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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1669

Mr DOWNER —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to the new consumer surveys report by the Melbourne University's Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. Is it a fact that 43 per cent of those surveyed believe they are worse off financially than a year ago compared with only 28 per cent at the last election? Is it also a fact that only 38 per cent of those surveyed believe it is a good time to buy a major household item compared with 59 per cent at the time of the last election? Are these survey results further confirmation of the community's growing awareness of falling living standards under the Hawke Government and has the Prime Minister brought these results to the attention of the honourable members for Rankin, Chisholm, Dunkley, Barton and other Labor members hanging on to marginal seats?

Mr HAWKE —Yes, I am aware of the survey to which the honourable member refers. I would be more than happy to make some observations about the survey. The first point to make is this: The honest point is that there is a lowering of standards in Australia. That lowering of standards is something about which I have been speaking for some time because, as distinct from the Opposition, we are telling the truth to the Australian people and the unavoidable truth is that the world has slashed over $6 billion off the Australian national economic capacity, off our national income. That is not because the farmers, or the miners or the workers of this country are working any less hard or because they are operating less efficiently; it is simply because the world is paying us less now for our primary products, our wheat--

Opposition members-Oh!

Mr HAWKE —I notice that my friend the Deputy Leader of the National Party has agreed with me on this. At least he is honest about these matters. He is not denying the problem. In the representations that he has made to the Government he has said: `This is a real national economic problem. Let us have a joint parliamentary delegation to the United States of America'. I pay tribute to the Deputy Leader of the National Party. He does not indulge in the dishonesty of those opposite; he recognises the reality of this problem. I pay him tribute for it.

I will at least address myself to those honest members of the Opposition. They recognise the fact that the world, unfortunately-the Deputy Leader of the National Party, like me, takes no pleasure in this fact-is paying us less for our primary products, for our coal and for our iron ore. This Government, as distinct from the other side of the House, will tell the people of Australia the truth, and they will respect that truth. They will certainly not respect a situation where people like the honourable member for Mayo would seek to go around this country and delude them and say: `No, that $6 billion is just a figment of the Prime Minister's imagination'. It is not a figment of the imagination of the Deputy Leader of the National Party and it is not a figment of my imagination; it is the unavoidable fact. If the Opposition wants to take some pleasure from the fact that the world is paying us less and has cut $6 billion off our national income, it is not the members in the seats to which the honourable member refers who will have to worry; it will be the honourable member and people like him because the electors of Australia, fortunately, are significantly more intelligent and straightforward than to fall for the nonsense that the Opposition talks about.

Of course I acknowledge that there has been a fall in living standards. The difference between this side of the House and the other is not only that we recognise that fact but also that we adopt economic policies which are calculated to deal with it. If we are to deal with the fact that there has been a loss in this country's national economic capacity, we have to go about the task of addressing that problem responsibly in monetary, fiscal, wages and industrial restructuring policies. That is what this Government is doing, as distinct from what the Opposition is doing. When we put the information to the Opposition last week on the policies it has notched up, it produced the amazing fandango from the shadow Treasurer; the only answer we got was for him to do his little dance around the Opposition and tear it up. He can tear up pieces of paper in his petulance and frustration, but that is no answer to the $16 billion credibility gap. The great tragedy is that if the Opposition were to have its way and impose the $16 billion credibility gap on this country, the drop in standards already suffered would be as nothing compared with the economic devastation that this mob would wreak upon this country.