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The scorecard's out on industry policy: export growth down, investment growth down, R&D down.

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The Hon Simon Crean MP

Shadow Industry and Regional Development Minister

Manager of Opposition Business


13 May 1998





Cuts made two years ago to i ndustry support are taking their toll according to this year’s Budget, Shadow Industry Minister Simon Crean said today.


Export growth will be down, research and development down, and investment growth down, according to the Budget papers, making the government’s forecast of job growth impossible to believe.


But according to Industry Minister John Moore, “the settings for business are the best they’ve been for 30 years.”


If this is as good as it gets for Australian industry, then why do the Budget papers show that:


* Net export growth will drop (or in Treasury-speak, “Net exports should make a large detraction from GDP growth”);


* Business investment growth will slow, “with this deceleration being particularly marked through the year”; and


* Demand for research and development funding is so low that this year the government couldn’t spend more than a third of its much-vaunted R&D Start program - $50 million worth.


In these circumstances, the government expects us to believe that we will have faster job growth and shorter jobless queues. The reality is, the government’s job forecasts simply cannot be believed.


This was a government, after all, which promised to create 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing industry by 2000. That target is already more than 100,000 jobs behind schedule.


There is nothing in the Budget to relieve the pain Australian industry is going through at the moment. Instead the government has delivered:


* A $300,000 cut to the anti-dumping system , at a time when manufacturers are facing unprecedented international pressure;


* A major underspend of the R&D Start program , as industry rejects the complex and bureaucratic structures set up by the government to obtain R&D assistance. Last year’s Budget estimated a spend of $164.3m in 1997-98. Now we find just $109.6m was spent — a $54.7m shortfall.


And in 1998-99 there will be a further $23.6m shortfall according to the Budget papers.


Not one cent has been set aside for the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear industry assistance package, despite last year’s promise by the Prime Minister.


* A continuing decline in support of manufacturers - from $542 million in 1997-98 to $405 million in 200 1-02.


* The abolition of the Shipbuilding Bounty after 1998-99.


* A collapse in support for Information Technology — from $84 million to only $6 million over four years.


* A fall in support for pharmaceutical’s and food industries from $175 million to $55.6 million.


* The virtual abolition of AusIndustry , with support for Enterprise Development dropping from $38 million to just $1 million over four years.


If this is as good as it gets, Australian industry can look forward to very bleak times ahead.


Contact: Phillip Tardif (02) 6277 4803(w), (0419) 491 166, (02) 6254 7383(h)