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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1245

Mr LEE —Can the Treasurer inform the House of any recent international assessments of Australia's economic performance?

Mr Beale —He has read the Economist.

Mr KEATING —I am glad that some people have seen the Economist, as I hear by way of interjection from the other side of the House. The Economist is one of the world's most prestigious financial and political affairs journals. It has done a 15-page summary on the Australian economy and Australian society as one of its continuing studies of various countries around the world. Its analysis is well read not only in Britain but in other parts of the world. It is certainly read in all the financial markets and by business. I might also say that its editorial policy record is basically one of sympathy for the policies of the present British Government.

The analysis probes every area of Australian macroeconomic policy. There was only one reference to this analysis in the Australian Press-I think it was in the Australian-although it is interesting to note that when a stringer from the New York Times drops a story it makes all the broadsheets, but this apparently did not and I do not know why. Perhaps we can get someone in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Age interested in the answer. In contrasting the Government and the Opposition, the Economist had some interesting things to say. It said that this Government was `a government of exceptional talent driven by economic rationalists'. It went on to say:

. . . think-tanks and spokesmen of the New Right, preaching unadulterated free-market theory. Somewhere in their slipstream is a lacklustre and unimpressive parliamentary Liberal . . . party, muddled but predominantly under the sway of Thatcherite ideas.

In a perceptive commentary on the relative positions of the Opposition and the Government, it says:

The fact that Australia is not in much more serious trouble than it is can largely be attributed to a remarkably successful relationship between the Labor government and the trade unions.

Under the heading of `Hard Labor, soft Liberals' it describes the Liberal and National parties as having `a weak parliamentary team'. I suppose that we did not need any more evidence of that than the haircut question from the shadow Treasurer, when yesterday we had the national accounts published and heard not a word from him in the Parliament about it. The Economist went on to say under that heading `Hard Labor, soft Liberals':

Part of the reason for that is the sorry state of the Opposition, the Liberal-National party coalition. It is dogged by three main problems. First, it has lost credibility. It, after all, had seven years in government from 1975 to 1983 with three big mandates, yet it did damn all, other than pave the way for the current mess . . .

How perceptive. It goes on:

Many of the things it wanted, but failed to do-such as floating the currency and deregulating the financial markets-have been done by Labor. And it will be seen as dishonest if it tries to exploit the voters' economic hardship without at the same time explaining that its own policies would either be irresponsible or offer much the same degree of pain.

It goes on to say:

Labor, by contrast--

Mr Downer —Forget the magazine; give us the facts.

Mr KEATING —I know it hurts the honourable member, does it not? Well it might. The article continues:

Labor, by contrast, is rather impressive. Indeed, the claim that this government is the most capable since the war is a strong one.

This is in the British Economist. It went on to a conclusion in this way, perhaps best summarised by this passage:

If the Opposition were credible in espousing that view-

that is, in the unfettered free market economics-

there would be a real choice at the next election. As it is, the choice is likely to be about management: who can best steer Australia through these hard times? To that question, Labor seems the obvious answer.

It is yet again another ringing endorsement. If any honourable members on the other side of the House want to build upon the current level of gloom, on the gloom boom over there, they should read the 15 pages because there is quotation after quotation. The world has woken up to them. They think that because they are all carrying the conservative ticket in their pockets the conservative journals such as the British Economist will have some time for them. It has made an analysis of the 1970s and their policies in the 1980s, and they stand condemned by it as well as by most journals in this country.

Mr Griffiths —I take a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask the Treasurer to table the article from which he was quoting.

Mr KEATING —I table the article.