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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5553

SPEECH TO THE MELBOURNE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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: 26/03/1981

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5553

EMBARGO: 8: 00 pm
PRIME MINISTER
FOR MEDIA THURSDAY, 26 MARCH, 1981
SPEECH TO THE MELBOURNE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
This is a proud occasion for the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce,
and I am very pleased to have been asked here tonight to
celebrate with you the Chamber's one hundred and thirtieth
anniversary. The Chamber is as old as the State of Victoria
itself,, and during that long life has many achievements of
which it can be proud.
When considering the record of the Chamber, there is one area
which, in iny view, stands out above all others. It is not a
particular action, nor a memorable event. It is a tradition
which has been expressed on many, many occasions in the work
of the Chamber. I am referring to the Chamber's long support
for the principle of freedom of enterprise.
Freedom needs not only to be defended abroad, but at home as
well, and the Chamber of Commerce has been a powerful voice
over the last one hundred and thirty years for, the principle
of freedom in economic life. That-" this expresses the commercial
interests of the members of the Chamber in no way detracts
from the value of the Chamber's role. In fact, it is the best
security that the Chamber will continue in this role.
I have no hesitation in saying that the Chamber's defence of
freedom in commercial life has been an important element in
preserving politica41 democracy in Australia. For while economic
freedom does not guarantee political freedom and political
democracy, I know of no free state that has survived without Ea
substantial measure of freedom in economic life..
The fre 6dom to set up a business, to trade, to identify needs'
and to meet them supports political freedom in many ways.
Economic freedom ensures that there are people of independent
voice to advise and to check Government,, people who have the
resources and the skills to organise to defend their point
of view. Freedom-. means that power in a community is not
concentrated in a few hands, but is shared so that the power of
some checks the power of others. The history of the Chamber
well illustrates that fact.
At various times the Chambe of Commerce has campaigned
strongly and effectively against efforts to concentrate
economic power in the hands of the Government. Free enterprise
does not only mean freedom for entrepreneurs. Just as important,
it also means freedom for consumers. / 2

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Under conditions of market freedom, individuals have more power
than under any other form of economic or'ganisation. In a market
economy individuals can chooose where they will work, and for
whom; what they will buy, and when. ' Businesses and governmentsmay
sometimes feel uncomfortable with their deci-sions, but
individual people are the ones who benefit. In exercising
their freedom to choose, they create over time an economy and
a society which is more likely to adjust to their needs than
one which jis. centrally. controlled.
While we celebrate tonight an organisation which has given
strong support to our great democratic tradition, we would doo,
well to remember that in other parts of the world men and
women are still struggling to establish that freedom. In
Poland tonight heroic people are striving to grasp the freedom
that has been ours for more than a century.
Excessive power in the hands of government stops people from
effectively realising their own values, and inevitably leads
to economic stagnation and social conflict; but any rela, , ation
of that power gives to others a greater capacity to challenge
that regime. When we look around the world at those countries
which have shown a marked degree of economic success and
sustained often spectacular rates of economic growth, we
find that they are, virtually without exception, countries
with a large measure of freedom for entrepreneurs and consumers
in economic life.
From the Nineteenth Century England ( and Australia), to the
United States, the post World War II German miracle, to the.
more recent miracle of Japan, and increasingly the ASEAN
countries, we find that the free market economy has been the key
to rapidly rising standards of living for ordinary people.
Government has a vital role in establishing the framework of
rules-' for a free economy. But if it taxes too much, spends too
much, borrows too much, it can crowd out private enterprise and
abtually undermine prosperity. The recognition of the importance
of giving encourag~ nent to private enterprise and room for it to
grow has lain at the heart of the economic strategy we have
followed since 1975. The growth we see around us today -the
prospects Australia now has before it are, I believe,
fundameptally the result of policies based on that recognition.
Our policies have sought to rein in Government spending and cut
back on the deficit-so that competition between governments and
private enterprise for scarce resources has been reduced.
Our objective, moreover, has been to achieve these aims by
expenditure restraint, not by imposing higher levels of taxatiLon.
We need lower, not higher, taxes.
It follows that efforts towards spending restraint at all
levels of government must be doubled and redoubled. In that
way, private enterprise wifl have the stimulus and the room to
grow, and consumers will have increasing capacity. to spend the
incomes they earn in the way that they see fit. / 3

3-
Governments can also impinge on the freedoms of individuals
and businessmen through wasteful and ine~ ficient regulations.
But the opportunities available to business in a free enterprise
system are accompanied by inevitable risks. The possibility
of profit, of innovation, of great achievement is matched by
the possibility of loss. There has always been, and I suppose
always will be, * a tendency when business is down to seek
additional assistance and protection from Government to
reduce the risks of competition in the interests of securit3K
The Government is'well awar~ e of the legitimate claims of
private enterprises for certainty and predictability in the
economic environment. But we also need to recognise that
Australian enterprise will not become strong on Government
granted privileges, but in facing up and surmounting the
challenges of a competitive economy. We are first and foremost
a Government which believes that consumer interests and consumer
decisions must be dominant determinants of the allocation
W of resources among business enterprises. There is no cauge
for apprehension on this score for Australian business Mis
increasingly demonstrating that it has the capacity to hold
its own with any in the world.
Freedom, of course, has another side responsibility. A
free society, and a free economy, will only work to the
satisfaction of citizens, if freedom is exercised with
responsibility. There are two areas in particular where our freedoms are under
threat from those who ignore their responsibilities to their
fellow citizens. The first I will--mention is tax avoidance
and evasion. Some of the schemes which have been revealed
in recent times must be viewed not only as the avoidance of tax,
but as a tot~ al rejection by their beneficiaries of all
obligation to support community services. Whatever the letter
of the law may have been, its spirit has been wounded by those
who have-sought to evade their obligations to their fellow citizens.
L_
The strength of a community should not be measured by the
tightness of its laws and the stringency of its law enforcement,
but rather by the recognition of the obligations we all have -to
each othe-T. The community's intolerance of tax ' avoidance and
evasion' is becoming increasingly obvious. And the Government is
determined to eliminate such schemes by law. But from a
broader standpoint, the need for such action is already
an admission of defeat.
There are many hilndreds of people here tonight who can truly
be said in their own walks of life to be leaders in the community.
The responsibility falls on all of us, in Government and in
private enterprise, in public and in private, to stand for those
codes of behaviour which strengthen, not corrode, the faith of
people in their community., The selfish pursuit of private gain
at the expense of the community erodes that faith?, and leads to
demands for even more stringent laws. / 4

* 6 -4-
I am confident that I can call upon you-, the Melbourne Chamber
of Commerce, for support in the caxnpaign'to re-establish that
firm sense of community obligation which'dis the only solid
foundation for a free society.
There is another area, also, in which freedom is under
challenge in Australia today. This challenge comes from
militant trade Unions who strike to achieve financial gain or
shorter hours or both for themselves regardless of the
costs and hardship they impose on their fellow citizens.-
In the Qantas dispute, we saw thousands of Australians strandd
overseas because a few trade unionists claim the right to
force acceptance of their demands. We have seen Sydney's
beaches gflooded with sewage as a deliberate tactic by. a few
to coerce their fellow citizens. Some extremists in the trade
union movement now seem to be claiming an untramelled right
to exploit their fellow citizens and to cause needless suffering
if this will advance their pursuit of power.
No decent community can accept such behaviour nor. I belfeveis
it supported by the great bulk of trade union members. Once
again, we will act against it with the full force of the law.
But abiding by the law, being within the letter of the law, is,
not the end of responsibility or moral obligation. If every
wrongful act has to be proscribed by law we are going to be
overriden by rules and regulations.
One of the great strengths of the Australian people has always;
been the sense of decency and respect for others, the desire
to assist those in need, to lend a helping hand, to do the
right thing by other people. The tax evader who imposes added
burdens on other people, the union official who disregards the
impact of his actions on others, are equally guilty, of
breaking this code of behaviour. I simply do not believe that
most decent union members support campaigns which inflict
hardship and loss on their fellow citizens.
The solution here 14es in the courage of those union leaders
and members who see that this is the time to take a stand, who
are prepared to work to change attitudes. Free trade unionism,
like free enterprise, is a fundamental el~ ment in a free society.
Exploft~ tive unionism, like exploitative business, is an attack
on freedom and shows the need throughout the community for a
strengthened awareness of our community obligations. We are
all Australians and-we need to act with a clear recognition
of that fact.
it is to the great credit of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce
that it has taken its responsibilities to the community seriously.
The toast to the Chamber is not only a toast to a-long existence;
it is much more a toast to an organisation which has proudly
defended sojme of the great traditions of Australians.
Your Excellency, Mr. Premier, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to
rise and charge your glasses in a toast to the Melbourne Chamb3er
of Commerce on its 130t * h anniversary. Long may it prosper.
To the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. 000---

Transcript 5553