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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2188


Ms JAKOBSEN(3.32) —I am very pleased to follow the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) in this debate. Unfortunately, the Opposition has an incredible cheek and this is simply shown by the way it has brought this matter of public importance before the House today. At first glance, it seems incredible that an Opposition which is in such a shambles could have the unmitigated gall to raise a matter of public importance along the lines proposed today. On second thought, however, it is obvious that honourable members opposite have no option but to adopt this tired tactic in order to draw attention away from the hopeless mess that they have created for themselves and among themselves. Today, newspapers and public affairs programs across the country are exposing the divisions within the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia, as well as the official division between the two parties themselves.

There is no way that Bjelke-Petersen will allow the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) to formulate policy or to remain in control of the National Party members of Parliament in this place. Attempts to put forward a contrary view are no more than a sad sham of the moment, much like the recently destroyed coalition agreement. Nobody really believed that such a farce could survive one day of real life politics. It was cosmetic surgery performed during the parliamentary recess in order to save face for Ian Sinclair and John Howard. The Leader of the Liberal Party, John Howard, will certainly--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Cowan will refer to other members by their titles.


Ms JAKOBSEN —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the Liberal Party will certainly have to watch his back from now on. The sacking of the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) from the shadow Cabinet compounded his previous error in dismissing the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock). Power has been restored to the arms of these two members and to Senator Peter Baume as a result of the coalition's demise and a marital dispute within the Liberal Party is now imminent on the equal employment opportunity legislation in the Senate. I remind honourable members in this House that women are also members of families, so raising this matter of the equal employment opportunity legislation is hardly irrelevant to this debate.

How can the people of Australia have any idea of what these ineffectual Opposition parties propose to do when the Party leaders do not have a clue themselves and when the Party members do not know who the leaders really are? Contrast the chaos in the Opposition with the stability and the achievement record of the Hawke Labor Government. We are not strutting around arguing amongst ourselves on a vulgar ego trip. We are getting on with the serious task of governing this country in the best interests of all Australians and all Australian families.

On all meaningful economic and social indicators, this Government has performed better than the previous Liberal-National Party Government. For instance, our performance on employment creation speaks volumes and is an important consideration, given the terms of the matter of public importance before the House. A job is the single most important factor in determining a family's economic security and sense of optimism and hope for the future. As a direct result of this Government's policies, more than 700,000 unemployed Australians now have jobs. That means that more than 700,000 families are more financially secure and can face their futures with greater confidence.

Contrast this positive achievement with the unemployment disaster presided over and caused by the clumsy and insensitive ministrations of the Fraser-Howard clique when it was in power. The National Party need not think that it can divorce itself from responsibility for the unemployment policies of past coalition governments either by hiding behind the imaginary independence bestowed by its recent defection from the coalition. The coalition was alive and well in the black days of the last Liberal Government as National Party hacks were included in the Ministry in responsible portfolios.

For those who are inclined to cling to the prospect of a Bjelke-led resurrection of the National Party's power base in this country and an associated political recovery for the conservatives, I caution them to examine carefully the Queensland Premier's record on most social and economic indicators. Beware! His rhetoric is not to be believed. The Queensland economy is in a real mess and an unkind observer might even conjecture that the Bjelke-Petersen push for Canberra has been masterminded by ambitious young, or not so young, National Party turks who are trying to rid themselves of the dead hand of the Ayatollah on the Queensland purse strings and the political power base. That remains to be seen, but Sir Joh may well find himself out in the cold politically in the very near future if the so-called white shoe brigade has machiavellian leanings and a hidden agenda of the type alluded to.

The Hawke Government is the most caring and compassionate government that Australia has seen for many years. This Government's economic policies have placed Australia on a secure footing in the face of the commodities price reduction which impacted so drastically on our export earnings. The devaluation of the Australian dollar has ensured that our primary and secondary industries can now be more competitive on the world market. The necessary process of reconstruction of Australian industry has commenced and private enterprise businesses are its primary beneficiaries. Although the Government has had to take some tough decisions and ask the Australian people to share the burden of restraint imposed by the terms of trade downturn, it has not singled out the poor and the needy or the average Australian family.

Statistics can lie. The bleatings of the Leader of the Liberal Party over the alleged plight of families and home buyers ring hollow in the face of his actions when he was Treasurer. Many home buyers are protected by the 13 1/2 per cent ceiling on their interest rate repayments. The Opposition had advocated the removal of this ceiling. Where would that leave the home buyers? They would be out in the cold. Other home buyers are paying quite high interest rates on their home purchases but they feel secure in their jobs. They are not facing a wages freeze as advocated by the Opposition. Their children still have access to free secondary and tertiary education and their families are protected from crippling health bills by the universal buffer of Medicare. The first home owners scheme has recently been revised by the Government to make it more accessible to ordinary Australian families. For the first time its eligibility criteria will recognise children in a family and temper the income test accordingly. This Government also has a proud record in the area of child care. We have done more for child care than all previous governments since Federation.


Mr Dawkins —Put together.


Ms JAKOBSEN —Put together, as the Minister for Trade says. We recognise the importance of child care for the social development of children and the needs of women and families. By June 1988 this Government will have established over 60,000 new child care places, taking the total number to some 106,000 or 152 per cent more than were available when the Hawke Government first came to office. As a result of our initiatives, an additional 85,000 children now have access to government-funded child care services.

Let me draw the comparison once more between this Government and the previous Government. In the last year of the Fraser Government only $65m was spent on child care. In 1985-86 our Government allocated $165m on children's services and has set aside some $195m for child care in this financial year. In 1983, when the Hawke Government was elected, child care was available to only 4 per cent of Australian children but by 1988, as I said earlier, some 16 per cent of children whose parents work will have access to child care as a consequence of the dramatic expansion of these facilities under this Government. The Hawke Government cares about families and their welfare in every possible way. We care about jobs, health, education and access to housing. Australians know that the Labor Government cares for them and the Opposition's trivial attempts to discredit our achievements are fruitless.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The time for the debate has expired.