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Wednesday, 25 March 1992
Page: 1039

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Mr DAWKINS (Treasurer) (10.52 a.m.) —We have just heard from a recent graduate of the Liberal Party's kindergarten in Adelaide. Whenever the Opposition in this place wants to have a bit of distraction, a bit of histrionics, it wheels out this guy to support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith).

  This debate tells us very much more about those opposite than it tells us about the honourable Minister for Finance (Mr Willis). We know that the honourable Minister for Finance is one person in this House who has the greatest integrity, and he is understood by both sides of the House to have great integrity. For these people opposite to wheel out these two to try to disparage the honourable Minister for Finance reveals what a threadbare case they have. If Opposition members had anything to go on, they would have wheeled out people who had a bit more substance and a bit more credibility than the two who have led this debate from the Opposition side. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a man totally without scruples. He will say anything and he will do anything to make his case.

Mr Fife —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask you to apply the same rules to the Government as you would apply to the Opposition, and I demand that the Treasurer withdraw.

Mr DAWKINS —I withdraw. He will—

Mr Tuckey —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. There is a requirement in this place that, when an honourable member takes a point of order, the person on his feet, whether he is Minister or Prime Minister, resumes his seat.

Mr DAWKINSYou know all about it.

Mr Tuckey —Do not tell me what I know, or we will run through you again. Remain seated! Sit down! Mr Deputy Speaker, are you going to make him sit down, or what?

  Mr Dawkins interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ronald Edwards) —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor has the call.

Mr Howard —I think he's going troppo» .

Mr Tuckey —He is going «troppo , all right.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for O'Connor will make his point of order.

Mr Tuckey —I am making my point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This rule is there, and I request that, when one of our members gets to his or her feet, you immediately request the likes of the Treasurer to sit down—which he failed to do.

  Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER—The honourable member for Hume, who also rose to his feet, had not been recognised by the Chair, so he was out of order as well. As a courtesy to the honourable member for Hume, I was about to ask the Minister to withdraw, anyway.

Mr DAWKINS —I repeat that this Deputy Leader of the Opposition will use any unscrupulous case to justify his most outrageous allegations, either against the honourable Minister for Finance or against anybody else. No-one is safe from this man, because he will say anything and do anything to try to defend what he knows to be a very flyblown package in Fightback.

   The strategy has been quite clear from day one. As soon as the Treasury documents came out, Opposition members decided they would have a three-point strategy to deal with them. First of all, they would attempt to disparage the authors. They would say that this was a political exercise. I will indicate the justification for that. Secondly, when that did not work, they would quote selectively. They would use the bits that suited them whilst they would deny the bits that did not suit them. Thirdly, they would embark on an exercise of diversions whenever they were proven to be vulnerable in this area. We only have to go back to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had to say as soon as these Treasury documents came to light. He said:

. . . massive waste of taxpayers' funds in the propaganda exercise that he—

that is, various Treasurers—

is running in the Federal bureaucracy.

He was saying that this was not a credible exercise but that it was a political put-up job, a propaganda exercise. He goes on to talk about the Treasury's GST scare campaign. The Opposition said that the Treasury forecast, particularly given the political nature of this document and the other documents which we have seen, will undermine the credibility of it in the public's eye. Opposition members said, `There is a group of political hacks over there in Treasury doing the bidding of Treasurers—not doing a proper job of work'. That is obviously not true, because today and yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave the evidence, holding up the work of this `propaganda team' over in the Treasury, saying that this is terrific; it justifies everything those opposite have been saying about Fightback.

  Mr Ronaldson interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Ballarat!

Mr DAWKINS —This Opposition is totally unscrupulous. It is totally engaged in a double standards campaign. Opposition members will embrace things when it suits them, they will disparage them when it does not—and they could not care whose characters they assassinate in the process. The second thing is that Opposition members will quote selectively from these documents. They do not like the bit that says that eight out of 10 taxpayers will be worse off as a result of their particular exercise. When the Treasury documents say that people will be worse off, Opposition members claim it is a political exercise. When the documents say that inflation will do certain things, they claim, `This is the ants pants. This is the gospel'.

  Mr Ronaldson interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Ballarat!

Mr DAWKINS —We know what the Opposition is up to, and, increasingly, the people of Australia know what the Opposition is up to. The Opposition is trying to hide the fact that Fightback hurts Australians in every conceivable way. It makes them pay more tax; it makes them pay higher prices; it devastates family incomes; and it leads to higher and higher unemployment. The Minister for Finance has already done a demolition job on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in relation to his claims about these models. But we do not need to rely on models. We have a little laboratory over the Tasman—

  Mr Ronaldson interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Ballarat.

Mr DAWKINS —You are the lobotomy expert, but the laboratory over—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer should withdraw. That is not helpful to the debate.

Mr DAWKINS —I withdraw. Across the Tasman is a real live laboratory of what happens under the Opposition's proposals. The Opposition has often claimed that a great thing has happened in New Zealand as a result of the introduction of this tax. Let me tell the House what happened in New Zealand as a result of its introducing a comparable tax. It was at a lower level initially, but it was still the same kind of tax. In September 1986, inflation was running at 11 per cent. When the New Zealand Government introduced the GST in October 1986, what happened to inflation? It went up to 18 per cent. What happened to it in the following quarter? It went up to 18.3 per cent. It then went up to 19 per cent, and then went down to 17 per cent a year later.

Mr Downer —What is it now?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mayo!

Mr DAWKINS —What is it now? The Opposition really wants to create another New Zealand economy. It really wants to have people out of work, the economy on its knees and the people devastated. That is what it wants to achieve.

   As I said, we do not have to worry about models. We can see in the New Zealand laboratory what happens to inflation when this kind of tax is introduced. What happens, undeniably, incontestably, irrefutably, is that inflation goes up—in New Zealand's case by seven percentage points. The Opposition is trying to tell us that it will not happen here, because it has assumed it away. It has assumed it away because it has said that it will not get into wages.

  Dr Murphy, who of course has done a lot of the Opposition's work in this area, produced a paper on 24 February this year. He actually says that if it is impossible to keep this out of wages, there will be an increase in interest rates. He said there will be a tightening, as the Minister for Finance said. Bear in mind that about one page in Fightback! is about wages policy, so there is nothing on which to base the Opposition's heroic confidence in its claim that it can keep inflation out of wages. Of course, we cannot. Dr Murphy says that if we cannot keep it out of wages, monetary policy will be tightened and 90-day bill rates will go up by 2.3 per cent.

  That is the very point that the Minister for Finance was making in his press conference. As someone who has more experience in the wages policy area than probably anyone in this Parliament, he knows what the consequences for wages policy would be if anyone tried to impose this kind of increase on ordinary working men and women in Australia. He knows—and this is what he was saying—that inflation would go up; he knows that interest rates would have to go up in order to try to snuff the inflationary consequences out of the wage system and out of the price system.

   The Minister for Finance should be congratulated on actually revealing the consequences for Australian people whilst the Opposition is constantly telling a pack of lies about the consequences of its policy.

Mr Downer —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.

Mr DAWKINS —I withdraw.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Treasurer has withdrawn.

Mr Downer —I think there is a bigger point. He has withdrawn that, but there have been a number of occasions on which I think his language has been pretty unfortunate. As general advice to the Treasurer, you should ask him to restrain himself.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr DAWKINS —You can always tell when it hurts, Mr Deputy Speaker.

  Dr Woods interjecting—

Mr DAWKINS —The number of interjections and points of order is in direct proportion to the pain that has been inflicted upon these people opposite. They know that they have been caught out properly on this particular issue. The real point that the Opposition is trying to cover up today is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told the truth a few days ago. It is so startling and unusual for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to actually tell the truth about monetary policy, that the Opposition has been engaged in this diversionary campaign—attack anyone in order to protect the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

  The Deputy Leader of the Opposition conceded to Laura Tingle of the Australian when he thought he was off the record, but subsequently discovered that he was on the record—and theoretically, of course, it is true—that if we want to have inflation targeted between zero and 2 per cent and if we introduce a tax which has an inflationary consequence of 5 per cent, then of course we have to put up interest rates. That is what he said. His great problem was that Laura Tingle actually printed what he said. That, of course, is when he died. He died at that point because someone had actually reported him telling the truth—as unusual an event as that may be. He was actually caught out telling the truth.

  The Deputy Leader of the Opposition then went into this mad campaign of trying to deny it. He put out a press statement saying, `No, it's all wrong. I didn't say that at all'. Of course, Laura Tingle subsequently referred to her notes, which revealed that he had actually said it. Not content with denying something which was basically undeniable—because he actually said it; his only regret was that it was reported—he then decided to attack the Minister for Finance because the Minister for Finance revealed to Australians, who want to know about this program and who want to know about its consequences for them, what the effects would be.

  The Opposition has decided to engage in this diversionary campaign, this character assassination of anyone, in order to take the heat off the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is the bovver boy of the Opposition. He is the one who comes in here and says anything, attacks anyone, and could not care about people's characters. If they cannot reply, it is all the better; if they are in the bureaucracy, even better, because he knows that they cannot reply and he knows that he can threaten them.

Mr Downer —Like Tony Cole.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Mayo.

Mr DAWKINS —The undeniable point of all this is that the consequence of the Opposition's particular policies will hurt Australians in every conceivable way.

  Mr Downer interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —If the honourable member for Mayo continues, I will name him.

Mr DAWKINS —It will put up prices, which will affect household incomes; it will put up taxes for eight out of 10 Australians; it will hurt small businesses; it will hurt farmers; it will hurt practically every kind of Australian family in this country. As a bonus, it will lead to higher unemployment and it will lead to higher interest rates and, therefore, the devastation of Australian industry.

   The Opposition will not actually confront the reality of its own proposals. What we will see from it time and time again is this attempt to divert attention from it and its flyblown policies and to impugn the integrity of someone who everyone in this Parliament knows has the highest integrity. The Government has absolute confidence in the Minister, now and for the future.