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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 375

Mr SAUNDERSON(1.19) —I congratulate the previous speaker, the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale), on his maiden speech, although I noticed that members of the National Party of Australia were a bit quiet with some of their 'hear, hears' when he was talking about doing away with bounties and other such things. Nevertheless, I am sure that he will be contributing further to this Parliament. In talking to the Address-in-Reply motion, one has to consider that the Government is moving into its second term. We can look back at what it achieved in the 20-odd months of its first term but we should not think that we are the only ones who have something to offer. We should, in fact, look at the performance of other governments to see what they have done and what we can learn from them.

One of the governments whose performance we need to look at very carefully is the Cain Labor Government in Victoria. It is just completing its first term of office and I think that we can learn a lot from the way that it has operated within Victoria. When it came to Government in 1982 it replaced a government which had been in office since 1956. That Government had allowed the State to run down totally. It had been corrupt; it had involved itself in land deals, about which most of us will recall the enormous publicity at that time; it had sold off most of the public housing stock and depleted facilities which the general community required. Public transport and public utilities were in a total mess. Government administration had become lax and inefficient.

The Cain Government, like our Government, faced enormous problems, and not just with getting the system working again. When it came to office, unemployment was extremely high, particularly amongst the young. It set out on a two-pronged attack. Firstly, it looked at a way of reinvigorating the public enterprises that existed in Victoria. It has had some enormous successes in the terms of improving those facilities. Probably the most successful has been in the public transport area. It has reinvigorated the whole public transport system, modernised its management and, more importantly, achieved the things it promised it would. There had been promises from the previous Government for some 15 years to build a transport centre in the area where I live, Box Hill, but in fact it never got around to it. Yet the Cain Labor Government has been able not only to promise to do it but also to do it. It has completed and opened a modern transport system which has improved the services in the eastern suburbs. The Government has not just concentrated on the public enterprise side of transport; it has increased significantly the number of bus routes, both in public and private bus services. The community can take advantage of the improved train services and bus services and the requirement for people to use their motor vehicles to travel everywhere within the eastern suburbs to a great degree has been lessened by the performance of the Cain Government.

The Government also looked at inefficiencies within the Government system itself and set about reorganising the quasi-government organisations that had sprung up under the previous administration, which had no idea of how to govern. Those qangos were eliminated by the Cain Government and such things as water and sewerage have been co-ordinated and put into the one administration-another fine example of the Cain Government's efficiency in administration. It has improved the services of the Government Insurance Office and is now moving towards improving workers compensation for Victorians. That will have a two-fold benefit; it will not just improve services for the workers but, in fact, it will improve the competitiveness of private enterprise, particularly small business people. Workers compensation is a very expensive part of the cost of employment. The proposition from the Cain Government will bring about very great reductions in the cost of workers compensation and will lift the competitiveness of private enterprise.

The Cain Government did not just look at its administration, although it knew it was extremely important. Under the guidance of its Treasurer, Rob Jolly, it has lifted the economic position of Victoria tremendously. But when it came into office, as I said earlier, it was also faced with the problem of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. It introduced the employment initiative program, a program which is extremely successful and which has now been taken over by our community employment program, which is also proving successful. That employment initiative program laid the framework so that Victoria now has the lowest unemployment of any State. That program showed us what could be done. It provided the Federal Government with the knowledge that, when applied nationally, it would work very effectively, and our CEP program has in fact worked well. Because the employment initiative program was in train the administration of the CEP program has been easier in Victoria because the Government knew what was required.

But the Cain Government is still not satisfied-neither are we-that enough has been done in the area of employment. Currently it is looking at the introduction of a youth guarantee scheme. That will promise every youth that he or she can have either school work or a training program. That is a problem that the Federal Liberal Opposition and the Victorian Liberal Opposition have failed to tackle. It is okay for people to come in to the House with platitudes and slogans about free market trade not only in the market-place but also in employment, and all those sorts of things, but it does not address the problem of how to provide jobs. The Liberals in Victoria have come up with a scheme they call the youth employment scheme, YES. It is supposed to mean 'Yes, you can get a job', but it really means 'Yes, we can cut your wages in half', because that is really what it does. It means we can all have a job but we cannot really afford to live on it.

Mr Shipton —Do you want jobs or don't you want jobs?

Mr SAUNDERSON —Of course we want jobs but we want the sorts of jobs that we are offering and that the Cain Government is offering-real jobs with real wages. Evidence clearly shows that when a government introduces programs which simply reduce the cost of employment by cutting wages all that happens is that people who are currently in permanent employment in fact lose jobs and employers employ people on cheaper wages. It does nothing to satisfy the need for new jobs.

In looking three years ahead we have to look at what things need to be done. We know that improvements can be made in our Government's administration. We have taken steps in our first term of office and we know that we have to take more. But we also know that it is important to look at the basic infrastructure of society, and put our effort into ensuring that that is improved. In order to do that, we need the co-operation of all areas of the community. As everyone in this House would know, the Hawke Government has been extremely successful in getting the co-operation of the community in a consensus approach. The situation in Victoria has been exactly the same. The Cain Government has shown that it is able to work with all areas of the community and it listens to all the things that people have to say and takes them into account when it implements its programs. It has a real concern for the community at large, and it has shown that by the effort it has put not only into trying to resolve the unemployment problem but also into the provision of community services. Just down the road from my house is a vacant block of land which has been there for 15 years. Another of the promises that the Liberals trotted out every three years was: 'Yes, we are going to build a geriatric assessment centre out your way. Yes, there is the block of land'. Every three years they would put up a little sign indicating where it would be.

Mr Shipton —Madam Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask you whether on this Address-in-Reply debate it is in order for the honourable member to make a cheap political speech on the Victorian election campaign.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Child) —Order! There is no point of order. I suggest to the honourable member for Higgins that Mr Speaker is very firm on frivolous points of order. I suggest he does not try it again.

Mr SAUNDERSON —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I congratulate you on your election to your office. Opposition members do not like to listen to comparisons of good and bad government because they know that the Federal Government and the Cain Government have shown themselves to be very good governments compared to the former Federal Liberal-National Party Government and the former Victorian Liberal Government.

The vacant block of land in my area, at the end of my road, was the site for a geriatric centre which the former Victorian Government promised to build so that the aged people, in particular, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, would have the facilities that they required. Fifteen years they have been waiting. The Cain Government, almost as soon as it came into office, began the work. The building, on that block of land, is just nearing completion and will soon be in operation. As I said, the people in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, particularly the aged people, will gain a tremendous benefit from that service being provided.

The Cain Government has put enormous effort into trying to build up again the stocks of public housing, stocks that had been criminally sold off by the previous Administration so that thousands of people in Victoria could not get decent housing at decent rates. The Cain Government has started the reversal of that process and the increased funding under the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement will ensure that the Cain Government will be able to continue its program of improving the public housing stock. Child care is another area in which the Cain Government has moved effectively. We have assisted by providing capital to allow new child care centres to be opened but the Cain Government has ensured that additional funding for the staffing of those centres is being made available.

In all those areas we have something to learn from the way that the Cain Government has operated. We can see all the things it has done. If we take notice of those things, it will only enhance our chances of having a good record at the end of this term of office. I reiterate that some of the problems the Opposition has are caused, perhaps, because it lacks the planned policy approach that the Labor Party adopts. Its leaders tend to lose their concentration and make mistakes in their speeches. We had Malcolm Fraser in 1983 telling everyone to put money under their beds and that the communists were everywhere. Of course, that cost him dearly in the election in 1983 when the public rejected his approach. Before we went to the polls recently Andrew lost his cool a couple of times and called people crooks.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable gentleman will address the Leader of the Opposition by his correct name.

Mr SAUNDERSON —The Leader of the Opposition lost his cool a few times and called people crooks and other such things. The community made its judgment and, of course, the Opposition lost at the polls in December. We won the last election and we are in government for three years. That is why we are making speeches from this side of the chamber. The Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Mr Kennett, is having difficulty too. He knows his policies are not winning any votes and, as one of my colleagues said earlier today, he has a problem with foot in mouth disease. He has not only virtually accused the Victorian Premier of being a child molester but also accused the Victorian caucus of being a death squad. It will go out and shoot all those people in Victoria who do not vote for the Government!

Mr Shipton —Madam Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask the honourable member to withdraw the words 'child molester'.

Mr SAUNDERSON —I withdraw those words. People voted for the Australian Labor Party in 1983 because they saw that it had clearly laid out policies and responsible leaders who do not make verbal assaults on their opposition. I think the result in Victoria will be pretty much the same. People will support a government which has shown itself to be sound and efficient and which clearly has a concern for the community rather than an opposition with policies which are obviously not sound and a leader who cannot be sure of providing a strong performance. We won in December and the John Cain Government will win this Saturday. That will ensure that the living standard of the people in Victoria will continue over the next four years to improve. The Cain Government's co-operation with the Federal Government has been an enormous success and has enabled many of our programs to be implemented without the sort of confrontation we get from some of the Premiers who are in opposition to our political party. We have made a commitment to implement the program that we have started. We have also given a commitment in the area of peace and disarmament. The Cain Government has shown a fine example of this with its declaration of a nuclear-free State. That Government has a clear conscience in the way it approaches peace and disarmament. The national Government has given a strong commitment to pursue that approach. People can look at the approach of the State Government on this matter with pride.

In summary, Madam Deputy Speaker, I refer to the reduction in Australia's inflation rate from double digits under the previous Government to single digits. The inflation rate is less than half the previous rate, interest rates have stabilised and the housing industry has been boosted by our initiatives and programs. Victoria has had just as much of a success story. Unemployment, as I said earlier, is now the lowest in the country. Inflation is at the same level. We can only congratulate the Cain Government on its fine performance over the three years. We are sure that it will be in government for four years and the Victorian people will do well.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Before I call the next speaker, the honourable member for Braddon, I remind the House that this is a maiden speech, and I ask the House to extend the usual courtesies.