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Thursday, 29 June 1995
Page: 2726


Mr KATTER (6.37 p.m.) —I would like to advise the House in this adjournment debate that tomorrow I most certainly will be voting against—I have officially informed the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Tim Fischer)—the Competition Policy Reform Bill, which I think is one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation that I will see in my lifetime come into an Australian parliament. I seem to be very isolated in that viewpoint on both sides of the House, although I suspect that there are many people sitting opposite who would agree very strongly with my point of view. I suspect there are a number of people on my side of the House who would oppose very strongly the legislation.

  I am in fairly good company—Trevor Sykes, probably the best writer on finance in Australia today and the editor of Bulletin magazine for many years; Tom Fitzgerald, who gave the Boyer lectures in 1990 and was also the finance editor at the Sydney Morning Herald for some 17 years; Bob Santamaria; Doug Anthony; Malcolm Fraser; and, for those sitting opposite, Ben Chifley and Ted Theodore, those great Labor leaders, who would turn in their graves if they saw what was happening—in opposing the passing by a Labor government of the Competition Policy Reform Bill.

  We have seen how the EBOs have worked. The Prime Minister (Mr Keating) comes in this place and skites about the EBOs. It appears to me to be a mechanism by which the wages of the average Australian will be driven down. We continuously hear the phrase `world best practice' in this place and in other places. Quite frankly, world best practice is South American and South African wage levels. A lot of people that are imposing this upon us are companies and corporations that have mines in South Africa, employing South Africans who come over here, and South American companies that are now operating in Australia. When people talk about world best practice and they put into effect mechanisms such as the EBOs, may the Lord help the workers of Australia.

  In my home state, we have already seen massive strikes. We have seen the worst strike in the last 20 years in the sugar industry and the worst strike in the last 20 years in the mining industry. These were through EBOs. Disruptions are taking place. In Queensland we have seen average weekly earnings go down in the last three years, which is probably the first time since the Second World War. They were already the lowest in Australia. Queensland is particularly susceptible to the deregulatory policies of this government. A statutory marketing authority as an arrangement is an industrial award for farmers. We have seen those smashed to pieces right across the board.

  Let us have a look at these wonderful, clever people who are imposing this bill upon the Australian public. All of the conditions, pay and arrangements that have been fought over for 20, 30, 40, maybe even 100 years of Australian history are being swept away. Statutory marketing of wool was swept away and we saw the income from wool drop from $6,000 million a year to about $2,500 million a year. We lost $3,200 million per year in the wool industry alone, including about a third of our wool growers. The nation's greatest asset was the sheep herd, and now a third of that asset has gone.

  Another area of the economy we deregulated was petrol marketing. It was estimated by the MTAQ at one stage that around 500 service stations a year were closing. Most certainly, over 1,000 service stations and small proprietors went broke and went out of business in that period of time. So the small businessmen were wiped out and, as a result, the oil companies had a far greater grip on the Australian marketplace. The net result has been that, although the world price of oil has dropped by half, the price in Australia, in the same period of time, has more than doubled. That is costing the Australian public about $5,400 million per year every year—another great victory for deregulation.

  In his book Bold Riders, Trevor Sykes estimated that $28,000 million was lost out of the banks in a period of four years. Of course, that does not account for the estimated $70,000 million to $100,000 million that was taken off the Australian public, with interest rates in excess of 20 per cent, to try to rescue the banks for the money they threw away under the deregulatory policies of this government. So the dead are many. If this proceeds, the pharmacists, taxi drivers, milk vendors, newsagents, hoteliers and sugar farmers will be wiped out. (Time expired).