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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 142

Mr ROCHER(5.56) —Madam Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election to your high office. I wish you well in your further term. I also offer my congratulations to the honourable member for Cowan (Ms Jakobsen) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Dubois) on the occasion of their maiden speeches in this place. I hope that they enjoy their stay in this place. I would not go so far as to hope that it will be a long one; nevertheless, I hope it is enjoyable for them.

It is important to remember that the Speech delivered by His Excellency, the Governor-General, was written by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), or more likely by his speech writers. Any criticism of it is not, therefore, to be deemed to be criticism of His Excellency. In the Governor-General's Speech the Government claims a clear mandate for its socialist objectives. Nothing could be further from the truth. If any honourable members opposite doubt that conclusion, let them urge the Government to spend more taxpayers' money on one of those surveys they are wont to commission at the drop of a political hat, to ask the voting public what it expects and what it believes is the Government's mandate. The outcome of a properly constructed survey would be unquestionably different from the mandate this Government will claim it was given as it tries to justify some of the more outrageous legislation, no doubt under pressure from its Left factions, pursuant to its objectives to socially engineer Australian society in the image of its more vociferous ideologues.

The in words under this second Hawke Government promise to be 'inadequate, inconsistent, incompetent and insincere'. Definitely out is the word 'integrity'. The Speech which is the catalyst for this debate gives more than one clue to the inadequacy, incompetence and insincerity of this Government. The first example has been mentioned already. The second is found in the fourth paragraph of the printed version. It claims for this Government, just two short years after it was first elected and less than three months after an unnecessary election, that Australia has experienced the strongest and most sustained economic performance for decades.

Mr Drummond —What a load of rubbish.

Mr ROCHER —I thank the honourable member for that comment. We now have something that we have had to endure described as 'sustained performance'. If anything this Government has claimed for and of itself, that is the most damning. It makes abundantly clear the shortsightedness and short term thinking of this poor excuse for a government which makes pretentious claims about its fiscal competence. After a mere two years we are urged to believe that Australia has witnessed the strongest and most sustained economic performance for decades. Never mind that the Australian currency has depreciated to its lowest level since Federation. Never mind that the deficit on the current accounts of the balance of payments is going through the roof. Never mind the highest Budget, accumulated deficits and attendant interest on borrowings in living memory. Never mind all that and more; we are being asked to believe Australia has experienced the strongest and most sustained economic performance for decades. Heaven help us. It is absolute rubbish of the sort that brings politicians into disrepute. So too is the entreaty to this Parliament to provide the legislative basis on which the Prime Minister claimed commitments to the electorate are to be carried out. When has this Prime Minister earned accolades for keeping his election promises? In less than two years in office he has broken and failed to keep more election pledges than any Prime Minister this century.

Mr Andrew —Ask my grape growers.

Mr ROCHER —Ask the grape growers. Ask a lot of people. Ask the elderly, ask the kids trying to get into colleges or universities, ask a whole bunch of people around the country.

Mr Andrew —Ask the unemployed.

Mr ROCHER —Ask the unemployed. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister is the world record holder for broken election promises. If, as stated, it is the Government's intention to maintain its approach to economic policy, we should pray that that will be another broken promise. If that one is not broken there will be more pressure on the Australian dollar, there will be more pressure on the balance of payments and the levels of our reserves, and there will be more pressure for big deficits for future generations of taxpayers to service and repay.

It has always been difficult for rational people to accept the so-called prices and incomes accord as anything like a sustainable panacea for our economic well-being and progress. The ink was hardly dry on that apology for a binding agreement before the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) was scouting for a way in which the building industry unions could subvert its provisions. That little episode has not yet reached its conclusion but it will after the next national wage case is decided. Then, with the Minister's support, we will see a campaign for a non-contributory, industry funded superannuation impost at an amount struck by or with the connivance of the Minister. Accord or no accord, the cost of employment will continue to escalate at a rate far greater than inflation as measured by the consumer price index.

The big government backed assaults on the costs of employment during the coming year will include two national wage case increases. These will go hand in hand with the widespread imposition of compulsory superannuation in industries in which, until now, it was purely voluntary, and supplemented by implementation of a national occupational health and safety program. On top of that there is likely to be a cost to employers in meeting the, as yet, undefined demands of that other arm of government under an Australian Labor Party administration, more commonly known as the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Altogether the expected blowout in the costs of employment will have dire consequences for our unemployed and our standard of living.

On the one hand it is not much good for the Government to be expressing universal concern for those who have experienced the effects of prolonged unemployment while, on the other hand, it continues to foster and support wage structures which will perpetuate high levels of prolonged unemployment. There is not much to be said for a commitment to centralised wage fixing and an archaic industrial relations system which condemns so many of our breadwinners and our youth to entrenched, irreversible unemployment.

This incompetent Government has thrown up its hands and admitted that hard core and long term unemployment are too hard to handle. It is walking away from the problem. This is evidenced by its propaganda-like mind conditioning rhetoric but only because it is unable to escape the manacles applied by its masters in the unions and the claustrophobic limitations of its accord with the ACTU. The infamous accord, which is the equivalent of Neville Chamberlain's peace in our time deception, is now being seen for what it is not. It is not a formula for industrial peace in our time, as evidenced by the debacle of the recent Public Service strike, which has been euphemistically described as a work bans campaign, or unabated strikes and industrial disruption throughout the building industry.

The strength of the accord in curbing the excesses of unions is a hairless Samson if the industrial sabotage of grain and coal handling facilities is remembered. Countless industrial relations issues have simmered uncertainly and boilovers are now even more in prospect, and this Government will be powerless to act unless it can break the bonds of its accord with the unions and exercise the right and duty of a democratically elected government, which, after all, is elected to govern all Australians. That it has the ability to govern for all is doubtful; that it has the will is improbable; that it and its Prime Minister have the integrity is simply out of the question.

Not only has the Government walked away from difficult industrial relations problems but also it has abandoned economic problems largely of its own making. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) has simply thrown up his hands and walked away from the burgeoning growth in the supply of money. Because his target of an 8 to 10 per cent growth in M3 was exceeded in both November and December-it reached 11.8 per cent-it is all too much to be bothered with. The January figure for M3 which is to be announced this week will probably show that it is growing at a rate of around 12.5 per cent or some 25 to 30 per cent above the Treasurer's forecast for this financial year.

Despite the expectations of sane men everywhere, corrective action is not even being contemplated. This blowout is only part of the picture anyway. Probably more important is the growth of broad money supply, and that is also out of control. However, the Treasurer's response is the same. He is doing nothing. He is ignoring his own forecasts and refusing to issue amended predictions now that it is inevitable that his earlier goals cannot be met. That is hardly imaginative or responsible fiscal management. It will be steady as she goes under this Government, even if that means going steadily down the gurgler. There is to be nothing like bringing forward the projected May bond tender and testing the market by seeking around $1,000m to soak up excess liquidity. That theme or a variation of it would go some way towards reassuring domestic and overseas investors and observers. The nomination of new money supply goals, if coupled with a believable undertaking to stick to them, would go some way towards restoring faith and confidence.

If the Treasurer is content to continue to sit on his hands and do nothing to restore confidence by taking positive steps to tell the nation that the growth of money is receiving attention, at least he may be cajoled into making the most of the collapse of the Australian dollar. If we must live with his fiscal ineptitude, we could at least go some way towards taking a golden opportunity to match the rhetoric of successive governments and reduce the levels of tariff and other protection. I say it is a golden opportunity because depreciation of the international value of our dollar by around 15 per cent means that large sections of our protected manufacturing industry are approaching 30 per cent more competitive against imports. That is a direct consequence of the deflation of our dollar and it is a golden opportunity to do those things which successive Prime Ministers have said overseas, repeated time and again in international forums while away from these shores and have come back to this country and ignored.

Apart from being in line with the stated preferences of many in the Government and Opposition parties alike, lowering the tariff would help to ameliorate the inflationary effects of both the cascading dollar and the blowout in the stocks of money. Of course, it would be too much to expect the Treasurer to do the right thing then and amend the Government's submission to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by telling it that the Government's argument in favour of a 2.6 or 2.7 per cent across the board wage increase was predicated on wrong forecasts and wrong information. It would be too much to expect the Government to say: 'Because we did have the wrong information, because the figures we now have tell a completely different story, we have to submit to the Commission that there should be no 2.6 or 2.7 per cent increase across the board. The economy of the country will not now stand it, nor will the employers of Australia cop it and still be able to maintain employment'. That would be too responsible.

While the Prime Minister admits to fallibility, albeit when caught by his left wing with his MX exposed, we have yet to hear the Treasurer confess to his mistakes or miscalculations; nor, it seems, are we likely to hear him. Much is happening under this socialist Government that is worrying for decent Australians, who look to the Commonwealth for strong leadership. We are witnessing the transition from the first Hawke Government to a government of appeasement-from the first Hawke Government of broken and unkept promises to a government of appeasement. Most of all, the transition is apparent within the Australian Labor Party where we see appeasement of its Left faction, its Centre Left faction, its broad Left faction, its Centre faction, its Right faction, its independents and, through them, a plethora of minority interest groups. Leadership is diminishing as we see the dominance of the Australian Council of Trade Unions over the Government and the growing influence of an irrational nuclear disarmament movement, as well as the growing influence of apologists for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics masquerading as unilateral disarmers.

Mr Braithwaite —They are taking control.

Mr ROCHER —They are taking control, indeed. We see other groups getting increasing comfort from this Government as it finds itself locked into the union movement and the minority interest groups of which I have spoken. Amongst those receiving increasing comfort are mediocre educators with mediocre education standards. We are seeing the appeasement of those who would like to see a massive transfer of resources from the wealth-creating achievers by oppressive taxes and government charges. We are seeing comfort being given to those who would diminish our ability to develop a credible defence force. We are seeing comfort being given to those who denigrate and undermine our defence and trade alliances with the free countries of the world.

On the last occasion on which I spoke in an Address-in-Reply debate, which was early in 1983, I said that there is much for this Government to do. Leadership has to be shown. There is little evidence of it but it is not too late. Despite my desire to see in government my Party, in coalition with the National Party of Australia, the affairs of Australia demand that we have responsible leadership from the present Government.

Mr Tuckey —God save Australia.

Mr ROCHER —God save Australia, indeed; never mind Sir John Kerr. We have seen an abdication of responsibility by the Prime Minister, ably supported by his Ministry. I said in 1983, and I say again, that the thing confronting Australia, apart from the need for leadership and strong and positive management of this country's affairs, is concentration on our economy. The Government should stop trying to chase every rabbit down every burrow and get on with the job of managing the country and its economy. It should ignore the diversions of those outrageous reformers who seek to influence it. They should await their day and their turn and allow the Government to get on with the business of managing the economy of this country and keeping us out of the unholy mess that we will be in if it does not accept its responsibilities.

I presume this Government will go its full term, unlike the previous one. The Prime Minister would be unlikely to pull on an early election, although no one could doubt his wisdom in calling the election held on 1 December. It is now patently clear that, had that election not taken place, the coalition parties would have been returned to government. The Prime Minister's timing was impeccable--

Mr Braithwaite —Did you see the last Bulletin poll?

Mr ROCHER —The Bulletin polls indicated that. Unlike the Special Minister of State (Mr Young), those of us parliamentarians who seek to represent our electors rather than serve the government of the day, know from feelings within our electorates that opinions have changed radically and dramatically since 1 December. The Government is on notice. I hope it takes some cognisance of that notice and the warning it has been given-not because I think it deserves to govern but because it will be in the interests of the people of Australia.