PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 4588

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, CANBERRA, 7 DECEMBER 1977

Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/1977

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 4588

PRIME MINISTER
FOR PRESS 7TH DECEMBER 1977
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, CANBERRA
Australia is a country of great potential, great promise. To
realise that potential, Australians need a Government whose
policies reflect certain basic beliefs which most Australians
share.,-a resolve to develop our great resources of mineral
wealth and human initiative, and thus to see our nation grow;
a willingness to defend Australians' independence against
great concentrations of power, whether they be union, business
or government bureaucracy; a determination to see justice done
for all Australians, whoever and wherever they may be above
all a belief in the great creative capacity of free people
responding to. a& rapidhy changing world.
only the Liberal-and National Country Party
coalition can provide such a government.
We govern for no class, we are beholden to no special interests,
we govern for all the Australian people. We have, a structure
of Government which combines broad consultation with effective
decision-making.
The Labor Party, by contrast as this campaign has made clear
once again, is so closely tied to a sectional group, the trade
unions, that its clearest policy position is to give trade
unions privileges beyond the law. In addition, as this campaign.
has once again demonstrated, the Labor Party's decision-making
structure renders it incapable of pursuing a stable and sound
economic policy for Australia.
The tests of this campaign have demonstrated the hopeless policy
confusion that characteris~ sthe Labor Party whenever it is put
under pressure. The conflicts and contradictions between Labor's
multiple spokesmen on economic affairs evokes memories of the
conflicts and changes of course when Labor was in office.
Perhaps this in part is the underlying reason for a most
interesting -feazure of current political life. The working men,
and women of Australia, people who have traditionally supported
the Labor Pa-rty, are recognising in growing numbers that the
kind of Australia they want is now best secured by a Liberal/ NCP
Government. They see the Labor Party's approach as completely
destructive of jobs, of opportunities, of prosperity. / 2e

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But the Labor Party's internal conflicts and structure are
only one part of the explanation. Even more fundamental are
the policies Labor has pursued. To take one example tariff
protection. Mr. Whitlam's doctrinaire stand on tariffs,
()] et-roycd so many thousands of jobs when he was in office.
Then Labor deliberately used unemplo'ment ag an instrument of
policy. On Monday Conference two weeks ago, Mr. Uren explained
Mr. Whitlam's 25 per cent acorss the board tariff cut by
saying that it was designed to correct an " over-employment"
situation. Presumably Mr. Whitlam is well satisfied with the
results, for he is once again threatening industries employing
tens of thousands of Australians. Just last week Labor refused
to give the apparel, clothing and footwear manufacturers any
firm support for the next three years.
In response to these industries' request for support, the
ALP's research officer is reported to have said that no such
support could be given because " we are a free trade party".
Unionists know well that a " free trade party" spells disaster
for Australian living standards and maintaining present levels
of employment in iidustry. This Government
has made clear our commitment to protecting the jobs of tens of
thousands of Australia's working men and women in this period
of high unemployment. Our preparedness to give industry the
protection it needs is just a part of our total economic
strategy a strategy which provides the sound basis necessary
to reduce unemployment in Australia.
The unemployment we are suffering is a tragedy which need
never have occurred. It cannot be beaten by any single policy-, by
any gimmick or quick fix. In the last two years, we have
achieved the single most important victory in this fight
breaking the back of inflation. The rate of increase in consumer
prices has now been held below 2.5 per cent in each of three
successive quarters for the first time in four years. This,
together with the investment we have promoted, our restraint of
Government spending, our wages policy, lower interest rates, and
our tax reforms will lead td, unemployment falling from February.
The Labor Party has no anti-inflation strategy it has scarcely
bothered to pretend that it has. How can inflation be reduced
with a strategy based on faster increases in wage costs; higher
personal taxes; higher Government spending; bigger deficits;
and higher interest rates. Taken in conjunction with Mr. Whitlam's
doctrinaire stand on protection, it is a sure-fire prescription
for a massive increase in unemployment. Beyond this the commitments
in the Labor Party's new economic planning platform
adopted only six months ago constitute a full-fronted attack
on our free enterprise system. They are formulated in words
which only the socialist left of the Labor Party could have
dictated. Labor is committed to emphasising or extending " public
enterprise, in particularl,-in the fields of banking, consumer
finance, insurance, marketing, housing, stevedoring, transport
and in areas of anti-social monopoly".

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The implementation of Labor's policies in current economic
circumstances would unquestionably wreak even more havoc
on the Australian economy than did Labor's last experiment.
In ) 972 the Labor Government inherited an economy in which
inflation and unemployment were relatively low. Now by
contrast, our economy is in the process of recovery and thus
would be far more quickly and permanently damaged by Labor's
policies. Mr. Whitlarn's ., economic policies will
not reduce unemployment among working men and women they
will add to it. His tariff policies will again create another
pool of jobless. His wages policies are a recipt for
prolonged unemployment. Mr. Whitlam's Labor Partv is out
of touch with Australia's working men and'women.
It is no wonder that the Government parties in recent years
have been receiving more and more of the votes of Labor's
traditional supporters. Nor is it only in the employment
area that the Government's policies are recognised as being
the kind of policies which are needed by Australia at the
present time. The related area of personal tax reform has
highlighted in this campaign. In recent years major committee
reports to this Government and our predecessors have emphasised
the great importance of personal tax reform for the economic
health of the -naition the Mathews Committee, the Asprey
Committee, the Jackson Committee.
This Government has given high priority to reducing the burden
of personal taxation. We have introduced completely new tax
scales. We have significantly reduced the marginal rates of
tax. We have abolished personal tax for a quarter of a million
low income earners. By 30th June next taxpayees will have saved
the very substantial sum of $ 3,300 million in tax. Our personal
tax reforms'are essential for economic recovery. They further
ease the upward pressures on wages, they restore incentives,
they provide a non-inflationary stimulus to the economy, they
impose responsibility on Government spending. I say without
hesitation that they are the most important series of tax
reforms ever introduced in Australia. They are reforms which
express the basic philosophy of this Government that Australians
should have a greater say in making decisions which affect their
daily lives.
Efficient and constructive Government has a vital role to play
in realising the goals Australians share, and Governments must
levy taxes to meet their responsibilities. Labor governments
however have gone too far in imposing wishes on individuals. They have
impose. ever-increasing taxes. Our tax reforms go a long way
towards redressing the balance between the legitimate needs of
the individual and the state. Mr. Whitlam has a different
philosophy. He has argued on many occasions the virtues of
Government allocation of people's earnings.

reform. For him the old scales, the old high marginal rates,
and vauge and conflicting promises on tax indexation are good
enough for the time being.
Once again the working men and women of Australia are to be asked
to pay their earnings to inflating government and, a new twist,
to large corporations. I am sure ihis approach will be rejected
by most Australians.
There is yet another area of policy, where this campaign has
highlighted the contrast between the positive and constructive
policies of the Government and the total-absnce of constructive
proposals by the Labor Party. That is the area of Trade Union
reform.
At least one survey has shown that an overwhelming majority
of Australians, and of Trade Union members, take the view that
Trade Unions have become too powerful in Australia.
The Government believes that it has a responsibility to
Australians to recognise this concern, and to express it in
a constructive programme of reform. The time for positive
reforms could not be delayed any longer.
Mr. Whitlam, who depends on Trade Union funds and the votes
of Trade Union delegates in Party conferences, naturally
resists any change in this area-unless it be changes increasing
Trade Union power and granting privileges to Union leaders
far beyond that which the law applies to other Australians.
In this area, the apostle of intervention, pursues a policy of
unmitigated laissez-faire.
This Government is committed to establishing the legal framework
within which business operates, within . which. every
organisation and individual must operate. Law which protects
the community interest.-: z
Unlike the Labor Party, we have taken the view that no one can
be above the law; that individual unionists have a right to be
heard, and to be protected from intimidation.
We have proceeded with our industrial legislation reforms of
which I am confident have the support of the Australian people,
and in so doing we have stood firm against threats and intimidation.
Secret postal ballots for union elections are now compulsory.
WVe hcave set up the Industrial Relations Bureau, to protect the
pub1ic interest and also to act as an industrial ombudsman.
Unions : are now required to provide their members with an annual
audited statement of their financial affairs. We are protecting
individuals against being forced to join unions against their
will. We have strenthened the means of dealing with demarcation
disputes, and damaging secondary boycotts have been banned.
All this adds up to a firm and responsible policy which has the
support of responsible unionists, and which protects the rights
of the individual unionist and the public.
Mr. Willis, the Labor spokesman on Industrial Relations, confirmed
last week that Labor would abolish all of these vital reforms,
and indeed abolish other existing protection against union abuse
of power.
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Labor would repeal our laws to protect the public from industrial
disruption. Labor would repeal our laws requiring postal
ballots. Labor would exempt unions from the provisions of the
Trade Practices Act. Labor would exempt unions and their members
from civil actions in respect of otherwise actionable activities
committed during industrial disputes.
Labor's approach is an abdication of responsibility in a vital
area of law. This cave-in to a sectional, powerful vested
interest is completely contrary to the public interest.
Ordinary Australians, including rank and file unionists, reject
this sell-out to a powerful pressure group. They will continue
to support our fair and firm approach in Industrial Relations
which has proven to be successful.
Finally, let me mention one further area where the campaign has
underscored the difference between Mr. Whitlam's Labor Party and
the approach of the Government Social Welfare reform.
Since we were elected, the. Liberal Government has undertaken
some fundamental social reforms, and commentators have found
it difficult to fit these reforms into their conventional
stereotypes of what Governments from our side of politics are
meant to be like.
Our Social Welfare-policies have had as their major priority,
directing assistance to those people most in need. They have
emphasised concern for the individual, careful testing and
evaluation of imaginative schemes and experimentation. Our
Family Allowances have redistributed. Our children's
service progranmes have been reoriented towards day-care for
the children of working mothers. Our experiements in social
welfare such as the housing voucher experiment, and our initiatives
in-the ethnic area reflect our:. concern for minorities, and the
least privileged in our society.
All these initiatives and our explicit recognition of the fact that
without a sound strategy to secure non-inflationary growth'and
development, all the welfare promises in the world are meaningless,
I believe, are building a solid basis of support amongst those
groups that are conventionally regarded as being Labor supporters.
We'have been the Government that
has indexed pensions so that they"-increase automatically in
line with the Consumer Price Index. We have been the Government
that has provided a completely new deal for the handicapped and
those who financially support them.
We have been the Government that redistributed wealth by ending
the concessioaal rebate for children which only benefitted families
of significant incomes and replaced them with family, allowances.

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The Labor Party's reputation as the Party of social concern, is
a vestigial one. A political party can live off one's past
reputation-only for so long. Labor's tax proposals underscored
this in the.. most pointed way. They forgot the impact of their
abandonment of our tax reforms on 225,000 lower income earners.
It was only an after-thought that Mr. Hurford came forward with
his amendments to Mr. Whitlam's proposal'anc I do not believe that
people will forget this.
As I said in my policy speech, the next few years can be exciting
ones for Australians. And as the economic recovery is completed
the Government will be able to focus more fully on the task of
what might be called the fine tuning of ' social programmes.
There are many challenges before us. Technological developments,
particularly in the area of communications will transform our
lives. There is a constant need to protect and enhance
Australians' civil liberties. Already we have done much in this
area, but more remains to be achieved.
Changes in the make-up of our population will bring challenges
in adjusting our social security and other social policies to
the changing needs of our community. We are a multi-cultural
society. There is the constant challenge of encouraging the rich
di versity that is in our midst.
Australia is well-equipped to play a constructive role in meeting
the world energy shortage. Again unlike the. Labor Party we have
a positive policy of energy development.
Beyond our shores there is the challenge of playing a positive
role in securing a safer, and a more . just world.
The Government cherishes the great ideals of freedom and dignity
for all Australians. That is why I believe we will be returned
on Saturday with the overwhelming support of the Australian
people. I7

Transcript 4588