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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2585

Dr THEOPHANOUS(3.35) —Anyone listening to the speech by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) would realise, after his comments about socialism, that he would fail Political Philosophy 1 if he were taking an examination at a university. I want to talk about the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard), and ask: In his pre- tence to be concerned about the poor, what did he say about what he might do for the poor? The answer is: Nothing. What did he say about what he might do for the underprivileged? Nothing. What did he say about what he might do for workers? Nothing. The Leader of the Opposition pretending to be the champion of the poor is like Mephistopheles pretending to be a paragon of virtue. This analogy is apt because if anyone is the devil incarnate as far as the poor and underprivileged of this nation are concerned, it is the present Leader of the Opposition.

There is no doubt that if the Leader of the Opposition and his stooges on the front bench-those who are left there-were ever to gain government they would totally devastate the standard of living of the Australian people, especially of poor families. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, one could be misled into thinking that the foundation of the Liberal Party under his stewardship was some concern for the underprivileged and poor. Instead, as everyone knows, the real foundation of the present Liberal Party is nothing more than that combination and mishmash of reactionaries, racists and neo-fascists called the New Right. That is the real foundation of the present Liberal Party under its Leader.

As we examine the policies of the New Right we have to ask the question: What right has the Leader of the Opposition to pretend to talk on behalf of the poor and underprivileged? Let us begin first of all with all those people who have been sent to the back bench-the social conscience of the Liberal Party. Anyone with any kind of social conscience or concern for the poor has been sent off to the back bench because the New Right has achieved a total victory on the front bench of the Liberal Party as it exists today. Front bench members are all stooges of the New Right. Those who disagree are on the back bench. The honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) warned about the New Right on 1 December 1986. He is now on the back bench. He said that the New Right's philosophy `elevates selfishness to commanding heights and ignores the plight of the less fortunate and less able members of the community'. That is what the honourable member said about the New Right and people such as the present Leader of the Opposition who are merely the stooges and pawns of this insidious New Right movement.

Mr Beale —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I object to being called a stooge, and ask that you request the honourable member for Calwell to withdraw that remark.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —I am not sure that the word `stooge' is unparliamentary. I suggest that the honourable member for Calwell might be more moderate in his contribution.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest that you apply the rulings in equal fashion to the Opposition with its outrageous statements.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I can do without any assistance from the honourable member for Calwell.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —Those opposite made certain outrageous statements about the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and several other Ministers in relation to their concern for the poor and underprivileged. I am merely making a comment-and I am not reflecting on you--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Calwell should not belabour the point. A point once made is made well.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —I will proceed with my comments. I was quoting the honourable member for Goldstein who said:

I am alarmed that there are people in prominent positions today who claim to be liberal on particular issues and conservative on others. It is not philosophically sound to have what can only be described as a split personality.

The honourable member for Goldstein was talking about the pretence and dual role seen in this House today when the Leader of the Opposition tried to attack the Government on its record on the poor and underpriviliged while he and his followers would bring into place a set of policies which would totally devastate this country and divide it into classes in a way which has never been seen since the Great Depression. They would cause enormous increases in unemployment through their policies and substantially reduce wages. As the Treasurer (Mr Keating) asked in his contribution, how can the Leader of the Opposition get up in this House and talk about the standards of living of workers and their families when he has opposed every increase in wages which would enable workers to keep up with the cost of living? The Opposition's industrial relations policy is such that it would reduce real wages very substantially. How can anyone who advocates that then come in here and pretend to be a champion of the poor and the underprivileged?

We can go further when we look at some of the pronouncements made by the New Right and their policies and philosophies. Let us look, for example, at the document entitled `Mandate to Govern', produced by the Australian Institute for Public Policy, another of the many think tanks funded from God knows where by the New Right. If one looks at this policy one sees massive attacks on people's standards of living. For example, page 116 of the document says:

If necessary to eliminate the deficit, the Government should reduce the real value of pensions and benefits by skipping one or more indexation increases, with no `catch-up' afterwards.

That is one of the many recommendations coming from the New Right and applying to the poor and underprivileged. The Leader of the Opposition has spelt out no new policy to assist the poor, the unemployed or ordinary families. He has the gall to tell us that our record in these matters is insufficient when he himself advocates a set of policies from the New Right which would totally devastate the economy and certainly lead to an increase in unemployment and a reduction in people's standards of living.

It is not only a matter of those direct issues of employment and wages. Let us turn to another aspect of people's standards of living, namely, the social wage. Let us look at aspects of the social wage such as health, social security, welfare, culture, education and other important aspects which are integral to people's standards of living. If we look at what the Opposition is propounding we see that in every area of human need and human services it would make massive reductions. It would totally cut out programs. Of course we do not know the details because these are not spelt out. Instead we have the various spokespersons of the New Right picking on different sections of the social wage and saying that they will eliminate this or that. For example, the National Farmers Federation President, Ian McLachlan, says he will eliminate all Commonwealth health expenditure. Imagine that! Imagine what would happen to the people of this country, to the medical system, if such a thing were to happen.

This is just one of the many issues. What about the huge cuts in welfare that are being propounded by a number of spokespersons of the New Right who have been advisers to the Leader of the Opposition? I say to those who are listening to this broadcast, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, that while the nation is going through difficult circumstances, it is one thing that we are all being asked to make sacrifices, but it is another thing to believe the absurd statements of the Opposition that it has in any sense any sentiment or conscience in relation to the poor of this country. The Australian Labor Party has traditionally been concerned and continues to be concerned with the plight of the poor. Even today in the Labor Caucus a motion was passed to protect the poor in relation to the 13 May financial statement. That was concrete action on the part of the Australian Labor Party. That is the sort of thing that will support the poor, not the absurd policies coming from the Leader of the Opposition and the New Right.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The debate is concluded.