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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 297


Mr ROBERT BROWN(3.08) —I think it is probably as well if I remind the House and those who might be listening to this debate of the actual topic of this debate. Despite the quite incredible outbursts of the previous speaker, the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey), we are resuming the debate on a motion to take note of papers which emanated from the National Economic Summit Conference in April and of the ministerial statement which, of course, was presented by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in this chamber, the same chamber in which the National Economic Summit Conference occurred in April. That statement was made by Mr Hawke on 3 May 1983. I am amazed that the honourable member for O 'Connor has not caught up with the position his Party and his leader are adopting in connection with the significance and the nature of the National Economic Summit Conference.

If he were to base his attitude and position on the position which had been adopted by his leader and other member of conservative forces in Australia, to whom I will make reference shortly, prior to the Conference, today he would have been in complete accord with them. He is not aware of the fact that there has been a dramatic and significant shift in the position they are adopting. We have heard the outbursts that he made. Let us compare that cynical nonsense we have just heard from the honourable member for O'Connor with the statement that opened the contribution by his leader and which was made following the statement of the Prime Minister on 3 May. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) said:

I think that all Australians have recognised that the National Economic Summit Conference was a valuable opportunity for Government Ministers, trade union leaders and the leaders of industry to exchange views, and I am certain that all participants found that that aspect of the Summit was of great value. I also acknowledge the many thoughtful, pertinent and useful contributions made at the Summit by a number of participants; in particular, some of the employers.

Do we need any further evidence of the reason why the constituents of the electorate of O'Connor should be so embarrassed by their representative? Why should constituents from the electorate of O'Connor contact me, the honourable member for Hunter in New South Wales, after the Summit Conference and tell me how appalled and shockingly embarrassed they were that their representative should have taken advantage of the National Economic Summit Conference in an attempt to demand his seat in this place in order to disrupt the proceedings? How embarrassed they were. They and other constituents all over Australia know the way in which the electors of O'Connor will respond at the first opportunity to the position adopted on that occasion by the honourable member for O'Connor. If we are talking in terms of endorsement of any members in this place we should say that there will be a serious and damaging lack of endorsement available for the honourable member for O'Connor.

I have said that he found himself at variance with the position that his leader has subsequently adopted. Of course, that was not the position which the Leader of the Opposition adopted prior to the Conference. All honourable members opposite attempted to discredit it. Of course they did. The cynicism of the honourable member for O'Connor's comments in connection with the communique which resulted from that Conference need to be referred to. I think we need to refresh our memories concerning the people who comprised that communique committee. They were: The Prime Minister; the Premier of Victoria; Mr Cliff Dolan, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions; Charlie Fitzgibbon, Senior Vice-President of the ACTU; Bill Kelty, Secretary of the ACTU; Sir Peter Abeles, Managing Director of TNT Management Pty Ltd; Mr A. W. Coates, General Manager of the Australian Mutual Provident Society; and Mr George Polites, Director-General of the Confederation of Australian Industry Industrial Council. Yet the honourable member for O'Connor alone has the audacity to come into this place and attempt to influence people into his way of thinking, a way of thinking which, as I have indicated, is even at significant variance with the position his leader has adopted.

No one in the Australian community with any credibility and with any intelligence would deny the fact that the National Economic Summit Conference which took place in this chamber from 11 to 14 April this year was an unprecedented initiative in the attempt to find conciliation and consensus. But prior to the Conference all the yahoos from the conservative forces in Australia attempted to discredit the Conference. There are still some who persist. What a situation! When the communique was issued all of those vast sections of the Australian community who were represented at the Conference took part in it, including peak councils of organisations within Australia, significant individual people representing significant organisations and people who, as a result of their own achievements and positions had been invited to participate in that Conference. I was present at the Conference. I did not behave in a disgraceful way like the honourable member for O'Connor and insist that I had the right to take my seat and disrupt the proceedings. I was a conscientous observer of what was taking place at that Conference. I went to observe and to absorb. Fortunately, I had the capacity so to do.

The communique was formulated by representatives of the broad spectrum of Australian society. One person, and one person alone, stood aside from endorsing that communique. Who, in the whole community, would one expect to adopt such a position? The person who refused to endorse that communique was none other than the Premier of Queensland, that man renowned for his intelligence, and for his concern about national directions and national policies. The electors of O' Connor have been embarrassed about their representative, but the Premier of Queensland is the man who is causing continuing shameful embarrassment to electors right across Queensland. Joh Bjelke-Petersen stood alone. He has one supporter.


Mr Goodluck —Two.


Mr ROBERT BROWN —Mr Goodluck as well?


Mr Goodluck —Yes.


Mr ROBERT BROWN —What a trio-Joh Bjelke-Petersen from Queensland, Wilson Tuckey from Western Australia, and Bruce Goodluck from Tasmania. What an incredible trio! Now I understand the reasons which explain the position that is adopted so frequently by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), the honourable member for O'Connor and, above all, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. These statements now indicate the position adopted by some of these amazing and incredible people prior to the Summit.


Mr Saunderson —What about Andrew?


Mr ROBERT BROWN —No, I have indicated that Andrew--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond) — Order!


Mr ROBERT BROWN —I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker-the Leader of the Opposition. I was responding to an interjection, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask the honourable gentleman not to respond to interjections.


Mr ROBERT BROWN —I did not intend to show any discourtesy to the Leader of the Opposition. He has adopted a much more sensible position, as I have indicated. Perhaps I may suggest to the Leader of the Opposition, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that he should draw the honourable member for O'Connor back into line, because he is at significant variance. The Leader of the Opposition should read what the member has said and carpet him, because he is completely at variance with his Leader. He is acting like Mr White in Queensland. We know what happened to Mr White.

Before the Summit Conference, Joh Bjelke-Petersen adopted a ridiculous posture in connection with it, as he did after the Conference particularly when the communique was endorsed by everyone other than himself. Before the Conference, the Courier-Mail of 25 March 1983 said:

As for next month's national summit conference, it would be a 'corroboree' . . .

That was according to Mr Bjelke-Petersen, who said that he would attend it to ' have some fun' attacking the policies already emerging under the Hawke Administration. But the House should listen to this. This caps the lot. The article goes on to say:

But, prior to the conference, he-

that is, Mr Bjelke-Peterson-

would hold his own . . .

With whom? Imagine! Mr Goodluck from Tasmania would be able to tell us. To whom would Mr Bjelke-Petersen go to have his own summit conference before the main one, so that, as he said:

. . . the only two remaining conservative government leaders could decide strategy.

Who was it to be? Bjelke-Petersen and Robin Gray. What an awesome vision: Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Robin Gray closeted together working out their tactics for how they were going to have fun at the Summit Conference, in order to sabotage it, and to betray the aspirations and hopes of all those sections of the community who were represented at it. It is a frightening vision that we should have as Premiers of two significant States such discreditable people. Is it any wonder that the electors of Queensland, in their thousands, their hundreds of thousands, will desert that shameful man, that embarrassing man, that man lacking in sense and credibility, when they next go to vote?

Before the Summit, the Leader of the Opposition adopted a completely different stance from that which he has adopted more recently, when he knew that he would find himself offside with the wide range of thinking within the community which had endorsed the Conference. What did he say before the Conference? According to the Australian Financial Review of 29 March 1983, he described the Summit-in a way that the Leader of the Opposition alone could describe it-as 'a carnival of economic sophistry'. He went further in the Canberra Times of 12 April 1983, when he said that the National Economic Summit Conference was an ' unrepresentative talkfest'.

What did some of the more responsible areas of thinking say when they responded ? At the start of the Conference, the Australian Financial Review of 11 April 1983 opened its editorial with these comments:

This morning Australia will witness the commencement of one of the most unusual and hopeful experiments we have ever witnessed in this country.

Now, after the Conference, of course, it is time to assess, in fairly objective terms, the significance of it. On 18 April the Australian Financial Review said in its editorial:

The national economic summit conference has certainly served to add a great deal to the general understanding of the severity of the economic problems facing Australia, and it has drawn the representatives of employers, unions and government together in an unprecedented fashion.

We all know that it was today's Prime Minister who initiated the Summit Conference. Bob Hawke, alone among so many people in the community, was the man who had the vision, the belief, the understanding and the conviction that by bringing people together it would be possible for them to share their understanding of the problems and to identify the problems and the alternative approaches which could be take in order to resolve those problems, so that as a result consensus, conciliation, understanding and agreement could emerge. The success of the National Economic Summit Conference, which is recognised by the community generally, attests to the correct judgement of the Prime Minister on that question.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.