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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1661


Mr CONQUEST(10.48) —Consensus government Hawke style is the bane of our life. It is becoming a trademark of our nation. Expanding budgets, unfettered taxation, galloping inflation, ever increasing debt, burgeoning bureaucracy, tireless assaults upon individualism and productivity are the disastrous earmarks of this style of government leadership. The practical application of consensus government is unrealistic. The conspicuous lack of leadership by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has confused the nation and created a political vacuum. The attempted neutralising of institutional critics and organised lobby groups by ad hoc type measures is not the leadership style we need. It was Abraham Lincoln who said:

There are few things wholly good or wholly evil. Almost everything, especially of Government policy, is an inseparable compound of the two, so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded.

This Hawke Government has exercised poor judgment on many occasions. The MX missile crisis in 1985 was a typical example of cowardice of the highest order. The numbers men virtually determined that the original government decision be reversed. Dante said:

The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

I think his words aptly described my feelings about this Government's moral cowardice. This is not to suggest party responsibility is necessarily evil and should at no time influence decisions. However, it is on national issues that the test of courage is presented, and it is on these issues that this Government has failed miserably.

Edmund Burke, in his speech to the electors of Bristol, said, inter alia, that government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment and that parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest, that of the whole, where the general good ought to guide. It might be said that Burke's views were enunciated before members of parliament were elected on party platforms. But even that concession does not absolve this Government or its weakness if we consider but one issue and that is the announcement in the 1986 Budget Speech that the ban on uranium sales to France would be lifted. The inconsistency of this Government is legend and will occupy the minds of political historians for years to come.

Australia is a young country and we have problems now that people 20 years ago would not have dreamed would have to be faced. The energies and talents of all of us are needed to meet these challenges. Pleasantries, self-satisfied mediocrity and complacency will serve the nation badly. Lord Tweedsmuir wrote in his biography:

Public life is the crown of a career, and to young men it is the worthiest ambition. Politics is still the greatest and most honourable adventure.

Notwithstanding the high esteem in which his lordship held public office, the reality is somewhat different. It is fashionable in the real world, in the electorate at large, to look down on politics and on those in government. Regardless of how others think about politics and politicians, the arena of government is where all the decisions are made which affect not only our destinies but the future of those yet to come. If we err, we err not just for ourselves but for future generations.

Another quality required in government is that of integrity, which is certainly not the long suit of this Hawke socialist Government. The vanishing credibility of this Government is further demonstrated by some of the promises made and subsequently broken. I wonder whether honourable members remember these quotes:

My Government will not lift the ceiling on home mortgage rates.

That promise was made on 3 December 1985. On 27 November 1986 the following promise was made:

. . . in regard to housing interest rates where we made it quite clear we are not going to be lifting that ceiling.

We all know what happened. With the South Australian and Western Australian elections out of the way, the Government lifted the ceiling for new loans. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) justified the about-face by claiming that the Prime Minister had promised not to raise the ceiling on existing loans.


Mr Slipper —What a joke!


Mr CONQUEST —I am sure that the honourable member for Fisher remembers that. The Prime Minister said in his 1984 policy speech:

And now I give this undertaking that, for the term of our next Government, the Medicare levy will not be increased.

That was affirmed in February 1986, but in the 1986-87 Budget it was raised from 1 per cent to 1.25 per cent. The first of the Government's nine principles of taxation reform-the tax trilogy-was broken first year up.


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