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- Start of Business
- NOTICE PAPER
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Mr REITH, Mr HOWE)
ASIA: TRADE OPPORTUNITIES
(Mr NEWELL, Mr DAWKINS)
(Mr RUDDOCK, Mr KEATING)
(Mr MELHAM, Mr GRIFFITHS)
(Mr SHACK, Mr KEATING)
WHEAT SALES: UNITED STATES SUBSIDIES
(Mr FERGUSON, Dr BLEWETT)
PUBLIC SECTOR BORROWING PROGRAM
(Mr BEALE, Mr KEATING)
(Mr LES SCOTT, Mr TICKNER)
EXPORT CHIPPING LICENCES
(Mr COWAN, Mr GRIFFITHS)
PHARMACEUTICAL BENEFITS SCHEME
(Mr JENKINS, Mr HOWE)
PARLIAMENT HOUSE: DOORSTOP INTERVIEWS
- PRESENTATION OF PAPERS
- LIVING STANDARDS: RURAL AUSTRALIA
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1990-91
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1990-91
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Tuesday, 18 September 1990
Mr SOMLYAY(4.03) —It is an honour to rise as the member for Fairfax and address the Australian Parliament for the first time. I thank my colleagues for their presence and support. When I awoke on 25 March, the morning after the Federal election, I read the Brisbane Sunday newspapers and knew how that great little Australian swimmer Hayley Lewis felt when she returned from the Commonwealth Games with a bagful of medals to see the Australian news headlines `Lisa Curry comes second'. By that statement I mean no insult to Lisa Curry. She and her husband Grant Kenny are two of my more well-known constituents.
Not many members of this House can boast the broad range of well-known constituent achievers that I can. Apart from Lisa and Grant, I have as constituents a former State Premier, two Treasurers, the parents of the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Mrs Kelly)-although I do not think they voted for me-Mr and Mrs Ted Bliss, the parents of my colleague the honourable member for McEwen (Mrs Bailey), and Professor Kelly, the father-in-law of my colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Miles). I even have as a constituent a former Secretary to the Treasury.
Like the other 147 members of this House, I too have the most beautiful electorate in Australia, in terms of both scenic beauty and natural attractions. The 1,370 square kilometres of Fairfax contain Australia's most beautiful surfing beaches, from Caloundra in the south to the north shore of Noosa Heads. The beaches remain relatively unspoilt by incompatible development-or, should I say, ecologically unsustainable development, such as has occurred on the Gold Coast. I know that in saying that I risk the wrath of my colleague the honourable member for McPherson (Mr Bradford). However, the shadows on beaches in my electorate are cast by sand dunes at dusk and not high-rise at 2 o'clock. I pray that will not change under the guise of progress. To me, ecologically sustainable development is development today that will become Australia's heritage tomorrow.
Our beaches are complemented by the magnificent navigable waterways of the Noosa River, the Maroochy River and the Pumicestone Passage. Mooloolaba harbour, at the mouth of the Mooloolah River, is the home of the Sunshine Coast prawning, commercial fishing, recreational fishing and game fishing fleets which are so vital as a source of income to our economy.
The hinterland or country areas of Fairfax have important rural industries in sugar, with a sugar mill at Nambour, tropical fruits, ginger and other horticultural crops. Australia's only ginger factory is located at Yandina. Interspersed with populated areas and farming areas are a variety of national parks, environmental parks and subtropical rainforests which guarantee the amenity of the area for future generations against urban exploitation.
Fairfax electorate was created by the redistribution in 1984 and was named after Ruth Fairfax, the founding president of the Queensland Country Women's Association. The CWA has 19 branches in my electorate, with more than 500 active members, as a direct legacy of Ruth Fairfax and her co-founding team of country women. Fairfax is one of Australia's highest growth areas. The population has increased from about 50,000 in 1976 to about 130,000 in the 14 short years that I have lived in the electorate. It is significant that only 34 per cent of the population of Fairfax have lived in the same house for five years or longer. In her maiden address my colleague the honourable member for Hawker (Mrs Gallus) stated:
Whereas 15 per cent of the population of Australia is over 60, in Hawker it is 22 per cent.
In Fairfax the proportion of the population over 60 is 24 per cent. Nearly one person in four is a senior citizen-not a silly old bugger, but a senior citizen. One can imagine the reaction in my electorate to that recent description of a senior citizen by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke).
I pause for a moment to pay tribute to the senior citizens of Fairfax. Many are pensioners and war veterans; many are living on the proceeds of superannuation or from their savings-the fruits of their labours. They see their savings dwindling under this Government and ask why. They ask why the Treasurer (Mr Keating) robs the poor to pay the rich. Like me, they shake their heads in disbelief at what has happened to this great lucky country in the past seven years. Australia, a great nation, became so on the efforts, toil, sweat and faith of our senior citizens of today. This generation has an obligation to give all Australians the prosperity and future promise that today's senior citizens gave us.
Recently I was invited to chair the annual general meeting of the Noosa Day Care Centre for the Aged and Incapacitated. I am sure the guest speaker, Sister Ellie Buckley from the Noosa Blue Nurses, will not mind if I quote her anecdote on what is a senior citizen. She said:
A senior citizen is one who was here before the pill, before television, frozen foods, credit cards and ballpoint pens. For us time sharing meant togetherness, not computers; and a chip meant a piece of wood. Hardware was hardware and software was not even a word. Teenagers didn't wear jeans. We were before pantihose, drip-dry clothes, dishwashers, clothesdryers and electric blankets. We got married first and lived together afterwards. We thought cleavage was something butchers did. We were before Batman, disposable nappies, off-road vehicles, pizzas, instant coffee and Kentucky fried wasn't even thought off. In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was for mowing, pot was something you cooked in, a gay person was the life of the party, while aids were beauty lotions or help for someone in trouble. We are today's Senior Citizens, a hardy bunch when you think how we have had to adjust to change.
At the other end of the age scale in Fairfax, 25 per cent of the population are of primary and secondary school age. There are 12 high schools in my electorate, with more planned. That means more than 6,000 school children will reach work force age during the scheduled life of this Parliament.
Fairfax covers the region of Queensland known as the Sunshine Coast. The economy of the Sunshine Coast is mostly dependent on tourism-related small business, the building industry, fashion and leisure industries and light industrial and agricultural industries, as I mentioned previously. Thirty-two per cent of the population are employed in the productive work force. Married women constitute one-third of that work force. Fairfax is a family holiday and tourist destination and, as such, much of the economy revolves around tourism. The latest figures I have available for 1987-88 show that expenditure by visitors staying in commercial accommodation totalled $217m. That is compared with the gross value of agricultural production in the electorate, which totalled $80m.
The impact of the 1990 Budget on the Sunshine Coast cannot be underestimated. The Government's high interest rate policy has seen small business and rural industries in my region devastated. Traditionally, the last dollar earned by a family is the money that is spent on a holiday. As mortgage rates were increased by this Government from 13 per cent to 18 per cent, that translated into a $300 to $400 increase per month in average family mortgage repayments. Obviously, families had less money to spend on annual holidays and leisure-related activities. Stated simply, Australians could no longer afford the traditional annual family holiday which is so important to the economy of Fairfax. Small business not only had to face dramatic reductions in turnover, but also had to face business overdraft interest rates of up to 25 per cent. Many businesses have closed their doors and unemployment has been compounded. People have seen their life savings disintegrate and many people have been forced to sell their family homes to cover their inability to service their borrowings.
In the past four months advertised job vacancies in my electorate have fallen by 18 per cent and the number of registered unemployed has increased by 7 per cent. The building industry in Fairfax is also on its knees, with building contractors and subcontractors laying off workers every day because average Australians can no longer afford a house due to this Government's interest rate policy.
Historically, areas such as Fairfax have high rates of unemployment. Many people move to Fairfax for the lifestyle and because it is the environment in which they want to raise their children. More people go there to retire. Unfortunately, too many move there first in anticipation of finding work afterwards. Others who are already unemployed are drawn to the surfing beach areas of the Sunshine Coast as a preferred place to be unemployed compared with the urban industrial sprawls of our southern capitals. Given that much of the unemployment in my electorate is imported, many local families ask what will become of the 6,000 children in our local high schools who will reach work force age during the life of this Parliament. Quite simply, not enough jobs can be generated during this Government-induced recession to give locals any prospect of employment.
The philosophy behind this Budget offers no solution to that question. As my Leader and other colleagues have pointed out in this debate, this is a Budget of lost opportunity. The Treasurer must acknowledge that his high interest rate induced recession has failed. It has failed to provide solutions to the problem of our trade imbalance and foreign debt. The policy of high interest rates to reduce consumption expenditure on imports has not worked. The Treasurer should admit it and change the direction of his economic policy. High interest rates have done nothing more than prop up the value of our currency to protect the offshore borrowings of our high flyers and millionaire paper manipulators-the Prime Minister's mates.
The Treasurer has once again robbed the poor to pay the rich. High interest rates have led to record bank profits which have been passed on to bank shareholders in the form of dividends. Part of those dividends, as the income of shareholders, is spent on imports. The capacity of householders to spend money on imports has been transferred to the shareholder sector to spend on imports. That is a great policy!
It is hard to believe that the Treasurer, or the best brains in the Treasury and other sources of advice to the Treasurer, could not come up with a better way of cutting consumption expenditure on imports. The answer, surely, is to have a policy that boosts savings but does not cut consumption. Does the Treasurer believe that householders-Australian families-if given the choice, would have preferred to lose $400 a month in spending power through increased mortgage interest rates, which is, for them, dead money lost forever, or to save $400 a month and keep it? I certainly know that in my electorate, if given the real choice, people would save.
The other part of the equation that this Budget ignores is Australia's capacity to increase exports and to tighten our belts so that Australian industry can become lean and mean to increase productivity and aggressively trade our way out of trouble. We must stop saying `What about me?' and start saying, `What about us?'.
My colleague the honourable member for Moore (Mr Filing) spoke last week about the peoples of Europe tearing down the Berlin Wall. Australia has its own Berlin Wall-it is a wall of disincentive, based on overregulation, industrial relations anarchy, industry protection and taxation lunacy. Brick by brick, successive governments-and we must share the blame on this side of the House-have built this wall of disincentive around our homes, our businesses and our nation. In the last seven years that wall has become higher and stronger.
In the context of government, I have an abhorrence of the word incentive. Bureaucracies, governments and quangos dream up schemes to give people and business a thing called incentives. What they are doing is offering people a ladder with which to climb over our Berlin Wall. Workers sell their labour for wages and business operates for profit. There is no conflict. No-one needs to be offered an incentive to make money and to create wealth. No-one needs an incentive to want to improve living standards. What we do need is not to give incentives but to remove disincentives. When the Government offers incentives to workers, business, unions, exporters, farmers and others it is really offering a temporary ladder to these groups to help them climb over the wall. We should be removing the disincentives and knocking the wall down as the people of Europe have knocked down their wall. Just as the Europeans have demanded democratic freedoms, Australians are demanding their economic freedoms.
That is the reason I contested the seat of Fairfax. Only a Liberal government would really understand what I have said. The Labor Party talks about privatisation. It is the right word but for the wrong reason. The Government wants to have a garage sale to make a few bob to satisfy a small group of people who think up new and better ways of spending more of the people's money. The fundamental reason to privatise any government service is to create efficiency through increased productivity which will flow from competition. Communications and transport are a cost to industry-partly a fixed cost and partly an ongoing operating cost. If those costs are higher than those of our trading partners, we cannot be efficient exporters. We cannot compete. Market forces should determine the cost of inputs. The same applies to industrial relations and wage fixing: the answer is enterprise agreements.
The Government cannot be serious about micro-economic reform without applying the same principles to all productive inputs, including the cost of labour. The Government has a guaranteed source of election funding from levies on trade union members' fees. It is the potential loss of that revenue that prevents Labor governments across Australia from even entertaining the thought of enterprise agreements in the wages system. As my colleague the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has repeatedly pointed out in this House, the voluntary employment agreement between Power Brewing Co. Ltd and its employees proves conclusively that workers are better off under enterprise agreements. The Government does not care for the worker; it cares for the preservation of the trade union movement because of the election funding revenue it derives from trade union fees.
The same principle applies to taxation. The present taxation system is a disincentive to save. Only a Liberal government would totally reform Australia's taxation system-the most burdensome, cumbersome and unintelligible system in the world. The Government does not understand the present system, the Australian Taxation Office does not understand it, the accountancy profession does not understand it and the taxpayer does not understand it. When Robin Hood robbed the rich merchants en route through Sherwood Forest to pay the poor in the villages, he did the opposite. Those merchants did not continue to travel through the forest knowing they were going to be robbed. They were not that stupid; they either hired armed guards or travelled around the forest, thus adding to their costs of production. In the final analysis the villagers paid more for their goods through higher prices. Similarly, in Australia businesses hire armed guards in the form of accountants and tax minimisation schemes which add to their costs and which are paid for by the consumer, who finishes up worse off through higher prices.
I was reminded of this analogy of Robin Hood by the Treasurer's recent foray down south to rescue Victoria's Maid Marion from inside the prison walls of her State Bank of Victoria. I dread that a similar rescue package might be needed in Queensland because I remember that upon election to the State leadership of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland Wayne Goss promised that, `just as business has prospered under the stewardship of John Cain in Victoria, so too will business prosper under a Goss Labor Government in Queensland'. God help us! That is one election promise Queenslanders will not demand be kept.
As most honourable members know, although I am a new member I am no stranger to Canberra or this great institution of Parliament. As did a number of my colleagues, including the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson), I served as a ministerial staffer-in my case for the first five years of the Fraser Government. During the election campaign in March I gave the people of Fairfax a commitment: I said I would take their message to Canberra, not Canberra's message to them. That commitment I will keep unequivocally. It was on the basis of strong and honest and local representation that I was elected. It is on that basis I will work in this place and in my electorate.
No person with a family can effectively carry out his or her duties without their total support. I thank my wife, Jennifer, daughters Michelle and Vicki and my son Mark for their encouragement and constant criticism, particularly on those occasions when they are constructive. I acknowledge their presence in the gallery today. I thank my hard working dedicated campaign team and supporters who enabled me to do the impossible and become the first Liberal member of parliament to represent the Sunshine Coast in this place.
I particularly thank Glen Elmes, my campaign chairman; my friend, Keith Garthon; my branch chairman, Terry Welch; Ian and Bette Poole; Colin and Joan Butterworth; Peter Hardie; Olive Taylor and the Noosa Branch; Joy Brannelly and her Caloundra team; and my team of dedicated campaign office workers led by Anne and Fred Borlase, Pam and Elizabeth. My sincere thanks go to Lloyd Shemwell, who led my team of scrutineers, who on election night were able to predict the final outcome to within 50 votes. To those of my parliamentary colleagues who dared to help me, I salute you and thank you: the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie), the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore), the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Jull), Senator Parer, and now Senators John Herron and Ian Macdonald.
In the few moments I have left to me I wish to say that there is another person who gave me tremendous help and who has been an inspiration to me: that is Bernie Verwayen. Bernie is an example to all those who take on the impossible. Today Bernie and his wife live in a caravan in Bli Bli. Armed with no more than a Commodore 64 computer, he took on the might of the Australian Government and, for himself and for the other survivors of the Voyager disaster, he won. His crusade took him through Government departments, heartless Ministers and our present Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the combined technological might of the Australian Government.
He mortgaged his home and belongings on his way to the highest court in this land, the High Court of Australia. The Court ruled in his favour-justice was done. Government members should hang their collective heads in collective shame for what they have done to this Australian ex-serviceman and his surviving Voyager colleagues. I want to acknowledge the honourable member for Groom (Mr Taylor) and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) for the help and support they have given Bernie throughout this disgraceful ordeal.
In conclusion, I want to pay tribute to my father, who emigrated to this country as a refugee in 1949. I thank God for the opportunity he had to see me elected to this House and the happiness it brought him a few short weeks before he passed away on 28 April this year. I thank the House.
Honourable members-Hear, hear!