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- Start of Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- FOUR CORNERS PROGRAM
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- PRIME MINISTER
- REPORTS OF THE AUDITOR-GENERAL
- PRESENTATION OF PAPERS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENT
- MATTER OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- BILL RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP
- PERSONAL EXPLANATION
- COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP
- AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF HEALTH AMENDMENT BILL 1991
- CHILD SUPPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1992
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Tuesday, 3 March 1992
Go To First Hit
Mr KEATING (Prime Minister) (3.21 p.m.) —Gone now are the images of the cool, urbane person of yesterday. Gone now is the little golf putt on a Sunday or doing something else; the charming little doorstop, the understated language. The slightest bit of pressure and, bingo, out jumps a jittery, jumpy, cat-calling person attacking the institutions of the ABC and the Treasury, suggesting that I was orchestrating a dishonest campaign. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson) knows the document was commissioned when I was neither the Treasurer nor the Prime Minister. It was an emotional speech—so emotional that he could hardly get the words out, with such a nasty turn, as I predicted on the ABC—
Mr Peacock —You ought to know all about that. Oh, come on! Fancy getting a statement like that from a fellow like you.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Kooyong!
Mr Downer —Poor little sweetie.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Mayo.
Mr KEATING —He said it was a dishonest campaign of trumped up figures orchestrated by the ABC and the Treasury, notwithstanding the fact that one of his own senators, when he was a shadow Treasurer—he was a fellow shadow Finance Minister, a former Secretary to the Treasury—said, as I quoted in Question Time, that it is an entirely usual thing for the Treasury to cost major programs of the Opposition. It has been done by conservative governments over the period. The work is, of course, comprehensive, given its size and the seriousness with which the Treasury has taken the work. It has taken the proposals put to the people by the Opposition.
The fact of the matter is that what we have today is simply a censure motion, of all things. Talk about not understanding the forms of the House; not understanding when a censure motion is available to an Opposition to use; not understanding the weight and moment that a censure motion can be used for. It has been suggested that the Government and I have orchestrated a dishonest campaign using trumped up numbers with the Treasury and the ABC—and, not only that, the Teachers Federation got lumped into the conspiracy.
It is real Liberal Party branch stuff. It is the sort of stuff you would expect at the Vaucluse branch of the Liberal Party on a dull night to warm them up, with a bit of sabre rattling about the socialists in Canberra, and a bit of sabre rattling about the socialists and coms in the ABC and all those terrible socialists over in the Treasury, which is the biggest joke of all, pulled together by the Teachers Federation.
I ask any observer of this scene who is sitting in the gallery to judge the Leader of the Opposition on the content of his speech. No longer the easy rider; no longer the laid-back, urbane, cool person giving a little comment without any pressure. When he is under the slightest pressure, when the Department of the Treasury said, `Look, 70 per cent of Australian households are worse off here and four out of five Australian taxpayers will pay more tax', what do we see? We see a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. All the urbanity has gone. The charm is out. We basically have blackguarding, attacking, hissing and the rest.
There are some little pearls in this. Neil Warren asked the ABC for a tape of his interview. As if any television studio at any stage would give an interviewee an uncut tape of the interview on a program of this variety. We have all done those interviews. No-one has asked for tapes, and no-one would have received one. If Mr Warren was so worried about what he said, why not put a little tape recorder beside him just to have a record of what he said? Oh no, it was all a conspiracy by the ABC.
Then it went on. After we left the frothing, the foaming, the voice breaking and the spitting, we got down to—
Mr Tim Fischer —Lift your game, boy; lift your game.
Mr KEATING —It was coming over here like a shower.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ronald Edwards)—Order! The Prime Minister would assist the debate by withdrawing that remark.
Mr KEATING —It was just simply a physical observation. I withdraw it. Of course, those opposite are sensitive. Then we had claims about One Nation, that we had not modelled the distributional impact of that package. It never occurred to the Leader of the Opposition that we are not proposing a consumption tax; that we are not taking money off people; that the proposal is a net addition to spending of $2.3 billion; that it has its own effects, but they are all good ones; and that we do not have to do a distributional analysis.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to One Nation as a most irresponsible package. This Government was the first to produce a fiscal surplus in the nation's history and a succession of them. As the Minister for Finance (Mr Willis) said the other day, we had $18 billion of surpluses. But when you left the job and went to the private sector, when you left your advisory job to the former Treasurer and waddled off to the private sector, you left us with a $10 billion deficit, nearly 5 per cent of GDP deficit, and we produced a series of large surpluses totalling an aggregate of $18 billion and we will now spend $2.3 billion. And that is `grossly irresponsible'! Is that not simply the rantings of an ideologue? Is that not the rantings of somebody who does not understand fiscal policy, does not understand—
Dr Hewson —What about Max Walsh?
Mr KEATING —Nobody has agreed with Max Walsh. Nobody of his persuasion on economic policy has agreed with him. Who could agree that, from an $18 billion surplus, spending $2.3 billion on a Budget which is basically in structural surplus, in cyclical deficit but structural surplus, is grossly irresponsible? At half a per cent of GDP, it is an absurdity.
The Leader of the Opposition went beyond that when he said that we took on none of the hard issues, such as work practices and structural reform. He mentioned the waterfront. Does he read anything? Does he understand that by December this year waterfront employment will have fallen by 50 per cent in the past 18 months? It has already fallen by 40 per cent. We have between a 40 per cent and a 50 per cent improvement in productivity for the same job. Does he understand that the crew manning levels on the Australian coast are below OECD levels? Yet he goes on and repeats this stuff about waterfront reform. Did he ever speak about it when he was advising the former Treasurer? Did we ever hear from the then Government about the waterfront practices which had been in place for over 30 years? Did those opposite ever do anything about coastal shipping or cabotage? Never! Never!
As to work practices, the Leader of the Opposition said that we took none of the hard decisions. Has he ever heard of enterprise bargaining? Has he seen the comments by the executives of the major companies in this country about the value of the changes now taking place in the Australian work force, of which he knows nothing? He proposes himself as a leader of this country, yet he knows nothing of the structural changes taking place in the workplaces around the country which are producing increments to productivity across one sector after another. In the major papers not so long ago the individual large agreements and the results of enterprise bargaining were all listed in detail. Yet the Leader of the Opposition says that there is nothing in our package about work practices.
The fact of the matter is that his speech was the speech of someone under pressure, someone who has been found out about his proposal. Unlike the Government, he never sat back and said, as we did recently, `What should we do now that is best for Australia? Let's ask business; let's ask the unions; let's ask the States. Let's sit back and find out whether our view about what we think best accords with others'.
Mr Sharp interjecting—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Gilmore!
Mr KEATING —`Let's put together a proposal which keeps the nation together, keeps it cohesive and gets the best economic outcomes'. No, when he got his chance—his shot at history—he sat back—
Mr Cadman —You are babbling away like an old brook.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Mitchell.
Mr KEATING —He sat back and did not say, `What can I do that's best for Australia?', but rather he said, `What can I do that makes me different from Labor? Oh, I will have a consumption tax because they're not having one. I will build around the consumption tax. I will camouflage it and hide it under a package which is essentially an excuse for a new tax. I will camouflage it and hide it and I will then try to propose myself as the saviour'. As if taxing people's Weetbix, clothing or services will ever change the railroads, the ports, the waterfront reform, the coastal reform or the enterprise bargaining. As if that miserable exercise in accountancy could have ever changed it.
Yet you got away with it. The moment somebody such as our national broadcaster or the Department of Treasury dares to say, `Hang on, this is not an unqualified bonus for people', it is a shocking left wing conspiracy. It is the Teachers Federation in there; it is the Government orchestrating a campaign. It is all of those things: it is reds under the beds, it is coms and it is everything else. It is all of the other phobias in the Liberal rhetoric coming out to say,`Isn't this shocking? We are not really getting a ride'.
On the other side of the House the members still believe that there are rules for them and rules for everybody else. But the Government—the Labor Party; the party of social and economic attack—must be exemplary. It must explain everything—
Mr Cadman —They get travel allowance.
Mr SPEAKER —Order! If the honourable member for Mitchell interjects again, I will name him.
Mr KEATING —The Government must have reconciliation tables and have everything forecast by the Treasury and the Department of Finance. But they—the easy riders—can just go and drop their piece of flummery on the table, and basically the rest of us are supposed to say, `Oh well, isn't that wonderful? We'll just take all of those assumptions and all of those claims'. When we finally press you, you say, `Oh no, Fightback wasn't modelled. We didn't model it; it wasn't good enough to model. We never modelled it. All of those assumptions have nothing to do with the GST'.
Then at Question Time, you had the temerity to ask the Treasurer (Mr Dawkins) in one of your last questions, `Why did the Department of the Treasury model in 4.2 per cent inflation for 1992-93, 6.5 per cent for 1993-94, 7.7 for 1994-95 and 5.9 per cent?'. The answer was, `Because it was in Dr Murphy's model, which is attached to the back of your document. That is why'. Of course Treasury used it; you proffered it to it. You said, `Here you are, there's our model'. Dr Murphy has even said:
The actual shift in the tax mix from an increase in indirect taxes financed by a cut in income taxes, that actual part of the Opposition package, would not have much effect on unemployment one way or the other. The results I am presenting show a very marginal increase—
in unemployment, that is—
over the first five years, with a peak effect of only 0.2 percentage point and a marginal decrease over the next five years.
In other words, if we wait 10 years there might be a marginal decrease in unemployment, while it rises in the first five years. That is his statement; it is not a claim. In other words, Murphy has damned your proposals.
You then stand up and want to attack the Treasury over it. You are the most outrageous blackguard of people's reputations and institutional reputations. At least the former National Party senator stood up and said what the practice, the convention, and the protocols are in this respect—that is, the Treasury models these things and has done so for years. He said that it has done it professionally. You can see that it has been done professionally by the size of the document which will now be under study by commentators in this country. It has been taken seriously.
Mr Howard interjecting—
Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Bennelong will resume his seat.
Mr KEATING —The fact is the Opposition put down a proposal, and believing the rules were as they were in the days of Menzies—that only the Labor Party was ever questioned; only the Labor Party had to explain where the money was coming from—the `born to rule' squad, when we put our statement down, believed it did not have to explain its package; it did not have to be forensic and it could get away with these bald claims. The fact is that it has not, and as soon as it did not, the Leader of the Opposition did exactly what I said he would do: he turned very nasty the moment there was any pressure on him.
We have had a week of Question Time and it has been a couple of days since I first made that claim—and we have had a nasty performance out of the Leader of the Opposition every day. Yesterday or the day before it was Mr Hartcher from the Sydney Morning Herald who had been manipulated by my staff to produce his analysis of the Murphy model; now it is the ABC. Before it was the Sydney Morning Herald; now it is the ABC and the Treasury with the Teachers Federation wrapped in—burble, burble, burble.
The Leader of the Opposition is going troppo» . He is more to be pitied than despised; he is simply going «troppo . We will just leave him with his little motion and with his loyal and trusted Deputy sitting beside him.