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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 343

Mr WRIGHT(1.10) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to enter this debate to canvass the issue that is centring on the aspirations of the Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, to enter Canberra and become the Prime Minister. As all listeners will know, during the last few weeks public attention and media interest have been totally centred on the thrust by the Premier of Queensland into the Federal arena.

I think at first it was taken as a bit of a joke. I think that, however, was the attitude of many people in the south; it certainly was not the attitude of a number of Queenslanders. At first the concept of the Premier of Queensland becoming Prime Minister was ridiculed and laughed at. But I think anyone who is concerned about the future of Australia needs to think again and take this matter very seriously. I know that members of the Opposition, particularly in the Liberal Party of Australia and those thinking members of the National Party of Australia, are thinking it through. Certainly the Leader of the National Party, Mr Sinclair, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), are no longer laughing.

It is vitally important, I believe, that the people of Australia know the facts; that is, the facts about Queensland, the economic status of Queensland and the sorts of claims that are made by the secret multi-millionaires about Bjelke-Petersen. It is vitally important that the Bjelke-Petersen myth, as it is often put in the media, is dispelled. I was in State politics, as many know, for many years-some 15 1/2 years-before coming here and I saw what was taking place. The people in that State have been duped about the Bjelke-Petersen regime and now that duping is spreading nation-wide. People are being duped about the image of a low tax State, over claims about small government in Queensland, and over the reputation of Queensland as a State for private enterprise. They have also been fooled as to the strength of the Queensland economy.

I realise that in the last week more and more thinking people have started to understand that this is a very serious situation. I note in today's Sydney Morning Herald that the editorial describes the policies being put forward by the Premier of Queensland as voodoo economics. The Premier is described as an unguided missile. An analogy is made between the Premier and Milan Brych. Honourable members will remember that Milan Brych was, as the Sydney Morning Herald puts it, a cancer quack. Many people went to Milan Brych grasping at straws, that last desperation. So the analogy is made here of some Australian people being like cancer patients grasping at Bjelke-Petersen. I note also in the Weekend Australian that John Hyde, a well-known Liberal, describes Joh Bjelke-Petersen as `snake-oil Joh'. So it is clear that more and more people are starting to understand that it is not a joke; it is very serious.

But there are many ordinary Australians out there who do not appreciate what has gone on in Queensland. I would like to deal with some of these claims and some of the points put forward about Queensland's reputation. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen is always seen as the champion of private enterprise and yet the facts are that Queensland is the land of quangos, those quasi-autonomous non-government organisations, those semi-government bodies, those all sorts of little groups that have been set up by the State Government, not in private enterprise but within government. There are almost 1,000 of them. It is also the land of government-run bodies like Suncorp, and this was mentioned by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall), a Liberal member from South Australia. It is the State of government-run marketing authorities. One cannot grow, nor can one sell, anything in Queensland without going through a government-run marketing authority. There is a fish board, a peanut board, a wheat board, a sugar board, a sorghum board, a tobacco board, a fruit and vegetable marketing authority, an electricity board and a bread committee; and so it goes on and on. We talk about private enterprise yet, as the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) pointed out in the House the other day, whilst the bankruptcy rate across this nation has increased by about 6 per cent, in Queensland the increase has been more than 40 per cent. In the State of Queensland almost 70 per cent, seven out of 10, of all small businesses fail within three years of their commencement. The corporate charges that are made on private enterprise are just unbelievable. The stamp duty, the State tax, on a piece of land that one buys for commercial purposes for $60,000 is $1,250. Yet people talk about low tax in Queensland. It is also not readily known that Queensland has been a claimant State for many years. For those who do not appreciate what it means, it means that because Queensland's services to the people have been below the average across Australia, because the standard of living of Queenslanders has been below the average across Australia, Queensland has been given special money by Federal governments, not just the Hawke Government, but the Fraser Government.

We go on to the next point-that Bjelke-Petersen is put forward as a champion of low taxes. Again, this is not true. Queensland has the highest motor vehicle registration charges in Australia. We have the highest electricity charges in Australia, and Queensland's public sector debt and quango debt is the highest in the State's history. The electricity authority there has been borrowing overseas and now owes some $3 billion. That is about two-thirds of the total State revenue or expenditure in any one year. We also have the highest unemployment. We have a brain drain to the southern States of academics and others in business leaving the State and going south. There is no public accounts committee; there is no record of checking of the money spent in that State; and there is no public auditing of how that money is spent.

The Premier and others who support him talk about a small government in that State. Yet the facts are-and these facts have been brought forward time and time again-that Queensland's growth in the Public Service has been 11.1 per cent in the last three years to September 1986. This is the highest growth in any Public Service across the nation, be it another State or the Federal Government. In that State we now have taxes on tourists. Recently in my own region, there was a tax put on babies who are carried on board boats at Roslyn Harbour going on some sort of tourist trip. We have taxes on some beaches; we have taxes on boats; we have taxes on almost everything that one can think of. There needs to be an understanding that Queensland is the land of big government, and it is a very expensive one.

In the few moments that I have left, I want to canvass the proposals being put forward by the Premier on tax. If the Joh Bjelke scheme, as it is being called, of 25 per cent tax were introduced, without a threshold, in other words, without that amount of money that one does not pay tax on-at the moment no one pays tax on the first $5,100 one earns; it does not matter who you are or what you are, no pensioner pays tax on that; no worker pays tax on that-we would find, as the Leader of the Opposition said, not the Australian Labor Party but the Leader of the Opposition, that 80 per cent, eight out of every 10 Australians, would be worse off. A pensioner who now has a special non-tax position and is given a special rebate so that he can earn another $1,000 a year and still pay no extra tax would pay $30 a week under the scheme put forward by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

In an article in last Sunday's Times on Sunday, Kate Legge summed up the situation of the Bjelke-Petersen flat tax plan with a headline. She said: `Flat tax: rob the poor to give to the rich'. I put it to all Australians who listen to Parliament: You do not have to be an economist to realise that the multi-millionaires would not be backing this flat tax proposal unless it would benefit them. I put it to you that Michael Gore and those so-called 60 secret people behind him and behind the Premier of Queensland would not be putting up to $100m, he said, behind the Premier of Queensland to come to Canberra unless there were billions of dollars in it for them. The message must be put across. People have to understand that what the Premier is doing is dangerous.

Just the other day I came across an article by Quentin Dempster, a well-known journalist in Queensland, who I might add has been highly critical of the Australian Labor Party, and he makes some very serious attacks on the Premier. He makes this point:

Not content with the systematic subversion of the democratic institutions of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen wants to infect-

notice the word `infect'-

the rest of Australia.

He goes on:

But Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's solution, his so-called economic contract with the Australian people, has gaps so wide you could drive a bulldozer through them.

There is no performance clause. He will not say how long it will take before his policy mix will achieve near-full employment and improved living standards.

This deficiency has led to criticism that the Premier is pushing a barrow for the white shoe brigade, the new money men and property developers who would gain the most at the expense of the rest.

And, It must be remembered, the small print in the Joh contract reads: subversion of democratic institutions-the Parliament, the judiciary, the media-with resultant cronyism and patronage.

Who will sign such a contract?

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