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- Start of Business
- WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT (UNFAIR DISMISSALS) BILL 1998
- ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES CONVENTION BILL 1998
- TELSTRA (TRANSITION TO FULL PRIVATE OWNERSHIP) BILL 1998
- TELECOMMUNICATIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- TELECOMMUNICATIONS (UNIVERSAL SERVICE LEVY) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- TELECOMMUNICATIONS (CONSUMER PROTECTION AND SERVICE STANDARDS) BILL 1998
- NRS LEVY IMPOSITION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- ACTS INTERPRETATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- AUSTRALIAN WOOL RESEARCH AND PROMOTION ORGANISATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL TRAINING AUTHORITY AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER HERITAGE PROTECTION BILL 1998
- PAYMENT PROCESSING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' ENTITLEMENTS) BILL 1998
- 1998 BUDGET MEASURES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' ENTITLEMENTS) BILL 1998
- TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1998
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CHOICE OF SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) BILL 1998
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1998
- PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES BILL 1998
- PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT (PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE) BILL 1998
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT) REPEAL AND AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- COMMONWEALTH SUPERANNUATION BOARD BILL 1998
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT—SAVING AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 1998
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT) REPEAL AND AMENDMENT (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1998
- PARLIAMENTARY ZONE
- WOOL INTERNATIONAL AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- AUSTRALIAN RADIATION PROTECTION AND NUCLEAR SAFETY BILL 1998
- AUSTRALIAN RADIATION PROTECTION AND NUCLEAR SAFETY (LICENCE CHARGES) BILL 1998
- AUSTRALIAN RADIATION PROTECTION AND NUCLEAR SAFETY (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1998
- STATES GRANTS (PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ASSISTANCE) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- FILM LICENSED INVESTMENT COMPANY BILL 1998
- TAXATION LAWS AMENDMENT (FILM LICENSED INVESTMENT COMPANY) BILL 1998
- CHILD SUPPORT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- STATES GRANTS (GENERAL PURPOSES) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- NATIONAL CAPITAL AUTHORITY
- DATA-MATCHING PROGRAM (ASSISTANCE AND TAX) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Goods and Services Tax: States Funding
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Unemployment: Job Growth
(Charles, Bob, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Colston, Senator Mal
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
(Nugent, Peter, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Pensioners
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
National Youth Round Table
(Cameron, Ross, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Pensioners
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Iraq: Weapons Inspectors
(Bishop, Julie, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Motor Vehicles
(Crean, Simon, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Economy: Monetary Policy
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
- Goods and Services Tax: States Funding
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Iraq: United States Military Action
(Brereton, Laurie, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: Transport Industry
(St Clair, Stuart, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
Air Traffic Control
(Kernot, Cheryl, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
(Bartlett, Kerry, MP, Bishop, Bronwyn, MP)
Telstra: Full Privatisation
(Smith, Stephen, MP, McGauran, Peter, MP)
(Billson, Bruce, MP, Abbott, Tony MP)
Telstra Sale: Consortium Fees
(Tanner, Lindsay, MP, Fahey, John, MP)
Logging and Woodchipping
(Causley, Ian, MP, Tuckey, Wilson, MP)
Family Court: Delays
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
Goods and Services Tax: States Funding
(Barresi, Phil, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
- Iraq: United States Military Action
- SPEAKER'S PANEL
- DELEGATION REPORTS
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- SPECIAL ADJOURNMENT
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MEMBERS' TRAVELLING ALLOWANCES
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- AGED CARE AMENDMENT (ACCREDITATION AGENCY) BILL 1998
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- Health: Disability Services
- Employment: Jobs Pathway
- Aboriginal Reconciliation
- McEwen Electorate
- Goods and Services Tax: Northern Territory Election
- Environment: Gladstone City Council
- Telopea Post Office
Thursday, 12 November 1998
Mr MURPHY (4:46 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your elevation to high office and ask you to extend my congratulations to the Speaker and the other deputy speakers.
I am very honoured to enter this chamber as the representative of the people of the electorate of Lowe. The seat is named after Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, who advocated the discontinuatioon of the deportation of convicts to New South Wales and supported the interests of convicts, workers and townspeople during his political career.
My presence in this House today is the result of a collective effort. I would like to sincerely thank the electors of Lowe for showing confidence in my ability to represent their interests. l would also like to thank the party members in Lowe who worked tirelessly during the election campaign to bring Lowe home to Labor. I believe that the ALP's campaign, led by Councillor Virginia Judge and Cherie Burton, was conducted by a very professional team and that that was a decisive factor in the final outcome.
I would also like to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by the former member for Lowe, Michael Maher, and the member for Drummoyne and Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, the Hon. John Murray. I also wish to thank my colleagues whilst on Drummoyne council, Councillor Tony Fasanella and Councillor Angelo Tsirekas.
I also wish to thank the trade union movement for their help, in particular: the Community and Public Sector Union; the Construction Forestry and Mining Employees Union; the Public Transport Union; the Maritime Union of Australia; and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union.
Further, I wish to thank the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Bob Hawke, for his visit to the electorate. I am pleased to report to this House that he has lost none of his electoral appeal, especially with the ladies. Furthermore, I wish to thank my parliamentary leader, Kim Beazley, and the then shadow ministers who visited my electorate during the campaign. May I say to you, Kim, that your many visits to our electorate were a source of great inspiration to me as you were warmly and affectionately greeted by the electorate at large. In particular, your own style of campaigning enhanced those characteristics of integrity and decency which the Australian electorate expects of all its parliamentarians.
I would also like to thank my brother, Brian, and sisters, Frances, Anne, Maureen and Clare, who have given me great support but unfortunately cannot be here today. I also wish to express my thanks to the one-and-only Olga my mother-in-law, and Hector my father-in-law, and Amelia his wife. I regret that my parents did not survive to see this day for I know they would have been very proud of their baby boy. Finally, I wish to thank my wife, Adriana, who is on the floor of the House today, for her unfailing love and support. Honey, I could not have done it without you.
I am proud to represent the people of Lowe. The electorate is one of Australia's most volatile seats. The reason for this volatility derives from its vast demographic differences spanning Sydney's inner-west. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be interested to learn that Lowe in a microcosm of the new Australia. As many as 40 per cent of my electors were born overseas. Further, Lowe is an electorate which has one of the highest proportions of people over the age of 65 years in New South Wales.
Liberal Party members of this House will reminisce on the period of Sir William McMahon as Prime Minister, who held Lowe from the period 1949 to 1982. In 1982, Mr Michael Maher, the Australian Labor Party candidate, captured Lowe in an historic by-election. That win signalled the return of Labor to government under Bob Hawke the following year. Mr Maher held this seat with distinction until 1987. In 1987, Lowe again returned to the Liberal Party, this time held by Dr Bob Woods, who held the seat until 1993. In 1993 Mrs Mary Easson regained the seat for the ALP. In 1996 Mr Paul Zammit won Lowe for the Liberal Party before resigning from the party in 1998 and becoming an Independent member of this House. In summary, since 1982, Lowe has changed hands on five occasions. This is a sobering fact and will be a constant reminder to me not to take the electors of Lowe for granted.
I personally wish to recognise the two outstanding ALP members of this House who have previously represented this seat, namely, Mr Michael Maher and Mrs Mary Easson. Michael Maher represented the area in both state and federal parliament. In the New South Wales parliament, Mr Maher was member for Drummoyne between 1973 and 1982. I wish to pay special tribute to Michael Maher, who is widely loved and respected for his dedicated parliamentary service. If I can half fill his shoes, the people of Lowe will be well served in the life of this parliament.
As I mentioned a little earlier, Mrs Easson also represented Lowe with distinction, having served in many positions throughout her time in this House, including those of National Secretary of UNICEF and as member of the Communication Commission for the Sydney Olympics bid.
I also wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the long service in both the New South Wales parliament and this House given by my predecessor, Mr Paul Zammit. In particular, I wish to thank both Mr Zammit and his wife, Rita, for the gracious manner in which they conceded defeat on election night. Might I also add that Mr Zammit's preferences were warmly received by the ALP on election day.
I was born in 1950 in a little country town in New South Wales called Dunedoo. Dunedoo is not very far from Baradine, from where my parliamentary colleague the member for Rankin hails. We, being country boys, understand the importance of looking after rural interests.
Prior to my election to parliament I worked for 28 years in the Australian Public Service. I also served for three years as a councillor in the Drummoyne local government area. During the recent election campaign many issues affecting the electorate of Lowe were raised with me, and I would like on this occasion to briefly address two of these in the first instance—namely, (1) aircraft noise or, as the issue should be more properly put, the question of a second airport for Sydney; (2) taxation and the GST. Later I will go into some detail about the Howard government's attack on the Public Service and my concerns for its future.
But, first, let me return to aircraft noise. There is perhaps no single issue that has affected the hearts, minds and eardrums of the electorate of Lowe more than the Sydney airport issue. So significant is this issue to Lowe that the former Liberal member, Mr Paul Zammit, lost confidence in his government's willingness and ability to tackle the issue and felt compelled to resign from the Liberal Party and contest the election as an Independent.
The people of Lowe have not forgotten the Prime Minister's broken promises on aircraft noise. This House has heard much debate on this issue, and it will hear a lot more during this 39th Parliament. However, I will make this point now, and repeatedly over the next three years: the residents of Lowe will not accept an unbridled continued expansion of Sydney airport—this is made even more urgent by recent predictions that the numbers of passengers travelling through Sydney airport will almost double over the next decade—nor will the citizens of Lowe accept uneven distribution of noise afforded in the long-term operating plan.
It is thus incumbent on this government to show some leadership and see that a second airport is made a priority. This concept includes opposition to airports at Bankstown, Hoxton Park and Camden becoming the dumping ground for regional air traffic movements, thus promoting Sydney airport as `Jet alley'. This is clearly the intention for Sydney airport under the Howard government. The combined effects of the long-term operating plan, coupled with the entire traffic of Sydney airport being jet aircraft, amount to a fundamental failure of this government to adequately address aircraft noise, air safety and associated issues.
I turn now to taxation and the GST. The key message in the ALP's Plan for the Nation is: give the people a fairer taxation system. This means delivering real benefits to families on lower and middle incomes. It also means enabling government to raise the revenue necessary to increase services in critical areas such as health, education and the provision of jobs for all Australians. Labor remains committed in its opposition to a GST.
The reasons for opposing the GST are clearly spelled out: (1) GST affects consumption—it is a regressive tax on consumption—and (2) it affects those with a higher propensity to spend, that is, the higher your percentage of disposable income on consumption, the higher percentage of your disposable income is corroded by the GST.
Before looking at some facts, it is salient for this House to remind itself of some basic tax theory. A tax regime's fairness is not based on its incidence—that is, where the tax is levied—but where the ultimate burden of the tax falls—that is, on whose shoulders the tax most falls upon. The fairness of a tax must be understood in its burden, and understand who actually bears the greatest burden of a GST.
Let us look at some facts. Using the Australian Bureau of Statistics household expenditure survey, it is concluded that those households with lower income spend a higher percentage of their income on goods and services. For example, the ABS notes that the distributional impact of a GST on average weekly income would produce a regime of tax burden where the lowest income earners pay a higher percentage of GST impost than higher income earners. The ABS notes the GST impost on lowest income earners is more than four per cent of disposable income, while the impost on highest income earners is just over a one per cent impost. This government knows that the lower income earners spend a higher percentage of their disposable income on consumption. It therefore stands to reason that these people will bear the higher burden of the tax. Thus the effect of a GST will be to unfairly burden lower income earners.
On 9 November 1998 the government's own tax and superannuation expert, Liberal Senator John Watson, was reported as pressing the Prime Minister to make concessions on the government's tax package. Senator Watson was reported in the Financial Review as calling `for increased compensation for low income earners'—a position in line with the Australian Democrats and the Independents. Senator Watson was quoted as saying at the Tasmanian Liberal Party's State Conference in Burnie:
I think it may be necessary to offer some concessions, concessions perhaps in terms of lifting the compensation to those who are perceived to be most affected.
The writing is on the wall: the government faces the most profound political backlash from implementing the GST as is. All this is based on a preconceived notion that this government has the mandate, based on the previous federal election, for a GST. But this government does not have a majority vote, nor can it assert a mandate from the last election that the people voted for a GST.
Any tax that hits those least capable of paying is a bad tax. The GST burden crushes those least capable of paying the tax and, for this reason, must be abandoned. I find it particularly galling that the rich and powerful, through the employment of slippery lawyers and accountants, pay relatively little tax while the battlers haemorrhage. It is all very well for the government to preach tax reform to the Australian electorate, but the Australian people do not accept that in relation to the rich `It's all too hard' to get them to pay their fair share of taxation. They expect us, the parliament, to fix it.
What is happening to the Australian Public Service? Prior to coming to this place I was employed for 28 years in the Australian Public Service. I say that with considerable pride because I am proud to have been part of one of Australia's great institutions established by the constitution and recognised around the world as one of the best administrations there is. It is disappointing to me to acknowledge that this government neither recognises the importance nor appreciates the work of the APS.
Since 1995 I have watched the APS being torn apart. This has resulted in absolute job losses in the public sector. At a local level in Lowe I have already had, in response to the savage cuts to Centrelink, a deputation from the CPSU. I look at the Centrelink branches in Strathfield and Ashfield and see the severe budgetary cutbacks that have greatly reduced the services they provide, thus causing social distress amongst the growing number of people who rely on these services. Already I have had complaints about long queues and long waits on the telephone. I am reminded of the words of the Hon. Bob McMullan MP who said:
I think there are areas where we have made cuts that mean we are spending less but we are achieving much less.
Cutbacks in Centrelink is one such area. These Centrelink cutbacks mean the absolute loss of services to our constituents. In scaling down and outsourcing services, the responsibility of government in its social contract between itself and its citizens is fundamentally compromised. Employment is not a question of price efficiency. You cannot reduce Centrelink's efficiency to a profit line, nor can imputed efficiency savings be converted into real dollar cutbacks. Yet this is precisely what is happening, with disastrous consequences.
The Public Service is, amongst other things, the interface between the government and the governed. It provides services fairly, honestly, without discrimination and with great efficiency, remaining always accountable to the elected government of the day. The service is independent of the whims and fancies of individual politicians as it is required to act always in accordance with the law. Not only is the Public Service the interface between the government and the governed, but also it provides a simple means of feedback and advice from the governed to the government, avoiding the need for other channels, such as the news media, to sometimes create embarrassment to the government in pointing out failures of policy or administration.
It seems to me that the government is seeking to destroy the effect of interface between the government and the governed. Functions have been and are being outsourced to people who know little about them and who cannot be held accountable for their performance. Other functions are, it seems, being destroyed; functions such as assisting the jobless to find jobs or to at least acquire relevant skills. The simple and expedient device seems to work of starving the Public Service of resources, with the resulting failures of government policy and administration then being blamed on the bureaucracy.
The Howard government's approach has been characterised by a vindictiveness towards its employees which is destroying morale and making it easier for sackings to occur. It seems to me that it is not just Commonwealth government employees that the government is determined to get rid of but those who provide services required by the community. If I were really cynical I would think the government wanted to rid itself of those citizens and others who receive pensions and other forms of support. Why else would they decimate Centrelink which has so outraged the community? What a lot of nonsense to say that service delivery on an individual basis will be more efficient with something like 30 per cent fewer staff?
The slash and burn policy of staffing the APS has been cruelly underpinned by the passage of the Workplace Relations Act 1996, which has shattered the unity and cohesion of the Public Service. It is now a number of fiefdoms with their own pay and conditions under their own agency agreements. The difficulties this created with machinery of government changes after the October election were anticipated by the Public Service, but this did not make it any easier to make the changes.
When a group of people were taken from one department and willy-nilly dumped in another with a different agency agreement in order to punish one minister or reward another, the resulting chaos about pay and conditions simply generated more work for other public servants to fix up. There was the failed attempt to rewrite the Public Service Act 1922. I assume the attempt will be repeated, and I eagerly look forward to the debate when the time comes.
I was proud of the Labor Party's defence of things that matter in public administration, most particularly the need to protect the professionalism and independence of heads of government agencies. Labor supported continuation of the existing proscription on patronage and favouritism and successfully campaigned for a new definition of merit in the now lapsed bill.
The primacy of merit in the selection of people for appointment to the service or promotion within it is mercifully not an issue about which there is partisan disagreement. The World Bank, in its publication, World development report 1997, acknowledges the importance of the merit principle in national development. Good government, the World Bank notes, includes mechanisms such as the merit principle to ensure independence and the absence of corruption. An independent, corruption-free Public Service immeasurably assists both public and private sector performance. A genuinely independent Public Service is seen as an instrument of development, as reflected in the conditions now being imposed by the International Monetary Fund on countries seeking rescue packages.
In Australia, however, there has been considerable argument about the necessity for and the nature of mechanisms for ensuring the merit principle really is applied. For the last eight years of my 28 years with the APS, my work was with the Merit Protection and Review Agency, MPRA. Although now administratively amalgamated with the Public Service Commission to form the Public Service and Merit Protection Commission, the MPRA remains an independent statutory body whose role is independent external review of decisions and actions which affect all Commonwealth employees as employees.
The object of the Merit Protection (Australian Government Employees) Act 1984, requires the MPRA to ensure that such decisions and actions are fair and equitable and in accordance with sound personnel management practices, taking account of the efficiency of the employing authority and the need for good relations between employees and their employing authority. In practical terms, this means that the MPRA runs appeals on the merits against promotions. Other major activities include grievance resolution and mediation. I remain very proud to have been the New South Wales state manager performing this important review work.
I also want to acknowledge the work and contribution of Ann Forward, who was the director of the MPRA until the amalgamation in late 1995, after which she was the Merit Protection Commissioner until her retirement last July. Ms Forward will always be remembered for her loyal service to the government of the day and as a fierce defender of the Public Service.
While I am a member of this House I will retain a keen interest in the health of the Australian Public Service. I will see it as one of my key contributions in this place to ensure that this parliament properly scrutinises any further proposed changes to our great Public Service to the detriment of civic society in Australia. I will also ensure that concerns about the Public Service reach out beyond Canberra, because in my electorate people are feeling it too. The annihilation of the Public Service means nothing less than the elimination of responsible government, the denial of people's right to be heard and the elimination of the most fundamental vehicle that enables natural justice to prevail. I will speak out against the grossest offences against the frail, the aged, the sick, migrants, the elderly, war veterans, those requiring state housing and those needing education, and health and law and order protection. I give a commitment to those who elected me to retain an efficient, effective, accountable and independent Commonwealth administration.
In concluding, more than ever the values of the Australian Labor Party will be represented in this House. We stand with an encouraging increase in numbers when compared with the last parliament, and we look to a future that is ever striving for a more equitable distribution of resources. I shall give myself fully to this task. The work and programs in this parliament are formidable. As we approach the 21st century we face a generation of jobless; people who have never known the meaning of the words `job security'. Discharging my duties to the electorate of Lowe is my first responsibility. I commit myself to the pursuit of job creation, social equity and a diverse economy that can sustain the growth necessary to enable my constituents and all Australians to live with dignity and happiness, and to achieve harmony in a more independent, tolerant and egalitarian Australia.