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- Start of Business
- National Flag
- National Flag
- Medicare: Abortions
- National Flag
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Asia
- Earth Repair Charter
- National Flag
- Capital Punishment
- Civil Aviation Authority: Gliders
- Health Care Access
- National Flag
- Electoral Advertising
- National Flag
- Collinsville: TV
- Five-dollar Note
- Australia Post
- Five-dollar Note
- Medicare Funding of Abortions
- Australian National University Legislation
- Serbian Chetniks: Anzac Day Parades
- Townsville: Roadworks
- Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation
- Family Law Act
- Farm Profitability
- ABC Funding
- Federal Industrial Relations Act
- Postal Industry
- East Timor
- Farm Profitability
- Procedural Text
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- GRIEVANCE DEBATE
Radio and Television Services: Mid-north Coast of New South Wales
Tax File Numbers
- GRIEVANCE DEBATE
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- International Swindle
- Private Health Insurance
- Logan Migrant Neighbourhood Centre
- Australian Army Band, Perth
- Labour Day
- Rehabilitation: Operation Flinders
- Railways: Western Line, New South Wales
- Victoria: Education
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Dr HEWSON, Mr KEATING)
(Mr SAWFORD, Mr GRIFFITHS)
(Mr DOWNER, Mr DAWKINS)
(Mrs EASSON, Mr BEAZLEY)
(Mr ANDERSON, Mr CREAN)
Wool Industry: Drought Assistance
(Mr SNOW, Mr CREAN)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr STEPHEN SMITH, Mr LAVARCH)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr GRIFFIN, Mr BRERETON)
(Mr CLEARY, Mr KEATING)
(Mr GIBSON, Mr FREE)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr GRACE, Mr BILNEY)
- PAPERS: PRESENTATION
- NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1993
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
Thursday, 6 May 1993
Mr STEPHEN SMITH (11.10 a.m.) —I take my first opportunity to thank the people of Perth for their support and for the confidence and trust that they have placed in me. My commitment to them is to do my utmost not to betray that trust, or to let down that confidence, and to earn over a number of years their continued support.
Mr Speaker, I offer my congratulations to you on your elevation to high office, your promotion from amateur to professional referee. I know, Mr Speaker, that you will discharge your duties with fairness and alacrity.
I congratulate my immediate neighbours on their first speeches this morning—the honourable member for Lowe (Mrs Easson), the honourable member for Capricornia (Ms Henzell), and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Tanner)—all of whom made very fine contributions.
As the only new Western Australian member on this side of the House I take the opportunity to congratulate my Western Australian colleagues, the Treasurer (Mr Dawkins) and the Leader of the House (Mr Beazley), on their continuing appointments. I congratulate also the honourable member for Canning (Mr Gear) on his elevation to the Ministry. His elevation, fortunately, spares me his assiduousness as Government Whip.
To the honourable member for Brand (Ms Fatin) go my congratulations on both her re-election and her ministerial work in the last Parliament. I am pleased to join my colleague and friend the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) some 13 years after—and some say against my better judgment—I supported his first election to this place. I shall look to his efforts as a local member for guidance but I dare not follow his approach to doorstop interviews on policy or personalities on his way into the Parliament.
Without reflecting adversely on the honourable member for Cowan (Mr Evans) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Cameron)—the honourable member for Stirling making his first speech today—I express my regret at the absence of Carolyn Jakobsen and Ron Edwards, with whom I worked closely in the course of their various elections to this Parliament.
Those who know me well know how pleased I am to satisfy a longstanding aspiration to represent the people of Perth and how much pride I have in representing the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament. Perth is the area I grew up in, where I went to school, where my family have lived for the last 25 years and where we still live today. The Perth electorate council of the Australian Labor Party is the place where my political activity began and where I began to acquire an avid interest in national policy debates.
The first election campaign I actively participated in was the 1975 election campaign for the federal seat of Perth. The result naturally disappointed me although some of that disappointment has been assuaged by subsequent efforts and results.
Perth has been a seat since Federation. There have been, including me, nine members for Perth. The average tenure has been about 10 years but honourable members opposite will understand that no effort will be spared by me to increase that average. The longest sitting member for Perth was the first member, James Fowler, who sat from 1901 to 1922. Mr Fowler was obviously an early and successful exponent of the notion that one of the tricks in politics, like economic management, is to pick the turns. He achieved his record by turning from the Australian Labor Party to Liberal in 1910 and then to National Party from 1917 to 1922. I might one day aspire to Mr Fowler's record but not to his method of achieving it.
On the Labor side I follow two distinguished predecessors—from 1983 until 1993, Dr Ric Charlesworth, and from 1969 to 1975 Joe Berinson, Minister for the Environment in the Whitlam Government. I pay tribute to Dr Ric Charlesworth, not least because in his capacity as my campaign director he presided over a one per cent swing towards me at the election. It is no criticism of him to say that he worked harder for me than he did for himself. He took seriously the notion we have on our side of the House that when members decide that it is time to go they ensure that one of their own takes their place.
Ric Charlesworth made a fine contribution to the deliberations of this House and the Government. I have known Ric for many years, initially through hockey circles and subsequently with him as candidate and then member for Perth. He has recently been appointed coach of the Australian women's hockey team, so continuing his substantial contribution to our sporting life. I might add that, while Ric's hockey career culminated in the Olympics, mine peaked and plateaus today with the fourth team at the Bayswater-Morley hockey club in the heart of my electorate. And worse, when I was his campaign director in 1987, I managed to achieve no swing to him at all.
Joe Berinson's departure from this House in 1975 was not before he proclaimed Kakadu as a national park. He subsequently became Attorney-General of Western Australia from 1983 to 1993 and recently retired from the Western Australian Parliament after a distinguished ministerial and parliamentary career. I have the good fortune to be his friend and to have worked with him as his principal private secretary from 1983 to 1987. I am particularly pleased to now follow him into this House.
The electorate of Perth is a diverse one, stretching north to north-east from the Perth central business district to Midland by rail, river and road, encompassing over 100 square kilometres, from inner city and suburban residential to light industrial and semi-rural areas. It contains a wide range of ethnic groups and is, in that sense, reflective of our successful and diverse multicultural nation. It contains the Narrows Bridge, the WACA, the Perth and Midland town halls, Bassendean Oval, the Guildford post office, the standard gauge railway line and the Swan River. I have all the icons in my electorate.
There are a number of important local projects which I wish to pursue in this Parliament. These include a range of federally funded projects like the upgrading of Russell Square to a safe recreation area, preservation of the Kings Street heritage precinct, the restoration of the Maylands brick kilns, the development of the Beatty Park aquatic centre, and completion of the Altone Park community and recreational facility. As well, the protection of the Swan River, enhancing its water catchment quality, protecting the Maylands clay pits as a local environmental preserve, improving the catchment quality of the Bayswater main drain and foreshore preservation work in Ashfield and Bassendean are important local issues.
The House will not be familiar with much of these with the honourable exceptions of the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly) and the former Minister for Local Government, the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons), both of whom joined me on the campaign trail and, to their credit and my gratitude, added their weight and the Commonwealth's revenue to these important local projects. I am committed to help bring them all to a successful conclusion.
Some honourable members may be surprised to learn that, since Federation, there have been just over 870 members to this House, with only 70-odd from my own State, Western Australia. Although relatively few in number, we all come here to add our vastly different life experiences and our different little emphases to the sifting of ideas which goes on in the search for the correct policy.
In my own case, my initial life experience was to train and then practise as a lawyer. Practising as a lawyer put me in a special position. I became a member of Australia's second most powerful trade union, a law society—second, of course, to the AMA. That experience causes me to now focus on a serious national issue: the growing lack of access to justice. Judge Andrew Rogers said recently on his retirement that, while it was often said that everyone should be allowed to have his or her day in court, `does that necessarily mean that some other citizens should be exposed needlessly and unfairly to the costs which attend legal proceedings?'.
Justice can be denied simply by the array of resources marshalled against one individual or by the costs required to jump endless procedural or litigious hurdles. The attempt at a solution to this cannot be piecemeal. A national policy effort is now required to meet this access problem.
For my sins, my subsequent experiences have been as State secretary to the Australian Labor Party's Western Australian branch and then adviser to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) as Treasurer and subsequently as Prime Minister. This runs the risk of the pejorative description `machine or backroom boy', a label perhaps even more disdainful than parliamentarian.
For my part, I believe these are honourable professions. These roles are not only very useful life experiences and sometimes apprenticeships for this place, but play an important and much underrated part in our democratic and political process. We have the great advantage in this country that our disputes are settled every three years in primary school classrooms and town halls. The greater the quality of our political parties, the more integrity there is to that process. The greater the quality of advisers, the greater the quality of debate and the clash of ideas in the search for the correct policy outcome.
I now make a few asides related to these life experiences. I pay tribute to the retiring national secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Bob Hogg. It was a pleasure to work closely with him. I met him first in the 1979 Victorian State election. He has not changed—ever the pessimist. He has made a much undervalued contribution to public affairs, political process and policy debate in this country, bringing a disarming frankness and great integrity with that contribution.
Secondly, I refer to the honourable member for Lindsay (Mr Free), and Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training. In between gainful employment with the honourable member for Blaxland, I had the pleasure of working with the Minister in his previous portfolio, science. However, I do note that some members of the Fairfax press alleged there was no actual break in employment. That started a keen interest in the need to develop our great Australian scientific ideas here. I enjoyed my time with him enormously and he has been a great encouragement to me in seeking a place in this chamber.
Thirdly, I see in the advisers box some erstwhile, but well regarded, colleagues. At my first Caucus meeting, a colleague said to me, `Stephen, you now know the difference between real power and apparent power. You had real power but you gave it up. You now have apparent power'. Apart from the fact that that might be too close to the truth, it raises far too simplistically the question of Parliament versus the Executive or member versus Minister and minder. All I say is that the view from here is better—a different view but a better view. With a better view, one gets a bigger picture, and we all know the importance of a big picture.
Fourthly, I note that the last four Western Australian State secretaries—Senator McMullan, Senator Beahan, Senator elect Evans and I—will now all be in this Parliament. I can only say that my judgment must be better than theirs: I chose the decent House.
I believe it is important to volunteer why I chose this side rather than the other. I can vividly recall as a young schoolboy extolling to my mother and father—whom I see in the gallery—the great virtue of voting for John Tonkin at a Western Australian State election. I was met with the rejoinder that I should not worry; that we were Labor; that my father and mother had voted for Labor since Chifley was leader. The great Australian Labor supporting traditions were instilled, without resistance, at an early age. But it was not until 1975 that I became politically active as a rank and file member of the Australian Labor Party. That was as a direct result of the actions of the coalition, the then Governor-General and the then Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia conspiring to remove a democratically elected government.
As with most young men and women of my generation, I had followed the actions and the fortunes of the Whitlam Government with great passion and interest. It was Gough who instilled the desire, and I must say how pleased I was to see him in the gallery at the opening of the Parliament and at Question Time yesterday. It has also been my great fortune to work closely with the Prime Minister and Joe Berinson, the last two of the Whitlam Ministry.
There has been much analysis as to the reasons for our victory at the election. Like most complicated analysis, there is generally a simple answer. My own view is that the Keating Government was returned with an increased majority because Australia made a lifestyle choice about its future and its people's future. The elements are well known: the choice of a fair tax system over a new, unfair tax; the choice of a cooperative, productive, fair wage system over the imposition of unfair individual employment contracts without safety nets; the choice of a universal health care system over an American style system, based on profit and ability to pay; the choice of a view that governments have a responsibility to be involved in society over the withdrawal of government through massive expenditure cuts in social policy areas; and the choice of a commitment to creating jobs through continued development of Australia as a modern industrial trading nation over the illusion of a glib promise of one million jobs.
Often, the most difficult thing in life is choice but, given those elements, the Australian lifestyle choice was clear. The Opposition's attempt to take Australia down an unfair road, based on the worst excesses of Thatcher and Reagan, has been resoundingly rejected. But now we must look to the choices for the future. My own view is that, at the next election, the Australian public will judge the Government and this side of the House squarely on their merits. The obligation on this side is to live up to the Prime Minister's commitment—we will not let you down. That will require living up to the commitments given in the Governor-General's speech on Tuesday.
Without minimising their importance, I touch briefly on some other issues: firstly, home child care and child care. I was very pleased to see the principle of economic worth for home child care recognised by the Government during the election campaign and look forward in due course to its extension.
For me and my family, child care is—particularly around this place—a work related issue. I support and look forward to the Government meeting its commitments to work related child care by 2001 and, together with a number of new members, to assisting its efforts to include this place in those commitments.
I am a strong supporter of the ABC as an important national cultural institution in Australia. Being a supporter, however, does entitle one to do reviews, both on the allocation of resources and the quality of outcome.
During my time here I hope to take a particular interest in industry and trade policy matters. Like many on my side, I believe in government intervention to secure the strength of Australian industry. The trick is in the nature and the extent of that intervention.
During the last 10 years the Australian economy and Australian industry have been opened to international competition. We are now a low inflation country and we must now build on our new lower cost production base to provide a springboard for new export industries.
The recent McKinsey report has revealed a whole new sector of 700 small to medium exporting manufacturing firms, and I am confident more manufacturing and service firms will successfully export. This is reflected in my own electorate, where in the Bassendean-Bayswater industrial strip many small companies are now exporting. Ten years ago, if you had asked which of them were exporting, most would have scurried for a dictionary to find the difference between importing and exporting. Our future as a nation will require diverse production, trading in a wide range of products into our Asia-Pacific regional economy.
One of the challenges we face as parliamentarians is the poor standing in which we are often held by the Australian community. We all have an obligation to instil greater confidence in our process and its personalities. This has not been helped by recent difficulties at the State level in my own State and earlier in Queensland. These difficulties have occurred from time to time at the State level; they have not occurred at the Commonwealth level. I believe the reason for that is the diversity and quality of scrutiny which we have here on the policy choices and the policy issues. In my own State, if I was asked for the one single reason why the events on which the Western Australian community recently made judgment occurred, I would say lack of quality and diversity and scrutiny at all levels, from the Parliament to the political process to the media. A number of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of scrutiny are now being ignored by the current coalition State Government.
I am also concerned about the quality of the West Australian newspaper. I do not share the view that it is the worst in Australia—I give that to the Herald-Sun. I do believe it can be greatly improved. It has all the hallmarks of a monopoly tabloid but carries all the pretensions of a quality broadsheet. I say, constructively, that it can become a quality newspaper with both a national and a State focus.
The view of politicians and their integrity has been severely dented recently by the newly elected Court State Government. It went to the election in my own electorate with an unequivocal commitment to an enhanced role for the Midland Westrail railway workshops. Last week the coalition State Government announced that the workshops would be closed and 750 workers thrown out next year. I was endeavouring to ensure that the Midland workshops received a fair share of National Rail Corporation work. The State Government's decision to close the workshops and withdraw equity from the National Rail Corporation has put paid to that.
I thank the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) for inviting me to join his staff and opening new vistas for me. I thank him for his encouragement to take my place in this chamber. I congratulate him on a tremendous victory and a remarkable personal achievement and performance from December 1991. I thank him and Annita for their friendship to me, to Jane and to Hugo. I thank my mother and father for showing me the light on the hill and for giving me the opportunity to try and achieve it. I thank my wife, Jane, for her support. I thank Hugo, my son. In a sense, he has been privileged at an early age, he has been to the Lodge, but the aspirations that I have for him are the aspirations which I believe only our side has for our country. I want him to take a part in the long-term secure jobs that only a Labor government can achieve—interesting jobs provided by a modern industrial trading nation. I want him to feel wholly part of the Asia-Pacific region. I want him to be part of a truly independent nation so that one day he can see his father swear an affirmation of allegiance to the people of Australia rather than the House of Windsor. I want him one day to be satisfied that he lives in a culturally diverse society where equality of opportunity comes to all, including our own indigenous people, a society where our health and social security systems are second to none, where they cater for the disadvantaged, and our education system provides access to all and extensive opportunity.
I strongly believe that only on this side of the chamber is there the philosophical commitment and the political will and know-how to action and achieve these things. It is to these things that my energies will be devoted in this place. I thank my colleagues for their attendance and the House for its silence, and I look forward to many years of robust debate on these and other issues. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER —Order! Before I call the honourable member for Kennedy, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech, at least in this place, and I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.