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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1295

Senator VANSTONE(4.04) —I rise to support my colleague Senator Lewis. However, before I make the comments I intend to make, I address some remarks to Senator Jones and Senator Jack Evans. Senator Jones gave members of the Senate who are present a barrage of statistics. However, he did not give us an explanation for two things. He did not give us an explanation for what is either this Government's incapacity or its unwillingness to ensure industrial peace in Queensland. He did not comment on or give us any explanation of why, despite all the figures he provided, the international judgment on our economy is not good. The floating dollar tests that international judgment. The falling dollar proves it. The Labor Government may think it is doing well but the rest of the world does not agree. I ask Senator Jones what he says about the comment of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis), which appeared in this morning's Australian. The Minister-Senator Lewis has already referred to this quotation-said:

Too easy resort to strike action in the provision of essential services provides a clear atmosphere in which the kind of legislation used by the Queensland Government and the kind of attitudes expressed by the Federal Opposition attain legitimacy.

For Senator Jones to have made the comment he did and Mr Willis to have made the comment I quoted shows yet again the factionalism and disputes within the Australian Labor Party. Senator Jones went on to describe what the Human Rights Commission has to say about what is happening in Queensland but not what the Government is going to do about it. Leadership requires more than reading reports. The Government should put its money where its mouth is, but it simply does not have the nerve. The honourable senator asked: What is wrong with offering talks to the Queensland Government? However, he did not tell us why that offer was not made to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Is that all this Government can offer to solve this dispute-a few talks? That is no kind of leadership to be offering in this desperate situation.

Senator Jack Evans —How else are you going to solve it if you do not talk?

Senator VANSTONE —Senator-

Senator Cook —Fines and penalties don't work.

Senator VANSTONE —If the honourable senator does not mind, I have the call at the moment. I will do him the good service of listening to him when he has the call. Senator Jack Evans went on to cite the reduction in hours lost under this Government due to industrial disputation as compared with the number of hours lost under the Fraser Government. They are very impressive statistics when one looks at them on their own. However, Senator Evans did not tell us the price of the sweetheart arrangements with the ACTU to get that result, the cost of that agreement to individual Australians, to entrepreneurs who are out there trying to earn an honest dollar for themselves and, in doing so, creating employment for other Australians against the growing tide of on-costs, the backdoor way out of the accord. Senator Lewis referred to the article which appeared in the Australian on 20 April under the heading 'The time has come for the leader to lead'. It is my suggestion that none of us hold our breath. The article concludes:

If Mr Hawke leads strongly the party and the unions have got to follow. They have no other leader who can keep them in power. It is up to you Mr Hawke.

That is quite true, but what is the Prime Minister doing? There are two areas in which we need leadership most at the moment. The motion before us highlights those areas-the economy and industrial relations. The falling value of the Australian dollar is a very clear measure of the declining confidence in the Australian economy. It is a measure of declining confidence in the managers of that economy. Who are those managers? Obviously, the most prominent are Mr Hawke and Mr Keating. What a downhill slide these two gentlemen are on! Mr Hawke's plumage was, some time ago, strong and colourful. He had many feathers in his cap. He was the great negotiator, the great conciliator. He was swept to the top of his Party when he entered Parliament. He was swept to power in 1983. He was Mr Seventy-two Per Cent. Unfortunately the plumage is now not so attractive and the feathers are falling out. This is not only unattractive for Mr Hawke; it is unattractive for all Australians. The 1983 election cast a new light on this picture. It was the first sign of a loss of confidence.

Then we had the MX missile saga. How embarrassing and degrading, not so much for Mr Hawke but for this nation. How belittling for us, and a dent in our national pride, to have one of our leaders having to fluctuate on the decisions and the agreements that he makes with other countries because he cannot control his Party, or, should I rephrase that-

Senator Button —I think you had better. It could not be understood the first time.

Senator VANSTONE —Perhaps if the Minister paid more attention he would understand what I am saying.

Senator Button —No, try again; rephrase it.

Senator VANSTONE —I will rephrase it. I will say that perhaps Mr Hawke had to alter that decision because he had lost the confidence of his Party. I could go on with a long list of the sorts of things that have created this loss of confidence. However, the simple facts are that we should really let the people decide. Domestically that has happened. As honourable senators all know, Mr Hawke is no longer seventy-two per cent or whatever he was. He is down in the fifties now. Internationally, the judgment has been made on our dollar. It has fallen to an all-time low.

The other party in what is not so much a leadership contest but a duo is Mr Keating, the winner of the Euromoney's Finance Minister of the Year award. Big deal! Mr Keating has won an award from a magazine. However, that does not do anything for the Australian dollar. I refer honourable senators to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday, 20 April, headlined: 'Keating's Wall Street honeymoon over'. The article states:


meaning the international community--

are asking where the earnings are going to come from, whether the Government can manage itself, what it is doing to bring the economy back to a realistic long-term growth.

Well may we ask: Can the Government manage itself and what is it doing or going to do to bring the economy back to realistic long term growth? Why is the value of the dollar so low? This morning Mr Ken Williams of the Confederation of Australian Industry, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM program, said:

There is little doubt in the minds of the business community that the low value of the Australian dollar reflects two specific factors. One is the decline in control of the Labor Party on its own affairs in Australia and secondly, the fact that we are persisting in costing ourselves out of world markets.

Let us take a few minutes more to look at what another paper has to say. The Australian Financial Review, in this morning's editorial, under the headline 'The dollar's ill wind', states:

The message which we are getting loud and clear is that the Australian economy is no longer held in much respect by the other major countries and businesses with which we deal.

The article goes on to say that the rest of the world can see:

. . . the clear failure of the Government to come to terms with a union movement which is not able or willing to concede that the Australian economy needs to go through a period of substantial, and inevitably painful, readjustment.

This loss of confidence in the dollar and the economy has been added to by the Government's indecision with respect to a major part of any economic policy, and that is the taxation system. For months on end various Ministers, members of the Government and various other people in the community have been trotting out their preferred tax package. We all await the tax summit. In my view, it is the biggest lucky dip in which this nation has ever participated. Younger honourable senators may remember the last time they took part in a lucky dip. Inevitably, one was not satisfied with the prize one received. I do not believe that it is the function of the summit to decide what the tax policy of this Government should be. I believe that this Government should be offering leadership and showing the way, and it should be declaring now what its intentions are in that area.

The Government should also be making its intentions clear with respect to the next national wage case. Will it support wage discounting to cater for the effects of the falling dollar? The ACTU says no. Let us not forget that Labor does not run this country alone. It is in a coalition with the ACTU, de facto though it may be, but it may as well be de jure because when the ACTU calls, Bob Hawke answers. The grip that that body has on him and this Government renders him and the Government impotent. Recent events in Queensland have shown just how true this is. I refer honourable senators to an article written by Paul Kelly in the Australian of Friday, 19 April, in which he said:

The danger for Mr Hawke in the present situation is his political impotence, which is a condition that no Prime Minister can long tolerate. Politics is about power and the leader who lacks the capacity to wield power will soon find his position undermined.

We all know what happens to a drover's dog when it loses the capacity to keep the sheep in line. Hawke's impotence, Labor's impotence--

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! I have not interrupted before, but it is normal courtesy in this place to refer to people by their correct names-Mr Hawke, or Dr so and so.

Senator VANSTONE —I am sorry, Mr Acting Deputy President. Mr Hawke's impotence-Labor's impotence-creates a lack of confidence in our dollar and allows union irresponsibility to rise to its full height. That is why the Government allowed the situation in Queensland to reach such an unfortunate state. That is why it has let union demands override it. That is why the unions got away with refusing to collect government moneys. The Government has been made impotent by the ACTU stranglehold. The Government's corporate model, the model that takes account of the Government, the ACTU and big business and forgets individual Australians and individual States, is pulling this country down because it does not work. Let us look at what Mr Willis had to say, as reported in the Australian this morning. Referring to the Premier of Queensland, he said:

. . . the Premier had introduced a battery of anti-union laws which denied basic democratic rights and civil liberties and were an over-reaction to the problems.

What we do not find in that report of Mr Willis's speech is what action the Government would take or has taken, and that is because it has not taken any action. If the Government had solved the problem in the beginning and had stepped in and used its powers, Queensland would not be in the position that it is in today. We have had no action. We have had no leadership and, accordingly, we have an unstable dollar and an unstable industrial relations system. What is the Government doing? It is doing absolutely nothing and in my view, that is a national disgrace.