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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 6022

BUSINESSMEN'S BREAKFAST, MELBOURNE

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: 16/02/1983

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 6022

AS DELIVERED
J)
PRIME MINISTER
FOR~ MEDIA WEDNESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 1983
BUSINESSMEN'S BREAKFAST, MELBOURNE
I indicated last night that the choice before us all on 5 March
was a very clear one and I would have thought the choice was
also very clear for the business community of this city and
right around Australia. I was talking last night of the
initiatives that we have already put in place to respond to
three things: the world recession hitting Australia after
we had held it off longer than in any other country and
secondly to the drought, and thirdly to ohe of the worst
wages explosions that we have had, well the worst since
Mr Hawke was Presid~ ent of the ACTU in 1973 and 1974. The one
common thread in those two things is that he was President of
the ACTU then and the wages explosion of the last two years
was a direct expression of ACTU policy laid down in 1979 when
he was there.
The main thrust of the Policy Speech was to provide expanded
opportunities to young Australians. It is our intention in
a number of key areas to establish youth projects which will
provide additional opportunities and particularly, additional
opportunities for young Australians who might riot be gettiing
much of a go under present Government programs. In addition
to that4 what I was saying last night was directed towards
building up Australia's business strength for the future.
We know quite well. that you cannot have a situation in which
you rely on thie exports of farming products and you rely on th. o
exports of minerals and that is the end of it. There has
to be a strong manufacturing, business and commercial sector
in Australia and we have to have policies to make sure that
it grows and is innovative and is not only able to get a
better share of markets, but at the same time that it will
go out and create new markets.
The decisions we made last July of greatly improving depreciation
, provisions were obviously designed to help. In the c1rcumset.-in c
that have-prevailedi, that we are presently in, I don't thnk
anyone expects a mad rush of new investbprnts simply as a resnl L;
of those measures even though thcy a are great improveme~ nt over
what was there before. When the opportuniity for new investicnt
does come, those depreciation provisions are clearly going to
bring forward decisions that otherwise might still have been
deferred. / 2

Bus Break.
Of course the wage pause itself is an integral part of our
total policy. As we went through the year we had introduced
the Budget which was designed to encourage wage moderation
because it greatly improved the position of Australian families
by about $ 18 a week in many typical cases. By the end of
the year it was clear that that alone was not enough, that
it was going to take too long to re-establish the competitive
face of Australian industry and therefore a wage pause which
all Australian Governments, including three Labor Governments
are in agreement with.
One of the very odd things about the Labor Party in this election
is that they are going forward on a campaign of bringing
Australia together or reconciliation when they are the only
odd man out, because all the governments, including three
Labor Governments agree with the wage pause. The Federal
Labor Party do not. The Federal Labor Party and particularly
their Deputy Leader, Lionel Bowen deliberately encouraged disputes
in the oil industry. The Shell refinery was shut and clearly
if that situation had been allowed to develop, this State and
Australia would have dried up of fuel and many tens of thousands
of people would have had to be laid off as industries shut.
The official position of the Federal Labor Party was that the
strike was justified and only to be expected and that they
supported it. I think that gives a pretty good indication of
what would happen after March 5, if Labor happened to win, which
of course they are not. There was a report in the Geelong
Advertiser a few days ago which indicated that one of the
electricians from the ETU had said they had a commitment to go
quiet until 5 March, the implication then being that they
would get what they want. That 8% of course would start
a new wage round and it is just not on so far as Australia is
concerned. A number of the proposals that were put forward last night were
obviously designed to assist small businesses in particular, a
reduced rate of company tax, but the advance payment of
on the purchase of Australian produced goods from all Government
purchasing. I think that would be improving the liquidity of
Australian firms by about $ 70 million. It is a one-off payment
drawing forward of course, but it would have certainly improved
the liquidity of Australian firms in a quite immediate way.
The proposal that I believe has considerable imagination attached
to it is for an advanced technology corporation. Sometimes
new proposals are developed, new products are developed in this
country to a certain extent, then the control of the developr. er: t
goes somewhere else. I have been told computer firms, for ai. ck
, of capital, have not been able to expand and maybe have gone out
of business. I have been given specific cases of p. eople with
good products, being able to sell, but not being able to maintain
Australian control and Australian development because of the
financial structure and the shortage or risk of venture capital
in Australia. Therefore, we are proposing that an advanced
technology corporation be established. It won't be Government
bureaucracy. It is proposed we establish guidelines and that
there be a management board a bit like the Aussat board for the
establishment of the satellite and we call tenders for the
management of the corporation. Capital would be attracted tuo . he
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Bus Break. 3 16.2.83
corporation by 100% tax deductibility for approved projects and
the purpose of the corporation would be to bring innovators in
touch, or give them advice in relation to markets, developments of
new markets, the availability of finance, the capacity to gain
finance and product development laboratories and to advise
Government on progress that is made.
This is something new in Australia but it is designed to establish
the circumstance where small businesses with good ideas will be
able to attract the capital and the development facilities to
see that their ideas are put into practice in Australia. It is
a new venture. In a sense it is experimental so far
as we are concerned. I think it i s the kind of thing that is
necessary. We have examined in detail what might be done to
help further encourage high technology industries in Australia
and we wanted to avoid the approach which said Government is
going to select this industry or that industry or that product
and some other product because if governments are going to make
those choices, I am quite certain they will make those
choices very badly indeed. Of course the approach that
we are adopting in this particular matter leaves the initiative
in the hands of the Australian entrepreneurs, in the hands
of Australian private enterprise where in fact it ought to be.
We are also going to establish a special division of the
Development Bank with initial additional capital of $ 25 million
to expand lending for small business. It is worth noting that
since the charter of the bank was adjusted some time ago,
the bank has lent about $ 100 million for small business undertakings.
That has not attracted a great deal of publicity, but the
lending is obviously useful. We want to build upon that.
Industrial relations is something that clearly worries all Australians.
We have determined on changes. Ian Macphee has come to the view
that Federal industrial power is inadequate, that the Arbitration
Commission ought to be given authority for the maintenance of its
own awards and agreements. Some of you will remember that that
was taken away from the Commission in a famous High Court case,
I think it went to the Privy Council at the time, in the 1950s,
a very long while ago. Now we want to redress that situation
and reinforce the authority of the Commission. That does not
have any implication fora more or less centralised system. It won't
in any sense reduce or diminish the need for entrepreneurs
-or businesses to look after their own industrial relations to
the maximum extent that they can, but if the Cormmission is to
make awards or register agreements that have the force of law
as effectively they now do, then it is a fairly widely held view
that the Commision should also have authority to seeing that those
awards and agreements are in fact maintained.
Our secret ballot legislation will be extended to the election of
all union officials, not just some as is the case at the moment and
also to enable the Commission, or if necessary the Government
to order in relation certain industries that secret ballots apply
before any industrial action takes place.
I-M A VI CL. I I I

Bus Break
. The Labor Party in its official platform would seek to place
unions above and beyond the reach of law. That is perfectly
plain and not only to free them in relation to industrial ntteis,
but also to recognise that they have a political role beyond
industrial matters, which would be
recognised by an Australian Labor Party in a way which I
believe would give even more power to the trade union movement.
I don't think that is acceptable in Australia.
If somebody wants to seek consensus with the trade union leadership,
does anyone really believe that you can get to a sensible
consensus with the Painters and Dockers, with the Halfpennys of
this world, with the Carmichaels of this world or even with the
Mr Gallaghers of this world. The kind of consensus that they
would want with you is after they had run over you with a
bulldozer. I don't really think that kind of approach is going
to work with that kind of union leadership. Tt does not apply
to all unions by any means, but to suggest that the unions
can be set aside from the framework of law would be to suggest
anarchy in its worst form.
The policy approach that we have adopted for this election is
a prudent one. There is clearly some additional expenditure and
in the areas that I have mentioned that are of importance to
business, that is included. But at the same time, this is not
the sort of election in which anyone can with responsibility
go out and say we are going to spend $ 2.75 billion over and
above what is now being spent. By some slight of hand that is
immediately turned into $ 1 billion and I think it remarkable that
the press accept that reduction just on the say so of the person
making the cormnent. $ 2.75 billion is $ 2.75 billion in anyone's
language. The actual figure would probably be significantly
more than that but it is impossible to tell. After the Policy
Speech it might be possible to do some work in relation to it,
but that so-called economic document the other day was
so vague that it is not really possible to test whether the
$ 2.75 billion is somewhere ntear ctc( ul'dt or wheLher it might
be something the order of twice of that. One of the things that
is clear is the policy of spend, spend again and spend again.
That was the policy that Mr Whitlam adopted and I am told that
Bob Hawke has the ambition to beat Mr Whitlam's biggest spending
increase. In one of his Budgets, Mr Whitlam lifted expenditure by 46%
in one year. I am told that it is Mr Hawke's objective to
have a bigger increase that Mr Whitlam because it is Mr Whitla's
record that he wants to beat. If it is Mr Whitlam's record
, that he wants to beat, I don't think there is much doubt what
the people of Australia would have to say about that. It is
worth noting that Mr Whitlam himself has been very frank, and
very plain and I very believe thoroughly helpful in what he
has been saying about this particular election. Hie says: " there
is no doubt what the public thinks of me ( that is Mr hi. tlam)
compared to Mr Fraser and the more the Labor Party carmpaign
makes clear Labor will pick up where we left off,( that is
where Mr Whitlami left off) the better we will do."
I think if Whitlam goes on saying that Mr Hawke is going to pick
up where Mr Whitlam left off, then or majority will be
significantly larger after 5 March. 4 16.2.83

Bus Break
There is the old question of where money is going to come
from for a policy of course or to fulfill a policy cominitment
and Paul Keating has given an instance of that. He says " We have
massive savings locked up in the banking system which the
Commonwealth could quite easily fund this sort of deficit, and
get the Australian economy moving again." Savings locked up
in the banking system, doing nothing I don't know how many
bankers there are here, but they will be overjoyed to hear
that. All the depositers, people have their savings in the
bank will be even more overjoyed to hear it and small businesses
and people who have housing loans, they also I suppose will be
overjoyed. There are only two ways that I could see and probably
only one of them legal whereby they could get the funds: introduce
some funny bonds which they were talking about in the policy
speech, enormously lift interest rates on Government paper
and make life very easy for the stockmarket as one or two
people have indicated. Lifting interest rates massively could
attract the funds of course, but at great penalty to small
businesses and at great penalty to home builders, home buyers
of all kinds, at great penalty to everyone with loans of a moving
rate of interest.
That would be one way in which the Commonwealth could get a
much larger share of funds which are there and which are mostly
being used. Then, I suppose they could try the old Labor way
of some sort of legal change, or some sort of change which
would enable them to direct the banks as to where they leant
and direct them in a very regulatory manner. Either way
there would be a great many people hurt as a result right around
the Australian community and the small businesses, home
purchasers, financial markets would be under enormous disruption
as a result of all of that.
It is worth noting, and I think it is a question that you need
to ask, that whenever Mr Hawke has been pressed for details
about the policy, he ha.; tried to suggest that there is somethingr
wrong in asking for details. He said those miserable conservatives,
they always get out their calculators. If somebody who want! s
to become Prime Minister is going to take a certain amount of
money out of everyone's pocket, isn't it reasonable to ask
how deep he wants to put his hand in your pockets? You cannot
get away with just saying, " Just forget that, the details don't
matter. All we want is billions and it will be a nice pleasant
process." Really that approach just is not good enough.
The Labor Party has not yet unfolded what they are calling
a prices and incomes policy and I'believe it will be tinsel
without much substance to it. They have been trying to get
agreement with the union movement for the best part of a year.
The launch date has been postponed on many, many occasions,
simply because they have not been able to get agreement.
Whatever comes out that can be examined at the time. Since
this has in a very real sense become a centrel point to
whatever policies they may or may not put forward, one would
have thought that they have done some work about prices and
incomes policies in other countries to see if they have worked
or failed, but at least they would know the history of it all.
/ 6
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Bus. Break
Four Corners did us a good turn some time ago by asking Mr Fawke
questions about this in relation to Britian for example and
he said in a way that was intended to silence the questioners,
" Oh, no there have been no prices and incomes in Britain".
Shirley Williams who was administering a prices and incomes
policy for quite some time then had something to say on radio
yesterday or the day before, making it perfectly plain that
there was a strict policy applying to prices, applying to incomes
and one which in fact had many penalties across the board
or companies that broke the regime. She went on to point
out that it had not done-Britain any good because companies
under that regime had to reduce investment and that had
medium to long term damage to the economy inherent in it and
in addition to that, she made it plain that the unions did not
stick with it and it led to what they call their winter of
discontent and massive disruption of a kind that even this
country has not experienced.
Samuel Brittain was asked what advice he would give to any
Australian who wanted to apply such a policy and he just
tersely said " Forget it". The interesting point about this
debate is that there was, and has been a comprehensive
prices and incomes policy in Britain and Mr Hawke claimed
to be in ignorance of it. Let's accept that claim, but
being ignorance of it, surely it indicates very sloppy
workmanship over something that is regarded as central to their
policy. I suspect that most people here don't think much of
that sort of policy anyway. But if.. a political party
wants to advance it as something serious, then surely they
have an obligation to have done their homework and not to
dismiss facts and historical evidence as airily as Mr Hawke does.
There is one other point that I think is relevant in coming
to judgements in this campaign. This is the first time in the
history of Australia I think where people have been asked to
vote for somebody who has got no Parliamentary record and
therefore you cannot make a judgement about that. It is
fair enough therefore, to look at the record of earlier times
and see what in fact happened. I have pointed out on more than
one occasion that the time lost through industrial disputes when
Mr Hawke was President of the ACTU, was three to four times
greater than in the previous eleven years under his predecessor
and that is worth noting. The worst occasion was when Mr Hawke
was President of the ACTU movement, President of the union
movement and when Mr Whitlara was Prime Minister, when over
six million man days were lost in one year and over the whole
period, over 34 million man days were lost.
' The Financial Review has in very sharp compass questioned the
credentials of Hawke and I suppose you might say they arc a
little more objective than I am in some of these things, but
I always think my politics is totally objective. The Financial
Review said, " The very first thing that needs to be said
about MR Hawke's decade at the head of the ACTU is that it has
been a decade of barren failure". And it was Mr Whitlam who
said, " I would think that any person who is the head or
spokesman of a great political or industrial movement would c:
able to show something for ten years effort." Well there are
if you like two impartial observers. One must ask whether that
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is a reasonable credential for the most significant job that
Australia has to offer. I believe it is not a credential and
if people think that it is, they will be taking a risk with this
country of a kind that they have never experienced in all their
lives. I know many of us are gamblers when we go to the races, but I
don't think when it really gets down to it, that we are gamblers
with the future of this country and with the future of our
children. The Labor Party have the gall and the hide to come
here asking Australians to put a mark on a bit of paper as a
result of the biggest gamble ever. That is not a reasonable
proposition. Through the course of the last 12 months we have put many policies
in place, policies to assist homebuyers through last year, policies
to assist industry, in the Budget policies to assist Australian
families in particular and make the request for wage restraint
a reasonable one. Then the wage pause and since then we have
announced the major new water resource program and every day
is living reminder of the importance of that program to Australia
as things stand at the moment with the current drought. We are
also building for the future in improving road transport through
the Bicentennial Road Program, lowering the cost of transport
for industry and making it easier for all of us to get about this
country and also last night I announced the Commonwealth suppot
for tome remaining rail standardisation projects which would
link certain ports in Victoria and Queensland in particular
to the standard guage link and again designed to reduce
the cost of transport.
I believe we are doing sensible, prudent tdhigs for the develop: rment
of this country. I have said on a number of occasions recently
that we cannot sit back and say there is nothing we can do in
Australia until there is world recovery, until something moves
in the United States because while commentators say all. ort of
things about when that might occur, it is not good enough for
Australians to sit back and wait for other people. We have
to do what we can on our own account and I believe that the
Government has taken substantial and sensible decisions
in relation to that over the last 12 months. I also believe
, that our policies were advanced quite considerably and sensi:-ly
in relation to business and small business last night.
Our slogan, " we are not waiting for the world" I think is an ai:
one, it is appropriate. I also believe it be very unecessary
in today's circumstances. 7 16.2.83
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Transcript 6022