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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1566


Senator PETER BAUME(4.16) —The Senate is debating a matter of public importance, namely: 'The wrong direction Labor is taking Australia'. The subject which has been raised is valid and important. It is an important subject in this pre-election period, an important matter for the pre-election consideration of every Australian voter. Honourable senators are indebted to my Leader, Senator Chaney, for bringing this matter up and for the clear way in which he presented the arguments setting out some of the wrong ways in which the Australian Labor Party has led Australia already. The consequences of the last 18 months are very considerable in terms of lost opportunity, blighted hopes and economic stagnation for many Australians. I want to spend my time identifying some of the wrong directions which were the subject of Senator Chaney's concern, not all of which he could discuss in the time available to him.

The first issue is one which Senator Maguire brought to our attention a few moments ago, the first wrong direction. I refer to the inability, perhaps, and/ or the failure of the Labor Party either to appreciate the extent of corruption in Australian society or to understand the threat that it poses to the operation of a free and orderly society, or to want to do anything about it. The threat exists to an entire society. As a senator for New South Wales, I have been particularly concerned by the increasingly revealed extent of corruption within the State Government, corruption within the State instrumentalities, and the reluctance of this Federal Government to want to have any part of doing anything about it or of knowing about it.

It is true that a lot of concern rests properly at the door of the President of the Australian Labor Party, who happens to be the Premier of my State. Many of the matters relate to him and to the Government he leads. They are matters that we might want to raise properly in detail at some other time. However, I remind the Senate that it was he who assured us a few years ago, when he promoted a police commissioner out of order, that he was promoting the best man. I remind honourable senators that it was only after the public outcry was raised and became so great that Mr Allen was retired in disgrace. It was Mr Wran who assured us that the then Chief Stipendiary Magistrate was above suspicion and was being unfairly pursued. Because a court case is pending, I shall do no more than say that that matter has gone further and that Mr Farquhar will have his day in court.

Mr Wran defended Mr Rex Jackson, one of his Ministers, a Labor member of parliament, against accusations that were brought out with the greatest of difficulty until he was forced, against his will, to submit some of those accusations to public examination. When the evidence of that became too powerful , that Minister had to resign his commission, and that Minister, too, will have his day in court.

But here in Canberra we have seen the evidence of the whole Age tapes matter brought before us. One would have thought that a government seeking to lead the nation would have made it its business immediately to want to get to the bottom of the serious matters raised in those Age tapes. But the approach of the Hawke Government was to try to seek out and to punish those who made the tapes and do as little as it possibly could about any of the allegations contained in them or even to recognise that the matters raised within those tapes went to the administration of justice and proper government in this country. As Senator Chaney has said, the whole handling of this matter by the Hawke Government is, indeed, a wrong direction. The Government resisted taking any action to investigate what was in those tapes.

Senator Maguire raised the matter of corruption. It was only when the Senate determined not to be stood over by the charismatic Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) or by his Executive Government, when the Senate decided to stand up to them and decided that certain matters would be put to public examination, that these matters started to be revealed. I must say that a certain group of newspapers also made it their business to ensure that the material was presented. There is more to come. There is more investigation to be done and more information to be laid before the Australian people. I hope that this Government will realise that the only proper direction for it to take in relation to all these issues as they affect corruption and public administration is for it to be in the forefront of wanting to see something done about investigating the content of the matters and for it not to have to be dragged screaming all the way.

For the Government now to be supporting Mr Wran when he has the temerity to say that a judicial figure in New South Wales may have his career suffer because of evidence he has given before a Senate inquiry is just outrageous. It is almost as outrageous as this Government's inability to deal with the recurrent indiscretions of the Special Minister of State, Mr Mick Young, one of its own Ministers. It has been necessary to drag this Government screaming along the course which the Senate has determined and is pursuing to ensure that the people of Australia have these important matters brought before them.

But that is only one of the wrong directions. I mentioned corruption first because Senator Maguire thought it was a good matter to raise. But what about the prices and income accord on which the Government has built so much of its policy and its public presentation, that cosy arrangement between those who have , which has been conducted at the expense of those who have not? That cosy arrangement has shared up the resources available between those who have jobs at the expense of the disadvantaged, the jobless and the poor. I think the phrase has been used already today that in the accord we see the emergence of corporatism with the accommodation of powerful interests, one with the other, where individuals and individuals' needs are ignored.

The accord has institutionalised unemployment. It has institutionalised a lack of opportunity. It has institutionalised the blighted hopes and lives of many Australians. It has institutionalised lost opportunity. Honourable senators may recall that of the options put before the accord no option was put which would have meant more jobs or some hope of ending unemployment. No such option was put forward. Option D never appeared. There was no option which would have taken some hard choices. If honourable senators think the accord has been a good thing , as do some honourable senators, they would want to be aware of what the Westpac Banking Corporation had to say in its September 1984 Review which looks at the Budget and at the way in which the accord has locked people into undesirable directions. The Westpac Banking Corporation in Review said:

In its present form, the accord may well yield some of these benefits. But substantial modifications are required if all are to be realised. As it stands, the accord is all the about keeping happy the 91 per cent of the labour force which has jobs. It does nothing to alleviate unemployment by, for example, allowing scope to change wage relativities.

Centralised wage indexation is the core of the accord. It is a system which virtually institutionalises unacceptably high rates of unemployment among the group which has suffered most, those between the ages of 15 and 19, one-quarter of whom do not have a job.

The review goes on to explain why employers are reluctant to take such people on . This is the accord that has formed the centrepiece of Labor's presentation to the Australian people over the last 18 months. It has institutionalised the unemployment of youth. It has institutionalised the jobs of those who are lucky enough to have them at the expense of those who do not. As we say, the accord has been an accommodation of powerful unions, corporations and governments. It has represented a great loss of opportunity and hope for so many people.

The third wrong direction which Labor has taken is in the whole area of economic management. Under Mr Hawke we have seen Labor become the highest spending government in history. There has been more expenditure of assets that we do not have. Because of the expenditure of assets we do not have we have seen a greater debt than we have ever had previously. This debt is a mortgage on the future of our children, a debt which they will have to repay in their lifetimes. It has been an unnecessary profligacy of this country's assets. This Government has also imposed more taxes. It is the highest taxing government in the history of Australia. While it has appeared to give some kind of tax cuts, in fact, because of rising wage rates, the average taxpayer is now in the 46c in the dollar tax bracket or very close to it. As I think Senator Chaney has told the Senate already, the average taxpayer now pays $87 per week in tax, every week. This is a high spending, high debt, high taxing government which has been trying to pay off vested interests across the country with the losers being those who are not able to compete with the powerful unions or other powerful interests.

We have seen so many things fall by the wayside. We have seen a poorer defence capacity. We have seen the ANZUS treaty put under threat, partly by our neighbours, with this Government reacting inadequately to try to protect us. We have seen the assets test with its new tax on gifts and capital if those gifts are given by pensioners and if that capital is owned by them. We have seen the education efforts of this Government. Today we have had the Australian Teachers Federation here in the Parliament trying to bring this Government to account for promises which it made to Australian public education and to teachers before the election and which it has shown no intention of redeeming whatsoever. One of the directions the Government has taken is to show remarkable disregard for its promises and obligations. We have seen trade failures so that we can no longer sell our beef. We have seen promises of new steel sales which never transpired or proved to be a reality. We have seen Australia's pathetic efforts in relation to Kampuchea and North Vietnam. We have seen a failure to support the United States in positions of sensitivity which it has taken. We have seen this Government totally unable to find ways to maintain even the research expenditure of our own national research institutions.

During a recent Estimates Committee hearing we heard officer after officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation tell of the way they were treated in the last Budget which provided an inadequate sum for them to carry on their work of researching in the national interest. We have seen a manufacturing sector which is contracting, not expanding. We have seen a mining sector which is also contracting and not expanding. We have seen an agricultural sector which in this coming year will start to contract and whose export activities, particularly, will be affected adversely. We have seen a Government which in the Australian Capital Territory has been prepared to oversee a gross interference with the rights of students. I refer to the Government's acceptance of a decision last year to mark up all girls in the Australian Capital Territory in the Year 12 examination on the basis of their gender. What kind of fairer society is this? Quite recently we have seen new suggestions that the Higher School Certificate marks should be fiddled to take account of disadvantage. Equal opportunity is one thing, equal numbers are quite another. We think this Government has to get some of its priorities right there.

More important than the political advantage of the moment is the kind of Australia that we will have in 10 years or 15 years time; the kind of Australia that my children, who are now growing up, will be able to inherit. What we look for in the policies of this Government, or any government, is some hope for the future. We see very little to be proud of in what the Hawke Government has done. We see a very smart, skilful and slick trading-off of interests for immediate political advantage. What worries us is that this will not be the kind of advantage that will help the nation over the longer run and for that reason we believe this to be an important matter of public importance and one which my Leader did well to bring before the Parliament and the people of Australia.