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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1050

Mr CADMAN(3.10) —I congratulate the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Saunderson) on his maiden speech. However, I offer him a word of advice. I warn him not to tangle with the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). The honourable member for Franklin comes here strongly to defend his constituents' rights, and he does so most capably and fearlessly under all governments and against all opposition to what he sees as being in the best interests of his constituents and the people of Tasmania. Perhaps he should take a bow.

The administration of the current Government commenced, I believe, with the accord which was struck by the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. The accord, which was followed by the election, with the result that the current Government was elected, was succeeded by the National Economic Summit Conference, the Governor-General's Speech, and finally, the recent mini- Budget. I will trace through the progress of policy development and implementation by the current Government, because some factors are emerging which must be causing some concern to sections of the community.

The key factor of the accord which was not addressed by those taking part in the discussions was wages. Every other area of government activity and policy was mentioned in the document published by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party. For instance, the proposal that migrant intake be reduced was fully explored, and we have seen the implementation by the current Government of the agreement entered into in the accord to reduce the number of migrants entering Australia. The Summit Conference, significantly enough, did not deal with the sensitive areas that had been fully agreed by the ALP and the union movement. These two groups are interlocked, and one never knows whether it is the Labor Party speaking in this chamber or the union movement. One can never be sure which wing of the Australian Labor Party is giving vent to opinion.

However, the accord did not come to grips with what needs to be a policy for wages and permanent wage settlements. There was a stated generalised agreement about seeking full indexation, when it could be achieved. But nothing in the 37- page document sought to establish a permanent wages policy for the Australian Labor Party or, taking the need for such a policy, consider the impact that wages have had on the economy, particularly in the loss of employment that has occurred due to wage claims and wage settlements over the last two years.

Mr Groom —Frank Crean.

Mr CADMAN —The honourable member mentions a former Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean, who said that one man's pay rise is another man's job. That has been amply demonstrated by wage claims and wage settlements over the last two years. But the accord did not deal with that sensitive matter. There was no way in which the ALP tried to come to grips with what is the most difficult area of administration for it in government.

I think it is generally agreed that there has been a significant growth in real wages over the last two years which the country will not be able to afford unless the current wage pause continues. There is no mention of the wage pause in the accord between the Australian Labor Party and the union movement. These are sensitive areas. I give no credit to either of those bodies for failing to come to grips with what is a difficult problem. They have skated around it. Like many policy statements, the accord presented the positive elements but failed to deal with the difficulties. The production of the accord was in fact a plank of the Labor Party's platform at the last election. The claim was made: 'We are as one. We have agreed on all areas and we will move forward together, both the government and the unions'. It would have been responsible at that stage thoroughly to convince the Australian people of the veracity of that claim by coming forward with an effective wage policy signed and agreed to by all elements of the union movement-not just a group of representatives of the ACTU, but in fact representatives right down to branch secretaries and even job delegates. I am afraid that in Australia today one has to get down to that level before one can accept that there is agreement or a binding commitment.

Following the accord we had the National Economic Summit Conference, a process adopted by the Government to raise issues and give information and to make sure that the accord was generally accepted by so-called representatives of the Australian community. I find it distressing that the Opposition was not invited because we represent almost half the Australian community. I was not aware of a special Tasmanian representative being there to speak for the people of Tasmania in such a way that it could be said that there is an understanding of Federal issues in the House. There were no representatives of the people of New South Wales. Instead, there was a select group of people, picked by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke)-100 people purporting to represent the views of Australians. I cannot really subscribe to that process as being a representative one. It is a third hand or fourth hand elective process. A group of individuals is selected and from that group people are appointed to a national body within their organisations. From that national group people were then selected by the Prime Minister to sit in this chamber, as representatives of the Australian people- that is what the Prime Minister called them-and discuss what they wanted done for the Australian community. In fact it was not a representative process, as is the case in respect of this chamber. There was then a discussion on how the accord previously agreed to could be put into place.

The Summit issued a communique which evidently means all things to all people because I have noticed both business and union representatives saying: 'We went in there and we stuck to our line. We did not give an inch'. Yet the communique claims to speak for all these disparate views, none of which claimed to have achieved concensus. None of the representatives have claimed that they have given an inch or modified their outlook, but this document claims to represent their views in a spirit of reconciliation and consensus. Of course the people who attended the Summit Conference went back to their constituent bodies and said: 'We have been up to Canberra and told them what we want'. In reality they were allowed to deliver a document and make a 10 minute speech. That process has removed any prospect of effective consultations on economic matters because the Government is not going to enter into Budget consultations. Previously various groups representing interests within the community consulted for over an hour or two with the Cabinet and were questioned and queried on the attitudes and the policies they thought the Government should develop. So there has been a complete change in the process, one that has some element of hope, but on the other hand one which has denied parliamentary discussion and has denied effective consultations at length and in depth-a process which sought to get agreement on an accord previously agreed to by this Government.

In Question Time today the Prime Minister indicated what I believe to be his concern about how things were not going quite as well as they could be for the Government. I think he is concerned about the prospects for the future and about some of the decisions that have been taken. Things started to drift and go off the rails when the selective consultative process was established; a process whereby an accord was reached with a section of the community. Others were selected to endorse that accord. It was a selective process all the way through. So the Government finished up with a group of people who happen to agree with its outlook. That will not produce results which will attract the support, the attention and the concensus of the Australian community. The Australian Labor Party selected people who could be convinced to adopt its point of view.

The problems of wages and long term wage policies have not been settled. That is one of the key factors that at this point has not been dealt with. Both the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) and the Prime Minister have made statements in the chamber about what they expect to occur for the rest of the year. They have no possible way of knowing whether what they want will be delivered. I notice that Mr Sharkey of the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia said: 'Well, the accord was one thing but the boss 's Summit was something different'. I think that is the attitude of many people in the union movement, despite the commitment given by their representatives at the Summit.

On the other hand concern was expressed by employers that there should be a continuing wage pause to allow Australia to catch its breath for a period of 12 months. Decisions previously made and wage settlements agreed to have been far in advance of inflation. They have made Australia uncompetitive on world markets and have made goods produced overseas even more attractive to the Australian consumer. We have become uncompetitive but the wage pause is starting to have its effect. Perhaps with some good luck, but certainly not by good management, we might extend the wage pause on a fairly reasonable basis for a period of nine months. It appears at this stage that the wage pause will hold only for six months. Certainly two significant State Governments-New South Wales and South Australia-have committed themselves for only a six-month period. Other States want a 12-month wage pause. I believe that States such as Tasmania and Queensland will seek to retain that wage pause. By doing so I believe that they will lift their prospects to such a significant level that they will prosper. There will be an increased difference between the States due to this process.

What honourable members opposite fail to recognise is that the wage pause is one of the key factors in preserving jobs and holding people in positions they currently possess. A dramatic increase in wages will ensure a continuation of disemployment. More people will be put out of work. The advantage of the wages pause is that it will preserve jobs. All Australian workers should be prepared to say: 'We will make this tiny sacrifice with our wages to ensure that our mates keep their jobs'. The sacrifices being asked of Australians at the moment, however, is that they should give up prospects of owning their own homes, of saving for their retirement or of preparing their superannuation for retirement. These are the savings that are being asked of them. Yet, the real savings in the work place are obvious and have been agreed to by all economic commentators and everyone who has any understanding of the difficulties facing Australia today. Yet all we hear is inane giggles from honourable members on the Government side. I think that some honourable members on the Government side display an unbelievable lack of understanding when we come to deal with these important issues.

A survey was conducted early this year of significant financial institutions and economists to try to gather some of the key factors for the future economic development of Australia. It indicated that the expectation for the 12 months of 1983 was that all economists and financial institutions expected a drop in domestic demand, a drop in farm gross domestic product-that is obvious because of the drought-an increase for the 12 months of 0.2 per cent in non-farm gross domestic product, and in fact, a drop of gross domestic demand by 0.5 per cent. They expected the country to go backwards during 1983. They predicted that prices would increase at a rate of around 9 per cent, but that unemployment would continue to remain very high during all of 1983 at 802,000. This survey of all expert groups found that interest rates were not expected to move downwards. They predicted the deficit and the money supply would remain at about the level predicted in the previous Budget. Australia's place in the world of international markets is interesting. All experts agreed that the value of the Australian dollar would hold at about its current rate and, depending on domestic policies, it could drop slightly. That was the result of the survey of experts.

Difficult problems will have to be resolved by this nation. The Opposition came into this place with a great deal of good will and willingness to work constructively for the resolution of those problems. The mini-Budget process has made it more difficult for the Government to gain the Opposition support. Indeed , some of the decisions and announcements by the Prime Minister have been most difficult, not only for the Opposition to accept, but also for the whole of the Australian community to accept. The statements made by the Prime Minister are provocative. On the Mike Walsh Show last year Mr Hawke said:

People have been able to test me as to whether I am honest, whether I say what I mean and adhere to what I say.

In the Labor Party policy speech he said:

I offer no fistful of dollars to be snatched back after the election.

Again, in his policy speech he said:

Immediate reductions in income tax for almost six million Australian taxpayers.

Three days after he was elected he said:

We will have to reconsider the whole thing.

Following the National Economic Summit Conference he blamed the Summit for forcing him not to give tax cuts. He went to the Summit knowing he had no capacity to make tax cuts. These similar areas offer real difficulty in moving forward in a constructive way. He immediately revoked his promise to reduce income tax and his promise to retain the tax rebate for home loan payments. That has been wiped by the mini-Budget. He promised to introduce a First Home Owners Assistance Scheme as an option to the existing Home Deposit Assistance Scheme which will be retained. I find it very difficult when I look at list after list and item after item of broken promises. It is not possible. The latest fiasco was with the superannuation scheme. Commitments were given before and after the election and after the Summit that no changes would be made. In his speech to the electors of Wills following his election, the Prime Minister said:

And I give you the pledge that in respect of this electorate Wills-you have now a representative in the person of the Prime Minister of the country-I will assure you, the electorate of Wills, that I won't let you down . . .

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Presentation to Governor-General

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have ascertained that his Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply at Government House at 5 p.m. this afternoon. I should be glad if the mover and seconder, together with other honourable members, will accompany me to present the Address.