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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7691

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (22:20): I rise tonight, during this week in which 4 July marks Independence Day of the United States of America, to reflect upon some of the great features of that free democratic nation the United States. I note we have the member for Bennelong here, whose birthday is 4 July, and I acknowledge that special event also.

It has been interesting in recent years to watch citizens across the United States gather in lots of numbers to dump tea into their local waterways. It is a symbolic thing in the American ritual culture where angry people gather to mark their protest against excessive government expenditure. It is a phenomenon around our world today that people are now understanding that big government is not necessarily better government, that more government does not mean better outcomes for people, and that government attempting to do everything for our lives does not make our world a better place.

Australians, of course, have nothing similar in our history to the tea movement in the United States of America, but there is a building concern about unjust, unfair and excessive taxation in our country today, particularly the like of the taxes being imposed by the Rudd and now Gillard governments. Perhaps the only comparable event in our history was the attempt to increase the excise on beer. That resulted in the largest petition ever received by the federal parliament in Commonwealth history. About one million people signed a petition against the beer excise. It motivated Australians more than any other issue. On the day I arrived here they told us, as a funny example of petitioning, it was the biggest petition ever received in Commonwealth history.

I raise that petition for a particular reason. It is the kind of thing that does bring a wry smile to most people's faces, but in our society today we are seeing a government here that is addicted to legislative responses to every single question that faces our society. Whether it be a health challenge, something involving interaction between community groups or something between us as human beings, every problem needs a piece of legislation to solve it. We know of course that you cannot pass a law against stupidity, you cannot pass a law against bad choices and you cannot pass a law to protect people from the ordinary, everyday circum­stances of life. So today I want to record my support for the campaign being run and being supported by thousands of Australians against the emergence of the nanny state under the Gillard government.

In the last parliament, I had to sit through the ridiculous contention, proposed by the Minister for Health and Ageing, that a substantial increase in the taxation of alcopops would reduce the consumption of alcohol. What we knew, and what we have seen since that time, was that that increase was purely a revenue grab—it was not a health measure. How much of that money has been spent on reducing the consumption of alcohol? I would like to see those figures now that we are a year down the track. What we do know is that the government produced an artificial spike in the sale of hipflasks. They returned people to other forms of alcohol consumption and simply distorted the market in a way which did not improve anybody's health.

I also rise tonight to put on record my opposition to proposals such as plain paper packaging legislation—ill-thought out proposals put forward by government committees and the bureaucracy which will not achieve their ends and which will artificially burden small businesses around our country. I was visited by the Alliance of Australian Retailers on behalf of those small businesses which will be most impacted by this bad legislation—an ill-considered idea put forward by a government addicted to legislative response. An independent report by Deloitte, funded by the Australian Alliance of Retailers, identifies key areas in which small businesses will suffer from such a piece of legislation. One area is stock management—the legislation could double the time spent managing cigarette stocks. Increases in sales transaction times could cost independent retailers up to $30,000 a year. Other problem areas identified were product selection errors and increases in shrinkage. The list goes on. We must remember that these are products which are already required by law to be behind a counter.

We now have a situation in our country where we pay a government bureaucracy to determine—by government decree—that the ugliest colour in this country is olive green. What if you happen to like olive green? What if you happen to be a government mandated freak? That is what the government has paid a bureaucratic comm­ittee to determine—that olive green is the ugliest colour in our country. That is what we are paying people in government to determine today. I want to record my sympathy for all of those small retailers and those people making a stand against this ridiculous form of nanny state legislative response to ordinary, everyday problems.