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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 430

Mr BRUMBY(10.22) —Honourable members would be aware that expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund cannot validly exceed the revenues available to it and that, in order to avoid obtaining approval for additional borrowing through the Australian Loan Council, successive governments have, over a period of years, introduced legislation in the form of a Loan Bill to provide for the financing of the Budget deficit. This Bill makes provision for the financing of the prospective 1983-84 deficit. I take this opportunity to make some general observations on the fiscal and economic policy pursued by this Government, and particularly on the Budget of 23 August as detailed by the Treasurer (Mr Keating ).

When this Government came to office on 5 March I think we were all aware that almost three-quarters of a million Australians were out of work. Unemployment had risen by more than 260,000 during the previous 12 months, and certainly our inflation rate of 11.5 per cent was twice the average of the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. There is no question that the very miserable 'fight inflation first' policies of the previous Government not only failed to reduce Australia's inflation rate but also bankrupted many of our industries, relegated hundreds of thousands of Australians to the poverty and indignity of unemployment and left our families and our youth without hope or economic security. By February of this year, just one month before the change of office on 5 March, the number of jobless in my electorate of Bendigo had reached alarming levels. Official statistics show that in the shire of Bet Bet unemployment had reached more than 27 per cent; in the shire of McIvor 16 per cent; in the borough of Eagle Hawk 13.9 per cent; and in Bendigo itself, some 11 per cent.

On 5 March our Government received a very clear and overwhelming mandate to get this country back to work, to restore economic growth and to deal simultaneously with those problems of inflation and unemployment. Since that date the Government has worked tirelessly and with determination to honour that mandate. The Budget of 23 August, to which this Bill is related, follows the National Economic Summit Conference, the May Economic Statement and the recent Premiers Conference. Our Budget provides the maximum fiscal stimulus to the economy without fuelling excessive inflation or placing undue burdens on interest rates or balance of payments problems. It is a Budget which very decidedly offers new hope for the unemployed and help for the needy. Nine hundred and fifty-eight million dollars will be spend on employment generation and training programs. That is an increase of 80 per cent on last year. The Government expects that to result in employment or training opportunities for some 300,000 Australians. Recovery will be led by the construction industry, with increased assistance to first home buyers and increased funding for public housing resulting in another 30,000 jobs. Additional employment stimulation will also come from the 16 per cent increase in civil works expenditure and a 22 per cent increase in direct capital expenditure.

But our Budget is also directed very much to help those in need. Over the past seven years the real income of unemployed people has been allowed to decline, forcing many below the poverty line and adding real suffering to that indignity of unemployment. This Government is committed to progressively improve the position and lot of all disadvantaged Australians. Single unemployment benefits will rise progressively by a total of $14 a week and will be indexed to guard against erosion of the real value of the benefit. The first increase will be in November of this year and the second in May of next year. Married benefits are already indexed and are expected to rise by approximately 16 per cent to almost $150 weekly. Unemployment rates for 18-year-olds will rise by $5 a week in November and the limit on earnings for all unemployment beneficiaries has been doubled to $20 a week.

Our first Budget also provides help for first home buyers and assistance to industry. The first home owner's assistance scheme, the subject of debate tonight, will give eligible first home buyers a non-repayable tax free grant of up to $7,000. It is a scheme which will genuinely assist Australians wishing to buy their first home. That assistance is tied to an income test. Our Government has abolished the very unfair and iniquitous previous savings test of the former Government. Our Budget also allows for assistance to industry totalling in excess of $1,100m, including a doubling of grants under the rural assistance scheme, aid for the steel industry and $12.5m in capital instalments for the Australian Industries Development Commission.

Mr Speaker, as I have indicated previously this Bill in general terms provides for the funding and financing of the 1983-84 Budget deficit. In this Budget the Government has both honoured its commitment to responsible economic and fiscal management and at the same time has provided the maximum possible stimulus to the economy. There is no question that our Government is well on the way to achieving its objective of creating 500,000 jobs over the next three years. I certainly commend this Bill, which provides for deficit funding, to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.