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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 219

Senator LEWIS(10.40) —I congratulate Senator Aulich and Senator Cooney on the presentation of their maiden speeches. They were both certainly well up to the standard that we expect in this place. I wish them well and assure them that I look forward to entering into debate with them in the chamber, perhaps in a more robust manner, as has been described by Senator Cooney. I also take the opportunity to congratulate the other newly elected senators and commiserate with those who were not elected. I wish the other newly elected senators well in the presentation of their maiden speeches and I look forward to debating with them in this chamber.

As has been said by both of the Government senators who have spoken in this debate, last Thursday the Governor-General opened the Thirty-fourth Parliament. The Governor-General, knowing what the Government had prepared for him to say, might well have been advised immediately to have closed it. The Speech that the Government had prepared for the Governor-General was long on rhetoric and short on leadership and action. The most important things about it were the things that it did not contain, rather than what it did contain. The result of the Government's program is that already at the beginning of the session the Parliament is looking for things to do. On many occasions, apparently, we will be talking about issues in general instead of legislation in particular. The sorts of things that the Governor-General's Speech, which was prepared by the Government, did not address were, for example, nuclear issues. It demonstrated once again the problems which the Australian Labor Party has in office in regard to the defence of this nation. Seeing that New Zealand is having massive problems with Mr Lange at present, let me mention the problems which Victoria is having with Mr Cain. Of course, Mr Cain has promoted the same sorts of matters which Mr Lange has been promoting. He has said that there will be no visits by any warships to Victorian ports. The Government, instead of using the Speech to tell Mr Cain where to get off, did not bother to mention anything about it. Of course, we have apparently been advised through the back door today that the Premier of New South Wales has changed his mind on the subject since there has been a change of government. It had nothing to do, of course, with the situation in Victoria. But it is interesting that Victoria now stands alone as the one State which prohibits the entry of American warships into its harbours. That is the sort of problem that Victoria has with its Premier.

Another example that I will refer to at some length is Federal-State fiscal relations. The Governor-General's Speech did not bother to mention anything about this major problem that the nation faces at present. The first major concern in regard to present Federal-State financial relations is the question of the so-called soft overseas loans which the States have been taking out without any insurance to hedge against the possible fall of the value of the dollar. The consequence of the current fall in the value of the dollar appears to be that this nation has had about a $1,000m capital loss simply because the States have been allowed to take out these loans without any control being exercised by the Federal Government. A most recent example was the loan of 150 million yen taken out by Mr Cain in Victoria in recent weeks. That loan was taken out in yen at a time not only when the Australian dollar was falling and may fall even further but also when it is estimated by those who are involved in monetary estimates that the yen will probably rise. What that will cost the State of Victoria and the taxpayers and the people of Victoria in increased prices as well as in taxes is almost unbelievable.

The Premier of Victoria, elected on a promise of keeping down taxes, undertook that taxes would not rise, but, in fact, increased taxes by about 55 per cent. He undertook not only that taxes would not rise but also that charges would be held at their existing level and that some charges would fall. What has happened in Victoria is that charges and taxes have increased enormously. Yesterday in the Age, a journalist by the name of Tim Colebatch wrote an article giving some figures worked out on his own calculations. I must say that I have been reading Tim Colebatch's reports throughout the Victorian campaign and I think that everybody would acknowledge that he is certainly not on the side of Mr Kennett and the Liberal Party. Yesterday the figures in the article revealed much of the truth of what Mr Kennett has been telling the people of Victoria. I will quote from Mr Colebatch, who said:

Mr Kennett is right in pointing out that Victoria's public debt has expanded greatly under Labor: by 48 per cent in money terms.

He went on:

The real increase in the net government debt (not counting inflation) has been . . .

He then gave an estimate of the monetary increase and continued:

. . . an increase of 16.3 per cent

The article contained a graph on which was disclosed the enormous increase in real terms in the net debt of the Victorian Labor Government in comparison with that which the Liberal Party had been able to achieve when in office. Mr Colebatch went on to speak of State taxes in real terms. He said:

Everybody knows that taxes, fares and charges have risen faster than inflation, taking a bigger bite out of our pockets.

Notwithstanding Mr Keating's claiming that inflation is being held down by this Government, the truth of the matter, as everyone who does any shopping knows, is that government debt has increased enormously and the cost of paying it will come out of our pockets. Mr Colebatch went on to give some figures. He said:

. . . I calculate that total State taxes have risen in real terms-

real terms, not monetary terms-

by 14.5 per cent under the Cain Government . . . On any realistic measure, then, the rate of tax increases has been higher under Labor than under the Liberals.

That comment was a response to the charges which Mr Cain has been making that increases under Labor have not been any greater than they were during the last three years of the former Liberal Government. Mr Colebatch gave the lie to Mr Cain's charges. I will quote him once again when he said:

On realistic measure, then, the rate of tax increases has been higher under Labor than under the Liberals.

Finally, he went on in this article to include an excellent graph showing how spending has risen in real terms in Victoria and comparing spending in Labor's term in office with that of the Liberal Party in its last three years in office. He said:

The total net government spending figures, shown in the graph, reveal a big increase . . .

He gives monetary figures and values. I will not bother to read those out. It is much easier simply to look at the percentages. He referred to:

. . . (26.7 per cent) in constant . . . dollars.

In other words, this is a 26.7 per cent increase in real terms in spending under Labor as opposed to spending under the Liberals. He continued:

This is certainly a big increase in real terms. The 26.7 per cent increase compares with a 3.3 per cent increase in the last three years of the Liberals.

I do not deny that he went on to say:

But much of this spending was not initiated by the State Government. It is simply Federal programs flowing through the State system.

He pointed out how difficult it was to apportion how much of that increase in expenditure flows from State Government or Federal Government extravagances. The truth is that both State and Federal Labor governments remain big-spending governments-and big-spending governments are big-taxing and big price-charging governments. The coming election in Victoria is all about whether its people will continue to allow the Victorian Labor Government-a government which has increased all these taxes and charges in the way it has in the past three years and which has carried on with the financial lack of integrity-to remain in office, or whether the people will take the alternative offered to them by Mr Kennett. That alternative will allow the people of Victoria to be given their own opportunities to stand up for themselves and will lead to a withdrawal of government from so many areas in which Mr Cain at present has it involved.

I refer to some of the things Mr Cain has done in his term of office. For example, he has increased the number of public servants by about 12,000; he has given the teachers very substantial pay increases to pay them back for their contribution to his campaign. Mr Cain also has milked the reserves of statutory authorities. Those authorities, instead of having massive reserves as they did under the Liberal Government, are now all bereft of money and looking overseas to borrow funds. Mr Cain is now seeking to attack the workers compensation insurance funds in Victoria. One has only to ask what will happen to those moneys when he gets his hands on those funds-and he will do so if he returns to office.

Let us examine the problems of Victoria. It is a disaster area. For example, over 15,000 people in Victoria are awaiting elective surgery in the public hospitals. That waiting list has arisen from a combination of interference by Mr Cain and Mr Roper, the Victorian Minister of Health, in the hospital system of Victoria, and the socialisation of that system under which patients are forced to go to public hospitals instead of being able to go to private hospitals. It is also connected with the activities of the Federal Minister for Health, Dr Blewett, and his same socialist policies which are forcing the people of Victoria out of the private hospital system into the public hospital system. The public hospital system is unable to cope with the disastrous increases in the numbers of people seeking elective surgery. The result is to be seen in the enormous waiting list of 15,000. Once a person has decided to have surgery, it is no good his being told 'that's only elective-you can wait a long time to have such surgery'. A person waiting for surgery once he has decided to have it is concerned, upset and worried about it, no matter what type of surgery is involved. However, 15,000 Victorians are waiting for such surgery and are being held back by the hospital system as it stands in Victoria at present.

Nursing homes are another disaster area in Victoria at present. Thousands of elderly people are waiting to move into nursing homes. Up to January this year not one new nursing home bed had been opened in Victoria since the Federal Labor Government came into office. What is the position in Victoria in regard to education? A recent article by Mr Greg Sheridan in the Australian points to the lies that are being taught to our children. Is it any wonder that parents are making huge sacrifices to opt out of the Government's education systems throughout Australia and are seeking to move into private education systems? This is occurring because of the disastrous education systems set up under Labor governments, and in particular by the Labor Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, who is present for this debate. Education in this nation is a disaster. I believe that there is now a growing realisation of that fact by the young who are revolting against the system. When they come out of the education system with degrees and enter employment, many young people ask: 'Why do I not understand these things? I am supposed to have a degree, yet I appear to be poorly educated, compared with those who went through the education systems of private schools or the education system of Australia a decade or so ago'.

Returning to the subject of State loans, I quote an article written in the Australian by Mr Keegan following an examination of the increased taxes imposed by the Victorian Labor Government under Mr Cain. Mr Keegan said:

This is an unenviable record but it begins to look like mere peccadillos alongside Victoria raising an unhedged 10-year $150 million yen-denominated loan in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago . . . We are told that Victoria's US-denominated loans make NSW borrowings look like the work of an austere financial genius. Don't worry, brush it under the carpet pending the election and later soak electors with a raft of new taxes.

That is the position in Victoria. In order to cope with this disastrous financial bungling by the socialist-dominated Cain Government in that State, there must be increased charges for gas, electricity, petrol and rail services to meet the funds squandered on foolish loans and spending frenzies. As Mr Keegan said:

Voters this side of eternity should do something about it.

I have spoken at length about Federal-State relations because they are so vital to our economy but so rarely considered. This Government apparently sees no need to do anything about Federal-State financial relations, or any need to do anything about State regulation and control of economic activity. One has only to instance the milk war in Victoria. Victoria is one of the most efficient producers of milk in the world. Dry land dairy farming-there is no need for irrigation and such methods-produces great quantities of milk. However, dairy farmers are being deprived of their markets because of the State's interference, control and regulation of the markets and total disregard of section 92 of the Constitution. Recently one Victorian agricultural economist said: 'What Victoria needs is an agreement similar to the closer economic relations agreement which Australia has with New Zealand'. He thought that there should be a closer economic relations agreement between Victoria and New South Wales. How right he is. That barrier being put up at our borders 85 years after we adopted a Federal Constitution containing section 92 is a national disgrace and something that this Federal Government should get off its tail and do something about. This country has major problems.

Is it any wonder that we had an early election back on 1 December 1984? We really should be running up to a May election this year. That should have been the earliest date for the election, Mr Hawke having promised that his Government would serve its full term of office. Even acknowledging that because of the problems of the Senate he might have had to have an early election rather than run the full term of his office, the election should have been held in May 1985. Now that the figures are being revealed and the predictions that we made about the economy are coming true, our explanation as to why Mr Hawke had an early election is being proven day after day. The economy of this country at present is in an absolutely disastrous situation. We have the money blow-out. I quote from what Mr Terry McCrann, the business editor of the Melbourne Age, said on 27 February:

The January money supply figures released yesterday by the Reserve Bank confirm that the Federal Government lost control of monetary policy in the first half of the financial year.

Already the Federal Government has lost control of monetary policy in this financial year. We have interest rates certainly on the way up. We have real problems coming with inflation, and the resulting fall in the value of the dollar will create enormous problems for this country.

Let me continue with some of the major problems that this Government has to face and about which we heard nothing in the Speech prepared by the Government for the Governor-General. Let me talk about union power, for example. The Public Service was faced with a Government which right from the word go revoked the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act. So the Public Service of this nation was given the opportunity to show its credentials by a government which stepped in and said: 'All right, we will disarm ourselves of the power which the Liberal Government held over the Public Service of this nation'. What has been the result of that? The result has been strike after strike and disastrous control of funds so that the moneys are not flowing to the Government. At a time when the dollar is falling in value the Federal Government is in an absolutely pitiful situation, left bereft of funds by a Public Service depriving it of money. The revoking of the CE(EP) Act by this Federal Government has been shown to be a disaster. What is the Federal Government going to do, if anything, about taking control of its own Public Service? According to the speech prepared by it, to which I am responding today, it will do absolutely nothing.

This Government has once again demonstrated in its dealings with the Hospital Employees Federation and the Builders Labourers Federation that what is needed in this country is militancy. Militancy by the trade union movement is the only thing that this Federal Government takes any notice of. Instead of trying to negotiate with reasonable and moderate unions this Government takes no notice of any moderate and reasonable union activity. It waits until such time as some strong and militant action is taken and then proceeds to try to settle the dispute at that stage instead of at the earlier stage. Of course, that is a major problem which ought to be faced by this newly-elected Government, but in fact no steps have been proposed to face up to that problem. I simply say that that is probably because this Government does not have the courage to stand up to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the militant unions that it represents.

What a disaster the accord is proving to be. There was an economic recovery, mainly brought about by the drought recovery, the weakening of the world recession, the American recovery and the wages pause in the last 12 months of the Fraser Federal Government. They were the reasons for the recovery. For the first 12 months of the accord, as a result of the Fraser wage pause, wages were kept down, but now the Government is faced with a situation where the accord is going to feed wage rises into the system at a time when the employers of this nation simply cannot afford to cope with further wage rises. As Mr McCrann states in his comment on 14 February this year in the Melbourne Age:

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the level of industrial disputes provide sobering evidence that the costs of the much-vaunted Prices and Incomes Accord between the Labor Party and the ACTU have far outweighed any benefits.

He points out that, notwithstanding the absolutely terrible cost the accord has been to this nation's economy, the truth of the matter is that it has not controlled industrial disputations and in fact the situation is now that the cost of the accord far outweighs any benefits that it might have had. Of course, as members on this side of this chamber and of the other place have been saying ever since 1983, the accord is a disaster and will continue to be a disaster.

Another matter which I think is of major concern to this nation is the effort being put into increasing the share of the cake rather than into increasing the size of the cake. We have big business and big unions seeking protectionist policies and lobbying both State and Federal Governments for a larger share of the profitability and the gross domestic product of this nation rather than getting together and working together to increase the profitability of the organisations. Too many resources of this nation are resulting in these lobbyist-political shenanigans instead of working to increase the growth of the domestic product of this nation. By that I mean that instead of a company getting together with its employees and working out ways and means whereby they can increase productivity and thereby increase the wages of the employees and the profits to the shareholders, what they do is send lobbyists to Canberra or to the State capitals to try to get some protection or some sort of advantage from the Government. We have people involved in trying to rip off the tax system. We have governments, State governments in particular, ripping off the people with price increases, and I have already made a long reference to the actions of Mr Cain in Victoria in that area. All of these actions and activities are directed towards ripping out the profitability and the heart of this nation rather than working to increase the productivity of the nation. America has succeeded in its economic recovery because of the determination of the American people to increase the profitability and the productivity of the nation, instead of increasing their share of the limited cake available.

Finally, let me just say that all of these problems have resulted in a public awareness around the world of Australia's problems, actually brought on by the MX missile crisis focusing attention on Australia. The world has had a good look at Australia. It has had a good look at the Hawke Government and has seen how weak it is. The result has been this massive fall in the value of the dollar. That is the result of the world inspecting our dollar, looking at our country and saying: 'Well, a country that goes on the way that Australia is going on at the present moment clearly cannot have a strong dollar'. The dollar has fallen badly on the world markets and I have great difficulty in seeing how it will recover.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Townley) —Senator Sheil, I do not think we class this as a maiden speech for you, do we?