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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 653


Mr GRIFFITHS(10.46) —Listening to the debate this evening, it struck me-in some respects our side of the House is also guilty of a transgression-that we have been engaged in an auction this evening. We go out and tell the people of Australia what we have been able to achieve in four years. Of course, in objective terms, I think that we have a very commendable record across a whole range of criteria that impact upon ordinary Australians. Members of the Opposition, of course, march in here, as I suppose they have done since time immemorial, and indicate to the Australian people the terrible taxes that we have brought in. They tell us which they will abolish. They appeal to sectional interest groups and by way of auction they seek to gain the confidence of the Australian people.

But it seems to me that a much more important issue is before this Parliament. In a very subtle way, what this Parliament is now discussing is fundamental. It goes very much to the core of what Australia has been about since its inception and, hopefully, what it will be about for some decades yet. This was summed up recently for me in what was said by a very famous Australian, Paul McNamee, who, as is customary, was asked to make a few comments on being made the king of Moomba. I do not know Paul McNamee's politics, nor, frankly, do I particularly care. But Paul McNamee did something that unfortunately has become somewhat atypical. In responding to the high honour that had been bestowed upon him, and having regard to his success in perhaps the most competitive environment-that is, international sport-he took time out to reflect on the role of those who are successful and who owe society something. He reflected on what some people ought to do for the disadvantaged in our community. That made a great impact on me because he brought to my attention something that has been missing from the debate in Australia for probably two or three years. It seems to me that unless you are a politician who articulates a particular philosophical viewpoint or a person engaged in some institutional role in which it is your duty to articulate a point of view on behalf of disadvantaged persons, we really do not hear any public comments from a whole range of people, including those outside the strict parameters of politics, about the disadvantaged in our community. I think that is a very sad thing. Indeed, a massive change has taken place. I can recall vividly as a young person--


Mr Cohen —You still are young.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Well, I am aging rapidly but I accept the comment of my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment that I have a couple of years left in me yet. Years ago, when people accepted an accolade or an award, it was almost universal that in so doing they would acknowledge that there were people in the community who, by dint of circumstance or by dint of not having chosen their parents in material terms perhaps as carefully as some of our colleagues in the Opposition might have done, were less advantaged. For whatever reason, circumstances conspired to make them fall into a category of less advantaged people in our community.

I will conclude my brief five-minute contribution simply by saying that it is a sad thing when this Parliament demeans itself by engaging in what I consider to be an absurd auction. What we are all talking about, which unfortunately we will never get through to the people on the other side of the House, is that at the end of the day we are talking about real people out there. Those real people will suffer if the Opposition comes into this House as a government. It has been the traditional role of the Australian Labor Party to protect those people. Forgetting all the rhetoric, we will continue to do just that.