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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6668

Senator McGAURAN (10:20 PM) —I will take a limited time, given that we are on air—I would like to respond to the previous speaker, Senator Marshall. It would be no surprise to know that there is an election on in Victoria. I am a Victorian senator and the previous speaker is a Victorian senator. This was just an old-fashioned electioneering speech by Senator Marshall. He opened with a heartfelt concern for the Brosnan Centre. I think that went for all of two minutes. Then the rest of it was an unbridled attack on the previous government—the Kennett government.

Senator Marshall —A justified attack!

Senator McGAURAN —Then he thought he had better finish up with his concern for the Brosnan Centre—

Senator Marshall —I haven't even got onto health yet!

Senator McGAURAN —in case anyone feared that this was simply an electoral attack and a cheap bit of electioneering dressed up around the Brosnan Centre or that someone from the Brosnan Centre may in fact be listening and he may in fact have to show real concern. So in the last minute he finished up and brought us back to the concerns of the Brosnan Centre. If he had real concerns for the Brosnan Centre, he would have spent his time talking about it and he would do something about it with the existing government.

Senator Marshall —Are you defending CitiPower!

Senator McGAURAN —In the end, he was calling upon the federal government to do something about the state electricity prices. I grew up in the Latrobe Valley. That is where the Victorian power supply comes from.

Senator Marshall —You own the Latrobe Valley!

Senator McGAURAN —That is the centre of it. There are about four power stations. I know only too well, and all Victorians know only too well, how moribund the State Electricity Commission was before it was privatised. It is a joke—it is a bit like saying that the former Telecom ran better than today's Telstra. The former SEC was the most inefficient, industrially corrupt organisation of all the government-owned facilities. It, more than any other facility, deserved to be privatised. John Halfpenny, I believe, was—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Marshall, Senator McGauran did not interject when you were speaking. I think you should give him a chance.

Senator McGAURAN —How many times were Victorians subject to union led blackouts? Senator Marshall, if you have spent your life in Victoria you will know only too well that, under the former SEC, there would be a union led blackout right across the state every 12 months in regard to wage demands or something even pettier than that—a mere insult to John Halfpenny, who ruled Victoria right up until the time of the Kennett government. It would be all out, and there would be a blackout.

Talk about prices! You always talked about relative prices before—not the high prices of the State Electricity Commission. It was always relative. Relative to what—relative to another state, relative to previous prices? I will tell you about the SEC prices: they were government controlled and they were simply a milking cow. They were a tax. They were ratcheted up to meet budget deficits; they were not set to meet the market at all. They were not even structured in regard to the concerns of the poor; they were simply ratcheted up to meet government budget commitments. They were a form of tax over and above the fair market price. That was the old SEC. And what is your policy? What are you suggesting now that it is all privatised— that it all be resocialised? Is that the Bracks government's policy? Is that their concern? You talk about the Bracks government keeping a cap on the prices. That structure was introduced by the Kennett government. Any prices that require any price increase— not far different from our private health scheme—have to come before a tribunal. That was the system introduced by the Kennett government.

What Senator Marshall should really be standing up and explaining before the Senate and the broadcast is why the Bracks government is going to an election some 12 months before it has to. There are many reasons, we know, and one of them is that it wants to avoid the findings of the Cole royal commission into the building industry, because that will show the connection of this government with the unions—because they are back in town, under Senator Carr's control. He sits there and gloats and boasts. A couple of question times ago he could not contain it. I know he is under riding instructions: `Just contain it in case Bracksy gets a second term, Senator Carr, because you'll be back in power just like the John Cain days.' We know how you wrecked John Cain. We know what John Cain thinks of Senator Carr and we know the power he had in the corridors of the Cain-Kirner government. He is about to return. Senator Marshall, you know only too well that the loopy left-wing unions are back in control. The Kinghams and the Carrs will be back in control if only they can contain themselves and get away with it until Mr Bracks gets a second term. If he does, Victoria will suffer the same fate as it did under the Cain-Kirner regime. That is where we are heading, because the next Bracks budget, should he be fortunate enough to win the next election—

Senator Marshall —I think he will be.

Senator McGAURAN —Oh yes, sure, he is the favourite and we are the underdog, but there are two weeks to go and we know what happened at the last election. The Victorian state electors are full of surprises, I can tell you.

The next Victorian budget, without doubt, will go into the red. The Bracks government have been living off stamp duty. We know the housing industry has dipped, so there goes the Bracks budget. Their reasons for wanting to go to an early election are threefold: Bracks knows he will lose control of his government when Senator Carr and his left-wing union mates at the Trades Hall come out of their shells and gain control after the election; he is trying to avoid the findings of the Cole royal commission, which will find a link between the state government and Trades Hall—that old, corruptible link that has already cost taxpayers $70 million for the MCG; and his budget is heading into the red, so there goes his electoral credibility because he totally squandered the billion-plus dollars that Jeff Kennett left him. And what has he squandered it on? Has anyone seen where it has all gone? We know he dropped $200 million into Federation Square, which went straight into the union pockets.

Basically, the whole budget has been squandered on an increase in Public Service wages. The fat cats have got it all! Isn't that typical of the Labor philosophy? It is the same old Labor. If only we can get the message through in the next two weeks that, if the Labor government are given a second term, it will be the same old Labor as the Cain-Kirner governments—they just need a second term to wreck the Victorian economy. They might not be fortunate enough. I know they have the pretty boy at the front, but the Victorians know only too well about the rest of his lame, no-name, no-performance ministry. It is incredible to think that they undertook some 700 inquiries with no action. This is the most incredible do-nothing state government ever to arrive on the scene. After 700-plus inquiries, what can Bracks point to other than a blown budget?

The PRESIDENT —Senator McGauran, I think it is Premier Bracks.

Senator McGAURAN —What can Premier Bracks point to that he has actually done? He has cut his term short by a phenomenal 12 months, but what can he point to that he has done in government—other than 700-plus inquiries with no action at all? This is a do-nothing government. Should they get a second term, the unions will be back in control, the budget will go straight into the red, the incompetence of the ministers will be exposed and Victoria will return straight to the old rustbelt state it was under Cain and Kirner.

Senate adjourned at 10.29 p.m.