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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20580


Mr SAWFORD (12:15 PM) —Many have stated, whether from the executive or in the party room, that the Howard government has more than the odd sycophant—the emphasis, of course, being optional. However, a more accurate and appropriate description would be the acronym THIMPASAFANTS—The Howard Incident Management Plan and Spin and Followers and No Truth Strategy. In an article in the Financial Review on 12 August, journalist Tony Harris was right on the money when he used the phrase `perverted discourse' to describe debate within the Howard government. Who could forget the former minister for workplace relations, Peter Reith, who raised THIMPASAFANTS to a new level? In the former government he was ably joined by the then minister for education, David Kemp, who in true Orwellian tradition deliberately confused facts and often stated opposing thoughts in consecutive sentences.

In the current government, THIMPASAFANTS has the obvious imprimatur of the Prime Minister. How else could you explain his own words of so-called self-defence in the ethanol and Manildra debate, the Wilson Tuckey affair, the security lapse at Sydney airport, and the Andrew Bolt and Senator Sandy Macdonald affair—let alone `children overboard'? How else could you explain the censorship of the higher education report that was allowed under the direction and stewardship of the current minister for education? There is a great consequence of THIMPASAFANTS, and that is that it heightens arrogance in dealing with the truth. This government is guilty of that on multiple fronts. As the acronym suggests, the government deliberately deals with a `no truth' strategy. This almost guarantees that any subsequent debate, as Tony Harris indicates, will be just a perverted discourse.

THIMPASAFANTS is not in the national interest. It continues to the core of this government on issues such as employment, debt and housing. Last Thursday, for the first time since the government took office in 1996, ABS figures in August recorded more full-time jobs than part-time jobs. The Treasurer and the Minister for Employment Services could not contain themselves. For the first time in seven years they responded to my standard interjection, `What about full-time jobs?' with THIMPASAFANTS glee. Nevertheless, the government's spin has been a misrepresentation of the real story, and the government knows it. ABS statistics show that since March 1996 the government has created 647,800 part-time jobs. Most of those people want full-time employment but cannot secure it. There is no doubt that underemployment is grossly ignored by this government. The recorded number of full-time jobs is 552,900—46 per cent of the total of 1.2 million jobs. But even those two figures do not tell the whole story. An extremely large number of people fall into the category of discouraged employment and, only being marginally attached to the labour force, were not counted. But they are counted by the ABS and, according to the ABS figures in September 2002, the number was 808,000.

As a general rule, if there is an unemployment rate of six per cent, there will be a minimum of 600,000 unemployed, a minimum of 600,000 underemployed and a minimum of 600,000 not counted. If unemployment is seven per cent, there will be 700,000 unemployed and so on. In other words, unemployment currently impacts negatively on 18 per cent of the labour force. That is the real story that the government refuses to tell, and it is the same with debt. Under this government, household debt has risen from $289.2 billion in March 1996 to $663.7 billion in March 2003. In other words, household debt has increased by 50 per cent. The Treasurer and this government are struggling for credibility on the issue of debt. The current account deficit at 6.7 per cent of GDP is now at a record level, but so is foreign debt. In 1996 foreign debt was $10,000 for every man, woman and child; it is now $18,000—an increase of 80 per cent. That, again, is the real story.

It is the same with taxation. Last year Australians paid about $19 billion more in tax. In fact, national tax has grown at twice the rate of income. In 2002-03, total taxation increased by nine per cent, while income earned by individuals and companies grew by 5.5 per cent. The biggest single contributor to this revenue bonanza for the government was personal income tax, with PAYE employees, contractors and the self-employed collectively handing over a record $91 billion—a jump of $7.2 billion or 8.6 per cent on the previous year. However, household incomes in the same period went up by just 3.5 per cent. No wonder Australian families are under pressure. THIMPASAFANTS reigns supreme in this government. It should also be noted that company tax jumped by 16 per cent to $37.5 billion. Is the government the great defender of small business? I do not think so. GST revenue increased by 8.6 per cent. As my exposition has clearly stated, whether it be unemployment, debt or taxation, this government understates reality by a minimum of 50 per cent on whatever you care to mention. If that is not THIMPASAFANTS, I do not know what is. (Time expired)