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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 249

Senator COLSTON(12.46) —Yesterday an Australian Associated Press bulletin from Brisbane reported that 'Tax Payers United today described the Federal Budget as a Con Job.' The report then went on to quote the organisation' s president, Viv Forbes: 'If anyone is perpetuating a con job, to use a term I seldom employ, it is Viv Forbes.' Unfortunately much of the media has been conned by him, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Viv Forbes is associated with the so-called Progress Party and is often quoted by ABC radio news services in Queensland. I sometimes wonder whether the ABC has looked at the public support that Mr Forbes's party can muster. I do not think it has, because if it did it would not hold the Progress Party in high regard and it would go close to dismissing it as an irrelevancy.

Let us look at the support that the party receives in Queensland. In the 1977 Senate election, the Progress Party fielded a team of four in Queensland. If nothing else, it is optimistic. The Australian Labor Party and the Liberal- National parties, which were then in coalition, each fielded a team of three. Nevertheless, Mr Forbes, who headed the team, polled 7,003 votes and his whole team could muster only 8,376 out of a total formal vote of just over a million. This is a percentage support of 0.76 per cent. In 1980, the Progress Party's optimism had dimmed. Two candidates only were nominated for the Senate in Queensland. The leader again was Mr Forbes. The whole team polled a mere 3,399 votes out of a total formal vote of 1.1 million. Its support represented 0.29 per cent of the total vote. Not to be defeated, the Progress Party again fielded a team of two, again headed by Mr Forbes, in the 1983 Senate election in Queensland.

This time luck was with the party and it drew the first position on the Senate ballot paper. From that position, the Party managed to poll a total of 10,787 votes, which was 0.86 per cent of the formal vote. No doubt, some of that apparent support was due to the donkey vote. To put that 0.86 per cent of the vote in perspective, it should be noted that in 1977 the Socialist Party of Australia polled 2.9 per cent of the vote after it headed the Senate ballot paper. Three years later, when it was well down the ballot paper, its percentage dropped to 0.22 per cent. What I wish to stress is that the Progress Party receives scant support from the people. To gain the publicity it does from the media, one would think that certain parts of the media wrongly regarded it as a major political group in Queensland. It clearly is not and cannot profess to represent a significant section of Queensland thinking.

The same can be said of the organisation Tax Payers United. It hardly evolved as a needed group in the community. Mr Forbes stated in the Courier-Mail on 8 June last that it took him three months to organise. Amongst its members are Bert Kelly, formerly a Liberal member of the House of Representatives but rejected for pre-selection by his own party, and Mr John Martyr, formerly of this place. John Martyr was the honourable member for Swan in the House of Representatives but was rejected by the electors. He was appointed to the Senate but the first time he faced the electors he was rejected for this chamber. He will be remembered in this place as a person of extreme right wing views.

John Martyr had a penchant for changing parties. He was in the Australian Labor Party until 1955; the Democratic Labour Party until 1971; and then he joined the Liberal Party. One thing that he has in his favour, I suppose, is that he drew the line at the National Party. But one wonders whether he is now considering the Progress Party. I would suggest that the narrow base of support of the Progress Party and its recent clone, Tax Payers United, should be acknowledged by the media. That narrow base should put the views of these organisations in perspective.

Sitting suspended from 12.52 to 2 p.m.