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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2047

Senator IAN MACDONALD (1.11 p.m.) —I rise today to speak in this matter of public interest debate on a matter which should be of very great public interest. It is the question of honesty and integrity in government, how politicians and political parties conduct themselves, and the claims they make, the promises they make, in the way they go about their business.

  If one had a child who told outright lies, things the child knew were wrong, but who deliberately repeated the lie or promoted the lie, then any decent Australian parents would chastise the child and tell it of the need for and the virtues of honesty. Right through life we see instances where people have told lies and been brought to account. We know that if people in business, bank managers, lawyers and so on deliberately and publicly tell lies, things they know are untruthful, deceitful and false, they are brought to account. In general business life, there is consumer affairs legislation in each state requiring advertising to be truthful and accurate. Of course, at the federal level there is the Trade Practices Act, which prohibits, on pain of very severe penalty, misstatements, false and misleading and deceitful statements, in so far as they relate to business.

  The thing that is of extreme public importance is that these rules do not apply when it comes to politicians and political parties, and particularly when it comes to the ALP, which has made an art form of lying deliberately to the public and getting away with it. Of course, it has rearranged the legislation so that, whilst everyone else is required to tell the truth, it does not apply to political parties. It does not need me to go through the last election to point out the outright and deliberate deceit and lies perpetrated by the ALP in its campaign. The numbers of instances are myriad—and they are not even denied by the Labor Party. This is the thing that really distresses me. One has only to remember that there were hundreds of different examples—

Senator Sherry —Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I certainly would contest the honourable senator's assertions about lies, but that is not the point of order. The matters of public interest debate is meant, by tradition, to be on matters that are relatively non-contentious. There has been a marked tendency, particularly from Senator Macdonald, to raise issues of considerable controversy, in his usual offensive manner. It is not the time and place to do that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What is your point of order?

Senator Sherry —The point of order is that there is a tradition in this chamber that the matters of public interest debate—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Which standing order?

Senator Sherry —May I conclude the point of order? If the opposition does not want to adhere to the traditions, that is fine, but there is a tradition that matters raised in the matters of public interest debate are relatively non-contentious. I would assert that what Senator Macdonald is saying is highly contentious. If he does not want that tradition to continue, it is fine by the government. But this is inappropriate in the current form of this debate.

Senator Panizza —Mr Acting Deputy President, on the point of order: I cannot find the standing order which says that an honourable senator cannot be controversial in a matters of public interest debate. I think you should rule Senator Sherry's point of order out of order.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herron)—There is no point of order, Senator Sherry.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Of course, it is not contentious because nobody ever contests it. It is accepted everywhere that the Labor Party lied at the last election. The examples are too myriad to go through, but I will mention a couple of very simple ones that easily come to my mind. There was the ALP advertising that clearly said, `Everything will go up 15 per cent'. The party knew that was a lie but it persisted in it and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. In my own area, party members ran around with paid advertisements saying, `There will be a GST on water. There will be a GST on rates'. Again, that was a lie and they knew it. Again, there was nothing we could do about it.

  It works in this way: the Labor Party goes out and gets a lot of money from its union mates. It is able to get money from its union mates because the Commonwealth taxpayer funds its union mates in so many ways we have pointed out time and time again. For some reason, the members of the press never seem to take that up; I am absolutely flabbergasted that they do not but that is what happens. Under this government the Commonwealth taxpayer gives the union money and then the union gives it back to the Labor Party to use as election campaign funds. The Labor Party goes out and, with enormous advertising, puts the lie on radio, TV and in newspapers. If the lie is repeated well enough and often enough, as Goebbels always said—and this lot are good learners from Goebbels—one gets to the stage—

Senator Sherry —I rise on a point of order. The government finds the reference to Goebbels offensive. I understand that we had a debate about this issue of Nazi-like references, which we certainly find offensive. It is interesting that the opposition criticises us, allegedly for those sorts of references, and Senator Macdonald adopts the same practice himself.

Senator Campbell —On the point of order: I did not see Senator Sherry leap to his feet yesterday, or last week—I cannot remember which day it was—when Senator Robert Ray used exactly the same analogy about Goebbels. Goebbels may well have been a Nazi, he may well have been a nasty man, but he is regarded by any student of political history as a master propagandist, and that was the point Senator Macdonald was making. We could take Senator Sherry seriously if he had leapt to his feet when Senator Ray, within a few parliamentary sitting hours, made the same point in this chamber.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It seems fairly clear that Senator Sherry and the ALP are sensitive about what I am saying because they know it is true and they do not want the public of Australia to learn about it. At every opportunity Senator Sherry takes points of order which he knows are incorrect, but he will do anything to curtail opposition, to restrict the Liberal and National parties from having their say. If that is not the way that other man I just referred to carried on in Germany in the 1930s, I do not know what is.

  As I was saying, under this government the Commonwealth taxpayer gives money to the unions in so many ways that we have documented. The unions then give it back to the Labor Party. The Labor Party uses those enormous funds to print the lie or telecast the lie or broadcast the lie on the basis that if the lie is told often enough it will stick and people will think it is true. That is what happened in the last federal election. There was that constant repetition, `15 per cent more on everything; 15 per cent more on everything; 15 per cent more on everything', and the people of Australia fell for it. It was a lie; it was a deliberate lie and the Labor Party knew it. All of that is past history. I suppose we should be aware of that; we should expect it; we should know it is coming up. It never fazes the Labor Party. It is not worried about it; it does not have a conscience about it.

  I will get to the matter that I briefly wanted to raise today and that is the local authority elections in Queensland this weekend. We have the ALP at the same old tricks. In Townsville, where the ALP incumbent council is in some danger, they are printing huge advertisements saying, `Liberals want you to pay $200 more in water rates'. I have the advertisement before me; there it is in black and white. The same is on the television screen. I cannot produce that but it is all there. That is what the Labor Party is saying about the Liberal policy. What does the Liberal policy actually say? I have it here too. The summary says:


the very first one, I might say—


.  No rate rises above CPI

.  Increased free water allowance

.  Excess water charges lowered from 62 to 45 cents/Kl

Senator Campbell —So the rates will go down.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —We would never say that rates will go down, but they certainly will not increase. With respect to water, there will be greater allowances—the honourable senator is quite correct there. The written policy of the Liberal Party, and the spoken policy, which can be heard in media interviews on radio and television, says just that. But what have members of the Labor Party said? They have said that it is going to go up $200. They know that that is an outright and deliberate lie. I would like Senator Sherry or some of his cohorts over there to explain that. The other thing that has been put in this advertisement is from some sort of report. The bit I can read says:

If the. . .—

and then I cannot read it—

was removed, the average consumer living in a dwelling would have a 70% rate rise.

The advertisement continues:

The Liberals want you to pay $200 more in water rates.

This is sourced from a report of a Labor-controlled city council, yet it is being promoted as part of Liberal Party policy. It is an outright and deliberate lie. It does not stop in Townsville. As the shadow minister for local government, I have received complaints from other councils where, lo and behold, the Labor Party is up to its old tricks. The team currently controlling the Mount Isa City Council is called the United Progressive Council Team. The team is a front for the ALP, and nobody denies that. Nobody on the other side would—

Senator Campbell —You say progressive. It is ALP.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It is a funny name, but it is an ALP team. I am not sure why they do not run under the name of the ALP. The former mayor, Mr McGrady, is the current Labor member. The current mayor and deputy mayor are shown on a placard outside the trades hall in Mount Isa as being the chairman and deputy chairman of the local branch of the Labor Party. I do not think they are now, but the placard shows that they certainly have been.

  What else do we find in Mount Isa? We find that the Labor Party is advertising the council team and, among other things, it shows a candidate, Rod Wilkinson, as Alderman Rod Wilkinson. As some honourable senators will know, a person has to be an existing member of council to be called an alderman. Rod Wilkinson, nice fellow though he may be, is not an alderman. This is a deliberate and outright lie by the Labor Party in Mount Isa to make the people of Mount Isa think that their team is a team full of existing aldermen. The advertising goes on to suggest that this is a great team of elected aldermen who have been there for many years. Of course, with the ALP team in Mount Isa, very few of the current aldermen have ever been elected. They have been appointed, as people who were elected have resigned, by the Labor Party machine.

  As well as that, the Mount Isa Labor Party has been running a television advertisement using Tony McGrady, the local Labor member and resources minister in the Queensland government. He is a popular and well regarded figure around Mount Isa. They have got him standing with the team, and the wording on the advertising more or less says, `This is your team for the council'. Tony McGrady used to be the mayor, but this advertisement is obviously putting across that Mr McGrady is still part of the council team. By using Mr McGrady, it is encouraging people to vote for the team and get them over the line.

  I could go on and on with this, but my concern is more with the deliberate lies the ALP tells, prints or broadcasts at election time. I have moved motions in this Senate asking for the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to investigate these misleading, deceitful and false claims used by the Labor Party in election advertising. It is not happening just with local government elections; the same thing is obviously happening with federal and state elections. The Labor Party does it with impunity. There is no way it can be called to account.

  I just wonder how long the people of Australia are going to accept a government, a political party, that goes out of its way deliberately to tell untruths, deliberately to mislead, deliberately to deceive the public in paid advertisements, when the Labor Party knows that they are not true. I just hope that, somewhere alone the line, the press will be outraged. It is only when one can get the press outraged that the general body of the Australian public can understand the enormity and the widespread nature of this deceit by the Labor Party in its electoral advertising.