PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5592


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: 20/05/1981

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5592

I am delighted to be with you this evening. It is reassuring
to know that regional newspapers are flourishing, and encouraging
that your member newspapers have increased their ovetall
circulation by 22 per cent between 1970 and 1980.
There is no substitute for the local paper in reporting the
affairs of municipal and shire governments, or for
repchring local events, which often affect people very directly
_ As__ a_ farmer and Member for a country electorate, I have
always appreciated the value of regional newspapers. The Hamilton
Spectator has never been the last newspaper I select from the
bundle which arrives at Nareen. Often enough, it is the first.
Too often the trend these days is towards centralisation rather
than diversification. It is easy to forget that nearly one
third of the Australian people live in widely scattered and
smaller communities, and the metropolitan dailies cannot
respond to the legitimate needs of those outside our largest
cities. Regional dailies are ideally placed to bring to their
areas the latest national and international news, and at the
same time, to promote local pride and community spirit. It is
through the fostering of such an identity that a community's
political institutions tend to-function more democratically.
There can be no substitute for an informed and interested
community. The Regional Dailies should be among the beneficiaries
of the new stage of growth and development which Australia
isnowentering. We are seeing a strengthening around Australia
of a number of regions in response.. to Australian and world:
demand for energy and resources. / 2

Several major projects underway in various regions of Que'iisland
provide outstanding examples: the open-cut mine at German Creek
$ 400 million; the Collinsville/ Newlands coal project and
associated rail and port facilities $ 460 million; the....
Mount Isa lead, zinc and silver mine at Hilton i00 million;
the Gladstone aluminium smelter $ 600 million; and the
proposed refinery expansion $ 300 million. And the same
story is being repeated throughout Australia.
This development is the clear result of the efforts made
since 1975 to restore health and vigour to private enterprise
in Australia. We are now seeing the results of policies which
have been guided by the philosophy that the most important thing
that government can do is to create the conditions in which
individuals and business can save, plan ahea." and be rewarded
for their efforts.
We have totally rejected the view that all wisdom resides in
government. The future of Australia is, in our view, best
secured when private enterprise has the resources to undertake
commercially viable developments, and government must make
room for this to happen.
We have tried to make sure that the scarce finance which private
en& Jprise needs to expand is not directed into unproductive
and non-commercial directions. This has involved the most
rigorousrestraint on government spending, and a strategy
designed to reduce the government bureaucracy and cut out
unnecessary regulation. This approach is sometimes referred to
as a ' smaller goternment' approach.
In many ways, this term is apt. After the growth of the
number of Commonwealth Government employees by 52,000 in
the 1972-75 period, we have cut back the number of Commonwealth
public servants under staff ceilings by 10,000 since 1975
and as a result of the recommendations of the Committee of
Review chaired by Sir Phillip Lynch, the number is expected
to be further reduced by around 16,000 to 17,000 over the next
two years.
In relation to spending, again we have actually reduced the
share of the nation's resources spent each year through the
Commonwealth budget. Under the previous government, the Commonwealth
budget increased its claims on Australian resources from
23.8% to 30.1% We have cut this proportion back to 27.9%.
Continued expenditure restraint, and economic growth will
enable us to cut this back still further.
We are also cutting back substantially on unnecessary
regulation, and important decisions have been made heke in
banking and finance, the airlines and through the abolition
of the Prices Justification Tribunal. These decisions mean
more streamlined government, a government better fitted to help
Australia take advantage of the opportunities of the eighties
and beyond. By becoming less intrusive and demanding, government
is again playing a more constructive role in helping

The benfits are already evident in higher economic growth,, more
jobs, lower inflation, higher real incomes, and a consequent
ability to do more to help those in our community who really
need help. Cutting back on government spending also holds out
the prospect of genuine tax relief. Expenditure restrrint and
economic growth is, in fact, the only responsible way to
reduce the tax burden.
I want to dwell on this point, for the philosophy of this
government has benefited the Australian taxpayer more than
people say. We have made several major adjustments to tax
thresholds through indexation. Apd the tax cut which will
take effect from 1 July will put $ 500 million into taxpayers
pockets. This decision represents only the latest of a large
number of tax initiatives undertaken by the GQvernment. We
have simplified the tax scale so that there -re now only three
marginal steps instead of seven, and the marginal tax rate
for the taxpayer on average weekly earnings has come down from
44% in 1974/ 75 to 32% today. We have raised the threshold below
which no tax is paid from $ 2,518 to $ 4,041 since 1975/ 76,-
and half indexation next year will increase it further. We have
doubled the rebate for spouses, and increased the sole parent
rebate-nearly three-fold. -Gift and estate duties-have been
abolished. Sales tax on motor vehicles has been reduced.
Investment allowances have been introduced, and retention
alto ances for private companies have been increased.
In the three budgets under the previous government, the tax
receipts of the Commonwealth Government grew by -ver
per annum in real terms. We were resolved to stop this
rate of g-rowth. Ad. thus far, in the five budgets since
1975, we have cut it back to 3% per annum in real terms.
Wecould have cut-it further-back had-it not been-for
high priority we-have given to reducing the deficit to make
room for private sector activity. Responsible deficits have to
be funded and our aim has been to reduce year by year this
burden of government borrowing on capital markets.
We have done this for obvious reasons. Making room for private
sector growth has been an absolutely central element in our
plan to bring unemployment down by promoting economic growth.
While bearing down on tax levels to the maximum extent that
responsible public financing permitted, we have seen it as
quite central that the growth and employment generated by
private enterprise should once more be made possible.
In our budgetting this year, the objective of making room for
private sector growth will remain central. Indeed, it might be.
seen as even more important this yeir because of the very success
of our policies in stimulating private sector. growth. We want
this growth to strengthen. This means increased vigilance to
make sure that the claims of governments on financial resources
through borrowing programmes are kept within reasonsable bounds. / 4

This is a matter that the Treasurer and I will be discussing.
with the Premiers in June. It bears particularly on the.
infrastructure programmes the Commonwealth and the State t_
have developed since 1978. The main projects to have received
approval under the programme in its early years have ihcluded
new electricity generation capacity necessary for the continued
development of Australian industry, new efficiene port, facilities
for loading coal for export markets, and other projects, supporting
resource, development.
On current estimates without allowing for inflation
all projects currently approved under the programme would
require over $ 4,000 million to be sought from the capital
market before the end of the decade. In addition to approved
projects there are also a number of new proposals. Some of these
are substantial. They are mainly for accelerated increases in--
electricity supply capacity, and would requir. an additional
$ 4.6 billion borrowing under the: infrastructure programme.
The Commonwealth supported the creation of this programme
as making an important contribution to the revival
of economic activity in Australia, and as making an important
contribution to the promotion of resource development, particularly
in decentralised areas.
Indeed, the Commonwealth itself sought and received approval for
: twanismall projects requiring borrowings of $ 132 million. But the
pace of private enterprise has responded exceptionally strongly
to government policies, and there is now a real danger that
the demand for funds by governments for their projects may
squeeze out private enterprise. There is no doubt that
if all the States-. requests were met in full the implications for
interest rates, capital markets, and private enterprise
would be serious indeed.
I am sure the States themselves are conscious that there must
be an upper limit to public borrowings. The Commonwealth has
asked the State Premiers to co-operate in examining these programmes
to enable pressure to be taken off the capital market. We are
all concerned with the possible consequences for housing
and small business.
I am confident that Australia is now embarking on a magnificent
new stage of growth and development. And the regional dailies
will be there to report it-with increasing circulations I have
-no doubt.-And with increasing use of the latest technology.
It is most appropriate that this forty-fifth annual conference
is being held in Townsville for, speaking of the long association
of the dailies with their regions, it would be difficult to find
amore determined advocate than the. Townsville Daily Bulletin
3n this its-centenary year the Bulletin is continuing-its policy
of strong-minded independence and community concern which has
characterised its association with North Queensland. Its resolute
support for the development of the North has struck a respondent
chord with all North Queenslanders and with many Australians.

p I believe the challenges facing the newspaper industry" iji
the 1980s are immense. However, I am equally confident-,-
that the Regional Dailies have both the capacity and willingness
to respond to those challenges.
I extend my best wishes for the future of the Regional' Dailies
of Australia and for the Townsville Daily Bulletin in its
centenary year. 0-

Transcript 5592