We all agree on at least one thing in this election campaign—our country is in a big economic mess and we would like to see it put right. The burning question is how we do it?
I believe the one and only way that Australia can get on top of its economic problems is to become more productive. That means giving everyone–you, me, your friends, your family, everybody else–more incentive, more encouragement and more reason to work harder.
Everything that I am saying in this election campaign, be it on taxation, industrial relations or indeed anything else, all has one objective in mind and that is a more productive, prosperous Australia.
And that more productive Australia can be achieved if we make a number of things work better. If we have lower taxation paid for by less government spending. If we have an industrial relations system that encourages workers and bosses to get together at a plant or enterprise level.
If we give them an incentive to make their own deals about working conditions so they can make their businesses run better and everybody can get the benefit of making a higher profit.
If we can do those things we can have a more productive Australia, we can put our balance of payments problems behind us and we can once again see an Australia paying her way–and that's something that I am sure all of us want.
I've said a lot about taxation in this campaign. We all like lower tax, that's human nature, but the real reason for having lower taxation is to give everyone the reason to work harder.
What I'm offering you, what the Liberal Party is saying to you in this campaign, is go down the path of lower taxation and less government spending. Heaven knows the government spends too much and wastes an enormous amount, and waste under the Hawke government has become quite scandalous.
The Labor Party has now had over 4 years to get things right. And you know darn well that over that time your standard of living has gone down dramatically.
The average family's standard of living has fallen by more than $40 a week, mortgage payments are up by $152 a month. How many times has your interest bill gone up over the last couple of years?
Mr Keating and Mr Hawke say it's all the fault of the rest of the world, you can't blame us.
But even worse than that, during his election campaign the Labor Party has offered not a glimmer of hope that things are going to get better.
Let me go over some of the main points about tax policy.
This tax program can be paid for entirely out of cutting government spending and getting rid of scandalous government waste. What it means is that in future the government has to save three cents out of every dollar of your money it is now spending. And that certainly is achievable.
Under our plan the first $5,900 of income will be free of tax. That means 200,000 Australians now paying tax will no longer have to do so in the future. And that's a special help to many of our pensioners and others on fixed incomes.
The great bulk of Australian employees under the proposed scheme will pay no more than 25% in tax on any dollar of income they earn.
The top rate of tax will be cut to 38% and the effect of that incentive terms will be quite dramatic. Put it this way: it means that you will be able to work the whole weekend, any amount of overtime you like, and be absolutely certain that you'll keep 62 cents out of every dollar you earn.
Our new tax has been particularly designed to help families with children. Were going to introduce a new childcare allowance. That's going to be paid over and above the family allowance and the dependent spouse rebate, both of which will fully remain.
For single income families, the childcare allowance will be $800 a year, or $15 a week, and will be paid direct to the parent who is at home looking after the children. In the case of two-income families, the childcare allowance will be between $400 and $800 a year, according to the income of the 2nd income earner, annually paid direct to the principal carer of the children.
For sole parents, the rebate will rise from $780 to $1,000. What this means is that sole parents can earn $10,000 a year or $200 a week before they start paying tax.
In addition, my government will throw out Labor's assets test, capital gains tax and fringe benefits tax. But we're going to bring in some special rules to make sure there are no rorts in the fringe benefits area because that would be unfair to ordinary wage and salary earners.
Overall, our tax deal will give a great boost to economic activity and, most importantly, it will provide you, your family and, if you own one, your business, with an incentive it never had before under our taxation laws.
You've read all about the artists in residence for the BLF, the design of special surfboards for women, and the translation of Mr Hawkes biography into Japanese. Everybody has got understandably angry about that kind of waste.
Under my government, there will be far fewer departments. I'm committed already to abolishing at least 20 commissions and government bodies. Ones like the Human Rights Commission, Prices Surveillance Authority, the Commission on the Future, the Constitutional Commission, the Coal Industry Tribunal, the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the Foreign Investment Review Board, and so the list goes on.
Medicare has become a complete disaster. 100,000 Australians are on hospital queues, many of them waiting 18 months or 2 years for the necessary surgery. Massive waste and over-servicing.
Now, our health policy is going to change this. It will fully protect pensioners and the disadvantaged. They will remain exactly as they are at present and will bear no additional cost.
For most of us, we'll have to pay the first $250 of any medical and hospital bills in any one year. That won't apply to pensioners, nor will it apply to anyone earning less than $16,000 a year. Between $16,000 and $18,000 a year you will pay some of it, and over it, the full amount.
But you'll be able to insure against the $250 and when you put it against the very generous tax cuts, all individuals and families will be much better off. And at the end of the day we're going to have a much better healthcare system.
The goal of our industrial relations policy is the same as our tax policy. And that's a more productive Australia. And we'll get thereby encouraging employers and employees to work together for a common purpose of workplace level.
The Liberal government will amend the tax laws to give a special deal to employees who buy shares in the companies they work for. We believe that if a firm does better, its workers ought to share in that higher profit.
A Liberal government will not tolerate for one moment people being treated unequally before the law. I won't have a bar of this Labor proposition that trade union bosses are better than the rest of us and deserve special treatment under the laws of our nation. At the end of the day, what we need in industrial relations is a climate where Australian employees believe that their interests, and those of their families, are better served by the firms they work for making a profit, then sharing profits, rather than the union to which they might belong being industrially successful.
Thousands of small businesses are being devastated by the record interest rates and high taxes of the Hawke/Keating government. As a result, they haven't been able to create the new jobs that normally come in the small business area.
Under our tax policy, the company tax rate is going to be cut from 49% to 42%. This, coupled with the removal of the fringe benefits tax and capital gains tax, will be a great boost to small business. It will have the incentive to invest more and thus create more jobs.
I think we would all agree that over the past few years our farmers have done it very hard. They seem to get it from all directions–high interest rates, high taxes, low prices, bad seasons, strikes, industrial disputes—you name it and they've had it. They of course will get the benefit of our general tax industrial reforms. But on top of that a Liberal government will rebate in full excise on petrol used on farms and will get rid of all remaining export inspection charges for Australian farmers.
A Liberal government will give top priority to maintaining strong, viable Australian defence forces. We will maintain the joint facilities with the United States, which is so important to the global Western security network. We will look after Australia's interests, particularly in out how the world. And we'll spend far less time than the Hawke government being preoccupied with the affairs of countries a long way from Australia.
No party in this election campaign has a monopoly of concern about world peace. As the father of three young children I would love to see them grow up in a world free of the threat of nuclear war. As Prime Minister I will do everything I possibly can to encourage the big powers to reach a sensible, workable, enforceable agreement on nuclear disarmament. To me, there can be no more important promise.
Most of the basic welfare measures we now all take for granted when it introduced by Labor but in fact by Liberal governments. Take the automatic indexation of the old-age pension. And that's the most important protection of the elderly in our community have against the ravages of inflation. And that same caring attitude of the past is going to continue under my government. None of the expenditure cutting proposals we have in mind will affect the basic support programs for the elderly or the really needy in our community.
Remember Priority One? Great music, great PR for Mr Hawke, but not many jobs for young people. After all the music, the razzmatazz and the PR, tragically more than one in five young Australians cannot get a job under the Hawke/Keating Government.
Instead of wasting your money on exercises like that, a Liberal government will set about getting rid of the barriers that keep young people out of work.
What Australia needs, subject to proper safeguards, is a wage system which does not price young people out of a job. It's no good saying to a young person you could have the job if only your employer can afford to put you on. We will introduce a youth training wage that will give valuable job skills to many young people.
Moreover, the main aim about works of the dole scheme is work experience for those now getting unemployment. The quality of education has a lot to do with the job prospects for young people. Our schools will emphasise basic skills which are so important to getting a job. Will give even more freedom of choice to parents to send their children to the school they want.
In the University and tertiary area, will give new hope and new opportunities to the 30,000 to 40,000 young Australians now locked out of the present system.
Over 4 years ago Mr Hawke asked you to trust him. Many did. And I'll leave it to you to decide whether it was justified or not. But ask yourself the question–are you, is your family or is anyone you know better off now than 4 years ago?
Tonight I'm not asking you to trust me. I'm trusting you. And that's the fundamental difference between how I will govern Australia and how Mr Hawke has governed Australia. I believe that its people, their energies, and the efforts of them and their families, give an incentive, given hope, and given encouragement that will solve Australia's problems.
The program I put down and talked about tonight does offer a different way of doing many things. It's built on giving people incentive, is built on less government and lower taxation. But above all, it is built upon my unshakeable belief that if you give Australians the right encouragement and the right incentive, they can lick anything.
This early election has given all of you an unexpected chance to get in front again. For yourself, your family and your nation.