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Thursday, 17 August 2000
Page: 16617


Senator MASON (3:19 PM) —I too would like to speak to Senator Conroy's motion. I think this might be the last gasp for the ALP on the GST. I think we have just heard Senator Conroy at his most jovial and entertaining, but perhaps this is the whimpering, the flickering out of the last light in the GST debate. Senator Conroy talked about social obligation. I wish he would talk more about mutual obligation. Senator Conroy and the Labor Party do not really understand modern debate: tax reform, IR reform or welfare reform. I wish Senator Carr were here; he is my great friend in these debates. The ALP still suffer from a major problem, and it is this: they believe the state can love you. They seem to believe a community should pay its taxes and that people should not pay anything in return, that somehow people should be given things and never give anything back. The coalition do not believe in that in any context. The coalition believe in a fair go—that, if you have the capacity, you should have a go. We believe that, if the community gives you something, you should give something back. The Labor Party oppose that.

Right throughout the world, all social democratic parties—whether they are in the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Canada—believe in reciprocal obligation, except the Australian Labor Party. Why is that? Why is it that again the ALP are so far behind the ball? Why is it that they were once the party of great reform in this country but have now fallen behind in all these areas again? Why is it that they have no new ideas or any policy? Why is it that they still believe that, in industrial relations, the interests of trade unions are the interests of the nation, that those two are concurrent when, quite frankly, they are not? Why is it that they still believe there should not be welfare reform when everyone in this nation knows there has to be welfare reform? There is a great article by Noel Pearson—an extract from his speech for the Ben Chifley Memorial Lecture—in today's Australian Financial Review. He spoke about welfare reform with respect to indigenous people. He said that the thing that cripples and disempowers the Aboriginal community is the welfare drip and that there must be some mutual obligation. He says that the ALP deny that and that they are flying and swinging against the tide.

Finally Senator Conroy bought up tax reform, and I will conclude on it. The thing that really rankles with the opposition—the coalition—about tax reform is this—


Senator George Campbell —You have got it right: you will be the opposition!


Senator MASON —Hold on, George. It is not that the opposition opposed us on tax reform; it is that they did it knowing that it was the best thing for the country. That is the thing that they can never get over. They did it when particularly the right of the ALP have known since the middle 1980s that this was the only way forward. They did not do it, because they thought they would win an election on it. That is why they stand condemned—not because they opposed us, but because they opposed us against the national interest. That is what really makes the debate so disgraceful. Right from the mid-1980s, many people in the ALP were for it and now they all oppose it for their own electoral gain. Right throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, this side of the parliament often supported reforms put forward by the Australian Labor Party because we felt that it was in the national interest.


Senator Carr —Like what?


Senator MASON —Like the dropping of tariffs. That is true, Senator Carr, as you know—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Address the chair, please, Senator Mason.


Senator MASON —following the Campbell report in the early 1980s. Not only the reduction in tariffs but also the deregulation of the financial industry were good for the country, and we supported them— as you should have supported the new taxation system. You did not, only because of electoral—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Address the chair.


Senator Carr —Unfair!


Senator MASON —Madam Deputy President, Senator Carr says—and I am glad he is back because I always like it when Senator Carr returns—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Carr, would you cease your interjections. You have barely been in the chamber five seconds and you have not stopped your noise. Would you please cease. Senator Mason, you have the call again.


Senator MASON —I always enjoy Senator Carr's interjections and his attendance in the chamber, because we do not agree on much but I have respect for him on one particular thing: he may be wrong on nearly every issue but at least he has a view. The others sitting opposite me knew very well that the policy they were embarking on was against the public interest and they did it for electoral gain, and for that they stand condemned. (Time expired)