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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 564

Mr KENT(10.30) —I have followed with some amusement the reports on the intrusion of a senior citizen from Queensland into the arena of Federal politics. I think that I, with my background, can be excused-more so than others-for taking Sir Joh more seriously than he would otherwise deserve. Today's front page headlines in the Age gave me some concern. They were: `Joh plans to run own team in poll' and `Brazil, the biggest debtor, stops paying the bills'. Such headlines bring childhood memories back to me. I recall, although faintly, other times, on another part of the globe, when raving lunatics came forward, in the name of providence, with their quick remedies-remedies that ultimately plunged humankind into the abyss of war and resulted in the death of 100 million people.

I do not want to compare the situation today in Australia to that of depression-ravaged Europe in the 1930s. However, some similarities do exist. Recollections from my childhood-which I can assure honourable members was not a happy one, because of raving lunatics, with their simple solutions which brought untold misery to millions in Europe-remind me of Sir Joh's onslaught on our democratic system of government. Like his predecessors, Hitler and Mussolini, he has chosen the way of destabilisation of the conservative forces-to launch himself into a position of power.

Mr Downer —Don't you think that is just a little unwarranted?

Mr KENT —I am on the honourable member's side. He should listen. What we are witnessing today in Australia is the destabilisation and the ruin of the conservative parties. While some on my side of politics do not object to the havoc caused by Sir Joh to the conservative side, I do not find any comfort in it.

I consider the conservatives as part of our democratic system and if that side of the equation is being wiped out so is our democratic system. I am far from being a supporter of the conservatives, but I lament the destruction of traditional conservative representation in our society as it will usher in the extremist fringe, with its unbridled greed for profits, led by a senile lunatic.

I remember leaders like Sir Joh; leaders who had no policies; leaders who did not have to explain rationally what they proposed to do; leaders endorsed by no one but providence; leaders who brought ruin on their people and on humankind. I hope also that, like me, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is taking seriously the ravings of a power-hungry lunatic, especially in view of the support he has received from the media and his success in destabilising the conservative representation in the Parliament. If not taken seriously, we may yet witness the main rehearsal for the destruction of our democratic system.

The only way to stop this lunatic sideshow becoming the main event is to call Sir Joh's bluff and call an election while there is still time to save the conservative side of politics. Let Sir Joh and his backers come forward in public view and present their policies publicly in an election campaign for public scrutiny. Only in such a way can the conservative side of politics in this country be saved, and saved it should be, as our democratic system is in question.

I want the House to understand that I am calling for an election not to take advantage of the situation for party political reasons, but to call Sir Joh's bluff, to show him publicly for what he really is-a senile, empty headed dictator, devoid of policies, devoid of rationality, keeping his minority State Government in Queensland in power by a massive gerrymander. However, senile or not, rational or not, Sir Joh should be challenged and put under public scrutiny in an immediate election. Let him endorse his candidates, let him come forward and run for a Federal election.

I think it is the Prime Minister's duty to call an election now, and once and for all dispose of the question of whether we in this Parliament allow ourselves to be dictated to from outside. Hesitation will only help the lunatic element in its quest for power, and therefore we should settle the question of democracy for Australia at once.