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Tuesday, 2 June 1998
Page: 4491


Mr ANDREN (10:50 PM) —I have been contacted by many New South Wales schools in recent weeks as senior debating teams have been given the pleasant task of debating the topic `That Independents are good for government'. I have greatly enjoyed assisting both the `for' and `against' arguments which, I might say, proved an intellectual challenge. I am certain those teams debating the affirmative side in particular will have many convincing arguments to back up their case.

This parliament and other Australian parliaments have been corrupted by the two-party system. We have government dominated by executive and bureaucracy. The resignation of the member for Dickson (Mr Tony Smith) from the Liberal Party has again demonstrated how frustrated and largely impotent party backbenchers are. When the member tried to bring about changes to issues such as child support, he was frustrated and ignored. Many of us share the frustrations of the member for Dickson's concerns over child support; it is an area in far greater need of reform than has so far occurred since the 1994 joint parliamentary inquiry.

The absolute dominance until recently of the Liberal-National-Labor Party club means that, whichever is in office, the political needs are attended to long before the real needs of individual electorates—and when they are rural they seem to matter even less. Rather than working as legislators, members of this House are most often doing nothing more than rubber stamping bills drawn up by bureaucrats. How many times have I had party members come up to me and ask, `What are we voting on?' How many divisions are party political exercises—a whole lot of time wasting divisions, as the Leader of the House described it in this House last week? Why should an Independent show up for such party games? If an MP crosses the floor to vote against his or her party on an issue that is in the best interests of their electorate, as the member for Dawson (Mrs De-Anne Kelly) and the member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) did last year on the sugar tariff issue, it gets great coverage in the media. In a true democratic system it should occur all the time.

The Australian system is corrupted to the point where the parties are now being funded by taxpayers. The ALP think-tanks received more than $13 million during the Hawke-Keating years; the Howard government is now paying money to the Menzies Foundation and to the Labor Party equivalent, the Evatt Foundation. Because both parties benefit, neither side is prepared to oppose this blatant and corrupt waste of public money.

I called on the Australian Electoral Commission last week to fast-track their audit of the Liberal Party campaign donations, including the mysterious Greenfields Foundation's $4.6 million loan, about which the Australian public knows nothing. I have been condemned by many of my colleagues here for pushing for even basic reforms to the travel allowance system; reforms that still do not go far enough. There is a strong club mentality pervad ing federal parliament that overrides any political differences, ensuring no party politician dares question any of the allowances and benefits paid to politicians. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) has rightly questioned why public servants and staff are not subject to equivalent scrutiny.

The most significant reform to have occurred in the New South Wales parliament in recent times was the decision to introduce four-year set parliamentary terms. This was instigated by independents. Here we are on the federal election trail again after just two short years. Look at how expensive and disruptive this is. Imagine how much better it would be with fixed three- or even four-year terms coinciding with state polls on the same day so there is no room to play wasteful political favourites between like governments, state and federal. Reform such as this is too threatening for party politicians. Former New South Wales Independent John Hatton was also the driving force behind the Wood royal commission into the New South Wales police force. Major political parties were prepared to deny and ignore this corruption.

Finally, I would like to say a few quick words about calls in Sydney for Federation Fund moneys to be used for the purchase and demolition of the toaster, that apartment building near the Opera House. According to some reports, the Minister for Finance and Administration (Mr Fahey) has offered $30 million if the New South Wales government matches it. It is ironic that many of the politicians who had a hand in approving the development of this eyesore are now leading the charge for public money to have it pulled down. There are much more worthy projects the Federation Fund can be used for, job generating projects in country New South Wales like the Inland Marketing Corporation's Parkes export airport project for example, championed by the newly installed independent candidate for the seat of Parkes, Councillor Robert Wilson.