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Thursday, 18 April 1991
Page: 2990

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Mr KEATING (Treasurer)(3.58) —After two weeks of essentially studied abuse by the Opposition of the Government, in particular the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), what we have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson) and the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Tim Fischer) are the most pathetic contributions I have heard in such a weighty debate in my 22 years here. Sir John McEwen and Mr Doug Anthony» «would» «wince . They would never have been capable of such pathetic performances as those opposite. Unless the Leader of the Opposition is scripted, he is useless.

Dr Hewson interjecting-

Mr KEATING —Oh no, Jack Lang would be very happy with my performances. Unless the Leader of the Opposition is in with a question in his hand written by someone on his staff, he is absolutely useless. In fact, it is an insult to one's professional skills to have to be in such a pathetic debate. The Leader of the Opposition produced a totally noisy, empty speech. He thought bluster, volume and decibels could substitute for quality-quantity for quality; and amplitude and noise for real argument.

The Leader of the Opposition is the accuser in this matter. After two weeks, what did he come up with? I will tell honourable members what he came up with.

Mr Ruddock interjecting-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Dundas!

Mr KEATING —He said that the Government should govern for everyone, not just its special friends-that was his first point. His second point was on the Prime Minister's inability to remember. He referred to his selective amnesia. His third point was doing deals. His pathetic closing remarks were about the Liberal Party having a declared code of conduct. Finally, he said that there was no change of policy on the Opposition's part. I presume that is in relation to gold.

Let me deal with the essential points. The Leader of the Opposition's first point is that the Government should govern for everyone, not just special friends. The honourable member for Pearce has made a virtue of the fact that he believes in special friends and distortions which he says he supports.

Mr Peacock —Like Warren Anderson.

Mr KEATING —We know all about your friends on the race track, pal.

Mr Peacock interjecting-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Kooyong!

Mr KEATING —The honourable member for Pearce (Mr Chaney) has said all these things about distortions and yet the Leader of the Opposition (Dr Hewson) has got the gall to talk about special friends when those opposite have, in fact, changed their policy and removed their leader to change their policy. He talks about special friends and governing for everybody. He was fuming at the end of his speech about how we should be discussing the great national issues. He referred to the recession in the late 1930s. What is the matter of public importance about?

The need for the Prime Minister to give a full and coherent explanation of WA Inc . . .

That is the Leader of the Opposition's great national issue. Then he referred to the Prime Minister's selective amnesia. What did the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) say when he was asked about the meeting with Mr Bond? He said, `I cannot give you a verbatim account of every minute detail of a conversation. Could you remember a conversation you had four years ago?'. That is not an issue. I can remember the discussions.

As I said in the House earlier this week, the honourable member for Bennelong blew the Leader of the Opposition's case apart when he said, `You cannot impugn the Prime Minister over selective amnesia when I am saying that I cannot be expected to remember what I said at a meeting four years ago'. That is absolutely what he implied. That is his quotation. The Leader of the Opposition then talked about no change of policy, when we find all these press releases from senators about all that glitters.

We have the very interesting issue of Senator Durack. He actually told the Senate about the written letter undertaking from the honourable member for Bennelong two weeks before the undertaking was actually published. He is recorded in the Senate as saying so. I have the references here of the Senate debate where Senator Durack said this. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has the absolute temerity to try to suggest that there was no change of policy on the Opposition's part.

The Leader of the Opposition then parades himself as a person of integrity. He was impugning the reputation of the Prime Minister while he knew of the position of the honourable member for Pearce. He was happy to stand up here and impugn the reputation of the Prime Minister knowing that one of his own front bench had asked and received $50,000 from the same person. How could he describe himself as a person of integrity when he is up impugning the motives of the Prime Minister, the chief Minister of the Government, saying that he has shifted his policy when one of his own front bench had been to the same person in question, the said Mr Connell, and had asked and received $50,000? That is what this `person of integrity' is supposed to have us believe as he puts these questions. While he was putting these questions to the Prime Minister, he knew of the press report reporting Alan Bond. It stated:

Fundraising did not arise during discussions because when I referred to Mr Howard's meeting with Bond he said, ` We know all about that, we have seen the report'.

Yes, he had seen the report; he had also seen the paragraph above where the spokesman for Mr Bond said that the question of fundraising did not arise during discussions. The Leader of the Opposition knew that, but it was not going to put him off his dirty game, was it? He is an ideas person, someone new in public life, not besmirched by the rest. What a joke! Let me not hear from the press gallery ever again that he is a non-political person. Frankly, we will faint if we hear again that he is an ideas person. He is not really out of the mould of most politicians, he is just a common old garden Liberal, just a common old garden conservative right wing hack who will try to besmirch an honest person's reputation for just cheap political advantage. That is his position.

The Leader of the Opposition has asked these questions, knowing nothing. He knew that the honourable member for Pearce had got $50,000 and he knew of the Bond report, but he asked these questions for two weeks. You fraud. You disgraceful, disgusting fraud.

Opposition members interjecting-


Mr Fife —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to withdraw those remarks.

Mr KEATING —Of course I will not withdraw them. What about the impropriety? No impropriety was committed or could be established by the Leader of the Opposition. `Disgusting' is not unparliamentary, you clown.

Mr Fife —Sit down. This Parliament is not for you, it is for all of us.

Mr KEATING —Sit down yourself.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I call the honourable member for Hume on the point of order.

Mr Fife —Mr Deputy Speaker, with the uproar in the House, I did not hear your ruling. I assume that you asked the Deputy Prime Minister to withdraw.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —This is a very robust debate. The only requirement is that members do not use unparliamentary language or impute improper motives to others without a specific motion. I call the Treasurer.

Mr KEATING —That is why there is a censure motion. In two weeks no impropriety was committed or could be established by the Leader of the Opposition. He then referred to special funds.

Mr Wilson interjecting-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Sturt!

Mr KEATING —This week the following question was put to the honourable member for Pearce:

In all this debate about who said what about the gold tax, isn't the real story that politicians of all persuasions--

listen to this:

are often under pressure from lobby groups and parties and ultimately make political decisions, policy decisions, as a result of that sort of pressure?

Mr Ruddock interjecting-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Dundas!

Mr KEATING —The honourable member for Pearce said:

Yes, but the test is the outcome.

The honourable member for Pearce failed the test because he turned his Party Leader's view over. He voted against the Bills to tax the income from goldmining companies and we did not. This week, in humbug which only he can traffic in, in a media release headed, `Chaney called for end of fragmented decision making', he said:

Government had a key role to play in this process by giving some sense of national purpose while ensuring that it was not the creature or captive of any industry or lobby group.

Only somebody with no pride whatsoever, only someone with the front of a Liberal front bencher could get up and give a long speech on the environment and say-after he had his record paraded in front of him about distortions he favours about securing funds while impugning another man's reputation-that there should be a sense of national purpose. This is the sort of humbug which just makes us sick and it particularly made us sick about the honourable member for Pearce. He has been playing this goody-goody role for years, running around the thing, sort of Red Fred-he is not really right wing-a bit tense, with a sort of social conscience. When he had the social security job he did this and did that. They said, `Oh, he is not a bad guy'. He went round the gallery. He is one of the Menzian-type Liberals.

In fact what we find is that the member for Pearce is really red hot; he is up to his ears in any matter that can advance the partisan interests of his Party. The member for Pearce has very hard right wing views, and he pushes them for all they are worth. But worse than that, he protects constituencies, as he put it. Then the member for Pearce goes on with this disgusting humbug. This is what we have had from these people. This is a disgusting Opposition; this is not an Opposition with a skerrick of integrity. It is up there attacking the Government for everything, even suggesting that the Prime Minister changed the policy. There was a crude interjection from one of the Victorian members about the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, and he made the charge that the Prime Minister had closed it down-and had established the National Crime Authority in its place, which the honourable member did not mention.

Mr Costello —He did! He closed it down before it hit the `Goanna'; you know that. Why don't you tell the truth?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ronald Edwards) —Order! The honourable member for Higgins!

Mr KEATING —The Costigan Royal Commission opened it up and lifted the rug on all the rotten corrupt tax practices in this country, which Senator Durack, as Attorney-General, had let happen despite the fact that he had been warned-the famous two-year gap in the documents which Senator Durack had been given. This is the same Senator Durack who waddled up and down St Georges Terrace looking for contributions from goldmining companies, from Western Mining Corporation and all the Opposition members' pals down on the strip from Kalgoorlie to Coolgardie. That is what the Opposition is all about.

This Government came along and said, `Oh, we better make the taxation system decent; we will tax all income, including capital gains; we will bring in a fringe benefits tax (FBT) for people who have cars, credit cards and all the rest; we will stop this ramp of entertainment being a deduction; we will actually tax lump sums so that we can set up a decent retirement income system for the whole of the community; we will actually put an assets tax on social security payments, so people of real wealth do not get it; and we will tax gold'. No, no, the Opposition would not have a bar of that. It has punished us for every measure; politically, the Opposition has taken us to elections and has punished us for every measure.

The honourable member for Bennelong in the 1987 election campaign got up and campaigned against all these things-`We'll remove Labor's capital gains tax; Labor's FBT; we will turn over the entertainment deduction; we will remove the tax on lump sums; we will turn over Labor's assets test.' We remember: the Opposition has never done anything decent to make the tax system better, and when the Government has done it, particularly with gold, and especially in this case with gold, the Opposition has frustrated us in this House by opposing it and then opposing it in the Senate when its then leader knew that there could be no rational case for exempting one metal against other metals. He knew it, said it, and was rolled by a front bench that had sold itself to the Western Australian gold industry.

So we know what policy buying means. As my colleague the Minister for Transport and Communications (Mr Beazley) said, we know what policy buying means. The Opposition has shown us in the most vivid and graphic way that could be imagined, and yet Opposition members have the hide to ask me questions today about Rothwells four years ago, when they know clearly that the Government had no involvement in that rescue package. Opposition members failed when they attacked the Prime Minister, so they are trying to get up another issue.

I ask particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Reith), who is about to get up to speak: where is the honourable member for Pearce? Why is he not speaking in the debate? Why is he not up here? In fact, we on this side will extend the debate to allow the honourable member for Pearce to make a contribution, and we will see his veracity; but to have now another cheap, tawdry political speech from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who traffics in all sorts of distortions to make a cheap political point, will not cut the ice. The fact is that Opposition members have impugned the reputation of the Prime Minister, they have failed and they deserve the censure of the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ronald Edwards) —Order! The Minister's time has expired.