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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3431


Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —by leave-Within the past two weeks two events have taken place of fundamental significance for the future of Australia. I refer to the May statement and to the Premiers Conference. Those events must be placed firmly in the context of the continuing work of this Government. The great need now is for certainty and continuity. In the past two and a half years and especially in recent months, the people of Australia have demonstrated a willingness to shoulder and share burdens and a sense of responsibility in the face of the huge difficulties imposed upon us by the changes in our terms of trade which have wiped $9 billion from our national economic capacity since December 1984.

I believe it is essential for Australia's future that the sense of national responsibility, this new awareness and understanding of the problems, should now be harnessed to a great continuing and decisive national effort. The basis for this national effort is a renewed mandate from the people, a mandate to continue the directions now so strongly established, a mandate to finish the job. Accordingly, I have today met with the Governor-General and advised him to exercise his power under section 57 of the Constitution and dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate on 5 June 1987 with a view to elections for both Houses being held on 11 July 1987. The dissolution is, of course, subject to the Parliament appropriating sufficient funds to enable the work of administration to be carried on during the election period. I am pleased to inform the House that the Governor-General has accepted my advice. In addition, the Government expects that the legislation presently before the Parliament necessary to implement our high priority programs will be enacted before the Parliament is dissolved.

The May statement and the Premiers Conference together constitute the substantive part, and certainly the toughest part, of the budgetary processes for the year ahead. The large areas of fiscal policy-social security, education, community services, health, defence and Commonwealth-State relations-have been compre- hensively reviewed. We will not be returning to them to secure further savings of any magnitude for the 1987-88 Budget. Our strategy is now firmly in place. There has been a decisive reordering of policy from monetary to fiscal discipline. By cutting Government spending in this unprecedented fashion we have continued to improve the climate for reductions in interest rates. Our measures will also provide greater scope for lifting business investment in the export sector and in industries which compete against imports. There is, however, a significant element in our long term commitment which has been thwarted.

The Australia Card Bill is an integral part of the Government's tax reform package and is aimed at restoring fairness to the Australian taxation and social welfare systems. The Bill's rejection by the Senate significantly reduces the Government's ability to crack down on tax and welfare cheating and the Budget deficit in the years ahead. The most conservative estimate by the Australian Taxation Office of revenue gains in the tax area alone is $724m a year, once the program is fully operational. Gains in social security and Medicare expenditure would be of the order of $153m, thus the total gain to public resources from this measure would be nearly $900m. This is the ground on which I have advised a double dissolution. We are committed to reintroducing the legislation in the new Parliament.

The Senate's rejection of the Australia Card does not stand in isolation. Only today the Senate refused to reconsider the Government's legislation to extend television services in rural areas. The Government's intention to give five million of our fellow Australians living in country areas equal access to television services has been frustrated-for the time being. The pattern of conduct by the Senate introduces an element of uncertainty and instability into our national affairs at a time when Australia's greatest need is certainty, stability and continuity. That is the crucial issue in the election ahead. The measures that we have taken give this nation the tools for national recovery and reconstruction. Now let us finish the job.