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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5664


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: 12/10/1981

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5664

EMBARGO: 8: 30PM -7
This is the first time I have spoken to the ACT Division
since the death of John Knight and I want to pay tribute again
to his contribution to this Division, and the development
and identity of Canberra itself. His successor in the Senate,
Margaret Reid, is obviously going to make her own very significant
contribution, and I am only sorry that it had to be in this
way that Margaret came to join the Parliamentary Party. I
want to say a few things tonight about developments and prospects
here in Canberra and then turn to some of the differences
between our Party and Labor.
It is almost exactly a year since the last election, and it
is vastly important that the community should recognise the
disastrous and di vsive impact that a Labor Government would
have on prosperity and stability. Let me start here with
Canberra, where there is apparently no Labor policy whatever,
because the Shadow Minister has managed his Shadow portfolio
in such a shadowy way that he has hardly asked a question
or put out a public statement about the ACT. What sort of
enthusiasm is this for the welfare of the people of Canberra?
It is in fact a very simple example of the Labor Party's typical
refusal to accept the responsibility which a democratic systen
requires of politicians, and it is symptomatic of something that
was so evident in the Whitlam years, that a Labor Government
will never accept the discipline of governing in the interests
of'all, because no Labor Government can ever submerge the
inherently sectional interests of the Labor Party itself.
We must never let this country forget the inherent weakness of
Labor not only in its socialistic approach to policy-making,
not only in the factionalism and left-wing union domination
that always divides the Labor Party internally, but in Labor's
refusal to accept the obligation of the national Government to
govern in the interests of the whole nation,
of every Australian and every Australian family, not just
those who vote for it, not just those who provide financial
support for it, not just those in ideological sympathy with it,
and not just those who control the votes in caucus.. Labor
abdicates responsibility for many parts of society as the attitude
of the Shadow Minister for the ACT so plainly reveals. / 2

By contrast, Michael Hodgman as Minister is obviously extremely'
effective and dedicated in his concern for the interests of
Canberra. Canberra is a great national capital, and I strongly
support Michael's campaign to promote the widest appreciation
that Canberra belongs to all Australians. We want a
substantial impetus to tourism, and the Minister and the
Government have been active in several wider initiatives
as well in connection with Canberra achieving a stronger
private sector.
The new Parliament House has captured the imagination not
just of Canberra but of the whole of Australia and even
the Labor Senator for the ACT concedes that Canberra's building
industry will be better as a result of this year's Budget.
The future is good, the opportunities for investment are there.
Private enterprise is joining in a partnership which is making
Canberra one of the finest national capitals in the world.
The forty odd world leaders at the Commonwealth meeting
recognised the fine quality of Canberra as Australia's capital,
and the weekend retreat here was successful in terms of
the. enjoyment and friendliness experienced by our visitors as
well as in the productive results of the discussions.
Turning now to national policy, I want to say something about
economic management and industrial relations, because these
vital areas highlight the differences between our approaches
to government.
First of all I want to make a few comments about the economy,
and the link between economic Dmanagement and taxation policy.
The Liberal policy of encouraging private enterprise as the
best way to achieve higher living standards and more jobs is now
recognised here and around the world as extraordinarily
successful. Inflation has been kept below world
levels. 237,000 new jobs were created by private enterprise
in the two years to June. The latest unemployment statistics,
while showing a seasonal fluctuation, were the lowest
September rate for four years, and unemployment among young
people is down on last year. Only one thing can undermine
the Australian economy, the scandalous disregard of many of
the most powerful unions for those out of work, and their
attempt to steal all the benefits of growth for their own
members who have jobs. Look at the $ 33 a week maximum
increase which storemen and packers in Victoria
gained last week through industrial pressure, and the
massive claims being made by metal industry workers,
builders labourers, building tradesmen, meat workers and others.
Unreasonable wage claims will undoubtedly prevent employers
taking on new employees, and can only push up unemployment
at a time when the rest of the community recognises the need
to support policies aimed at real job creation. We must keep
our costs down so that we can sell more Australian made goods
here and overseas. That is the way to generate more jobs and
better living standards for all Australians.

The campaign of job destruction by militant unions now getting
under way is very bad news for Australia's young people.
The failure of the Labor Party to stand up and speak out
against this campaign, and in favour of the national interest,
represents by what is not said an endorsement of irresponsible
union behaviour. Excessive wage demands and strikes are just
as damaging to the community, and reflect exactly the same
Santi-social rejection of obligations to the community, as do
those . tax-avoidance schemes which John Howard has fought against
so effectively, and with such grudging support from Labor.
I am advised that the new Section 260 is getting rid of tax
avoidance, and that the anti-social tax avoidance industry which
Labor did nothing-about whatever, is now shrinking back.
Not one intitiative taken by the union movement at its recent
congress did anything which would help create more jobs for
the unemployed, and the Labor Party as usual prefers not to
criticise the powerful unions which control it. At the
recent ACTU Conference at a time when we as a government had such
an effective and practical consultation process actually in
operation with the ACTU, we had the spectacle of the Parliamentary
Labor Party and its leader pleading for a special sort of
understanding and trust with the union movement, trying to get
the so-called " social contract" and getting no joy whatever
out the of the union movement. I want to take a moment to
lay the ghostof any suggestion that a special deal between the
Labor Party and the unions could be regarded as a social contract
for whatever else the social contract may have been in the minds
of philosophers it was never a sectional idea that took no
account of the views or interests of three quarters of the
population, and no traditional philosopher was ever foolish
enough to imagine that. the social contract could be anything
but a fiction.
Labor has learnt nothing about economic management since 1975.
It is because Labor has learnt nothing that Australia must not
forget w. hat the Whitlam years and the Hayden economic policy
disasters w. ere like. Private sector employment was
actually falling in 1975 and the trend towards more and more
entrenched unemployment, for which Labor was primarily
responsible, has taken years to around. Business investr. ent
fell, foreign investment fell by two-thirds in two years, and
resource development virtually ceased altogether. Home
ownership was lower in 19.76 than in 1971.
The records were in inflation, which reached almost 18% over
one year, in' the absurd wage rises which did so much to
entrench unemployment, such as the increase of 38% in Federal
. aardw ages in the year to March 1975, and in industrial unrest,
with 6.2 million working days lost in 1974, compared with
3.3 million in 1980. I do not believe that anyone realised
at the time the full extent of the damage to Australia's
economy when we came to power in 1975. ./ 4

The damage certainly took years longer to retrieve and reverse
* than we anticipated. For example, the 1975 Budget deficit of-
$ 2.8 billion ran out to $ 3.6 billion in-spite of the expenditure
cuts, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, which we
made immediately on assuming office.
Let me add that at that Labor rate, this year's deficit would
be almost $ 7.5 billion, instead of which the Budget has
virtually eliminated the deficit altogether, but Australians
are even no%-experiencing in a significant way indeed the
damaging consequences' of labor's mismanagement, because the
loans that had to be raised to fund those deficits still
need to be rolled over and renewed, and so they continue to
exert pressure on capital markets, on interest rates and on the
availability of funds for home buyers, farmers-and small
business. In a number of areas, our policies have taken years to bear
fruit, for in economic policy as in so many other spheres
there are long lead times, and in a number of areas it is
only in the last year or* two that the outcomes have started
to reflect the full benefits of sound economic management.
Last year, for exanile, average weekly earnings increased
by more than 4 in real terms. That gain is -reflected in an
increase off $ 2.7 billion, after tax, in the real
disposable income of: households throughout Australia, and
since 1973/ 79, average ' Weekly earnings have increased in
real termns by almost $ 10. Our policies have as their
principal objectives increasing the ability of the economy
to pay higher real wages through economnic growth and reducing
the burde:-n of taxat1ion.
Let me sa7: so: mething about the sales tax increases in the
Budget, because it is important to understand the underlying
objectives 3f getting rid of the deficit, of reduced pressure
on interest rates, of a better balance in the * tax mix, and of
an enhanced potential for personal income tax reductions.
The Govermment regards these objectives as having overriding
importance, precisely because we in the Liberal Party are
dedicated to reducing the burden of taxation and costly
government. And Mr Hayden's very different attitude on the
tax issue, the fact that he is, as he was once incautious
enough to say, a ' high tax man', is clear enough if we look
at what he actually had to say in his speech in connection
with his opposition to these sales tax increases. Because
we do not find him saying that he would have foregone the
increase to government revenue, we find him saying that he
would have instituted an entirely new kind of tax.
It is also worth looking back to what Mr Hayden said on
a previous occasion when the Government did something in the
sales tax area, and I am referring to the 1978 reduction from
27 %* to 15% in sales tax on passenger motor v * ehicles, because
on that occasion the Leader of the opposition, while supporting
this and favouring some other revenue reductions, said he would
have imposed two entirely new kinds oE tax instead, one of thom
a capital gains tax.

Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind that it is the
Opposition which favours a high tax burden on the people
-and the productive enterprises of this country, because
they are the big spending party in Australia. If we had
continued to spend as much as Labor did of each dollar
produced in Australia, Commonwealth spending in this
year's Budget would be $ 3.7 billion higher than it is.
Our expenditure restraint has been impressive by any standards
especially in view of the increased demands placed on the
Budget by Defence requirements and the needs of an ageing
population, for the average real growth in outlays of just
over 1% between 1975-76 and this year not only compares very
well with the Labor average of over 10%, but it also stands
in stark contrast to the comparable figures of nearly 3%
for West Germany, about 5% for the United States, and over
for Jaran, countries which have themselves been trying
to restrain government spending.
Not only does Mr Hayden want his new tax, but he still
wants to keep on making the future pay for the Government
U spending schemes of yesterday and today. He still favours
deficit financing and the ' mild domestic deficit' which he
came out supporting in his speech on the Budget must mean
an overall Budget deficit of around $ 2 billion this year,
and this just highlighzs once again that Labor has learnt
none of the lessons which were so plain to see during its
earlier ceriod of eccnomic mismanagement.
This $ 2 billion deficit would mean more government loans,
more pressure on capital markets and-interest rates, and
extra comzezition. for people looking for home loans. It is
important to realise all borrowings, both government and
private, ultimately come from the same pool of funds and
that the funds borrowed to fund a $ 2 billion Labor deficit
could be translated into 70,000 or 80,000 home loans.
I wonder if i have got a minute to say something about CHOGM
not only because of its importance in the whole pattern of
international negotiations in search of a more stable and
prosperous world, and not only because the success of CHOGM
would again display in the clearest way the absurd and
disgraceful attitude of the present Labor leadership to
Australia's place in the world and our responsibilities
to other nations, but rather because so many of our visitors
said such good things about Australia, and I think we are
entitled topride ourselves on the fact that our self-confidence
as a nation has been so widely noticed by so many of the
distinguised overseas leaders who attended the Commonwealth
meeting. Pierre Trudeau in fact went so far as to say that the twentieth
century can be said to belong to Australia, " because this country,
with its tremendous economic potential, with its exciting
technological and natural resources, with its intense and
vibrant culture, seems to be very much part of the definition
and formulation of the twentieth century as it's meant to be". / 6

I have picked out Trudeau's particular words, but lots of other
leaders and journalists said very similar things. And
these words are right. They are right about Australia, and
about the Liberal Party's attitude to Australia. But
nobody would have said those words in 1975, under Labor,
and we must make sure that Labor does not have the opportunity
to destroy their truth again. oOo---

Transcript 5664