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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1642

Mr ROBERT BROWN(3.44) — Has there ever been a matter of public importance brought before this chamber at any time in the past that started off with such a roar and finished with such a whimper? Let us be perfectly clear about what has motivated members of the Opposition in bringing forward this matter of public importance today. This week they failed dismally in the shameless, crude, despicable and disastrous attempt that they made to smear the Government. What they have attempted to do today is to bring their campaign back on to the rails. Unfortunately for them, they have proved to be just as ineffective in relation to questions of the economy and economic policy as they have in relation to those other matters that they raised earlier this week.

The honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), the former Treasurer, said, baring his breast, to use his own term of earlier today, that before the next election the Opposition, the coalition, will come clean. That will be a remarkable experience for the Australian people. I do not think for a moment they will be able to take it, particularly an undertaking coming from the former Treasurer, who is renowned for that remarkable incident a few days prior to 3 March 1983 when he became aware of the $9.6 billion projected deficit for 1983- 84. We well remember how clean members of the Opposition came on that occasion. We remember the response from the then Prime Minister's office: 'Do not disclose that figure. Make no statement to the Australian people. Do not take the electors into our confidence. Do not come clean'.

Of course, it is admirable for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer, to give us an assurance now, before an imminent Federal election, that on this occasion, for the first time ever, the Liberal and National Party coalition will come clean to the Australian people. He said as well: 'The Australian people will know where we stand'. The Australian people will indeed know where members of the Opposition stand, but not from their mouths. The Australian people will know where they stand as a result of their experience and the experience of their fellows, those people who have suffered the privations associated with rapidly climbing inflation, the families which have suffered, as a result of growing unemployment, from a government which, in 1975, promised explicitly to bring down unemployment and inflation. Both of them soared. In the last 12 months of that disastrous Government unemployment in Australia grew by another quarter of a million. Let us not forget that in the first year of this Government, as a result of the remarkably successful, competent economic policies that have been introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and by the Government, employment grew by 230,000. What a remarkable turnaround!

Members of the Opposition now have the gall to come into this chamber and bring forward a matter of public importance with such gross cynicism as far as the Australian people are concerned. It represents their state of absolute panic. It represents their state of absolute desperation. Every direction in which they turn fails them. They have attempted to smear this Government. They have attempted to smear the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). They have attempted to smear the national Treasurer knowing, when that mud was thrown, that there was no substance in those smears. They have been absolutely discredited in the eyes of the Australian community. How can they hold their heads up with any pride? The only people in Australia who admit now to being members of the Liberal Party of Australia are those gentlemen who sit on the other side of this Parliament.

Mr Scholes —And Tony Eggleton.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —The Minister for Defence interjects: 'And Tony Eggleton'. Tony Eggleton probably has as little pride as those honourable gentleman who sit on the Opposition benches of this Parliament. I can understand well why people should recoil from the suggestion that they are either supporters or members of the Liberal Party. Which respectable, responsible and reputable person in Australia would want to identify or associate with members of the Liberal Party? Who would want to? Which reputable person would want to get down into the sewers with them? Let those people declare themselves. If there are people within this Parliament, either within this room or in this building, or if there are people within the Australian community who want to identify with the members of the Liberal Party who got themselves down into the sewers, let me hear those people proclaim it again.

Mr Tuckey —They will.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —One just did.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member will speak through the Chair.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —I will, Madam Deputy Speaker. I advise you that the lady now occupying a seat in the public gallery acknowledges that she wants to identify with members of the Liberal Party who this week got down into the sewer. That is a decision that that lady makes of her own initiative.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter return to the matter under debate.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Madam Deputy Speaker, I will, and I thank you for that advice. We had a lecture this afternoon on questions of economic management. The suggestion has been made that, as a result of the Budget that was adopted this year, there would be concern about a Budget which may occur next year. Let me make this point and let me make it as clearly as I can: We only need to achieve a real rate of growth in Australia of 4 per cent to ensure that, in nominal terms, the Budget deficit for 1985-86 remains the same. So if we achieve a rate of growth of 4 per cent and the nominal deficit remains the same, it means that in real terms the Budget deficit will be reduced. I hope this point is being understood by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Andrew).

The next point I want to make is this: By every one per cent that we can increase real economic growth in Australia the cyclical component of the Budget deficit will be reduced by $500m. The question that the Australian electors need to ask is: Which Government is more likely to achieve and maintain the rate of economic growth which is necessary in order to bring down that Budget deficit and to provide the opportunity for all those people who are currently unemployed to be brought back into employment? Which political party or coalition is most likely to do that? Let me provide this evidence: In the last year of the previous Government-that is in the last year of the Liberal-National Party coalition which now occupies the Opposition benches-economic growth in Australia was negative. I emphasise that economic growth in Australia was negative for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It came in the last year of the seven disastrous years in which Opposition members were in government. That was their record. In the last year of their government economic growth was negative. In the first year of the present Government there was a remarkable turnaround and a remarkable transformation. Economic growth reached 6 per cent in real terms. Gross domestic product in real terms is up 6 per cent. June quarter on June quarter, economic growth in real terms reached 10 per cent. Nowhere in the Western world has that rate of economic growth been surpassed. Australia leads the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. What a remarkable tribute to the great competence of the national Treasurer, the chief architect, the gentleman who very largely has been responsible for many of these economic policies which he and this Government have put in place.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired, but I suggest that the honourable member for Hunter should withdraw the comment he made about a person in the public gallery.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Madam Deputy Speaker, on the contrary, I--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Chair would like the honourable member to withdraw the remark he made about a person in the gallery.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Madam Deputy Speaker, let me say this--


Mr ROBERT BROWN —Unless I have an opportunity to explain what happened, I will do no such thing.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Chair is handling this. The Chair requests a withdrawal.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Madam Deputy Speaker, a certain level of conduct is expected of people who prefer the hospitability of this Parliament. I have certain rights and I intend to exercise those rights.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Chair does not wish to debate--

Mr Peacock —Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order--

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —It was not only a nodding of the head; it was an exclamation that was made about a point that I was making while fulfilling my responsibilities as a member of this Parliament.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Hunter will accede to the Chair's request.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —Madam Deputy Speaker, I am afraid I am unable to do that unless you give me the opportunity to explain the context in which the exclamation was made. I cannot be misrepresented in those circumstances.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable gentleman may explain.

Mr ROBERT BROWN —I will do this as calmly as I can. Madam Deputy Speaker, as a result of your indulgence and out of my great admiration and respect for you, I extend my deepest and genuine apology to the person in the gallery against whom I directed those remarks. Since you have given me the opportunity to explain them, I would not wish to cause anyone any further embarrassment by doing so. Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence and unqualifiedly, and with the greatest sincerity, I withdraw the comments that I made.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank the honourable member for Hunter.