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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2853

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (19:08): It has been said that adversity does not build a person's character but instead reveals it. The same holds true for political parties and the governments that they form. Today we observe a government beset by self-inflicted wounds and self-induced fiascos. It is a government whose wake is littered with the rotting debris of its political blunders and policy bungles. It is a government whose track record of ineptitude and decrepitude just rolls on and on and on. As this government has stumbled and bumbled its way ever deeper into trouble, the true character of the contemporary Labor Party has emerged into sight, and it does not make a pretty picture. As the pressure has mounted, this Labor government has reverted to the ideological default settings of old.

I have always been critical of the failures and misplaced priorities of the Hawke and Keating governments. But I have also always given credit where credit is due. I have always acknowledged the positive measures taken by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, with coalition support, to unshackle and modernise the Australian economy. The Howard-Costello government carried forward that cause with policies that rewarded enterprise, initiative and hard work.

But the Labor Party we face today is a different breed of animal—an older model, an atavistic party that has regressed not just one generation but two or perhaps even three. In its desperate scramble for self-preservation, this Labor government has resurrected a mouldy, obsolescent set of political principles that hail from the last century, if not earlier. When the going gets tough, this government gets going by playing the class warfare card with a vengeance. It deliberately stokes the fires of sectional resentment, both within this parliament and without. Again and again it has demonised the people who have built businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of Australians. This anti-modern Australian Labor Party utterly fails to comprehend those eternal truths expressed around four decades ago by Ronald Reagan that you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong, you cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage payer, you cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

Yet the old, ugly politics of division and diversion are not solely limited to the rhetoric of this government. The instinct to wage class conflict is evident in its policies as well. By word and by action, this government sends a message that is as clear as crystal. It is a message that says: 'Don't bother to take personal responsibility. Don't dare to show initiative. Don't aspire to get ahead, because you'll be slapped with a penalty rather than reap a reward.' Why take out private health insurance, when the government deliberately forces up premiums time after time after time? Why save for your own retirement, when the government whacks you with new taxes on superannuation after pledging it never would? Why take the plunge to build a small business, when this government will strangle you at every turn with onerous and unnecessary regulation?

The small business proprietors who form the backbone of the Australian economy do the hard yards and the long hours. As they work to build their own futures, they are working to build Australia as well. Those many thousands of separate success stories combine into a synergy that enriches the entire nation. They create a cycle of opportunity that flows from the individual though to the community. Their achievement is our achievement.

I remember a time when there was a leader of the federal Labor Party caucus named Mark Latham. He hailed the 'ladder of opportunity'. Well, that was then. Now we have a Labor government that has gnawed away at the ladder—a government that wants you to climb only so far before you find missing rungs and you end up grasping at thin air. Yet there is method to this government's madness. In its heart of hearts, this Labor Party seeks to foster dependence on government for its own crass reasons. In its heart of hearts it believes that the more reliant people are on the state, the more likely they will be to vote for a party of big government. But these are the failed social democratic policies of a failed social democratic government—policies that, if they prevail, will inexorably lead to the expiration of aspiration in Australia.

Later this year the Australian people will face a choice—a choice between the expiration of aspiration or a rebirth of Australia's entrepreneurial— (Time expired)