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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 346

Mr BEDDALL(1.30) —I am pleased to follow the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) in this debate which appears to be about the Queensland Premier and his sortie south. I would also like to compliment my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Wright) on his fine delivery. I would point out to the honourable member for Kennedy that when the honourable member for Capricornia was Leader of the Opposition he achieved a swing of 4 per cent towards our Party, and picked up eight seats, including one in the electorate of the honourable member for Kennedy which the Queensland Government had to change the boundaries to win back.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to bring some sanity into a debate on Queensland and the economic abilities of the Queensland Premier, particularly as they apply to the national scene. Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, more than any other person in Australian political history, has proved that Australian politics is about perceptions and not realities. This man professes to care for the welfare of the ordinary Queenslander, and we are to assume that soon he will care for the welfare of the ordinary Australian, yet every action that his Government takes strikes at the very fundamentals of family life in Queensland. In all areas that affect the daily lives of people, the Bjelke-Petersen Government says one thing and delivers another. From education to rural assistance, from conditions of employment to incentives for business, the Bjelke-Petersen publicity machine sees Queensland through the largest pair of rose-coloured glasses that Australian politics has ever manufactured.

The Queensland Premier is a professed Christian without compassion, a confessed family man who cares little for the children in poverty in his State, a confessed champion of free enterprise who strangles initiative and presides over the largest corporate State in Australia. Johannes Bjelke-Petersen is dangerous to the point of being frightening. His leadership has resulted in a bitterly divided party, the National Party of Queensland. That Party has not quite come to terms with its dual roles. It professes to represent the rural voters, and at the same time it supports its ideological enemies, the free marketeers in the New Right.

The Queensland Premier has little regard for the people of rural Queensland who so loyally support him. I have spoken in this House of the outrageous treatment of Queensland dairy farmers, especially my constituents on the southern Darling Downs. I have seen their incomes decline while senior members of the National Party like Mr Holm and Mr Hinze have rorted milk quotas and made fortunes at their expense. The rural adjustment scheme was rorted so that hard pressed farmers paid crippling interest rates while the State socked away the money needed to assist them.

The basic fundamentals of the Queensland economy have been neglected and abused during the 17 years of Bjelke-Petersen premiership. Queensland has the smallest manufacturing base of any State. For too long the Queensland National Party Government has relied upon the cargo cult mentality that primary industry is our salvation. It believes that all wealth comes from the ground, its article of faith is that as long as one can grow it or dig it up the resources of the land should be exploited. It claims to support agriculture but if you talk about soil conservation to Queensland National Party members, as I have to people in my electorate they think it is just another environmental crusade which has nothing to do with them.

The lack of understanding of what is needed for the future is most adequately demonstrated by the Queensland Government's record in education. A look at the Grants Commission figures reveals that Queensland spends the least per capita on secondary education and the least per capita on technical and further education in Australia. All Australians should remember the interference in Queensland education from the loony groups led by people like Rona Joyner. This is the Dark Age Australian education will be thrust into if these people exercise their will over the Premier at a national level.

Even those students who do complete their education in Queensland are not finding Queensland the sunshine State with job opportunities. According to the latest information, Queensland suffered a net loss to other States of 3,400 persons in the 15 to 24 age group during the 1985-86 year. Some 15,800 people in this age group left Queensland while only 12,400 migrated to Queensland. My colleague Senator Maguire has been studying this alarming Queensland trend for some time. He has concluded that young Queenslanders were voting with their feet and leaving the State looking for jobs. More young people are leaving Queensland than are going to it. Honourable members now see part of the nightmare that is awaiting young Australians if Bjelke-Petersen should come to Canberra. Another of the great Bjelke-Petersen myths is that because of his policies business has the confidence to invest in Queensland. The annual report of the Foreign Investment Review Board for 1985-86 shows that foreign investment in Queensland for that year was expected to be $352m, or only 6.1 per cent of the Australian total. In Australia, foreign investment was expected to rise by 113.4 per cent and to reach $9.81 billion in 1985-86. In contrast, Queensland's share of foreign investment was expected to rise by only a paltry 21 per cent. So if Australians want to see foreign investors lose all confidence in Australia let Bjelke-Petersen come to Canberra.

With Australia attempting to improve the balance of payments through creating a more diverse economy, particularly an increased manufacturing industry, it is interesting to look at the Queensland Government's performance in manufacturing. Queensland manufacturing has declined in every year since 1982, resulting in the loss of more than 13,000 jobs. In 1984-85 new fixed private capital expenditure in Queensland manufacturing totalled $356m. The figure fell to $313 in 1985-86, a drop of 12.1 per cent. In 1986-87, Queensland manufacturing investment is expected to climb to $311m. Western Australia is expected to ease out Queensland in 1986-87 from third to fourth position in the investment stakes. Private enterprise in New South Wales is expected to invest $5.8 billion in 1986-87, followed by Victoria with $4.7 billion, Western Australia with $2.9 billion and Queensland slipping back to fourth spot with $2.4 billion. The June 1986 survey by the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce of major manufacturing and mining investment projects showed that the total expected future expenditure on projects in Queensland's manufacturing industry amounted to only $90m. This was the lowest figure for any State in Australia. Queensland accounted for 3.2 per cent of expected manufacturing investment and a paltry 7 per cent of future mining investment. With a record like that, if the Queensland Premier made his journey to Canberra, even people such as the Mexicans would come here for cheap holidays when the international markets got hold of our currency.

The other myth about the Queensland Premier that needs to be exploded is that he is consistent, that he always does what he says. Let us look at his record on taxation. Last year he ran around the State saying that he was opposed to a fringe benefits tax. At the tax summit the year before he came here with a tax package which relied upon a fringe benefits tax to help finance his flat tax proposals. He now says that he is opposed to a consumption tax because it will hurt rural dwellers, yet the main plank of his State's National Party policy for the State election of three months ago was a consumption tax. The fact is that Bjelke-Petersen is little more than a travelling evangelist who will say anything to anyone as long as it makes him popular. That is hardly the criterion for national leadership. The Premier's flat tax policies would flatten families earning less than $30,000. Under them a family earning $19,000 would pay increased taxation of $19 per week. Also, that policy would leave a budget shortfall of more than $9 billion. It represents the sort of voodoo accounting that has given Queensland the highest deficit of all of the States. Its deficit has risen from $391m to $1,703m in the last five years. Queensland has public sector debt which is increasing at a rate of $2 billion a year.

I would like honourable members to compare these statistics with the myths being put around about Bjelke-Petersen. With respect to economics it is clear that he is still the bumbling incompetent who, after 40 years in the Queensland Parliament, still does not know its Standing Orders. Honourable members opposite, particularly those in the Liberal Party, should make no mistake-the Bjelke-Petersen crusade is geared to changing the political system in Australia. He is out to destroy the Liberal Party in Australia as he has destroyed it in Queensland. If members doubt my word they should ask their colleagues, the members for Moncrieff, McPherson, Fadden, Moreton, Petrie and Forde, how many State Liberal members they have in their Federal divisions. It is important that all Australians take the Queensland Premier seriously. He wishes to change the face of Australia completely and for the worse. The future direction of this country will be determined by the resolve of all Australians to rally against this fundamentalist nonsense. Bjelke-Petersen has been portrayed by cartoonists as the Australian version of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The analogy is quite frightening. Both men are self-righteous and believe that they represent the will of the Almighty. Both have a simplistic vision of a complex world. Both lack tolerance and compassion for their opponents. Both appeal to the bigotry which unfortunately exists in our society.

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