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1996 Federal election campaign launch



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R - I c(q Senator Cheryl Kernot

Leader of the Australian De mo crats

1996 Federal election Campaign Launch Melbourne, 11 February 1996

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There are many rituals in election campaigns.

• Campaign launches are just one of them.

The two major parties use their launches to give us a so rt of blueprint for government, making grandiose . promises, most of which they know they are never going to. deliver.

• If you've come here today, expecting me to make those same sort of grandiose promises, I'm going to disappoint you.

I am going to disappoint you because what the Democrats are about is realistic promises which lead to realistic actions That does not mean we are not stitUdealisticand we do not have a vision we do : But what it means is that we are a practical party with a practic al vision.

The Democrats campaign launch - focuses on our record, our policies and our unique place in Australian politics.

Three years ago, we launched our campaign on a hot, sultry day in Brisbane. One of the main reasons we were there was to support John Woodley who went on to make history by • becoming the second Democrat Senator from Queensland.

Here, today, in rainy Melbourne, we are at the site of one of the many community campaigns • run by our number one Senate candidate for Victoria, Lyn Allison.

I am sure Lyn will go onto be our next Senator from Victoria.

Two months after that launch in Brisbane, I was elected leader of the Aus tr alian Democrats.

• I said then that I wanted to take the Democrats to the cutting edge of po li cy debate in Australia over the next three years.

I said then that, as well as being honest brokers on those occasions when the major parties part company and our balance of power comes into play, we would also act as strong and tough advocates for the issues and people which the major parties collude to ignore or marginalise.

I said then that my aim was to take the Democrats forward as a pa rt y of power, passion and balance - with some steel in our claws.

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In the past thirty four months, we have delivered all that -

and more.

We are - today - a revitalised party. We are = today - a much tougher and sma rter. party. But -most of all - we are a strong and vibrant pa rty which has remained true to its principles, a party which stands for a different approach, a different vision, and a different direction from that taken by the major parties.

Time and time again over the past three years, the Democrats have stood alone on issues of vital importance to the future of Aus tralia.

It has not always been a smooth - or popular - path. But we have been true to our principles, we have been consistent and we have been brave.

And you have to be brave when, for example, every financial columnist and commentator in the country takes your stand on p rivatisation as some sort of personal affront against their economic rationalist views.

In politics, consistency counts. That's what earns you trust. That's what earns you respectti S ' ! 2 5^ t ' {Y r + J fJ. 4Ir 13S'r• (..1..^.

Our consistency means th*t we "are not afro d to meritlp Qantas, the Commonwealth $ an&'

and Telstra inthe'same'b each`

We are the par ty which has shown true leadership. '' r

We are the party which has shown the rayon environment, social and economic' policy

We are the party which has been putting new ideas out. there in' the political marketplace:'

We are the party which has not been a fraid to challenge the 'economic policies and direction of the Labor and Liberal parties - and that is one of the reasons we have, I believe, earned the trust and respect of Australians.

The tide turning.

I have been out in the community = out in the s treets, out in the shopping centres - talking to ordinary Australians and they want to hear something different. They are tired of the two men in suits, the jargon and the promises.

Paul Keating says Join Howard is not entitled to be believed. John Howard says Paul Keating is not entitled to be believed. Well, we say they're both right - neither of them is entitled to be believed.

If you want to retain the Industrial Relations Commission as the industrial relations umpire; if you want to retain Medicare as the foundation of Aus tralia's health system; if you want to retain Telstra in public ownership - the Democrats will guarantee it.

The Democrats are your insurance against the unbelievable Labor and Liberal candidates for Prime Minister.

Not only is no-one out there listening

to either Paul Keating or John Howard, no-one

believes them either. That is why there is a genuine buzz about the Democrats in this campaign. That is why we are the only party whose vote has gone up since the campaign began. That is why the Democrats will do well in this election.

We will do well because we are - oddly enough - the true realists, the true pragmatists. We actually understand the importance - the economic importance - of looking after the environment. We understand the importance of increasing our national spending on education. We understand the importance of creating jobs.

We are not part of that ideological gridlock which has stifled political and economic debate in this country for more than a decade.

Australians appreciate the benefits that come from having the Democrats in the Senate.

They appreciate that, not only.do we act as an insurance against the excesses of government, but that we are' constantly pushing the economic and political debate forward.

Our record speaks , for itself : .

We don't just run around waving meaningless policies and making promises which can never be kept = as .a matter of fact, we have been the only party to be awarded a gold star for fiscal responsibility so far in this campaign.

We don't just talk about what we might or might not do - we back our policies with a record of more than 18 years of responsible, stable, but creative engagement in the parliamentary process.

On environmental issues, for example, our record is second to none.

We have an 18 year history of standing up for the protection and restoration of the Australian environment - not just because we believe in saving a unique, diverse and irreplaceable heritage, but because we also know the economic importance of making such a , commitment.

In the last three years, we have put up practical plans for restructuring the timber industry and saving Australia's native forests.

We have campaigned for the protection of Australia's beaches and coasts from pollution and inappropriate development.

We have campaigned for a halt to indiscriminate Iand clearing.

We have opposed nuclear testing by France and China and moved to introduce legislation to end the export of Australian uranium - legislation which, I might add, the Labor, Liberal and National parties refused to debate in the Senate.

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In this campaign, we not only stand on our record, we have put up a comprehensive Plan for

the Environment and a 10 point plan for immediate action.

From the leading role played by Don Chipp and Norm Sanders in saving the Franklin River in the early 1980s (a campaign which included introducing and having passed through the Senate Australia's first World Heritage protection legislation), through to last year's Woodchip Fighting Fund - set up by Robert Bell and. Sid Spindler to successfully legally

challenge export woodchip licenses -, the Democrats' record on the environment is not only impressive, it is impeccable.

Our record on women is also second to none.

At present, more than one half of our Federal and.State politicians are women. We have endorsed three women for the position of Federal Party Leader and we have elected Australia's two youngest ever female Senators. -

What is more, we have consistently raised - and acted on - issues of concern to Australian women.

From arguing the case for family leave before the full bench of the Iridustrial Relations Commission, to voting against the Labor Government's decision to raise the pension age for women and forcing the Government to monitor and report on the impact of enterprise bargaining on women, our. commitment to Australian women is rock solid.

That commitment will be strengthened even- further next week when I launch the Democrats' Work & Families-package".

On education, we remain the only political party in this country truly committed to a free, quality public education system - a line we have held consistently for nearly two, decades and which is now being recognised as not only a principled stand, but also an economically and

socially responsible one.

Our Reschooling Australia policy, to be released next week, will set out a comprehensive package to reverse the decline in national spending on primary and secondary schooling.

It will , commit the Democrats to backing- an additional $1 billion of expenditure going directly into Australian primary schools.

The Democrats have also been rock solid on privatisation. We have stuck to our principles, applied real economic tests - and have consistently voted against privatisations which do not demonstrate a net public benefit.

That is because - realists again, rather than zealots - we know that that, all too often, the numbers on privatisation do not stack up. We know that, all too often, privatisation does not add to national savings, adds nothing to national efficiency and leads to massive pressure for price increases.

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For those reasons, the Democrats have opposed the privatisation of community services, of

hospitals and of power and water services.

We voted against the sale of Qantas. We voted against the sale of the Commonwealth Bank. And we will vote against the sale of Telstra.

Believe me, Australians are sick and tired of the privatisation agenda.

The only policy Australia needs on privatisation is summed up by the phrase: enough is enough.

Let me assure you: the Democrats have no intention of landing fu rther windfall gains in the pockets of the assorted lawyers, bankers and stockbrokers who gain from privatisation at the expense of consumers, public sector workers and regional Australians.

That's what being a force for fairness is about: balancing competing interests, and balancing them in favour of ordinary Australians - not the so-called high fliers.

John Howard's attempt to link the sale of Telstra with the Coalition's environment policy should be seen for what it is: a piece of political trickery.

It is a fraudulent link. It is not a choice which needs to be made. Today, he's asking us to trade environment policy for the sale of Telstra. Tomorrow, it might be age pensions or health services for Australia Post.

That's why we don't cross trade.

And, what is more, the Coalition's environment package is not a "billion dollar" package. It is, in fact, a commitment of an additional $150 million a year.

Any prospective government which cannot find one tenth of one percent of the total Federal Budget by changing its priorities is not worthy of aspiring to the job.

Last week the Democrats put several alternative funding measures to the Coalition - including a tax avoidance crackdown on wealthy foreign interests - which we said we would happily pass in the Senate. Needless to say, I'm not holding my breath waiting for John Howard or Peter Costello to get back to me on that one.

And - before we get too carried away with the Labor Party's stand on Telstra - let us not forget the Keating Government's disgraceful record of selling off public assets in an effort to make itself appear fiscally responsible.

In fifty years' time, when people look back on this decade, the `fire sale' mentality of Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Kim Beazley will surely appear as one of the greatest acts of economic vandalism in Australian history.

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The Democrats believe that being fiscally responsible means much more than balancing the

books by whatever slippery means come to hand.

We believe it means looking after Australia's economic independence.

Privatisation is just one part of that.

In this campaign, we have put forward a policy package for an economically independent Australia.

Amongst other things, that package called for savings incentives for the first $20,000 of personal savings, a restriction on super funds investing more than 10 per cent of their funds overseas, and a new, independent, powerful, open and accountable Foreign Investment

Commission to genuinely monitor and approve and foreign ownership and investment.

The Democrats call on Paul Keating and John Howard to commit themselves to a twofold test for foreign investment: firstly, that the investment will provide a net economic benefit to Australia and secondly, that a°comparable Australian bid is not available.

Two hundred years ago, the first President of the United States, George Washington, warned. the American people that the surest way to lose their hard-won independence was to become over-reliant upon foreign borrowings. His words ring just as true for Australia today as they did for America then.

If we lose our economic independence, we lose our capacity to make economic, social and environmental decisions in our own best interests.

If we lose our economic independence, we will find ourselves compelled to make decisions which are not in our interests,.but in the interests of other nations, of multinational corporations, of foreign investors and of the financial markets.

It is time to take action to maintain and develop Australia's economic independence.

I want to turn now to what the Democrats -like to call our "core business" - to that famous phrase of Don Chipp's which we are using for the first time as an election slogan (a slogan which, for an 18 year old phrase, is certainly whipping up its fair share of interest).

That slogan reflects the Democrats' unique place in the history of Australian politics. We are about being a force for fairness and we are about the ethics of government.

Our core business is accountability.

Governments will try it on and will get away with whatever they can. Where they are able to abuse notions of democracy and accountability, they will.

That is why it is important to limit the chances of such abuses occurring.

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That is why the Democrats - at the very start of this campaign -put up a powerful 30 point

Charter of Reform to address political and financial abuses of power.

That Charter includes a Code of Conduct for politicians - with proposed enforcement mechanisms - including a parliamentary ethics committee with majority community representation.

It includes strengthening the role and powers of the Auditor-General and the creation of a new Parliamentary Budget Office.

That office would be responsible for independent monitoring of the real situation of the Federal Budget, and for costing economic proposals both during and between election campaigns.

That way we would not all have to endure the puerile political game of wild speculation over the real size of the Budget deficit.

Our 30 point Charter for Reform represents a giant leap forwards for government accountability.

But, of course, the most important institution for government accountability in this country remains the Senate.

A Senate controlled by neither. of the major parties has emerged in the last. 15 years as virtually the only effective and independent curb on the excesses of government.

That is why - more than ever before - this federal election is really about two elections: one for the lower House and one for the Senate.

The House of Representatives election will choose our next government. The Senate election will choose who watches over them.

The Democrats are asking Australians for their vote in both those elections. But we are also saying to them: irrespective of who you vote for in the House of Representatives, if you want to keep that check, that brake on government in place - take out insurance and vote for the• Democrats in the Senate.

We hit the ground running in this campaign. In just two weeks, we have released statements on the environment, on housing, on human rights, on women and on accountability. Unlike Paul Keating or John Howard, our election packages are all fully costed and they consolidate the credibility we have worked towards.

We have earned the right to be re-elected.

We have consolidated both our fiscal credibility and our credibility as party with a strong record and a strong commitment to the principles of economic independence, environmental sustainability and social and economic fairness.

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I can tell you that following the lodging of preferences yesterday, we are well and truly on

track to win six Senate seats in this election. It will be a fight - it always is - but the Democrats are fighters and we are survivors.

We are fielding candidates in every seat in every State and we will go to the polls with a strong team, a strong record and - I believe - a strong base of support.

We will go to the polls as Australia`s original, and still its best, green party.

We will go to the polls as Australia's original, and still its best, women's party.

We will go to the polls as Australia's original, and still its an.vl , education party.

We will go to the polls as Australia's only party with the policies and program to keep the bastards honest.

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