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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26650


Senator CONROY (3:13 PM) —Yesterday we saw John Howard stand up and ask Australians to trust his 10-year vision. But he did not have the good grace to say the one simple thing that they needed to believe about the 10-year vision: `Trust me, Australia; I'm staying for three years. Trust me, Australia; Peter Costello won't be Prime Minister in 18 months time.' That is all he had to say because he knows as well as every Australian that they do not trust him to stay the full three years. `Trust me, I'm staying three years. Trust me, you will not be voting for me and getting Peter Costello.' That is all he had to say yesterday. The Prime Minister had to call a press conference today and make Peter Costello stand next to him to try and get around this fib they are telling. This morning Peter Costello would not rule out a challenge to the Prime Minister. Why? Because the Prime Minister would not stand up and say: `Trust me, I'll be here in three years' time.' It is quite amazing: he would not commit to the full three years. Why should Australians trust him to tell the truth? He wanted to talk about trust, but yesterday he did not want to talk about the truth. And the truth is that he will not be staying three years. Australians cannot trust him to stay three years.

We have a government that prides itself on its capacity to mislead Australians and get away with it. Its favourite line is, `No-one told me.' The Senate inquiry into `kids overboard' established that 32 public servants knew the truth about `kids overboard' and that Minister Reith knew the truth about `kids overboard', but the government persisted to the bitter end in trying to convince Australians that kids were thrown overboard. The American government pointed the finger directly at the heart of the election issue in this country. They would not allow the key Australian official in Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq, to testify. They would not allow him to go before their inquiries. They would not allow him to speak to them. They only wanted him to give them written answers—written answers that arrived, unfortunately, too late to be of any use in the inquiry.

Trust is a key issue here. This Prime Minister is like one of the characters in Hogan's Heroes. You may ask which one, or you may immediately assume when we are talking about the Prime Minister that we are talking about Colonel Klink. No, it is not Colonel Klink. You may assume it is Corporal Newkirk. No, it is not Corporal Newkirk. You may think is General Burkhalter. No—absolutely not. It is actually Sergeant Schultz—`I know nothing.' `I know nothing' is his favourite statement. `Nobody told me. I know nothing.' The Prime Minister did not know about Abu Ghraib. He did not know about `kids overboard'. He does not know the GST is a federal tax. Each year this government produces a budget that is qualified by the Auditor-General. Why? It is because this government chooses to pretend to Australians that the GST is a state tax. I spoke for about five hours on the GST in this very chamber, because the GST is a federal tax. It passed though the federal parliament. Yet this government brings down a budget every year qualified by the Australian Auditor-General because it chooses to pretend that the GST is a state tax and not a Commonwealth tax.

John Howard promised there would never, ever be a GST. There would be no new taxes, the government promised us. Then we got the superannuation surcharge. They said, `It's a surcharge; it's not really a tax.' That was their line six or seven years ago. Before the last election we had no $100,000 university fees—16 of them now exist in this country, and the government are responsible for it. The government knew nothing about the secret training of waterfront crews by Patrick's a couple of years ago, even though the people who were involved in organising it said that the government had encouraged them, that they had had regular meetings with Peter Reith and his team. It was no surprise to find that Peter Reith—one of the Prime Minister's favourite ministers—was involved. This Prime Minister hates Medicare. He has said so consistently for 20 years. He wants to see an end to Medicare. (Time expired)