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Table Of Contents
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- Start of Business
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Home and Community Care
(Ms MACKLIN, Mrs MOYLAN)
(Mr SINCLAIR, Mr DOWNER)
Workplace Relations Legislation
(Ms ELLIS, Mrs MOYLAN)
Bank Fees and Charges
(Ms GAMBARO, Mr COSTELLO)
Workplace Relations Legislation
(Mr BEAZLEY, Mrs MOYLAN)
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(Mr BOB BALDWIN, Mr TIM FISCHER)
Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme
(Mr CREAN, Mr ANDERSON)
DAS Regional Offices
(Mr ENTSCH, Mr JULL)
Research and Development
(Mr MARTYN EVANS, Mr McGAURAN)
(Mr McARTHUR, Mr WARWICK SMITH)
(Mr FILING, Mr PROSSER)
Apprenticeships and Traineeships
(Mr NEVILLE, Dr KEMP)
Logging and Woodchipping
(Dr LAWRENCE, Mr ANDERSON)
Hospital Services for Veterans
(Dr NELSON, Mr BRUCE SCOTT)
(Mr LATHAM, Mr ANDERSON)
- Home and Community Care
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- SYDNEY 2000 GAMES INDICIA AND IMAGES PROTECTION BILL 1996
- AUSTRALIAN SPORTS DRUG AGENCY AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- EXPORT MARKET DEVELOPMENT GRANTS AMENDMENT (No. 1) BILL 1996
- AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION BILL 1996
- AUSTRALIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION (REPEAL, TRANSITIONAL AND MISCELLANEOUS) BILL 1996
- CUSTOMS AND EXCISE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1996
- HOUSING ASSISTANCE BILL 1996
- BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1996
- WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- Start of Business
- SYDNEY 2000 GAMES (INDICIA AND IMAGES) PROTECTION BILL 1996
- AUSTRALIAN SPORTS DRUG AGENCY AMENDMENT BILL 1996
- CRIMES AMENDMENT (CONTROLLED OPERATIONS) BILL 1996
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Truck Dock Pty Ltd and National Hearing Aid Systems Pty Ltd: Shareholders
(Mr Rocher, Dr Wooldridge)
(Mr McClelland, Dr Wooldridge)
PAYE and Other Taxpayers
(Mr Eoin Cameron, Mr Costello)
(Mr Rocher, Dr Wooldridge)
The Treasury Staff: Electoral Division of Wills
(Mr Kelvin Thomson, Mr Costello)
Medicare Services: Electoral Division of Wills
(Mr Kelvin Thomson, Dr Wooldridge)
Delayed Payments to Claimants
(Mr Rocher, Dr Wooldridge)
- Mr Filing, Mrs Moylan
Medicare Offices: Staff Numbers
(Mr Price, Dr Wooldridge)
(Mr Pyne , Dr Wooldridge)
Workers' Compensation Claims: Delays
(Mr Cobb, Dr Wooldridge)
- Truck Dock Pty Ltd and National Hearing Aid Systems Pty Ltd: Shareholders
Thursday, 20 June 1996
Mr ROBERT BROWN(11.35 a.m.) —The parliament is responding to the speech by His Excellency, the Governor-General, on the occasion of the opening of the 38th Parliament. The debate is known as the address-in-reply. It has given members an opportunity to range over many of the issues of concern to them, because the Governor-General, in delivering that speech, outlined this government's intentions.
Under the circumstances in which that speech was delivered and the address-in-reply debate has taken place, following so closely after the election on 2 March, it understandably has provided new members with an opportunity to make their maiden speeches. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of them.
One of the interesting things about the maiden speeches that have been made by the new members who were elected on 2 March is that listening closely to them helps to reinforce our understanding of the enormous diversity of interests, geography, economic activities and problems across the continent. In the history of the world, Australians have been privileged to be the only nation to have exclusive occupancy of one continent.
One hundred and forty-eight people are brought into this parliament from across this continent to represent the people and the interests and problems that those people have. I have been particularly encouraged to hear in those maiden speeches the range of talents and concerns expressed and, as I say, the diversity of those areas from which those members come.
They have a very special responsibility, as they have indicated. They are very privileged to be in this parliament. They have a very special responsibility to bring into this parliament their concerns without fear or favour. Of course, the vigour with which debates are conducted in this chamber from time to time indicates that not all members of the chamber agree with their colleagues on either side of the House, nor do they endorse a lot of the issues that are brought into the parliament nor the way in which they are expressed.
But people do not become members of parliament unless, on a preferential system of voting, they secure over 50 per cent of the support of the people in their electorate. So they represent them first and have a responsibility to them primarily, and then of course they have a wider responsibility to all Australians. As I have said, I congratulate all new members. A number of members, because of the enormous change which took place on 2 March in the composition of this place, have yet to make their maiden speech. They undoubtedly are looking forward to doing so because that will introduce them more positively and definitely into the procedures of this chamber and of the parliament generally.
I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to be the first opposition speaker to follow the speech made by the new member for Blaxland (Mr Hatton). I want to refer to two comments that the honourable member made in his speech—and it was, I thought, an excellent speech. Perhaps for a maiden speech it was more contentious than usual. But I am not one of those people who subscribe to the opinion that, on the first occasion that members get up to speak in this chamber, they have to be non-contentious. I can think of nothing more stupid.
New members should feel free to be as contentious as they wish. They are here to raise issues and to represent their constituents. The least we can do—that is, members who have been here before—is extend to them the reasonable courtesy of sitting here and listening to them as they raise those issues. I am pleased that the honourable member for Blaxland has indicated that he is such a person: one who is here to raise issues and represent his constituents.
There were two particular things he said on which I wish to comment. Firstly, he said, `I want my time here to be relevant.' That is a great aspiration. I believe that all members, in particular all of the new members, would want their time in this place to be relevant—relevant to their constituents, relevant to the problems they want to express here, relevant to the solutions they want to find; relevant to their understanding of Australia, its place in the world and its destiny.
In that context, it is perhaps most appropriate that I also refer to the fact that, as we all know, Michael Hatton, having been elected to represent Blaxland in this place, follows the former Prime Minister, Paul Keating. Michael said some nice things about the former Prime Minister, every one of which was more than justified and more than well earned.
I have often been distressed when confronted with what I have thought was a grossly unfair perception of the former Prime Minister—not on the part of all Australians, but on the part of some Australians. I remember on one occasion, as I was driving through Sydney, listening to the talkback radio program of John Laws. The lady speaking to John Laws was making some very deprecating remarks about Paul Keating. John Laws then simply asked the lady, `Have you ever met him?' and she said, `No.' He said, `Perhaps if you were to meet Paul Keating, your opinion would be different.' I know exactly what John Laws meant when he said that.
Mr Deputy Speaker, everyone who knows or has had the privilege of meeting and knowing Paul Keating knows what John Laws meant when he said those words. Paul Keating is a man of enormous talent, of great vision, probably one of the most visionary leaders that Australia has ever had in any capacity—a man who is a proud Australian, who had his own perception of the destiny of Australia and its place in the world. He was able to achieve what had obviously been his ambition for a long time—to become Prime Minister.
Although I wish to show no disrespect to the present Prime Minister (Mr Howard), I think it was a serious loss to Australia as a nation and as a community that Paul Keating was not able to continue making the quite remarkable contribution which he did make during that relatively short time in which he was Prime Minister. But Paul Keating undoubtedly will continue to use his talents, as he has already shown he intends, in the interests of Australia.
The other thing the new member for Blaxland said to which I want to make reference is this: he said, `I look forward to being involved in the parliament and being involved in the issues.' One of those issues to which he made special reference was the issue of social equity. We on this side of the chamber do not resile from, nor do we apologise for, our commitment to social equity. I like to believe that members on the government side also have a genuine concern about it.
The member for North Sydney (Mr Hockey) is nodding his head. He endorses the comment that I have just made. The Labor Party, as the political expression of the labour movement, has based its whole raison d'etre on the need for social equity. For 200 years the organised labour movement, not only in Australia but throughout the world, has not been prepared to accept the belief, still held by some people, that market forces, for example, are adequate in themselves to ensure all economic objectives we would set and also social equity. I do not believe that there are many people, incidentally, including those among us who are the most conservative, who would believe that market forces, in themselves, are adequate. But that is the reason for our existence. If we fail to do what we can in the pursuit of social equity, then we fail in our charter.
Could I say just in passing—and I have made reference to this before—that this is one of the most uncertain and insecure jobs to which a person can aspire. We, the former Labor government, lost government on 2 March, having held a majority of 11; the coalition government on 2 March came in with a majority of 40. I suppose, in a sense, that is pretty devastating. However, having referred to the uncertainty of this place, all I want to say is this: the Australian Labor Party requires a swing to it of less than four per cent at the time of the next federal election for us to be back in government—I repeat: less than four per cent.
If the swing across Australia were an average five per cent, the ALP would be back in government with a majority of 16 seats. We know that the electorate is volatile; we know the electorate is often harsh in its judgment—I believe it was on 2 March even though the results that we see in this parliament do not reflect the changes in the voting expressed on 2 March. For example, the opposition got 46 per cent of the votes but we finished up with about 32 per cent of the seats. I don't complain about that. The fact is that when you have a large number of marginal seats that type of change can occur. But 46 people in every 100 voters in Australia still voted for the Labor Party and we lost, in terms of seats, overwhelmingly.
When the Governor-General, speaking on behalf of the government, introduced his speech on 30 April, he said:
On 2 March the Australian people entrusted to a new government the responsibility of managing the nation's affairs.
In doing so they endorsed decisively a comprehensive programme of practical reform. The Liberal and National Parties will keep faith with the people and implement that programme.
Well, I hope so. I hope they do not just introduce the fine print, leaving the detail vague. There was a perception on the part of the electorate when it cast those votes on 2 March that the coalition parties would honourably introduce the types of measure that had been suggested. But we already see, as we come to the end of that period known as the honeymoon period of a new government, the disenchantment. I believe, as I have often expressed, that the alienation of the electorate and the swing against a government starts on day one.
We have families in Australia that are very apprehensive about the changes this government has already introduced. For example, as a result of that fiasco of a Premiers Conference a week or so ago, every family in New South Wales will be saddled with a state burden of an additional $300, and New South Wales itself will be saddled over three years with an additional burden of $900 million. How are people reacting to that? Families are apprehensive and fearful, and I am one of those people who believe they have good cause to be. The government has made much in its rhetoric about what it refers to as the $8 billion black hole. That has been discredited.
Mrs Bishop —Only you've been discredited.
Mr ROBERT BROWN —Well, the minister at the dispatch box says that only we are the ones that believe that that has been discredited. On 8 March, six days after that election, the Australian Treasury, in its report, said, `The economic outlook for 1996-97 remains favourable'. It didn't say that the outlook has become favourable in the last six days; it didn't say `We hope it will become favourable'. It said that it remains favourable. Early in May, again after the election on 2 March, Ian McFarlane, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, said:
At the Reserve Bank we are pretty happy with how things have turned out in Australia.
He didn't say `since 2 March' or `on 2 March'. They are the two major financial, economic institutions in Australia: on the one hand, the Australian Treasury; on the other hand, the Reserve Bank—both of them more objectively and more honestly giving credit indirectly to what is, in a sense, the economic goldmine which this coalition government inherited on 2 March, despite the rhetoric.
I hear some gasps of disbelief, but let me just give some examples. During the period of the Fraser-Howard government, economic growth in Australia averaged 2.1 per cent per year. During our 13 years, it averaged 3.7 per cent—a 2.1 per cent average under a coalition government compared with 3.7 per cent under the Labor government.
In the process of achieving that type of result, that average rate of growth—and I have some other examples if I have sufficient time to deal with them—the Labor government was able to put together what was quite clearly a coordinated, coherent, consistent and effective series of policies. At one time we used to talk about governments adopting fiscal measures or monetary measures but, under that Labor government during those 13 years, the whole question of economic mismanagement and coordination was brought to an art form.
Let me emphasise that. Not only did we use fiscal policy appropriately, not only did we marry that with monetary policy but also we developed wages policy, trade policy, industry policy, competition policy and savings policy. And all of them were integrated and coordinated into a very effective way of dealing with the problems that we had quite clearly inherited from the previous government when we came into office. It wasn't just a matter of economic growth but everything else related to that.
I do not think there is anyone now who could genuinely deny that, when we came into government in 1983, we in effect inherited an industrial graveyard. Australia was uncompetitive. It was inward looking. The inflation rate was 11 per cent, unemployment was 10.5 per cent and interest rates were 20 per cent.
During our period in government, two million new jobs were created, including over 700,000 of them in the last three years and 500,000 of those in small business. Inflation, which was 11 per cent when we came into government, was left at an underlying rate of 3.5 per cent; unemployment, which had been 10.5 per cent, was 8.5 per cent; and interest rates, which had been 20 per cent, were eight to nine per cent. They are the realities.
Australia has become a much more culturally diverse nation, a much more sophisticated nation, a much more efficient nation, a much more productive nation and a much more competitive nation. Instead of 13 per cent of GDP being exported—which was the rate when we came into government—24 per cent is now being exported. Almost one quarter of the total productive capacity in Australia every year now is being exported. That is a result of some of those changes which took place.
I said that the present government has inherited an economic goldmine. The more honest, the more dispassionate and the more objective members on both sides of this chamber and in the wider community would accept that and would endorse it. The government has that basis now to build on. It will be a test of their capacities to see whether they can do what Labor did over 13 years and continue that program. That is the challenge. Like the rest of Australia, I hope they do not botch it. (Time expired)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. N.B. Reid) —Before I call the honourable member for Hughes, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech and I ask the House to extend to her the usual courtesies.