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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3493

Mr HODGES(12.45) —Why the early election is the question that all Australians must ask themselves. Only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said: `I see no reason why the Government should not run its full term.' This election could be held as late as April 1988. It is being held nine months earlier than the latest possible date, or at least five months earlier than would be normal-in November or December. Why is Prime Minister Hawke not waiting until after the ordinary August Budget? I will tell honourable members why: It is not because of Senate obstructionism, and it has nothing to do with the Opposition, but let me assure the House the people will not be fooled by flimsy reasons put forward by the Prime Minister. However, the early election has everything to do with a government that is running scared and frightened about the economy later in the year. `If we leave it until later in the year things will worsen and we will have absolutely no chance' said Prime Minister Hawke. Why has the Treasurer (Mr Keating) been urging the Prime Minister to go to an early election? For the very same reasons. He knows that the economy is shaky. `Let us have a mini-Budget', he said. `I can act tough, con the media, be tough with the States and look strong and confident, and then we will have an early election. The real truth about the state of the economy will emerge as the months roll by, and with that our chances will lessen. Let us get in as early as possible'.

That will not work. Prime Minister Hawke and Treasurer Keating must take the Australian people for fools. Oh, yes, the sheep in the Australian Labor Party will go along and grab the ALP ticket and vote it down the line. But the swinging voters, in Rankin, Brisbane, Lilley, Herbert and Leichhardt in Queensland; in Chis- holm, Dunkley, Ballarat, Bendigo, McEwan and Burke in Victoria; and Barton, Eden-Monaro, Lowe and Hunter in New South Wales will not be fooled. That 20 per cent of intelligent voters in the swinging voter category who, like all Australians, have been hurting badly under this Hawke socialist Government, will see through the early election stunt and vote for the Opposition-the Liberal and National parties.

There is no point in Prime Minister Hawke saying: `We have made all the tough decisions in the mini-Budget'. The mini-Budget is a very superficial document. Prime Minister Hawke is saying to the Australian people: `I do not have the guts to bring down an ordinary Budget, but trust me now'. There are deep suspicions in the minds of the electors. They are asking: `Can Hawke be trusted?'; `Can Keating be trusted?'. The clear answer is: `No, they cannot'.

The living standards of Australians have suffered their biggest fall in more than 40 years. Affected are families, the elderly, the young, home buyers, small business and farmers. Every individual Australian is feeling the bite of the Hawke socialist Government. But there is one simple, single question Australians should ask themselves: `Am I better off now or is my family or my business better off now than four years ago when the Hawke socialist Government came to power?'. The answer on all counts is no. In 1983 the average family needed to spend 19c in every dollar of its weekly income to pay off a home loan. In December 1986 they had to spend 27c of every dollar earned on the home mortgage. The average home mortgage under Prime Minister Hawke has risen by $281 a month, an extra $70 a week. Private dwelling investment has fallen in each of the past five quarters. In December 1986 it was 9.2 per cent lower than in December 1985. New dwelling commencements have fallen dramatically. They were 17.1 per cent lower in December 1986 than they were in December 1985. Rental accommodation availability continues to decline, whilst rental costs have increased to prohibitive levels.

Under Prime Minister Hawke interest rates have soared. A home loan costs at least 15.5 per cent, Bankcard costs 23 per cent and a small overdraft costs 21 per cent. We have all this pious nonsense from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer about interest rates falling. For two years we have been listening to statements about the economy turning around. I would hate to be hanging by the neck waiting for that to happen. Home buyers are worried sick with increased mortgage payments; many are walking away from their homes. Many are depriving themselves of essentials, not luxuries, in order to keep the family home. Despite the Government's so-called tax reform program, a one income family with two children is $37 a week worse off now than when Prime Minister Hawke came to power. Australia's inflation rate is now four times that of the United States and Japan. Australia's inflation rate is 9.4 per cent, the organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average is 2.4 per cent. But the Treasurer says that the economy is turning around.

Our foreign debt stands at a staggering $105 billion, up from about $40 billion when the Hawke Government came to power. The debt stands at the equivalent of $26,000 for every Australian family. Bob Hawke is rapidly sending this nation broke. In addition to the single income family paying $37 more a week in tax than it did in 1983, the Medicare tax, which was one per cent, is now 1.25 per cent, an increase of 25 per cent. It will no doubt increase again if the Hawke Government gets its way. With increases in the Medicare tax, private health insurance, hospital cover, and the cost of pharmaceuticals, health costs have risen an average of $280 for Australian families as a result of the actions of this Government since June last year. Yet we have 100,000 Australians waiting in line for elective surgery at our public hospitals. Medicare is costing $4.7 billion and the tax is bringing in $1.6 billion. It is not delivering the service and it is a financial disaster.

Let me illustrate why the Hawke Government is the biggest taxing government in Australia's history. It introduced the tax on lump sum superannuation, automatic twice yearly tax increases for beer, cigarettes and petrol, the Medicare tax, the resource rent tax, a tax of 10 per cent on wine, the fringe benefits tax, the capital gains tax, and new sales taxes. It abolished negative gearing, which has caused rents to rise. It disallowed genuine entertainment expenses as a tax deduction, and it abolished the concessional expenditure rebate. The elderly and veterans have not escaped the sting of the Hawke Government. Returned servicemen and women and aged pensioners have been kicked in the guts by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The deferment of the consumer price index increases in pensions took $130m out of the pockets of pensioners. The 2 per cent discounting of the Defence Force retirement benefits and the Defence Force retirement and death benefits pensions have caused hardship to those pensioners. Pharmaceutical benefits have been cut drastically with pensioners now having to buy common analgesics, such as aspirin and paracetamol, anti-histamines and cough mixtures. They will not forget this Hawke Government as they go to the polls this winter, when they have to pay for all those commonly used pharmaceuticals. Supermarket prices have risen sharply and we have the Minister for Science and Minister assisting the Attorney-General on Consumer Affairs (Mr Barry Jones) and his bevy of notepad pimps, who are running around the supermarkets checking prices, when the real reason for the price increases is inflation.

Mr Deputy Speaker, at a news conference yesterday the Prime Minister said:

Bob Hawke's word is one of the most valuable commodities in Australian politics.

With his record of broken promises it is little wonder that the Prime Minister is paranoid about his integrity and his honesty. On 20 November, speaking about interest rates, he said that Australia would reap the benefits of low interest rates. This is a broken promise, of course we have seen interest rates rise and they have been at record levels ever since. Also on 20 November he said: `We expect inflation will be less than 5 per cent in the year ahead, and we are determined to keep it below 5 per cent'. It is 9.4 per cent and it has never been down to 5 per cent. On 13 November 1984 he said that the Medicare levy would not rise in the term of his Government. We all know that it went up 25 per cent. `There will be no capital gains tax', he said. `Let me make it clear there will be no capital gains tax'. That is another broken promise. Bob Hawke has broken so many promises, Mr Deputy Speaker, that his promises are now not worth two bob.

The Prime Minister has had his run; he has had his chances and he blew them. The public is sick and tired of excessive union power and unions running the country. The biggest taxing, the biggest spending Government in Australia's history must go. People want an alternative. It is time for a change. The alternative is John Howard. Mr Howard and the Liberal and National parties stand for reduced government spending and lower taxes. Mr Howard and the Liberal and National parties stand for elevating families to their rightful place in our society and the Minister at the table, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) knows exactly what that means in terms of the bad deal that Australian families have had under this Government. It has forgotten about the plight of the average Australian. Middle Australia has had it in the neck from the Hawke socialist Government and on 11 July the people will not forget any of the Government members because a number of them will not be back here; only those with the safe seats will return to this chamber.

The alternative is John Howard. The Liberal Party will reduce taxes, abolish the capital gains tax, abolish the fringe benefits tax, abolish the assets test and bring lower taxes for Australians through lower government spending. Australians generally will benefit. I have no doubt that John Howard will lead the Liberal and National Parties to victory on 11 July.

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