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Monday, 10 October 1994
Page: 1333

Senator PARER (4.53 p.m.) —I rise to support the matter of urgency raised by my colleague Senator Short regarding the failure of the government to take the necessary policy action to ensure that Australia has sustainable economic and employment growth. I was somewhat bemused to hear Senator Kernot criticise the government for selling off all the family jewels by way of privatisation and so on. She also criticised the opposition for calling on the government to reduce its budget deficit. It is fascinating to read the remarks of the Governor of the Reserve Bank just prior to the ALP National Conference. He said:

It is my hope that the government will try harder to better its current account deficit reduction plans.

I did not hear Senator Kernot comment about that advice by the Governor of the Reserve Bank which is basically what the opposition has been saying. What she did say—and I think this is fascinating as it is obviously Democrat policy—is that what needs to be done is that the government needs to repair its revenue base. They are nice words, are they not? What do they mean to the general public?

Senator Collins —More tax.

Senator PARER —Exactly. What that means is increased taxes. Why did Senator Kernot not say, `We believe in increasing taxes'? She tried to smother it in these fancy words, `repair the revenue base'. So let us have a bit of honesty from those who claim they are here to make us honest.

Senator Collins —It has got a nice ring to it.

Senator PARER —It does. It sounds like a pop tune or something, but it means increased taxes. The current situation in Australia is very serious. I know the Labor Party has a habit of saying, `You've never had it so good.' I remember Gough Whitlam saying that years ago when the farmers were in diabolical trouble. I suppose we can expect the government to say that. In fact, Senator Sherry said that `current economic trends'—he then regurgitated a whole lot of stuff which his minders had given to him—were `very, very good'. He said it a couple of times. `All good news' were some of the other words he used. It is all right to quote economic statistics that suit you; selective quoting is an old trick in debating. But what it means is that the people on that side—the Senator Sherrys of this world, the ministers—are not in touch with the general public. They are not talking to the ordinary people. They are not talking to those people who are looking at making private investments. That is something that should be remembered.

  As Senator Short said, last month the current account deficit was $2.1 billion and the foreign debt is currently running at about $170 billion. One aspect of the matter of urgency that I would like to refer to regarding sustainable economic growth is the decision on uranium mining made at the ALP conference. I am fascinated to see that Senator Collins is in the chamber because he rated fairly big in all the debates that went on there. I think the most telling remark made about uranium by the ALP was made by Senator Ray, a man renowned for some common sense on a lot of issues. He said:

The current policy—

that is, the Labor Party's policy on uranium—

is just a joke. It always has been. It's a code for a whole range of different things that are meaningless. You either export uranium or you don't. There's nothing pure about three mines.

He is absolutely correct: you either mine it or you do not. There is nothing sacred about the three-mine policy—which, curiously, is a two-mine policy because one has fallen off. So members of the Labor Party had a debate about whether they should abandon the three-mine policy. Have honourable senators ever heard anything more ludicrous or ridiculous? What about the messages it must send to prospective overseas buyers of this great source of energy? I know the Democrats, the Greens and others will argue with blinkered—

Senator Burns —Great for atomic bombs.

Senator PARER —We hear from the left wing of the Labor Party, `Great for atomic bombs.' We hear nothing about producing electricity. Let me just quote—

Senator Spindler —What about Chernobyl?

Senator PARER —The far left of the Labor Party and the Democrats say, `What about Chernobyl.' Let me just quote the actual figures—

Senator Collins —Those two should shut up and let you finish.

Senator PARER —I love the interjections, Senator Collins; do not stop them.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator West)—Order! Senator Parer, you might like to direct your comments to the chair.

Senator PARER —Currently, Australia has 30 per cent of the recoverable reserves of uranium in the world and we export 10 per cent. Canada has 10 per cent of reserves and exports 40 per cent. They are playing us off a break. There was a rumour around some years ago that they may well be funding the anti-uranium lobby in this country to their advantage. That was the rumour.

Senator Collins —Not even you could believe that.

Senator PARER —I suppose the machinations in the Labor Party would be such that Senator Collins would believe it. It is pretty tame stuff compared with what goes on in the Labor Party. Uranium is now a major source of electricity generation around the world. There are pretty good reasons for that. The equivalent amount of energy that we would find in 30 million tonnes of coal can be found in about 3,000 tonnes of uranium. We can put 3,000 tonnes of uranium in a little stockpile and compare it with the 30 million tonnes of coal that have to be shipped around the world.

  Of course the Australian Democrats, the Greens and others do not want coal mining for various technical reasons. They will not have uranium mining and they will not have hydropower. So what they are trying to do is reduce us to third-world status while the other third-world countries are trying to increase their electricity generation because everyone knows that electricity generation drives the economic model in a developing country—and it also has pretty big social implications.

Senator Spindler —Ever heard of ethanol?

Senator PARER —It is all right for Senator Spindler to offer throw-away lines—whatever they were. I did not understand what he said.

Senator Spindler —I am sure you did not.

Senator PARER —He would prefer people to sit with hurricane lamps and dung burners. Everyone knows that is what the Democrats have in mind—going back to the Fred Flintstone days. Nothing highlights this dilemma of the Labor Party more than the comments by Senator Ray on the whole issue of uranium mining.