call an early election. One thing is not consistent with the other.

Mr Hurford - Yes it is.

Mr LUSHER - Well, if we are trying to delay the election until 1978, 1 do not see how we can be trying to call an early election.

Mr Hurford -I did not say 'delay until 1978'; I said ' delay until the next election '.

Mr LUSHER -The honourable member said we were trying to delay until the next election.

Mr Hurford -That is right. That could be at the end of 1977.

Mr LUSHER - That is right. The honourable member gives us a remarkable degree of credit because, if we accept his arguments, we have the ability to move the economy in any direction to suit our own electoral purposes. That, I think, is something which is a great compliment to this Government.

The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) told us that cuts in Government expenditure are important; that they are affecting people; and that they are reducing the number of jobs in the community. The honourable member for Adelaide told us that the Government sector of the economy is not really important because it accounts for only 25 per cent of economic activity. So, I think there needs to be some degree of unanimity among the members of the Opposition.

The important feature of this matter is that we have exemplified economic management The Government has demonstrated to Australia and to the community at large that it has been pre- pared to take charge of the shambles that was eft behind by the Labor administration of the previous 3 years and to accept the challenge to come forward with a firm policy to restore confidence and activity in the community. That is what is important.

What the Government has done throughout the year is to make adjustments to that overall strategy. The strategy announced by the Treasurer on Sunday night is no more than that. The Government unlike the Opposition, is tuning the economy. While in government, the Labor Party manipulated, overturned, juggled and tried to keep all the balls above its head but was not able to achieve that. The Treasurer and the Cabinet must be given credit for having stuck to the same economic line all the way through. They are not being rattled. They are not being put off their course by people such as the honourable member for Adelaide or by commentators.

Mr Corbett -Why should they?

Mr LUSHER -As the honourable member for Maranoa says, why should they? The Party represented by the honourable member for Adelaide has a record of economic management and achievement that can only be regarded as disastrous. I do not know why anybody would want to take notice of the Labor Party. I do not know why honourable members opposite have the arrogance to suggest that anybody should take notice of it. The fact of the matter is that the Government has been consistent in its approach to the economy. It has been consistent in the strategy which it is applying to the economy. That is what is important.

I think that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) confused everybody with the figures that he quoted during the debate. The honourable member talked about deficit levels and tried to confuse what was said by the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards). The important point is what happens at the end of the financial year. The deficit in June, August, September or February is not really significant. What is significant is the overall result for the year. That is the way economic performance is measured in the Budget context. The changes that have been made to company taxes and things of that nature are the indicators. There have obviously been changes in the way in which Government receipts have been coming in. To try to compare the figures for the first 3 months of this year with last year's figures is not on. The honourable member for Lang has said that we should not blame the Labor Government. But I put it to him that what we are suffering now is not the result of mild changes to a system that had been in operation for years. What we are suffering at the moment is the result of drastic changes that were made to a system in a period of 3 years.

One cannot solve problems and overcome drastic changes which have been made in a short time. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said- he has been backed up by members of his Ministry- that the job facing us is a full 3 year job. That is a proposition which has not been disputed. The fact that inflation is showing encouraging signs of coming down within the first year of the Fraser Administration is, I think, a credit to the policies which have been pursued by that Administration. The honourable member for Lang tried to suggest that the Labor Government was unable to achieve its tasks because the Liberal-Country Party Coalition had been in office for 23 years previously. But the fact is that we have always pursued a stable economic policy. In the 3 years of the Labor Government there was nothing stable about any of its policies, let alone economic policies. It takes a long time to recover from those influences.

The Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, has been mentioned in the debate as an independent observer. I think that was probably one of the lighter moments of the debate. Perhaps honourable members should be grateful to the honourable member for Lang for making this statement. I believe that even the honourable member for Berowra would acknowledge that the Premier of New South Wales is not one of the great economic minds of our time. For members of the Opposition to introduce the comments of the Premier of New South Wales into this debate is probably not doing justice to this Parliament. This Government has a consistent approach and a consistent policy line towards the economy. The Opposition is intent on trying to justify its actions over the last couple of years. It is trying, for its own political ends, to promote a situation in the economy in which confusion reigns. It is trying to ensure that there is a continuation of confusion and uncertainty in the minds of businessmen and consumers in Australia. That is not something with which the Government agrees.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired. This discussion is now concluded.

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