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Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Page: 27392

Mr BEAZLEY (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, did you see reports this morning that many business creditors of One.Tel are likely to collapse following the failure of One.Tel itself? Given you took a one-off stand to support One.Tel's employees to fight for their legal entitlements, what are you doing to ensure the employees of One.Tel's creditors receive all of their legal entitlements? Isn't your Employee Entitlements Support Scheme inadequate in this case because it does not protect 100 per cent of employees' entitlements, it runs out of funding in two years time, it is funded by taxpayers, not employers, and it is not established by legislation? Why will you not support my comprehensive national employee entitlements policy, which I announced way back in February last year, which protects all entitlements for all employees permanently?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I remark by way of a preamble in my answer that that is an interesting way of framing a question about the outstanding national accounts that we have received. Last Friday, the Leader of the Opposition put out a statement about the economy under the heading `The economy—all the government's own work'. We will come to that later in question time. What have we done? We have a scheme. For 14 years, those opposite had no scheme. And, worse than that, not only do we have a scheme and they did not have a scheme, but the Leader of the Opposition, as well as talking down the economy, has been running around Australia encouraging state governments not to support our scheme. There are thousands of Australian workers that have their entitlements because of our scheme. For 13 years, their fellow workers went begging for their entitlements. Is the Leader of the Opposition now advancing the proposition that we should have a taxpayer funded scheme that would guarantee repayment of all creditors in relation to a company? That is what he is really suggesting.

Mr Beazley —I am talking about a non-taxpayer funded scheme.

Mr HOWARD —A non-taxpayer funded scheme. The Leader of the Opposition talks about an entitlement scheme that is funded by a new tax. The Beazley mantra is: if you have a problem, get a new tax. That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition is doing. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, through you, Mr Speaker, that raising questions about entitlements, raising questions about One.Tel, will not absolve the Leader of the Opposition from the responsibility that he now has—to apologise to the Australian people for disgracefully talking down the Australian economy over the last three months. That is what the Leader of the Opposition has to do because, for the last three months, he has been running around Australia trying desperately to depress the Australian community as much as possible. I am proud to say that the Australian community, Australian consumers and Australian business men and women have ignored the doomsaying talk of the Leader of the Opposition and they have come through with flying colours.