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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1118


Mr HALVERSON(12.45) —I would like to take this opportunity to remind my parliamentary colleagues, on both sides of the House-not that there are many of us here-that today, 19 March, is, or at least was, the first day of the Festival of Minerva. It is just possible that the relevance and significance of this occasion has escaped some honourable members, so perhaps a brief explanation is in order. The ancient Romans, who, amongst other things, were obviously advocates of affirmative action, regarded Minerva as one of their three principal deities. She was the goddess of wisdom and good counsel, defender of the home and the state, and the embodiment of purity and reason. Needless to say, we are not required to observe her special festival-and it is probably just as well. Although the ancient Romans apparently had no difficulty in spending five days paying homage to Minerva and the ideals she represented, I suspect we would be hard pressed to spend five minutes in celebration. When one considers the philosophies, policies and performance of our present Federal Government, it is immediately obvious we have little, if any, cause for celebration.

Minerva-and, no doubt, the ancient Romans-would be horrified to find that the defence of home and state are not regarded as particularly important; purity is all too often seen as an unnecessary, old fashioned and somewhat humorous concept; and wisdom, good counsel and reason are currently in very short supply. We refer to this as progress, but I believe the ancient Romans may have had another name for it. Quite seriously, we may no longer expect wisdom, reason and good counsel to be the province and responsibility of goddesses, but we should expect those qualities to be displayed by governments. It may be true that wise decisions are often difficult to make, and are not necessarily popular or enthusiastically received by all sections of the community, but if the challenges and problems currently confronting us are to be satisfactorily resolved, we must have a government which recognises the difference between wisdom and political expediency; a government which seeks and offers good counsel throughout all its decision-making and administrative processes; a government which exercises its power and authority without fear or favour, and which legislates on the basis of what is right and proper, fair and just, and morally, socially and economically sound and reasonable.

The seventeenth century English poet, Anne Bradstreet, correctly observed:

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge.

Those who have used such an implement will know the folly and frustration it causes. A blunt axe does not make it easy to chop cleanly through to the heart of the matter; it bruises and batters and splinters along the way. Our nation and its people are being bruised, battered and splintered by the authoritarian, unjust and ill-conceived policies of a government intent on pursuing the dangerous philosophies of socialism-and by the politics of envy, greed, resentment, suspicion and fear. The Hawke Labor Government has demonstrated beyond any doubt its capability to lead us into our current economic and social mess and muddle, but apparently it is unprepared, unwilling or incapable of leading us out of it again. There is no vision, no guidance, no confidence and no encouragement by way of incentive or the concept of reward for effort, and there is certainly no hope for a secure, stable and prosperous future while Australia remains under the control and influence of these blunt-axe wielding socialists and their union, big business and trendy left wing bosses.

Were wisdom and good counsel displayed when the same government that advocated and implemented so-called anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation-and spent millions of taxpayers' dollars in the effort-introduced laws which clearly disadvantage some sections of our community while at the same time benefiting others, laws which display elements of racial prejudice which are intolerable and unjustifiable, and laws which will serve to divide rather than unite the Australian people, one would have thought our Government wanted to help, rather than hinder, the cause of racial equality. The wisdom and good counsel of Martin Luther King is very relevant in regard to this matter. He spoke of his dream:

. . . that one day we will recognise the words of Jefferson that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with some inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He did not say these ideals could or would be achieved while governments, for whatever reasons, continue to reinforce rather than redress the real or imagined problems and differences which exist within most, if not all, communities. Laws which ignore the basic precepts of justice and equality for all are divisive and destructive. They achieve nothing but disruption and discontent, from all sides. It is time we recognised the fact that we simply cannot spend the rest of our lives endeavouring to compensate for the actions and mistakes of previous generations.

We can only learn from history; we cannot change it. We must legislate for the present and the future-not for the past.

Where are wisdom and good counsel, when the Government decides the best method of coping with problems, such as drug abuse and the terrifying consequences of the much-publicised disease known as the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is to mount expensive campaigns which it euphemistically terms `offensives' but which in fact are only really offensive insofar as they cost millions of dollars and achieve very few results. Why can we not face these problems head on instead of beating about the bush or thumbing through the glossy brochure. Drug abuse will be solved only when those responsible for master-minding and financing this insidious activity are caught and appropriately punished. There is little point in concentrating on the peripheral operatives or pursuing the victims. We need the Mr Bigs. We must adopt the tried and true principle of prevention rather than cure, and we must start looking from the top, rather than the bottom.

Similarly, this Government is far too coy in its approach to stopping the spread of AIDS-and it may now be too late to rectify the matter. Our younger generation will benefit little from being forced to participate in lectures which explain homosexual practices and the need to take appropriate protective measures during their sexually active years-which, we are told, can commence as early as pre-teenage. We tell them the consequences of their actions may be disastrous, but that the actions themselves are not wrong. I believe that it is an awesome indictment on our society that little children are known to be sexually active, and that the Government sees as an appropriate and adequate solution ensuring they use condoms to protect themselves from AIDS. What is wrong with a little old fashioned morality? Why do we not tell the classroom lecturers to point out that the one sure protection from aids is to desist from promiscuous or homosexual activity. Surely this is no real deprivation for a 14- or 15-year old.


Mr Andrew —Or anybody else.


Mr HALVERSON —Indeed, that is so. Surely there is no shame or embarrassment in pointing out to teenagers that there are more pleasures in life than sex, drugs, smoking and alcohol. But those charged with the responsibility of trying to guard the health of young Australians are not the least bit concerned with guarding their morality, dignity or pride. They shy away from such a challenge and are not bothered about the ifs, whens, wheres, and whys-only the hows.

Perhaps we still need Minerva, if only to remind us that the once mighty Roman Empire, like other empires before and after it, destroyed itself because of decadence and corruption, selfishness, inequality, unbridled ambition and greed. It is time we realised that good government depends on the ability to stand for what is right, good and correct, and to guide the nation and its people accordingly-an ability which is, unfortunately, singularly lacking in relation to our present government. How are we to achieve a united, responsible, self-disciplined, principled and caring community when our Government is committed to breaking down the moral and social standards and values which are the basis of a stable, well adjusted, dignified and sensibly structured society? This Government has betrayed the trust and confidence of those who elected it. It is a government which prefers the easy option to the proper one . . . a government which is not worthy of the privilege of providing Australia and Australians with the wise and reasonable leadership and good counsel which they expect, deserve, and are most certainly entitled to receive.