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Monday, 19 April 1999
Page: 3722


Senator KNOWLES (3:13 PM) —Isn't it interesting that we have the Labor Party coming in here and talking about deceit and dishonesty? If anyone knew the meaning of those two words, Senator Faulkner, it would have to be the Labor Party, because that is exactly what successive Labor governments did to the people of Australia over 13 long years. And, let us face it, there has been no diminution whatsoever of that deceit and that dishonesty in the three and a bit years that the Labor Party have been in opposition.

If anyone has ever seen anything to equal the dishonesty and the deceit of Labor, then have a look at the process that has gone on since the last election. As the editorial in one of yesterday's papers said, `The people of Australia voted on this. Let's get on with it. Stop the Labor Party. Stop them stopping the government being able to legislate for what they promised the people of this country.' We hear them carry on ad nauseam about the responsibility of government, but they will not allow this government to govern. The question that needs to be asked is: if the tax legislation goes through, will the Labor opposition—if ever re-elected to government—repeal the legislation? The answer is no. They know at the bottom of their hearts that the tax system needs to be reformed, yet they will not implement the will of the Australian people to let that happen—and happen expeditiously. No; we had to have committees go into the same thing over and over again.

We have seen in the questions from the opposition today a repeat of all of those things that have been run for the last six months, since the government was re-elected. We have the allegations made by the opposition in question time today that certain people are going to be worse off. There is no credibility in their position whatsoever. They increased taxes when in opposition way and above whatever increases this new tax system is likely to result in. Not even the wildest estimate has put price increases for the new tax system above the government's estimate. Yet the opposition's mates said to the Senate committees that the price impact of their tax increases was up to 24 per cent. What did the Labor government do about it? They didn't give a single cent in compensation over 13 years. And here they are complaining about compensation that goes ahead and stays ahead of the cost of living increases.

We had opposition senators on the inquiries saying that what the Labor government did in terms of CPI increases for pensioners was adequate. Isn't it amazing how the story changes once they are in opposition? They thought CPI increases were adequate when they were in government and yet now a four per cent increase in pensions up-front and a 1½ per cent continued buffer above the CPI are inadequate. Why was it okay to just have CPI increases on their own when there was a 24 per cent price rise and yet now a four per cent increase in pensions plus a 1½ per cent buffer above the CPI are inadequate? It is duplicitous in the extreme.

The dishonesty of the Labor opposition has no end. They come in here again today—needless to say, we will hear it throughout the week—and say that there are inconsistencies in the package, yet they have not once said that they will repeal it if elected to government. Why not? Why don't you come clean? Will you repeal it or won't you? The answer, I am sure, will be that they will not. The questions that have been asked today have been so lame, so predictable and so able to be knocked down by Senator Alston, as they were. Why do the opposition now want to take another half-hour of the Senate's time to prolong this dreadful debate?