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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 437


Mr REITH(8.40) —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Firstly, I congratulate you on your re-election to the office of Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I request of you to convey to the Speaker my congratulations on his re-election of the high office of Speaker. I also congratulate and thank both you and the Speaker for the excellent new members seminar which was held recently. I am sure it will contribute greatly to the work of all new members and their understanding of this great institution. I feel both privileged and proud to have this opportunity at last to address this House as the representative of the people of Flinders. It is pleasing to see some members in this House this evening as it makes quite a contrast to my entry into this place at the commencement of my first term, when I was greeted by the sight of the Secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General fixing on the doors of the House the Proclamation of the dissolution of the Thirty-second Parliament.

My first election to this place on 4 December 1982 represented a turning point for the then Leader of the Opposition and now Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) and in retrospect the final high for the then coalition Government. There can be no question now that my re-election is symbolic of the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia and our coalition partners have now spanned a difficult period and are resurgent again, moving inexorably towards government at the next election. Such changes in political fortunes do not come by the mere passage of time, but rather are a result of the endeavours of men and women. It is indicative of the healthy political system we have in this country that my election to this place has been brought about, not by the efforts of a few but by the efforts of very many people in Flinders, and with the assistance of my parliamentary colleagues on this side of the House.

I wish to express thanks publicly to my electorate chairman, Jack McMenamin; my two campaign directors, Harold Weber and Don Jewell; Liberal Party branch members and supporters; and especially my family, including my wife, Julie, who have been towers of strength to me over the last 27 months and three election campaigns. I have been honoured to receive the support of the people of Flinders and now reaffirm my commitment to represent them to the best of my ability. I also particularly thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) for the inspirational leadership that he provided, not just to me but to Liberals throughout the electorate. Finally, I cannot overlook the contribution of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) whose brief foray into Flinders probably put the matter beyond doubt. I take the opportunity to invite him into the electorate of Flinders at the next earliest opportunity and, at the very least, during the next campaign when I am sure his presence will be similarly beneficial.

Before turning to some of the issues relevant to my electorate, I wish to pay tribute to the late Rt Hon. Sir Phillip Lynch. The public perception of so many people on the centre stage of our national life is sometimes distorted by the fleeting glimpses, the misquotes and the fabrications of a mass audience. For them recognition awaits the historian's pen. But this is not so in the case of Sir Phillip Lynch. The sheer weight of his achievements rightfully demanded and received recognition in his own lifetime. His loyalty to his principles and to his Party and his common sense were the basis of his reputation as a builder of bridges between Australians from all walks of life. He was a great Australian and a great parliamentarian and is greatly missed.

The seat of Flinders, which takes its name from Matthew Flinders, one of Australia's greatest explorers and the first man to circumnavigate Australia, is one of the original seats in the Federation. Following last year's electoral redistribution the seat now takes in the whole of the Mornington Peninsula with the exception of the residential areas north of Mornington and follows Western Port Bay round to Wonthaggi in the east and encloses Phillip Island and French Island. The electorate is today as it has been for many years, a favourite place to retire, an exciting destination for both local and international tourists, an area of rich agricultural resources and, with the fine harbour of Western Port, an area of great potential for development. I encourage honourable members from both sides of this House to come to the electorate of Flinders and enjoy the many features that it has to offer.

One of the features of great significance on the Peninsula is the area known as Point Nepean which guards the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. The area, of 1,477 acres, is owned by the Commonwealth and is occupied by the Army for the Officer Cadet School of Portsea. The OCS will be vacating the property at the end of this year to re-establish itself in the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. The area is of great historical interest. It poses problems of erosion and fire control. The OCS has a significantly beneficial impact on the local economy. The area has been well maintained by the Commonwealth over many years but there is now the prospect that upon the departure of the Army a vacuum will be created. That is the worst thing that could be allowed to happen. The future of the area will require considerable consultation between Federal, State and local governments and local people and it is of vital importance that a management plan be put in place prior to the Army's departure. This area is a national asset and the Government must establish a framework within which decisions can be made so that the future usage of the area will meet with broad community support.

Another issue of great importance to the people of Flinders is the cost of telephone calls, particularly into the Melbourne local call zone. The charging policy of Telecom Australia rests essentially upon zones established in 1960. Many parts of the electorate, both on the Mornington Peninsula and across to Cranbourne South, are now parts of suburban Melbourne, and that fact ought to be recognised. Subscriber trunk dialling charge rates are a very considerable disincentive to the establishment of businesses and I know from personal experience, having worked in the electorate for a number of years, that it places an unfair burden on small business people attempting to compete with businesses in adjacent areas of the Melbourne zone. As the rate of the introduction of high technology increases there will be ever greater demands for the use of the telephone to hook into data banks and the technology of the twentieth and twenty-first century.

I was pleased to see a parliamentary report tabled last year entitled 'Ringing in the Changes', to which I put a submission with local colleagues, Dr Ron Wells and Robin Cooper, largely supporting the point of view I am now expressing. The report has been with the Government for some time and provision of some real relief for the people of Flinders is now both urgent and overdue.

Before turning to some wider issues I wish briefly to mention two industries which are of great significance and potential in the electorate of Flinders. They are the tourist industry and the rural industry. The rural industry in Flinders is diverse and includes such activities as dairy farming, about which I hope many members, including members on the other side of the House, are fully aware. High technology has its application in the rural industry. For example, it plays an important part in ensuring that the excellent asparagus of the Kooweerup Swamp is on the shelves and still fresh in the shops of London and Tokyo within two days of cutting. Governments have a role in providing support to industry and I hope that the present Government does not forget that our rural industries have and will continue to have a fundamental impact on the economic development of this country.

The world tourist industry was reported a few years ago to be now larger than the world's steel industry. Within Flinders we have the famous penguin parade, which is one of the biggest international tourist attractions in Australia, superb bay beaches within both Port Phillip and Western Port and surf beaches to rival any other in Australia. We have some great convention facilities, every form of accommodation and the beautiful hills of Bas, Red Hill and Merricks North on the Peninsula.

Subject to the importance of the preservation of all those features which make Flinders one of the great places in Australia to live and enjoy, the potential for the development of the tourist industry knows no bounds. What is needed is for governments to ensure that the framework of government controls for the maintenance of the area and the provision of basic infrastructure, by being certain and concise, will encourage confidence in the area's potential so that those who are prepared to risk their money to provide jobs and facilities and develop the area will in fact do so. As a local councillor I saw too many applicants with reasonable proposals and the necessary risk capital and confidence in Australia's future leave their money in the bank rather than try to overcome the hurdles of a multitude of permits. This country was not built with permits; it was built with confidence and initiative and it is time governments stood back and let people with initiative get this country going again.

Before concluding, I feel that it is important for me as a new member to state some of the basic principles by which I hope successfully to represent the interests of the people of Flinders and Australia. A vision of a better Australia of course needs the confidence that one can make a contribution to bring such visions to reality. To that extent I am idealistic. I believe that if Australians work together and pursue common goals we can achieve a better Australia for all Australians. I do not doubt that honourable members on both sides of this House share a vision of Australia without poverty, where all Australians can have shelter, are well fed and clothed, can receive a good education and can reach their full potential in a country whose sovereignty remains inviolate.

Of course, the real difficulties and controversies become apparent when we look to achieving these basic sorts of aims. For me the starting point must be the aims and aspirations of the individual. Sir Robert Menzies talked about the individual and his encouragement and recognition as being the prime motive force for building a better world. The acceptance of that simple but fundamental point of view leads to the compelling conclusion that governments and their bureaucracies cannot, and should not, assume the responsibilities of individuals. If that argument fails at first to be persuasive one needs only to look back at the history of Western civilisation since the Industrial Revolution to see the benefits of economic and political freedom for individuals.

The real significance of Milton Friedman has been his emphasis on the inter-relationship between economic and political freedoms. He points out that if over 40 per cent of gross domestic product is being spent by governments it is not being spent by individuals and individuals are not having a direct choice in the expenditure of the fruits of their labour. The market-place is distorted by the inefficiencies of the demands of government. That translates itself into the political process quite clearly with the demands for less taxation and the lifting of restrictions on people's freedom of choice. Those demands go hand in hand with the parallel demand that governments should not impose upon the individual's right to have an economic system where effort is rewarded.

There is surely nothing wrong with enlightened self-interest. It represents an acknowledgment that the first duty of individuals is to care for themselves and for their families. That is a fundamental part of the human condition which will work to bring about those basic aims which I outlined previously and is in no way inconsistent with a genuine concern for others. Certainly, there is a role for governments to play in the maintenance of minimum standards for those people who, for one reason or another, are unable to care adequately for themselves. That is only compassionate and humane and one of the prime responsibilities of governments in modern society. The free enterprise system does work and it can work very efficiently as long as we maintain a framework which discourages market distortions.

In this country we have the traditions of freedom which could really contribute to the achievement of prosperity for all. Politically, Australian people are looking for a party that will lead the way. It was very clear in the general election, where the message from the electors of Flinders to the Government was that they did not want an assets test which would impinge upon their rights to accumulate property. They did not want a capital gains tax which would rob them of the fruits of their labour. They did not want superannuation tax which would inhibit their ability to provide for their personal well-being. They did not want death duties and gift duties which would restrict their right to provide for their children and their grandchildren.

Certainly, this Government and this country have seen some improvements in our economic prosperity over the last two years. But we have yet to see, and we will not see under a Labor government, the preconditions for lasting economic growth. When a government criticises constructive proposals put by Jeff Kennett in Victoria to employ the young unemployed; when the vested interests in our labour market prevent the adult unemployed from obtaining real jobs; and when government maintains a monopoly on the technological communications systems of the 1980s and 1990s, the preconditions for real growth are not being met.

The London Economist, in a review of 1984, looked at the American economy and noted that several deep changes in American life had prepared the ground for America's ideological shift. This has gone hand in hand with its economic progress over the last two or three years. The Economist completed its review with the words:

Above all, America's new mood brings it back to one of its main intellectual roots. Will the people whose inalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness let a Government get in their way?

The Americans have realised that the once conventional wisdom that governments can solve problems by spending a lot of money on them has proved to be an illusion. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of Australia. Australia is a lucky country. Let us not allow it to become a fool's paradise. We have the people and resources to build up this nation and I look forward optimistically to the Australia of the future and commit myself to working hard for its improvement.