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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1820

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(5.29) —Nothing indicates the rush of this Government to an election more than the fact that we have had an announcement today, when the Governor-General has not even written the letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). I hate to remind even honourable members on my side of the House of what transpired last year, but there was more than one letter. I would hate to think that another letter will come tomorrow and we will have to have some sort of encore of the performance we have just experienced. Frankly, the sheer hypocrisy of this decision by the Prime Minister is exceeded only by the hypocrisy of his speech today. I want to quote the Prime Minister on the subject of early elections. During the last election campaign the Prime Minister said:

Under my government, parliaments will run their full time.

No wonder there is a scepticism out in the community about this Government racing off to the polls. Is it not interesting that one of the most uncomfortable moments in the Prime Minister's career, as he struggled as to whether he should shake off the slag of the New South Wales Government or continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Neville Wran-we saw it in this Parliament today-was the precursor to his running to the Governor-General without even advising him in advance so that a letter could be prepared? The rush is symptomatic of the fear of this Government of Mr Wran being exposed continuously for what he is, of the mini-Budget which it will have to bring down and of its failure to answer for its crimes in regard to organised crime. All these factors are the reasons for the rush. I quoted what the Prime Minister said during the last election campaign. That quote was reported in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial of 15 February 1983, but it was only a reiteration of Mr Hawke's long-held views. I quote a couple of them:

Well, I first of all take the view that governments should run their full term.

It was his view, as stated on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program AM on 20 March 1980 through to a later date, on the Derryn Hinch program on 3AW on 18 August 1982, before he became leader of his Party:

We will take the view that the Government should run its full term.

I listened with interest to the alleged reasons for this early election. In view of the Prime Minister's earlier undertakings and a firm commitment, so we thought, during the election campaign, no one will believe the reasons stated today. We heard that he had to rush off to Government House today. He could not even wait for the Governor-General to write a letter. It will not be received until tomorrow. He had to announce it in the Parliament today. The Prime Minister talked about the cost of holding two separate elections. We have said that if cost is a factor the Government could hold the election in late April or early May so that it would not disrupt the financial year. The Prime Minister cited sums of money such as $40m-plus to be avoided by having a dual election for the Senate and the House of Representatives. It will cost more than that for the measures which the Government has introduced for more parliamentarians and the cost involved in their accommodation. It will cost more than any election savings the Government alleges about bringing the two together.

So it is quite clear that all the disruption and the uncertainty of an election campaign, which is now being forced on Australia, is because the Prime Minister does not have the strength or indeed, may I say, the guts to face the consequences of his policies and his actions for a full parliamentary term. He knows only too well that the economic recovery will falter next year, that unemployment will begin to rise again and that business activity will weaken. Instead of concentrating on stable and constructive economic policies that will turn the tentative economic recovery into sustained growth, this Prime Minister has abandoned that responsibility altogether in an act of sheer cynical political expediency. He is running to the polls before the recovery collapses under the weight of his policies, but that will be exposed to the Australian people.

Let us remember again the example of his shoulder to shoulder support of Neville Wran until today when a question mark loomed not only on the Prime Minister's face but also in his utterances because he could not deliver either a rebuke to Mr Wran or support for him. He is running to the polls to avoid further controversy; but he will not avoid it because the inquiry of the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge will go on and on. The Senate will sit and expose the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party for what he is-a manipulator of the system of justice in New South Wales who stands shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister. Mr Wran is the Prime Minister's Party President, his Party adviser. Mr Wran is being constantly exposed.

The Prime Minister well knows that Australians will increasingly ask why this Government has, in a deliberate act, decided to undermine the efforts of those who are fighting crime. The Government wishes to get the election running before Mr Costigan reports. The Government should not run away from the fact that people will want to know what is in the report of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union and why the Prime Minister could not wait until next year so that we could have a full debate on that report.

Talking about the saving of money, what about the advertisements on Medicare which are Government funded? I assume the Prime Minister will advise us tomorrow that all the taxpayers' money which is being spent on Government propaganda such as Medicare ads will cease from midnight tonight. I assume that will be done forthwith. Just as the Prime Minister raced to ask for consent to hold an election, I assume he will race to cut off the spending of taxpayers' money on this fraudulent campaign which seeks to prop up a fraudulent scheme such as Medicare, which has cost more and has given less than even the Government indicated, but far less than most Australians anticipated. That Government funded advertising must end and must end now.

Before I go on to another example of broken promises by this Government, I remind the House-honourable members saw the Prime Minister leave the chamber as I was about to speak; time and again he will run from this House-that time and again he will refuse to debate with me here and outside the Parliament. Let us see whether he will renege on his undertaking of a debate during the election campaign. In 1980 Mr Hawke said of Mr Fraser:

The so-called strong man of the Government will not debate in public because he is weak.

Now it is Mr Hawke who is apparently the weakling. We have had no indication that there will be a debate between the Prime Minister and me. If there is not, the undertaking will be exposed for the lie that it is because in last year's election campaign, when he was asked whether, as Prime Minister, he would debate with the Opposition Leader, he said:

Yes, I don't dodge debates.

That commitment cannot be abandoned. I raise it now because the Prime Minister implied in the course of his speech that this election might be fought on the Government's record. Let us look at the elements of that record. It has to be admitted that when the Australian Labor Party won government in March 1983 it promised much. Sixteen months later on the eve of this unnecessary early election I think it is appropriate to spend a minute or two scrutinising the record of the Hawke Labor Government. Since the Hawke Government's election it has blatantly broken or reneged upon its promises and undertakings. I have a list, which I will release in the next day or so, of 118 promises which have been broken since the Australian Labor Party came to government. I know there are more, but we have brought these together. The broken promises range from petrol pricing cuts to devaluation and from the assets test to the exchange rate . Labor has broken just under two promises every week for 64 weeks, which amounts to one every three or four days. Some record! There might have been a lot of promise in the last election; there will not be too much promise going into this campaign, if one takes a line through what has transpired. In the Labor Party's policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, on 16 February 1983, he said:

I believe the Australian people have had enough of election promises made only to be broken.

He continued:

I'm not in the business and the Labor Party is not in the business of making promises that can't be fulfilled.

Yet the Prime Minister and Labor have broken 118 of their promises in a mere 15 months. It amounts to a deception of the faith and an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people. The Hawke Government has treated the Labor platform and policy speech, the basis on which it went to the people, as a mere scrap of paper. Just as it has torn up the paper, so too have its promises gone with it. Australians will judge Labor's next string of promises in the coming election against its performance to be seen from the list that I will release tomorrow. I am sure the verdict will be that Labor cannot be trusted to live up to its commitments. That is the reality flowing from its broken promises.

So we will have an unnecessary election, but the fact that it is unnecessary does not mean that there will not be a fight by the parties in opposition to the last moment of that campaign. I say to the Government that we will seek to strip away the myths that have masked the emerging realities with respect to this duplicitous Government. We will go to the people. Not only will we explain to them the flaws and the faults in this Government that have impacted so severely on so many of them but also we will offer them an alternative which will look beyond the oppressive elements contained in the last policy speech of the Party of honourable members opposite. In contesting the next election the Liberal and National parties will strip away the last remaining vestige of confidence in those opposite, because we will go to the polls on the date nominated by the Prime Minister and we will win.