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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 651


Mr REITH(10.32) —I have been a member of this House for nearly three years, and I must say this is one of the most pathetic performances I have ever seen from this Government. By just about any standard one cares to consider, our country is going backwards and, instead of addressing the problems that we have, we have this nervous, pathetic and irrelevant motion. It is the first time for 75 years that we have had such a motion. It is no wonder, because last time someone put up such a motion it was thrown out on a point of order for being frivolous. It is no wonder that only three Ministers have been prepared to deliver speeches in this so-called withering attack on the Opposition, and it is no wonder that we have seen the forth-graders being paraded here to try to put up some sort of performance for the Government. I think members on the other side of the House are worried, and they have good reason to be worried. They lack direction; they have the left wing forever saying that they have abandoned Labor Party policies, and within their own ranks the members do not know what will happen next.

The other day I overheard a couple of Labor members. In a wishful tone one said: `I think things will get better', and the other responded-does this not tell a story-`Keating has been saying that for four years'. That is what people in Australia have been saying, and they will be saying it more and more as time goes on. People do not want to hear this abuse that Labor members love to dish out at Question Time. People do not want to hear the grandstanding and the bravado. People have had enough of their excuses. This motion is too smart by half. It is just a game; they have the numbers, and it will get through, but what good will it do for Australia? When Labor members go home tonight I ask them to ask themselves: `What have I done for my country today?'. The answer will be nil, absolutely zilch. They have run out of puff; they have run out of solutions; but the problems are there, and they are problems that they have created.

The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) was on 3AW radio in Melbourne today-my wife heard him-and he said he is the politician in Australia who is closest to the people. What a joke! What an absolute joke! When was the last time that he was in a supermarket? When was the last time that the Treasurer (Mr Keating) took the Prime Minister's advice and went into either his own electorate or a supermarket? It is some time because it is obvious that neither of those gentlemen have a clue what it is like to have to go into supermarkets and face the ever increasing prices caused by Labor's inflation. Since the last election that inflation has just about doubled. In the December quarter 1984 it was 5.1 per cent. What is it now? It is 9.8 per cent, or nearly 10 per cent. On a world-wide basis this is the worst comparative figure that we have had since statistics have been collected. This is a problem that every Australian has to live with from day to day. It is a problem that we ought to be discussing and debating, and we ought to be hearing from the Government what it will do about it.

Take health, another problem which affects tens of thousands of Australians. The Government's maladministration and Medicare have give us 100,000 people who cannot get basic hospital care. Let me give one example, which I do not think will be a surprise to members opposite because my guess is that they have had people with the same problem in their offices. I had a bloke in the other day-I will not give his name, but I will give it to the honourable members opposite if they want it--


Mr Chynoweth —I bet you can't.


Mr REITH —I have the file, and the honourable member can see it. This man came to see me a couple of weeks ago. He is 76, an age pensioner, who lives alone in his own house. He used to have private hospital cover, but he could not afford to meet the premiums. He is in constant pain. He has been waiting for 12 months for his hip replacement, and the hospital has told him that he has to wait at least another three months but that it could be another 12 months after that. I can tell honourable members opposite that that man will not be impressed with this performance in this game that is being played today in the House. This is a problem facing hundreds of thousands of Australians. We should be debating what the Government will do about it to help ordinary Australians with these sorts of problems, instead of wasting the House's time with this petty and irrelevant motion.

Let us take another problem. Hundreds of thousands of families are really feeling the pinch. There are people who do not buy meat for their families as much as they used to because they cannot afford it. Children wear tight shoes because mum defers buying them new shoes. Instead of helping families, the Government is just taxing them out of existence. In real terms an average family is about $1,500 worse off under the Government's maladministration. To put it another way, in March 1983 effective net tax payable on average weekly earnings by a taxpayer with a dependent spouse and two children was $52.12 a week. After the phony tax cuts in July 1987 that person will be paying $94.50 a week. That is an extra $42.38 a week going to this Government to be squandered. It is just slugging the lives out of ordinary Australians. People do not want to hear about this motion. They want to hear that the Government at least understands these problems, and they want to know what it will do about them.

Let us look at interest rates and housing. In my State, Victoria, accordingly to figures prepared by the Real Estate Institute of Australia, the average house payment is up from $405 to $609 per month. That is a 50 per cent increase from March 1983, when the Hawke Government was elected, to last September. The Prime Minister is okay; he is in the Lodge. He is all right. He does not have to worry about that. We have the Treasurer-I am all right, Jack. He has his $17,000 travelling allowance, and he is still getting it. That is why Government members are not worried about what ordinary Australians are facing every day. Most Australians just cannot afford things, and it is about time the Government woke up to itself and started to address these problems, instead of putting before the House this sort of irrelevant motion. This situation is not getting any better. Interest rates are moving upwards, and in Victoria we have the additional burden of a Cain Labor Government that is slugging people through rates, in particular water rates.

The tax package, of course, also contains some well disguised time bombs for home buyers. The capital gains tax taxes family homes, contrary to all the assertions that have been made. People listening to the proceedings tonight want to watch out. Labor has been saying that the family home is exempt from the capital gains tax. That is not true. I suggest that people keep an eye open for this because Labor taxes family homes. I have it in writing. If honourable members want to see it from the Commissioner of Taxation or from the Treasurer, I will be happy to make a copy available to them. Many people will feel cheated when they realise that, contrary to Labor's assertions, family homes are subject to capital gains tax. That is the grim picture for home owners but it is as bad, if not worse, if one is renting one's home. Private dwelling rents are rising rapidly, thanks to Labor's capital gains tax and the abolition of negative gearing. The waiting lists for public housing have grown since the coalition left office in 1983 from 123,700 to 157,600 in June 1986.

The situation is also pretty grim in the rural areas. I take just one example because it is relevant to my electorate of Flinders. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures for horticulture show a real rate of return, including capital depreciation, of minus 13.5 per cent in 1986-87 and a very modest average farm income of $7,400, or $3,900 per horticulture farmer. That is just not good enough. We have a national debt of $100 billion. We ought to be trying to build up our economy to give these people some encouragement so that they can get into the export markets and start to turn this country's fortunes around. It is not good enough for a Labor administration to move a motion like this today which is absolutely irrelevant to the problems of Australians who may well be listening.

I have been citing some of the national figures. But the effects of bad government are also everywhere to be seen at the local level. It is frustrating for me as a member to have people come to me with the reasonable complaints, demands and expectations of communities and find that those expectations are not being met because the Government, through its maladministration, is throwing taxpayers' money down the drain. Just to put this debate at the national level into some perspective for ordinary Australians, I mention just three areas of neglect by this Government in my electorate. The first is the funding of an extra 10 nursing home beds at the Kooweerup Hospital. This important project has been held up by a lack of capital funds. Road funding is not often placed high on the national agenda and in the Press. Road funding is important for all areas but it is particularly important for rural municipalities in which the rural economy is so dependent on a decent road system. I think of the requirements of the shires of Bass, Cranbourne and Korumburra. There is also a very real need for additional nursing home beds at Rosebud on the Mornington Peninsula. None of the reasonable expectations of communities in those areas will be met when we have the sort of administration we have in this country today.

Australia has not been doing well by any standard. That is why our credit rating has been dropped by the world's two largest credit agencies. That is why, as every second ticks by, as I speak, our nation's debt increases by $1,300. That is why our national debt is over $100,000m. I have spoken for 11 or 12 minutes, so the debt has gone up by about $1m in that time. Thanks to Labor-thanks for nothing-this country is in a mess. But we can and must turn the situation around. Only a coalition government can provide this country with the direction and the leadership it needs. If we want a starting point, instead of making futile and silly interjections, members on the other side ought to pick up the Notice Paper in front of them and look at the comprehensive amendment which the Opposition has moved which gives some direction to the steps which this country ought to be taking to get out of its problems. Honourable members opposite ought to wake up because Australians are being hurt by their policies. Australians will not put up with this sort of maladministration forever.

I can see the end of the tunnel but it is blocked by the Labor Government. The sooner we remove that Labor Government, the sooner we will be able to see the light and move out into it. That will be a good day for this country. It will be a day when we can start to get our act together.

Debate (on motion by Mr Griffiths) adjourned.