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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1456

Mr FREE(10.57) —As the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Harry Edwards) observed earlier, the Australia Card Bill 1986 has already been discussed and passed by this House. It will be debated again shortly in the Senate. As the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) observed yesterday, if the Australia Card Bill 1986 [No. 2] fails to pass the Senate, it will become the trigger for a double dissolution. I hope that the Senate comes to its senses and passes this Bill. If not, I hope that that trigger is pulled. I hope that the trigger is pulled because the gun is aimed firmly at the honour- able member for Barker and his colleagues opposite. If they go through a debate on this measure a second time with their ignorance and double standards intact, they deserve to pay an electoral penalty.

Mr Hollis —Which they will.

Mr FREE —They will, as the honourable member observes, because the public understands only too well the benefits and safeguards that the Australia Card will provide. Contrary to the empty assertions of the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Slipper) in this debate, the public knows that the Australia Card will ensure that everybody is treated fairly by the taxation and social security systems. The public knows that it will result in less tax evasion and social security fraud and more revenue for the Government to distribute. The public is well aware that, when fully operational, the Australia Card will provide net total benefits of at least $800m a year. The public is well aware that in its first 10 years the Australia Card will save at least $4.7 billion which otherwise would be lost in tax evasion and social welfare fraud. The public knows that more money will be available for the Government to expand valuable community services to help those genuinely in need, and to lower the tax paid by honest Australians.

The public is well and truly aware that the Australia Card will bring with it the most effective safeguards ever introduced in this country to protect the privacy of the individual. That is why members of the public have shown such overwhelming support for the Australia Card; they are so well aware of the benefits and safeguards of this proposal. Like other honourable members, I have encountered evidence of this support throughout my electorate. People have been eager to sign petitions in support of the Australia Card. Pensioner groups and other community groups have expressed support, and individuals who are not normally supporters of the Australian Labor Party. All recognise the evils of tax evasion and welfare fraud and the injustice created by illegal migration. They all applaud what this Labor Government is doing. A local Liberal supporter said to me: `People who oppose the Australia Card must have something to hide'. That is a very common sentiment out there, I can assure honourable members. The public are sick and tired of the rip-off merchants in the welfare area.

Recently we have seen some spectacular examples of social security fraud. I refer to the case of the aptly named Murray Hurd Hustler, who pleaded guilty to 11 charges of defrauding the Commonwealth of $58,618, using multiple identities. He was convicted in September of last year. I refer to the case of Ronald Bruce McKenzie, who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years gaol after using 18 different aliases to obtain $340,000 in social security benefits. I refer to the case of Monica Caldaras, who used false names to get sickness, unemployment and special benefits to a total of $108,000. I refer to the most notorious social security con man yet discovered, Wayne Thomas Patterson, alias Harold Jansenberger, who also had another 52 aliases. This man took a total of $380,000 over two years. He used 53 false identities, 50 post office boxes and 41 bank accounts in an operation that generated a weekly income of $5,000.

Given those cases of social security fraud, is it any wonder that the Opposition finds itself in a difficult position in opposing the Australia Card legislation? The Opposition knows that the public is fed up with social security fraud and that the public is well aware of the abuses that the card will prevent. That is why the public supports the card so overwhelmingly. Members of the Opposition are now in a very uncomfortable position, in which what they are saying is diametrically opposed to what they really believe. That is why they have had to resort to a number of slick devices to resolve the conflict situation in which they find themselves. I have categorised some of these devices. I have been interested in them and I have named some of them in honour of their originators.

Let me give honourable members, for example, Blunt's flight of fancy. The honourable member for Richmond (Mr Blunt), when faced with this perfectly reasonable proposal, which is what the Australia Card is, pretends that it is something else. That is why yesterday he spoke about dog tags. Extreme practitioners of the flight of fancy talk about tattooed numbers. That is an example of Nehl's hysteria as practised by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl). Opposition members are happy to talk about anything in this debate but the facts. Let me refer to what I call Connolly's trivial pursuit. Who in this House will forget the question last year from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) about the application of the Australia Card to traditional Aborigines? Who will forget his demolition by the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons) on that occasion? But the central aim of Connolly's trivial pursuit is to seek to ridicule a measure by digging up exceptions or concocting trivial special cases. This is a favoured Opposition tactic. It is one used when Opposition members discuss the assets test. It is one they use when dealing with the Australia Card. It is one they use when debating the fringe benefits tax and it is one that they are using now when discussing prices.

Let me turn to a group of devices that require the invention of a plot. Practitioners of these devices say: `We do not want to debate the Australia Card on its merits. That is too hard. Let us instead talk about a conspiracy surrounding the Australia Card'. So in this group of devices we have Porter's canard practised by the honourable member for Barker, who claimed early in March that a secret plan existed to get the Australia Card legislation passed and then to extend its use once the debate had died down. A further device of this kind is Reith's deceit, from the fertile imagination of the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith), who on 15 March claimed that the Government had been considering--

Mr Tuckey —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point of order is that we know the rules relating to members of this place. The honourable member cannot refer to their deceit and he should withdraw. He would be better off talking about--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! I think the honourable gentleman should withdraw that comment.

Mr FREE —On the point of order, I did refer to the honourable member for Flinders in terms of his seat.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order until the matter is withdrawn. Please withdraw that comment.

Mr FREE —At your request, I am happy to withdraw. I was talking about the honourable member for Flinders who, on the fifteenth of this month, claimed that the Government had been considering secret and potentially draconian amendments to the Australia Card legislation which would probably never be revealed. That is the tactic practised by the honourable members for Barker and Flinders. They invent a plot and when they are asked for evidence, they throw up their hands and say: `Well, it is a secret plot. If we had any evidence, it would not be a secret any more'. It is self-evident. Let me turn to the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Webster), who has developed no fewer than four ploys to deal with the Australia Card. First of all there is the honourable member's `big threat' ploy. In the Blue Mountains Gazette of 21 January under the heading `ID card traps', the honourable member for Macquarie said:

Any publican or barmaid who requested production of the Government's proposed ID card would face a fine of $5,000 or two years' imprisonment, or both.

That is not true. It is true that unauthorised people cannot demand the production of the card any more than unauthorised people can demand the production of a person's drivers licence. Nevertheless, I expect that over time voluntary uses-I stress that, voluntary uses-will be important in many areas, as they are with drivers licences at the moment.

The second ploy of the honourable member for Macquarie was the `appeal to authority' ploy. It is always a good ploy when one is in trouble in a debate to appeal to authority. That is what the honourable member for Macquarie did in the Blue Mountains Gazette of 4 February when he claimed to have identified at least three dozen objectors to the Australia Card. In his Press release he did not get to three dozen objectors but to nine. In those nine objectors he quoted the name of only one authority, Frank Costigan. Otherwise he resorted to unnamed authorities-which are always handy-such as American investigators who are against the card. That is a favourite ploy. When I was teaching, I remember students using that ploy in essays. If one is in trouble in an essay, one can invent an authority and work from there.

Mr Hollis —And you always marked them down accordingly.

Mr FREE —Exactly. The third ploy of the honourable member for Macquarie was the `injured innocence' ploy, which is also a handy ploy when one is in trouble in a debate. In the same article he complained that the Government is branding any critic of the Australia Card as a friend of the tax evaders. We are not saying that at all. What we are saying perfectly correctly is that, judging from the Opposition's attitude towards this debate, the Liberals and those opposite are not interested. Because they are not supporting this Bill they are showing no interest in fighting tax evasion, welfare fraud and illegal immigration. We are quite correct when we say that.

The fourth ploy employed by the honourable member I have termed the `red herring' ploy. When one is really in trouble, one throws in a red herring. The Opposition is not prepared to talk about what the Australia Card will do so it talks about what it will not do. That is what the honourable member for Macquarie has been doing as well. He has been saying, quite correctly, that the Australia Card will not deal with the problems of the cash economy. That is quite true-it will not deal with the problems of the cash economy directly. It will in some indirect ways. The card was not intended to deal with the cash economy any more than it was intended to provide a cure for the common cold or to save the honourable member at the next election. They are very skilled political contortions, indeed, from the honourable member for Macquarie but reflect poor behaviour from someone who just last week in this House exhorted us all to behave as statesmen rather than as politicians.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that consistency is not the long suit of the honourable member. In the conservative leadership stakes he is backing a couple of rival stables. In the Liberal Party of Australia he has dumped the colt from Kooyong and has put his money on the plodder from Bennelong. As well as that, I read in the Hawkesbury Gazette under the headline `Re-endorsed Webster backs Sir Joh's Canberra campaign' that he is having a few bob on the old bolter from Kingaroy into the bargain.

The Opposition's misrepresentations of this legislation go on and on. It exaggerates the costs of the card, underestimates its benefits and ignores its privacy provisions. Speaking briefly of the privacy provisions before I conclude, the Liberals only pretend to talk about privacy. It is only a pretence. The evidence I have for this is in the dissenting report of the Joint Select Committee on Telecommunications Interception tabled in this House on 20 November last year. Opposition members of that Committee proposed that information obtained by interception ought to be used in all but the most minor offences. The Opposition has one attitude to privacy when it is talking about telephone tapping and an entirely different attitude when it is debating this legislation. The Liberals survived that Committee inquiry and the first Australia Card debate with their ignorance and their double standards intact. They know, however, as we know, that the Australia Card will succeed because correctly and deservedly it has the overwhelming support of the Australian people. I commend this Bill to the House and I wish it a speedy passage through the Senate.