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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3625

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr HURFORD - We have just heard a feeble and overlong effort seeking to stem the tide. But all the huffing and puffing that we have heard will not make an ounce of difference. Like the Arab, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would be better advised to fold up his tent and slink off into the night. The Prime Minister did not even enthuse the sycophants behind him. He could not get even an ounce of enthusiasm from them. The tide has turned. The credibility of the Government is nil. Government supporters know this; it shines from their faces. They are on the slide to oblivion and we intend to give them a further push.

If only Government backbenchers would realise what the true situation is instead of trying to find some enthusiasm or sitting in this place like schoolboys behind their leader. I know that they do not want an election to be held right now. In fact the Opposition would challenge the Government to an election but the Government would not agree to hold one. But knowing that will not happen what Government supporters can do for Australians is to make sure that they change the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). If ever we heard an empty excuse ibr the incompetent economic management of this country, we have just heard it in an overlong statement of about 40 minutes which sought to try to persuade us that all was well. Of course, it is not well.

This Government started off its term of office with its so-called anti-inflationary strategy, a strategy which is now completely in tatters. Before developing that point, I inform the House that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was not given much advance notice that the Prime Minister would be making his statement at this time. The Leader of the Opposition had another appointment. He is not able to be here. But at least he deputed someone from the front bench of the Opposition to take his place. This is in sharp contrast to what happened earlier this afternoon when 2 Government backbenchers spoke on a discussion of a matter of public importance on the subject of the fall in the standards of living under the Fraser Government. The Leader of the Opposition had given 36 hours notice that this matter would be dealt with today. However, if ever words summed up what has happened this year, it is the words of that matter of .public importance certainly did. Instead of a Minister being deputed to answer these grave but truthful charges against this Government we found that 2 Government backbenchers were given the task.

If there is one statement that sums up this year of the Fraser Government it is that the living standards of Australians have been reduced. This is the first time in my living memory that this has happened to our country. This situation has been perpetrated on our nation by a group of men who believe that they were born to nile. These men grabbed power on the excuse that they knew how better to manage the economy. The Australian people have learned in one year that that was the greatest truth ever perpetrated on them. The Government has gone from bad to worse.

The Prime Minister was stupid enough to give us a litany of the economic decisions which he had made. He started off wrongly by slashing government spending and by slashing a Budget which was already a correct mix. This action has ruined consumer confidence in this country to the extent that we have now lost the confidence of overseas people and investors. That explains why there was the rapid outflow of funds which gave rise to the damaging devaluation. All the huffing and puffing of the Prime Minister will not make an ounce of difference to the inevitability that the package on monetary, fiscal and wages policies, which must come in the wake of devaluation, will do further harm to this country. I am afraid that the only Christmas message that anybody objectively looking at the economy can give to the Australian people is that, after a year in which their standard of living has been reduced by the incompetent and inept economic policies of the people who rule us, we will have another year of similar wrong and inept policies.

We are now promised that there will be further slashing of government spending. Of course the savings ratio is increasing. Of course that squirrelling will continue if this foreshadowed action is what we have to put up with in the months or year ahead. Because of their lack of confidence the Australian people will not spend. As a result the business confidence that is necessary for investment decisions to be made to get the economy moving will not be created. It is a domestic led recovery which in the end will be the answer to the economic ills that we are suffering. Instead we have a Government which started off believing that an investment led recovery was required. We had the expensive and expansive investment allowance which was an almost complete waste of Government funds. Then the Government said that perhaps it ought to try to persuade people to spend. But it did not put forward the policies to urge people to spend. Rather, the Government pursued policies that increased unemployment Of course, this has given rise to a lack of confidence. Now, by some grand but wrong gesture, last Sunday night the Government decided to devalue the currency. Apparently the answer to the country's ills is to be an export led recovery. The Government is groping from one area to another. All of its policies are equally wrong and have equally been mistakes.

I draw to the attention of the House and the Australian people the alternative strategy put forward not only by myself and the Leader of the Opposition in the packages that he has prepared but also by the Premier of a major State, New South Wales, and also the Premier of Tasmania. I shall focus for a moment on Mr Wran's plan. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that that plan has been endorsed in great detail by many sectors of private industry in this country. It was put forward following the alternative Budget strategy suggested by me and later by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The plan is: It is only by increasing government spending modestly- stimulatory spending-and by reducing indirect taxes, particularly sales tax, that we will bring a necessary return of confidence to the Austraiian consumer in order to get the economy moving. So much of what the Prime Minister has said in the statement was dishonest that it is hard to pick out one area. But to suggest that any member of the Opposition was suggesting a $1 billion increase in the deficit is just patent dishonesty.

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