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Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 159

Senator LUNDY (5:57 PM) —I found that contribution interesting in that Senator Fifield managed to draw out every cliche that the Howard government has carefully crafted to try and control the damage being done by the weakening state of various aspects of our economy. I think the point that my colleague Senator Peter Cook made was a very sharp one: this government is about establishing its own truth, establishing a slogan that purports to be economic policy and that, over time, through robotic repetition like that which we have heard in the debate this afternoon, somehow comes to be a given truth.

The fact is that, as Labor has sought to outline today, there are fundamental problems in the foundations of the Australian economy. Despite the economic growth that this country has experienced, we have seen a period of fundamental neglect in those basic foundations of the economy over many years—in fact, over nine years. Those foundations include the massive trade deficit that has developed—I will spend a bit more time on that later—and the tax burden that is now imposed upon Australian families. I think the OECD report and various questions, commentaries and exchanges in the chambers today, as well as newspaper reports, have characterised that discussion very well. Australians are paying an exorbitant tax burden, far more than I think many realise, and that is now being exposed.

The other issue is the inflationary effect of the $66 billion spending spree by the Howard government at the last election. It is worth while having a look at some of the quotes by Access Economics in relation to this spending spree, which my colleague, Mr Swan, outlined a couple of days ago. It led Access Economics to comment:

… if the official view is that Canberra should be spending on raising productivity and lifting participation, then the $66 billion … does not stack up terribly well against those yardsticks.

They go on to say:

If we are right, and if recent spending has done little to further future growth, then Australian policymakers have muffed a last chance to cement our current prosperity for some time.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Ferguson)—Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.