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Wednesday, 13 May 1987
Page: 3102

Mr RONALD EDWARDS(3.51) —We have just heard from another of the tired and dispirited members of the National Party of Australia, who, cloaked as agrarian socialists, are basically seeking all the time to subsidise various sectors of the community that they purport to represent. Unfortunately, when in government, the National Party conspired to sit upon a massively over-valued exchange rate, an exchange rate that meant that our rural sector could not export as competively as it wanted to. (Quorum formed)

I thank my colleagues for supporting the honourable member for Canning (Mr Gear) and me in dealing with this tired and dispirited National Party. It is one of those organisations which recently has kowtowed to the Premier of Queensland. For an indication of how members of the National Party are lacking in morality and principle, one has only to hark back to Monday night's Four Corners program to realise what a decrepit and potentially corrupt party it really is. I think we must recognise that members of the National Party put up this matter of public importance today believing it to be an important issue, but when it comes to the Government's time to contribute to the debate they are not able to take it-they call quorums and interrupt the proceedings.

The honourable member for Canning has already substantially demolished their position in terms of their integrity, their lack of policy and their lack of leadership. However, I would say to the people of Australia who are listening to this debate that members of the National Party sitting over in that corner are members of a party that now takes its directions from the Premier of Queensland. It has no Federal policy at all and in terms of its leadership it is unable to stand up to the Premier of Queensland. They have no leadership, no principles and no policies. When they are put to the test-as the honourable member for Canning indicated-and asked to come up with some policies, such as a tax policy, and industry policy or an exchange rate policy, members of the National Party are totally unable to respond. They are totally bereft of policies.

As we have said frequently on this side, their chance will come tomorrow night. They can then see if they can prop up the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). They can see if they can hide their past-and I am referring to the time when they protected the tax dodgers, and so on. They can try to do that, but we do not think that they can. When recently challenged about what they would do in terms of their economic policy and a small business policy, referred to by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys), it became clear that members of the National Party do not have a policy on those matters. They come in here day after day and whinge, but I point out that the Australian community knows how to deal with whingers-they are pushed off into one corner and left as being irrelevant people. That is what those honourable members are. The National Party is irrelevant and certainly as individuals members of that party are irrelevant. The thing that I find most entertaining around this place at the moment is talking to various Opposition members in the different factions. There are now many factions that exist; in fact, there are five factions.

I remind everyone who is listening to this debate at the moment that they have before them a united Hawke Government. The Labor Party is the only party capable of governing this country. It is the only party which has policies, and a further statement of those policies will be made tonight. We have come to grips with the real questions of the economic management of this country. Honourable members opposite form a rag-tag bunch who clutch at principles pertaining to the flag and the Queen, and so on, without any idea of how to go about putting those principles into policy. Honourable members opposite talk about families, but they were members of a government under which an extra 250,000 people were added to the unemployment list. That occurred in the last year when honourable members opposite were in government. What did they do for Australian families? They guaranteed that many people would have to face unemployment. The Liberal and National Party government was incapable of facing up to the double taxation of company dividends. As the honourable member for Canning and the Treasurer (Mr Keating) have said, the Government is facing up to that issue. With the abolition of the double taxation on company dividends, small businesses in this country will have the greatest chance to do something productive in terms of reversing the economic situation that they face. Honourable members opposite were never interested in addressing that issue; they were too busy doing deals with their mates from the Gold Coast, the white shoe brigade of the Gold Coast, all those people who could go around and put money in their bags.

Honourable members opposite were incapable of dealing with the real issues. The unfortunate thing is that the Australian people know this, too. They know that not only were honourable members opposite incapable of doing this when they were in government but that in fact their capabilities have dropped away even further since they have been in opposition. Without the lure of all those glittering prizes of being in government, they have nothing to hold their ranks together. As I said earlier, one of the most entertaining things to do in this place is to talk to various members of the Opposition factions and to find out how far apart they are. If the Government were to call an election, honourable members opposite would be incapable of putting up policies to the electorate. They certainly could not put up combined policies. They are incapable of developing even a single policy-on tax, for example.

On the other hand, the Government has before the Australian people a substantial record of economic achievement. Reference was made to bankruptcies but, as the honourable member for Canning very eloquently said, a big problem in relation to bankruptcies has occurred in Queensland. We know why that has occurred in Queensland-perhaps those involved have not done the right sort of deals with the Queensland Government and they have not got the right sort of contacts with the State Government departments. In other States, under labor governments, where there is free and open competition, business has not had that difficulty. The honourable member for Canning spoke very tellingly about that. Honourable members opposite must address this matter. Why is it that Queensland has such a shoddy record in terms of bankruptcies?

I now turn to the housing issue. Honourable members opposite were part of a government which presided over a disgraceful housing situation. In relation to house construction, commencements were at the lowest level for 20 years. The present Government has restored stability and profitability in the housing industry. When we go around our electorates-and honourable members on this side of the House are always working their electorate-we find that many people have obtained housing as a result of this Government's first home owners scheme and its commitment to public sector housing. That has meant that the small businesses associated with the housing industry have been able to benefit from an improved profitability in turnover. Recently, the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) came to my electorate in Perth. We visited two businesses, Gemco Pty Ltd and ACET. One of the interesting things was the level of activity there. They were so busy; everyone was on overtime and turning out things. They were getting new markets, including export markets. That sort of thing was not happening when the Opposition was in government, and it is interesting that the people at those businesses, and in the wider community, understand that too. Opposition members are still not on top of this issue. They have had four years in which to get on top of it, and there have been changes of leadership and other problems. However, in those four years the Opposition has still not come up with any substantial policies. The word `incentivation' was created, but it disappeared very quickly. What are the Australian people supposed to do? The Opposition is being taken over by people such as the Elliotts, the Edelstens and so on. They think that politics is a bit like buying football teams, that they can just move in with a million dollars and buy a seat. They think that a seat can be bought and sold the same as beer.

However, the Opposition's problem is that the Australian electorate is much more discerning than that. It understands that a party must have principles and be able to deliver. I advise members opposite, who are flirting with the likes of the Elliotts and the Edelstens, that politics is not like buying football teams. It is about delivering, caring about people, performing and having something substantial to show the Australian community. When we look back at our record we are pleased with what we have been able to do in terms of profitability and improving employment, with 782,000 new jobs since we came to office. What a record that is compared with the 250,000 jobs that were lost in the last period of the previous Government. I say to the Australian people: When they come to make a choice they should forget all these temporary bits of rhetoric from the Opposition; look at the record of the Government and the choice will be clear.

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