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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1886

Mr KENT(4.02) —The Appropriation Bills represent the Additional Estimates and require the appropriation of moneys to meet additional expenditures to the allocation made in the 1986-87 Budget. As the Minister for Community Services and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Hurford) said in his second reading speech, the amounts requested represents 0.05 per cent of the total estimated outlays. This proves that our Budget is right on target, and so are our economic policies. The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Harry Edwards) put before the House a load of economic mumbo-jumbo. He cited figures and statistics, relevance and irrelevance to try to completely confuse the people of Australia. He talked about the cuts that the Opposition would undertake. I will return to that later. However, he did not specify in which areas the Opposition intends to make cuts and by how much. Would it make cuts to the education of Australian children? We know that it would cut the pensions of women aged 60 to 65 years and leave them without any income. We are aware of those plans. I will deal with them later when I explain the Government's policies.

Before I start to consider our Government's achievements, let us cast our minds back a few years to March 1983 and remind ourselves from where we started out. It has been said before, but it cannot be repeated often enough, that the Hawke Government inherited the biggest economic mess from its predecessor-the Fraser-Howard Government. When we came to office just over four years ago, we inherited a $9.6 billion Budget blowout-a $9.6 billion Budget deficit due to overspending and economic mismanagement by the Treasurer in the Fraser Government, John Howard.

In addition to the almost $10 billion deficit, we also inherited an inflation rate of over 11 per cent and unemployment of the same magnitude. Nearly one-quarter of a million Australians lost their jobs in the last 12 months of the Liberal-National rule under Fraser and Howard. These merely added to the 750,000 who were already out of work by that time. Altogether, the Fraser Government consigned about one million Australians to the scrapheap of unemployment during its seven years in office.

On top of the record level of unemployment and inflation, the infamous duo-the Fraser-Howard duo-managed-or more appropriately, mismanaged-to create unprecedented high interest rates and a record number of business bankruptcies. In short, they brought Australia to the brink of economic collapse. It is no wonder that the people of Australia threw the Fraser Government out of office in 1983. By then, however, the damage had already been done. We will not let anyone forget Mr Howard's miserable record.

Figures and statistics for the period 1976 to 1982 demonstrate the extent of the damage done to the Australian economy by the policies of the honourable member for Bennelong and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard). If he ever gets back into government, and I do not think that he ever will, the situation will be even worse, as this time his credibility gap has increased from $9.6 billion to $16 billion, and so would Australia's deficit. However, I do not believe that the people of Australia are so gullible. While they might not pay that much heed to statistics, they certainly cannot forget the very hard economic times which the Fraser-Howard Government was responsible for creating.

Placing statistics to one side for a moment, I would like to describe my experience as the member for Hotham in this regard. Back in 1982, scores of people came to see me in my office asking for my assistance to help them find a job. Many of these people were tradesmen, boilermakers, fitters, even plumbers, who had lost their jobs because of the policies of the honourable member for Bennelong, who was then the Treasurer and is now the Leader of the Opposition-the man with the $16 billion credibility gap.

I did all that I could to help those people in my electorate who had lost their jobs as a result of the economic recession presided over by the honourable member for Bennelong. But in most cases I was unable to help them. Simply, there were just no jobs available. I contacted manufacturers in my area and they told me that not only did they have no vacancies but also they would be forced to retrench even more workers unless something happened. Something happened on 4 March 1983. The Hawke Labor Government was elected to office by the Australian people and given the mandate to pull the country back from the brink of economic collapse.

In terms of employment alone, our aim then was to create 500,000 new jobs. The Hawke Labor Government has surpassed this target. The situation today is quite different from that of 1982-83 when the Opposition was in office. As well as being evident in the statistics, I can confirm that now I seldom get people requesting my assistance to help them find employment. Instead, I have received calls from manufacturers complaining that they cannot get enough workers to fill the vacancies in their factories. We have achieved this under deteriorating international economic and trade conditions.

It is by now a widely known fact, even among members of the Opposition, that the prices of Australia's export commodities have fallen on the world market to the extent of some $7 billion. While the loss of revenue of that magnitude unavoidably affects our domestic economy and our standard of living, it is clear that the reason this situation has arisen is because, for too long, consecutive post-war Liberal and National Party governments relied almost exclusively on our mineral resources and rural commodities and failed to develop and diversify our export base. It is no good them coming into the House now and blaming our Government for the situation-not that they are in here at the moment. They are not interested in economic debates. They are too busy scheming against each other.

Mr Braithwaite —Would you like a quorum?

Mr KENT —Please yourself. In spite of impediments like these over which the Hawke Labor Government has had little influence or control, we have nonetheless planned and implemented a number of significant reforms. In addition to the creation of 772,000 new jobs since April 1983, the Government has been active in reforming our social welfare system and providing assistance to those most in need. Although our achievements have been substantial, I will mention just a few.

Under this Labor Government, spending on welfare has increased from 41 per cent to 44 per cent of Commonwealth outlays between 1982-83 and 1986-87. Together with various other initiatives-such as the establishment of the Social Security Review, increases in the real disposable income of social security recipients, increases in the rate of pension, an increase of 70 per cent in the additional pension/benefit and the family income supplement, and a doubling of the mothers/guardians allowance-it demonstrates the high priority which the Hawke Labor Government has given towards providing assistance to those in greatest need. In the area of community services, we have introduced a number of new programs and services designed to assist the aged, disabled and youth. Our commitment to young people through the provision of incentives for further education, training and job skills is evident in the achievements of the Priority One program. Children's services have also received assistance. During our term in office the number of Commonwealth funded child care places has more than doubled.

During our term in office we have introduced the most far-reaching changes to our taxation system in Australia's history in order to bring equity back into the system. This has been achieved with the introduction of the capital gains tax, the fringe benefits tax and changes to marginal income tax rates. On the industrial front we have achieved unprecedented industrial peace and wage stability. Our policy for the revitalisation of our manufacturing base and industry restructuring has been occurring in this climate. It has not been an easy task but it is one which successive conservative governments have shirked. The steel industry, which was in a state of absolute crisis when we came to office, has been significantly restructured and is now on a healthy footing again. Similarly, the Button car plan is assisting the motor vehicle industry to sort out problems which have been developing for decades.

While we were busy putting this country back on to the road of recovery, what were the honourable members opposite doing? They have now had four years in opposition; four years in which to work out and produce their policies. What have they come up with? One word-`incentivation'. One work; a gimmick. At least that is what they have come up with publicly; and they have even forgotten that word since they invented it.

Who remembers `incentivation'? They were so busy racing around the corridors with knives in their hands-and some of them in their backs-that they forgot about `incentivation'. They forgot that one word-the product of their four years of labour. However, while they were busy conspiring against each other-Bjelke wanting to knock off Sinclair and Andrew wanting to knock off Johnny Howard--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! The honourable member will refer to members by their proper titles and by their constituencies.

Mr KENT —Bjelke was wanting to knock off the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) was wanting to knock off the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). However, they still found the time to do some destructive scheming against the people of Australia. While they were in a state of absolute disarray, they still agreed on one thing-how to damage the future of this country. Members of the Opposition, while disagreeing on practically everything, agreed on a secret hit-list, a highly secret plan on how to attack the living standards and well-being of the Australian people if by some chance-a remote chance-they get elected to government. However, disunited as they are, the secret plan was leaked by them as soon as it was put together. It was on the front page of our newspapers for everybody to see. An article on page 1 of the Australian Financial Review of 23 March, headed `The Liberal Party's secret agenda', states the Opposition's proposals:

Cut pensions and tighten eligibility.

Abolish all employment programs.

Impose a new personal and company tax.

Freeze public service numbers.

Abolish the first home owner's scheme.

Abolish fringe benefits tax, capital gains tax.

Cut bounties to manufacturing by 20 per cent.

Abolish the superphosphate bounty.

Cut the Medicare rebate and end bulk billing.

Increase charges for pharmaceutical benefits.

Increase in the eligibility age for the female pension to 65-

that means leaving widows and women between 60 and 65 years of age without any support-

Privatisation targets: Commonwealth Bank, Qantas, Telecom and Medibank Private.

Abolish lump sum superannuation tax and assets test.

Prepare for a general strike.

The last item of the Opposition's secret agenda is `Prepare for a general strike'. I say that Opposition members should prepare for a revolution if ever they get the opportunity to put their plan into action, especially if they want to abolish the pension for women between 60 and 65 years of age. With a program like this one, members of the Opposition will need a coup d'etat to become the Government as the Australian people will never vote them in.