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Tuesday, 7 April 1998
Page: 2694

Mrs GALLUS (9:37 PM) —I feel very sorry for the member for Bonython (Mr Martyn Evans). I believe that in his heart of hearts he is a Lathamite and would like to see the Labor Party have some policies. I think he would really like the Labor Party to get out there and be the party it once was—to have a policy and not simply to be negative on every single thing. The only thing it does is criticise and carp. Whatever policy the government comes up with it says, `No, no, no; it is bad, bad, bad.' It is utterly incapable of offering anything. This Labor Party does not know where it is, it does not know where it is going and I do not think it wants to know where it has been. Is it the old Labor Party that was against privatisation or is it the recently old Labor Party that was very much for privatisation?

The member at the table, the member for Dobell (Mr Lee), who represents the Labor Party, puts his head down, as well he might. Members of the Labor Party do not know what they stand for. (Quorum formed) How typical of this policyless Labor Party—the party that cannot do anything in this place except criticise. Its members do not have a policy of their own. They are so bad that they are opposing something that was part of their policy in the last parliament.

Let me remind you of the policy of this failed Labor government. What exactly did it privatise? What exactly did it sell? In 1987-88 it sold the Tokyo embassy building; the lease on Chifley Square, Sydney; the Williamstown dockyard; the Commonwealth phosphate rock stockpile; the Commonwealth Government Centre; and the Paris head of mission residence. In 1989-90 there was the sale of the Tokyo embassy building; the Commonwealth accommodation and catering services; the Defence service homes scheme; Australia House, Sydney; sale of property to Film Australia; the ACT housing loans assistance scheme; the Australian Industry Development Corporation; Commonwealth equity in the Primary Industries Bank of Australia; and the National Materials Handling Bureau. In 1988-89 there was the sale of the Williamstown dockyard; completion of sale of the Commonwealth phosphate rock stockpile; completion of sale of the Commonwealth Government Centre, Melbourne; the Defence service homes scheme; Commonwealth equity in AMDEL; and Commonwealth accommodation and catering services. In 1991, there was the Avalon airfield—did you manage to sell Avalon or did you just put it up?—Australian Defence Force home loans; and the ACT housing loans assistance scheme. And in 1991-92 the sale of the Commonwealth Bank. Remind me, wasn't that the icon of the Labor Party? Wasn't that so central? Didn't it go back to Labor Party policy in the 1920s—the importance of establishing an Australian national bank? Wasn't the Commonwealth Bank dear to the heart of every member of the Labor Party? And what did the Labor Party do when in government? In 1992-93 it sold it along with Aussat, the Defence service homes scheme and Australian Airlines. Wasn't Australian Airlines another one of the Labor icons? What happened to it? Gone, gone, gone—followed by, let us guess, Qantas. I think there was a proposal to sell ANL and a few other things like the uranium stockpile on the books.

What a hypocritical party—a policyless party which is in such a bad state it has to deny its previous policies. How long ago was that—a century ago, a decade ago? Would the member at the table like to remind me? Wasn't it back in 1995 and early 1996 that the Labor Party had all these policies? And where are they how? They have gone. The Labor Party seems to have forgotten about them and, suddenly, it is against selling assets and against privatisation.

But let me tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this piece of legislation before the House today is one of the boldest and farthest reaching pieces of legislation to come into this House. It does provide a concrete economic foundation for this country from which we will be able to weather the vicissitudes of the global economy. It does something else: it reduces the annual interest payments on our debt, funds that can be well used in some other aspects—in health, in education, in the environment and in defence.

Thirdly, as referred to by the member for North Sydney (Mr Hockey), this legislation looks into the future and decides what sort of country we want to be, a country where the middle class are strong and the middle class own shares—shares not restricted just to a select few but they become the aim of everybody in the community, and this becomes a wealthier country—a country that Sir Robert Menzies did not even dare to envisage; a country where the ordinary working people do not have to rely on their labour for income but can say also that they own shares. This is the vision that this government has for this country. Not only is it a vision which the Labor Party does not share but it cannot even come up with any vision to match it. It has no vision for the next century.

Let us look at the three advantages. First of all, there is the reduction of debt. Reducing debt will place Australia in an enormously enviable position, because having a minimum debt is a far greater position to be in than having a large debt. This makes commonsense. It is good economic sense; every mum and dad will tell you that logically it makes sense. It helps us to weather the types of things that have been happening in South-East Asia. If we had had a larger debt, we would have been less able to come through the economic storms that have affected that region.

Not only that, a low debt to GDP ratio has an effect on a country's rating, given by Moody's and Standard and Poors. Along with the other good economic fundamentals of this country, good economic ratings will keep down the interest rates, and low interest rates will assist businesses and industry to obtain investment capital for the future. However, not everybody seems to believe in this—although, as I said before, it does make basic commonsense to most people. Of all people, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) does not believe that a low debt to GDP ratio is a good thing. Perhaps the member at the table representing the opposition would like to reflect on that. Why would his leader not be in favour of a low debt to GDP ratio?

Mr Lee —Do you want to have your second quorum now?

Mrs GALLUS —I will quote from the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure the member at the table would not want to interrupt me when I am about to quote from his leader. In this very debate on Telstra, the Leader of the Opposition said—(Quorum formed) Let me record in the Hansard the fact that the member from the opposition sitting at the table has now called two quorums during my speech—indicating that he cannot handle the truth, that they are afraid of the truth.

Mr Slipper —What's his name?

Mrs GALLUS —The member for Dobell.

Mr Slipper —Eminently forgettable.

Mrs GALLUS —The eminently forgettable member for Dobell. I am about to quote from the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Lee —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the honourable member for Fisher, who should know better, interjecting out of his place.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. G.H. Adams) —The honourable member for Fisher will return to his seat and stop interjecting.

Mrs GALLUS —The member for Bobell is trying to stop me reading—

Mr Lee —Dobell.

Mrs GALLUS —Dobell. The member for Dobell is trying to stop me reading into Hansard the comments made by his own leader. These comments were made on debt. What did the Leader of the Opposition say about a 20 per cent debt? He said:

But was the 20 a problem? Is the 30 a problem when you add in state debt as well?

He said:

Of course it is not.

Then he went on to make an extraordinary comparison. He said:

The US is 48. Belgium has been one of those countries which have been regarded as an economic success. What is its public debt to GDP ratio? It is 124 per cent.

This is what the Leader of the Opposition is recommending: a debt to GDP ratio of 124 per cent. He said Belgium is in a good economic state. Let me read something about Belgium's debt in relation to Australia:

If our debt were at Belgium levels, there would be an additional $512 billion additional debt. At the present 10-year bond rate of 5.68 per cent, an increase in government debt of that order would mean that the Commonwealth outlays on interest payments would have to increase by $29 billion per annum—

Mr Slipper —How much?

Mrs GALLUS —Twenty-nine billion dollars per annum. He continued:

To fund that you would have to increase total tax revenue by 20 per cent.

That is what the Leader of the Opposition is talking about—an increase in taxes of 20 per cent. What absolute nonsense. How can the Labor Party hold its head up high when its leader makes such nonsensical statements.

Because of the quorums called on me I will be unable to complete my argument today, but I would like to stay on this theme of the Leader of the Opposition and his incredible remarks during his speech. In trying to get away from the huge problem that Telstra has created for the Labor Party, he tried to make the benefit of not having to pay interest on $40 million of debt which will be retired from the sale of Telstra go away. He does not want Australians to have $1.4 billion to spend on other things such as health and education rather than interest. So what did he say? He said:

By the year 2000, independent estimates project the government's two-thirds share of Telstra's earnings to reach $2.3 billion per annum.

That is a forecast of an 84 per cent increase in dividends over the next 18 months. If this were to be so, I suggest to the Minister for Finance and Administration (Mr Fahey) that, after we get back in and Telstra is being sold, he put on all the brochures for the sale of Telstra `Leader of the Opposition forecasts 84 per cent increase in dividends'. I am sure that we would then be very assured that the oversubscription that occurred for the one-third sale of Telstra would happen again.

Mr Slipper —And the share price would soar.

Mrs GALLUS —And the share price would soar. But, as we know, this is a lot of nonsense, as the member for Canberra (Mr McMullan) later proved. When he got onto his feet, he totally dismissed what his leader had said and he indeed forecast the crossover point for dividends and interest to be in the year 2005 on the basis of a 15 per cent increase. He did it on shoddy figures. If he had included the average interest rates, his figures would have not stacked up because he would have had to forecast a $4 billion saving in payments. (Time expired)