SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER TO THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB CANBERRA WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 1990
Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991
Release Date: 21/03/1990
Release Type: Speech
Transcript ID: 7984
Document: Original Transcript (PDF 356.15 KB)
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FOR MEDIA 21 MARCH 1990
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER
TO THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
( ANBERRRA WEDNESDAY, 21 MARCH 1990
Ladies and ( lentlemen, Friends,
I believe the events of this campaign have confirmed the
accuracy of what I said five weeks ago: that this is the
most import;, nt election since 1949. Now, near the end of
the campaigi,, I want to use the opportunity which you
have given le, not to make new announcements not to
cover all the ground in detail but to sum up; to
describe the: basis on which I believe the Australian
people must make a fundamental choice on Saturday.
The essentiitl differences between Labor and the Liberal-
National Coitlition run deep very deep and they are
threefold. First, we d:. ffer about the sort of Australia we wish to
see in the ,, ears ahead. I have, as you know,
characterisid that difference as a fundamental choice
between the opening of opportunity or the entrenchment of
privilege. Second, we differ over the means of getting to where we
wish to go. Where we have a coherent strategy, the
Peacock-Bluw, t Coalition has totally failed to explain hcsi
it is going to do what it says it will do for instance
in industri: il relations, health, micro-economic reform
and the funding of the binge of promises the Coalition
has made in the campaign.
As Michael :; tutchbury wrote recently, it is " economic
gibberish", an " economic fairy tale".
And the oth,' r difference concerns leadership. The
Australian people face a choice between a Hawke
Government ) r a Peacock Government. It is a choice
between a ujnited and experienced Labor team and a
disunited c,, llection of individuals whose deep
antagonisms have been papered over and very imperfectly
at that only for the time being and only in the short
term pursuit of power. Personal tensions and policy
differences abound, and such is the state of turmoil
within Libezal Party politics that Andrew has even been
heard in this campaign to quote Marx Groucho that is.
When all is said and done, I have staked my Government's
prospects in this election on reason and realism. We
have rejected glitter, glib promises and smoke and
mirrors We have openly acknowledged that tough
decisions have had to be taken in the past, that things
have not been easy for many Australians and that hard
work still lies ahead.
We have triedI above all to appeal to the good sense of
the Australi~ tn people their capacity to recognise that
Mr Peacock's economic analysis of gloom and doom takes no
account of the record job growth we have achieved, the
increase we are seeing in manufactured exports, the
reduced tax rates we have brought about, record
investment levels, the fact that interest rates can now
responsibly come down, the workplace reforms which are
underway as demonstrated only yesterday by the agreement
in the metal industry. We are appealing to the capacity
of the Australian people to distinguish real problem
solving and clear, sensible plans for the future of this
country from snake oil.
That has beer, a hallmark, I suggest, of my Government. I
do not say we have been faultless, but we are I believe
known by the people to stand for sound policy, workable
policy, consistent pursuit of long-term goals. The
Liberals and Nationals offer confusion, a perilous leap
into the dark.
Now, it is the conventional wisdom that many in the
electorate axe cynical about this election; that it is
not really seen as a watershed; that there is no deep
divide between the parties and no fundamental difference
of vision exists; that no ideals are at stake.
To people who think that way, and particularly to those
young people who may believe the election does not engage
their idealisin, and will not affect their stake in the
future of this country, I say, with respect, I hope they
will think again. The stakes are high, the issues
profound. So one of the main things that I have tried to
communicate to the public in this campaign is that the
Liberal-National Party view of Australia's future or at
least the view of those who would really call the shots
departs in th* e most basic and important ways from the
vision of my Government and my Party.
Our disagreements on budget policy, the system of wage
determination, Medicare, the capital gains tax, mining in
Kakadu and all the rest are the deeply trcubling symptoms
of an even dee~ per difference, a difference of principle.
I repeat today wtiat I said here last December that in
this election I am fighting to realise a vision for
Australia an Australia with a modern, diversified,
competitive and export-oriented economy; an Australia
vigorously engaged with the world economy, and enmeshed
in particular with the dynamism of Asia and the Pacific;
an Australia committed to maintaining and enhancing the
quality of life, social justice and the preservation of
our natural enviconment; a self-reliant Australia, not
merely fitting in with the world as we find it but
helping shape it.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, if Mr Peacock and Mr Blunt,
and their Coalition, agreed with me that this is the sort
of Australia to which we should aspire as we approach the
next century, thain the choice on 24 March would indeed
only be a choice about means, not about ends. And since
the Opposition has so completely failed to explain just
how it would go about governing Australia, it would be a
pretty empty debate on their side.
But in fact we have a disagreement about the ends
themselves, about the very objectives for which we should
For if you reallv believe in economic prosperity fairly
achieved and fairly shared how can you, like the
Opposition, believe in abolishing the capital gains tax,
and in social poLicies of slash and burn which reward the
rich at the expemise of the less well of f, the sick, the
newly arrived mitirant, the Aboriginal Australian?
If you really believe in increasing investment and
employment, and an Australia which works in harmony to
modernise and diversify its economy, how can you justify
a " Who's to know."' attitude towards wage outcomes and
seek to substitute industrial turmoil for steady,
sustained industrial reform?
If you believe in productive investment for a growing
economy, again, how can you believe in abolishing the
capital gains with all the distortion of investment
decisions and thet tax avoidance which that would entail?
If you believe iit boosting national savings and
rulternational competitiveness, how can you oppose award
superannuation, & ond promise billions of dollars in
unfunded Governmetnt spending which will lead to exactly
the opposite result?
If you believe iii an enhanced quality of Australian life,
how can you believe in logging our rainforests and mining
our national parks?
if you believe it, a competitive Australia meshed into the
world economy and trading effectively around the globe,
how can you even toy with the idea of forming an
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inward-looking sian trade bloc, a proposal which no
country in the cegion would accept; and rightly so.
If you believe i. n a constructive role for Australia in
international affairs, how can you believe in scrapping
the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone in order to leave
open the stationing of nuclear weapons in Australia, or
in slashing aid to our neighbours and other countries in
need, or in dis, nantling the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade simply to find a slot for a National Party
Minister? And this comes from the hypocrites who talk in
their policy speaech and I quote about the need to
integrate foreijn, economic and trade policies.
Make no mistake across the board the Opposition's
policies point : learly to the very different sort of
Australia for which the Liberals and Nationals stand.
This would be Australia in which the well-being of the
many will depen-1 upon trickle down from the few. It
would be an Aus:: ralia in which the less well-off are
denied dignity : nd opportunity. It would be an Australia
in which the so.: ial trap door replaces the social safety
net. It would he an Australia used as a laboratory for
irrational expe-: imentation by the New Right. It would be
an Australia in which profit always takes priority over
This is, therefi) re, an election about fundamentals.
Now, my friends the Coalition's approach in this
election has be,! n, in the words of the Financial Review,
" to dredge up old issues and old battles rather than
develop new blu,! prints for the future".
But Labor has g,, ne into this campaign united, with a
positive plan fir Australia's future and above all with
concrete propos; ils to give that plan reality. We know
what we are going to do, and we know how we are going to
By a positive p. an I mean the following first it is a
plan which is d(. monstrably workable; second it is a plan
which genuinely addresses the long-range needs of the
country; and third it is a plan which is fully funded and
therefore totally credible.
Our methodology going into this campaign was utterly
different from Ihat of the Opposition we identified
offsets and savings first, and the determined what new
programs were al fordable. And we did so for a full three
years. The fin,]. scoresheet from the Minister for
Finance which is attached to the printed copy of this
speech reveal. we have come out exactly on target.
In each of thes( respects the Opposition's alternative
fails the test. ' i
First, take the . rssue of realism. Nowhere else is the
Opposition incapitcity to develop clear and workable
policies more evident than in their chaotic industrial
relations policy and in their health policy fiasco.
Second, take the obligation to address the fundamental
issues affecting Australia. Here the Coalition program
is replete with c; ins of omission like education and
science and of commission like the abolition of the
capital gains tax, the opposition to national savings
through award superannuation, and the dismantling of our
reforms to the very machinery of the Commonwealth
And third, over and above all this, Mr Peacock has been
utterly unable to explain where the money is coming from.
He has in fact been incomprehensible.
Let's be clear; there would be only three options for a
Liberal-National Government in dealing with their fiscal
black hole to eat into the budget surplus, to ditch
their election promises, or to take the meat axe to
social programs. A fourth option is a consumption tax,
but I will resist the temptation to which Mr Peacock
succumbed and not drag out that old chestnut here.
The plan which we have put to the country has been spelt
out in the series of announcements we have m * ade during
the campaign, starting with the Treasurer's statement in
the first week ani. ending with our statements on the
environment and law and justice in the last.
This has been no disparate series of ad hoc proposals.
Each and every one links directly back to the
architecture for the Australia of the future we are
trying to build.
To build that Australia we must increase national
savings. Labor hits clear, workable policies to do this.
We have increased the public sector's contribution to
national savings 1) y 8 percent of GDP. We have boosted
superannuation in a way that will see additional annual
savings equal to a'round 3 percent of GDP. These changes
will do two things address our current account deficit
dfid allow for cont~ inued growth in the capital stock.
Along with other m~ easures, including encouraging growth
and diversification of exports, this is an integral part
of our strategy to tackle Australia's overseas debt.
The Coalition has no policies to boost national savings.
Indeed, their opposition to award superannuation and
their unfunded spending promises would seriously erode
Australia's national savings.
To build the sort of Australia we want we must expand
Australia's productive capacity and exports. This
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involves predtictable and affordable wage outcomes to
ensure contiitued investment and employment growth,
improved rectognition of training through award
restructurinti, our ten point program of realistic
micro-reform. better targeted export promotion programs
and strategi~ ts to increase Australia's exports of
services. Peacock and hlunt, by contrast, only offer a free-for-all
wages policy and micro-reform devoid of implementation
plans. Micrto-economic reform through all-out
confrontation means, in the end, no micro-economic reform
To build the sort of Australia we want, we need positive
programs for the clever country. in putting that
objective hi( oh on the national agenda we have struck a
chord with the Australian community; they know it needs
to be done. Our co-operative scientific research
centres, the Education Completion Allowance and the
disadvantaged schools program represent major innovations
which will di-liver the results. But these vital matters
are complete! y overlooked in the pronouncements of the
Opposition. To build the sort of Australia we want in terms of a
ladder of opp. ortunity for all Australians, we have
offered proposals in childcare, in tackling the new
generation ol. social issues in outer urban and rural
areas, to abolish the concept of the dole with enhanced
programs of iraining and retraining for the unemployed,
and forward looking agendas on women' s issues and
multiculturalism. So here too we have delivered.
To build the sort of Australia we want requires the
strong decisions we have taken to protect the natural
environent. The list of specific environmental issues
on which we disagree with the Liberals and Nationals is
now as long its your arm. But underlying them is a
fundamentally different philosophy.
We put environmental protection side by side with
economic development in judging whether a particular
proposal should go ahead. The Opposition, by stark
contrast, will always consider environmental protection
to be, at best, a secondary consideration. Look at the
1iintree rainforests; look at Kakadu.
And to build the sort of Australia we want we need a
foreign policy which is ahead of the game in a rapidly
I an proud that this Government has delivered exactly
that with our initiative on Cambodia, our leadership in
Asia/ Pacific economic cooperation, our constructive role
in the fight to ban chemical weapons, the greater
maturity in our vital relationship with the United
States, our early recognition that change in the Soviet ii 1 9
Union was rtal and provided new opportunities for
Australia, t" ur uncompromising assertion of Australia's
interest in a free and open international trading system
and our lead role in the Commonwealth on southern Africa,
something which the conservatives would wind back at
exactly the wrong moment in the long history of the fight
to end apartheid.
And whereas we have acted, you will search in vain in
Mr Peacock'.,; campaign statement to find any suggestions
on how he w') uld advance Australia's vital regional or
global trading interests.
We have always acknowledged that the solutions to secure
Australia's future are not simple ones.
To be sure, many Australians, especially those paying
high intere:; t rates, have faced difficulties. To be
sure, there are concerns such as overseas debt which need
careful management. But the way through, the way to
achieve the great potential of this great country, is
sound policy policy based on realism about both our
problems as a nation and our capacities as a nation.
Hollow prom ises and superficial prescriptions are no
answer at aLl.
I want to say to those who intend to vote for third party
and independlent candidates that they should consider with
the greates: care where they direct their second
preferences. This is a vital election and it is I make
no bones about it a tight election.
In no way do I question the right of people to vote for a
third party or independents. But what I do emphasise is
this realityI that when people who wish to vote this way
wake up on 25 March there will be either a Labor
Government or a Liberal-National Government elected to
office in Cainberra with either myself as Prime Minister
or Andrew P~ iacock as Prime Minister. There won't be a
Democrat Government; there won't be a green independents
Government. And so I say specifically to them if you do not want
Medicare gutted, the capital gains tax scrapped, more
dianium mining, a uranium enrichment industry in
Australia, tp-front tuition fees, mining in Kakadu, then
your preferlince between the two major parties must be
Labor. Thai: is the simple imperative.
And I want t~ o urge all my fellow Australians to think
very long and very hard about the fiscal recklessness,
social injus; tice and environmental vandalism that are
absolutely inherent in the Liberal-National policies
revealed in this campaign. They have failed utterly as
an Opposition. to develop workable policies for
Despite all thse deplorable Coalition faults and
failures, I ha~ e not been governing and I am not
campaigning win by default. I ask the Australian
people to vote for Labor not because the alternative is
so demonstrably, dreadful, but because we have the ideas.
the properly d'tfined policies and the capacity to lead.
I believe in the people of Australia and therefore I
believe that g,) od sense will be shown on 24 March. And
then my pledge to my fellow Australians is this that
the Government will shoulder the high responsibility
conferred upon it, and will work with all the strength,
determination .~ nd creativity of which only Labor is
capable to achieve the Australian future of hope and
promise which have described. We have the plan to do
it, we have the will to do it, we have the capacity to do
it, we have the' leadership to do it. And we shall. do it
together. Ii. 2-I