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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1402

Senator MASON(5.47) —The Australian Democrats welcome the reasonably early announcement of the election. I agree with something the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said recently in the House of Representatives to the effect that this at least gives business an early idea of what is going on. To that extent I think the Government can be praised at least for not making the announcement later than it could have been made. The Australian Democrats are quite happy and ready and prepared for an election at this time. It hardly comes as a surprise. I think none of us here would regard it as a surprise. On behalf of the Australian Democrats I say that the issues which very few of our colleagues in this place tend to espouse are major issues which we will espouse in the election to come. We will stress the issues of peace in this world. We will espouse anti-nuclear issues. We will try to remind the Government and the Opposition throughout this campaign of the situation obtaining of a hell's brew of involvement among the export of uranium, the nuclear power industry and the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Mr Deputy President, through you, I know that my colleagues understand that full well and that it is time they admitted it to themselves and to the people of this country. This is a major world issue. It is not good enough for us to run like lemmings towards the brink. Also it is not good enough-as happened in answer to a question earlier today-to have a Minister, in this case Senator Walsh, say that virtually he would take on trust from outside authorities whether the uranium of this country is used in nuclear weapons. I warn the Government that that issue is a much bigger one than it imagines. It is an issue on which the Government would be well advised to do its homework and perhaps, even at this late stage, to take a different viewpoint from the one it has taken up to now. In fact, that would not surprise me if that happened. Let us hope if it does happen it is not done with cynicism because an election is approaching. We would like to have complete conviction that the Government will go forward into this election with policies it will stick with after the election. That would be a new thing. That has not been the case up until now.

The Australian Democrats believe-honourable senators can call us idealists if they wish-that our children should grow up in a world that is safe, clean and as reasonable as we can make it and that every effort devoted to that end is worth making. We believe again that the natural environment must be preserved. Again that is becoming a cliche. We have the disgraceful situation of a road through the Daintree Rainforest.

Senator MacGibbon —Make your policy speech outside.

Senator MASON —Senator MacGibbon is a senator from Queensland. I think he really ought to take more note of what is happening in the precious and valuable parts of his State. Senator MacGibbon is a part of the architect of the destruction of that place. He has spoken in this place and approved of it. Senator MacGibbon has helped create a monster. As he would know, yesterday there was not even a road that could be used trafficably but a morass and a quagmire which has already begun to destroy the Great Barrier Reef. Half a dozen vehicles got bogged. I ask Senator MacGibbon to do his homework and find out. He should be honest and go back to the electors of Queensland, looking at the welfare of his own State.

The other great submerged issue which the Government has virtually ignored and about which it has done nothing is that great issue of unemployment. It is not good enough for the Government merely to create more community employment programs or to put in more toilet blocks at Woop Woop on which young people will work for three to six months and then go back into the ash can. That is not what is required in this country. The Government has not taken sufficient cognisance of the great tragedy in this country when 25 per cent of its young people-the best educated and most able generation we have ever had-are told they are not wanted. Of course the Government could do something about it. The Government is intimidated by the union movement, among other things. It will not have permanent part time work, it will not have a decent civilian youth corps because those in work who have influence on the Government have prevented those things from happening.

Senator Crowley —We have just introduced it.

Senator MASON —I ask Senator Crowley where are those plans. I ask her to bring those plans forward and tell the House what the Government is doing. The fact that one in four youths in this country is unemployed is a cancer on our society .

Senator Robert Ray —What is your policy?

Senator MASON —I could speak for half an hour on that policy.

Senator Robert Ray —Give us one idea.

Senator MASON —I sent an idea to the Government the other day. It should have been included in the Budget. I tell Senator Robert Ray that it has already been applied in ten countries in the European Economic Community. People who are prepared to retire a year or two earlier are given the full pension and people who are on the dole are being put into those jobs. That scheme is working in those ten countries. I ask Senator Robert Ray not to knock that idea. I wrote to the Prime Minister about it and received a reply from him the other day. The Prime Minister has referred the matter for Cabinet consideration, but the Government should have had it in the Budget. It is not good enough for the Government to let things go on and on and to let these unemployed people rot. It is not good enough for Labor members to sit here and allow these things to happen. Youth unemployment is a cancer on this country. It is from that source that the epidemic of drug-taking and the increasing epidemic of crime and housebreaking come. It is about time that was recognised as a matter of urgency and importance. It is not a matter that should be neglected by a Labor Government for two years. The Government has allowed youth unemployment to be as bad now as it was when the Government took office; the Government has done nothing about the position at all.

Senator Crowley —That is an outrage.

Senator MASON —Is it? I ask Senator Crowley to tell me some of the things that have been done. She knows as well as I do that the figures now are as bad as when the Government took office. The Government has done nothing about it and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Government has neglected the matter shamefully. In the last Budget the Government pretended to increase the funds devoted to youth unemployment, but when the wage pause funds are taken out it can be seen that the Budget has cut down assistance in that respect. Labor members should be honest with themselves on this matter.

As for the Senate, there have been two elections in three years and the Democrats have begun to make the Senate a people's house of review. I promise at the beginning of this election campaign-because today marks the beginning of that campaign-that the Democrats will keep the Senate a house of review of that kind. Many Australian will have forgotten what it means to have the Senate in the hands of the governing party. In earlier years people had not even heard of the Senate and did not even know it was here. Now Australians know the Senate is here and they will continue to know it is here. I remind the people that unless the Democrats hold the balance of power in this place-and I do not hesitate to use those words, because we have exercised that power responsibly and reasonably -this Parliament will become a rubber stamp at the mercy of the forces behind the Labor Caucus. An interesting point made in the media is that it is possible this election will show an enhanced vote to the Labor Party. If it does that, that will be a vote against Bob Hawke. I allow those who have a little bit of thoughtfulness in their minds to work out the meaning of that. But we do not intend to allow a situation to obtain where the left wing forces, those forces who would want to change and pervert the structure of this country, will have free rein. We will be campaigning also on that basis on our responsibility and usefulness to Australian society. The Senate must remain an effective means of protection against the Executive. That is its role and its function. It is certainly not the desire of the Executive that that should be so.

Senator Georges —He is looking for our preferences.

Senator MASON —What will the Labor Party do with its preferences, Senator Georges-give them to the Liberal Party? If it does that an extraordinary situation will be created. However, it was done before in South Australia. Senator Georges will remember what happened in South Australia when Labor gave its preferences to the Liberal Party. That is the time it lost government there. I would have thought the pavlovian stimulus there might have cut home a bit. If Labor now wishes to give its preferences to the Liberal Party, if it sees itself more closely allied to that party than to anyone else, it would not surprise us.

Senator Georges —We are thinking of giving them to the National Party.

Senator MASON —Well, National Party members voted with Labor to increase the numbers of members of parliament. That was an unholy alliance. The Liberal Party and the Democrats voted against the increase in the size of Parliament, but the National Party and the Labor Party in this place voted to bring in that increased parliament. Do the people of this country like the thought of an increase in the size of parliament? If Labor members think so they have another think coming. It would be appropriate for Labor to give its preferences to the National Party as a vote of thanks for helping it in this place to get an increase in the number of members of parliament.

Finally, the Democrats say that the Senate must remain an effective means of protection against the Executive. That is its function-a function it has grown into. This is now a House that is heard of, discussed and considered more than the House of Representatives. That is right and proper. This is the House that is elected by the more reasonable, more modern and more representative voters because it is a proportionally represented House. This House, the Senate, is the people's House. Let us not have any farce again about saying that the House of Representatives is the people's House. The House of Representatives in its very nature and constitution is under the thumb of the Executive. The Senate must continue to be a forum for policies designed to secure the future. I say, without fear of contradiction and without apology, that the only way this can be guaranteed is for the Australian Democrats to continue to hold the balance of power in this place.