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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1375


Mr BEDDALL(12.55) —Today I wish to highlight the economic mismanagement of the Queensland National Party Government. It has failed to ensure that Queenslanders share in the improved economic conditions created in the rest of Australia. That Government's total incompetence is dragging down the rest of Australia, as my colleague Senator Walsh pointed out yesterday. We need to go no further than a survey by the National Australia Bank and the Australian Chamber of Commerce to see the depths of despair into which the Queensland National Party Government has plunged my State. That survey showed that 74 per cent of Australian businesses said that they had good or satisfactory trading in the December quarter of 1984. In Queensland a mere 48 per cent of businesses reported similar trading conditions. For the March quarter of 1985, 72 per cent of Australian businesses surveyed said that they expected good or satisfactory results in the March quarter. In Queensland not one single business said it expected a good March quarter, and only 36 per cent expected satisfactory trading in that period.

There is no more telling indictment of the miserable economic record of Bjelke-Petersen Government than that. The business sector in Queensland showed it had no confidence in the convocation of incompetents who make up the Queensland National Party Government.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) pointed out some revealing statistics about the Queensland economy. I now wish to take up just one of those-namely, the building industry. In Australia there was a 9.5 per cent increase in building approvals in the three months to the end of January 1985. In Queensland the number of new dwelling approvals increased by only a miserable 1.7 per cent over the same period. This low level confirms the stagnant nature of the building industry in my State of Queensland. In contrast, the rest of Australia has experienced a building boom.

I now turn to the value of building approvals. In the three months to the end of January 1985, the value of all other building approvals throughout Australia was $1,688.8m. This was 67.4 per cent higher than the value for the three-month period to the end of January 1984. In Queensland, however, the value of other building approvals increased by only 36.8 per cent over the same period, from $264m to $361m. These figures show that Queensland is still, again, lagging well behind the rest of the nation in industrial and commercial building approvals.

The number of actual dwelling commencements is preferred as a forward indicator of activity in the housing industry. Again, Queensland compares poorly with the rest of Australia. The number of dwelling commencements throughout Australia in the September quarter of 1984 was 40,300. This was 8,600 more than the figure for the September quarter of 1983, representing a substantial increase of 27.1 per cent. In Queensland, however, the percentage increase in commencements during this period was much lower. In the September quarter of 1984 there were 8,200 dwelling commencements in Queensland, 1,000 more than a year earlier. This represented an increase of only 13.9 per cent-significantly below the national figure.

I have just informed the House of the litany of failure of the Queensland National Party Government in the housing sector. The only positive move for the building industry in Queensland has come from the Federal Labor Government. The first home owners scheme has injected massive new funds into the housing industry in my electorate. From 1 October 1983 to 11 April 1985 23,400 applications have been approved for the first home owners scheme in Queensland. This was an injection of $71m in benefits paid and $115m in the amount of benefits approved.

Let us now look at the performance of the Queensland National Party Government in the housing industry in the public sector. The States can nominate up to the full amount of their Loan Council ceiling for public housing at a very attractive interest rate of 4 1/2 per cent. The Queensland National Party Government nominated only $30m this year under that concessional arrangement and an abysmal $10m in 1983-84 under the Loan Council arrangements for public housing. Those sums can be compared with those nominated by some of the States ruled by my colleagues in the Australian Labor Party. For example, in South Australia $136m was allocated, and in Western Australia $96m. In other words, the Bjelke-Petersen Government is deliberately retarding the housing industry in my State of Queensland. Its housing policies are depriving the needy of any form of home ownership. In my own electorate, there are many hundreds of people on Housing Commission waiting lists in the suburbs of Inala, Carole Park and Logan City. The Queensland National Party Government is ignoring them. At 31 January 1985 there were 9,522 people on the waiting list for a Queensland Housing Commission home, with a waiting period ranging from four months to a disgraceful 36 months.

It is easy to see that the appalling performance of the Bjelke-Petersen Government is being hidden behind the deliberately provocative industrial confrontation that it has inspired. The Premier himself is the Treasurer of Queensland. The various hangers-on who make up the Cabinet in Queensland are not there because of any innate ability. In fact, never were words in the English language as mismatched as the word 'ability' and the words 'Queensland Cabinet'. The Premier alone decides the direction that the Queensland economy will take. Single-handedly, not only has he taken the Queensland economy on a course where it lags behind the rest of Australia, but in some cases he has thrown the economy of Queensland into a reverse direction.

At a time when Queenslanders should be united in a common purpose to overcome these economic difficulties, the Bjelke-Petersen Government has created open division. It has abandoned any pretext of honouring such democratic ideals as freedom of assembly and freedom to organise. It is now embarking on a calculated plan to destroy freedom of speech. It has subpoenaed journalists from the Courier-Mail and the Daily Sun for merely reporting events. However, the most desperate act to date was reserved for Dr Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yesterday the Queensland Premier horrified many by telling this eminent man to go back to London and to work to fill his churches. The only provocation that this man of the church gave was to urge conciliation in the Queensland power dispute.

Honourable members must ask where this will all stop. The Bjelke-Petersen Government has no tolerance whatsoever for people who dare to speak out against it-even if they are the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would have expected all the great Christians from the National Party to leap to the defence of this archbishop. Instead, they are to be condemned for their silence.

As I said earlier, I believe that this is part of a calculated effort to trample democratic institutions. I believe that the final chapter will come with the Queensland redistribution. I have been informed by people close to the National Party that its members intend once more to rig the boundaries in Queensland. There will be an outcry, but it will die down within a few weeks. That is the plan. It is designed to entrench the Nationals at the expense of the Australian Labor Party, but also at the expense of the Liberal Party. I say to all honourable members that because of the economic mess that the Bjelke-Petersen Government has created in Queensland, it will resort to desperate measures to save itself from the will of the people. The members of the Queensland Government are a band of democratic hill-billies determined to lay waste the very institutions that many of us in this House hold dear.

I say to all Queenslanders: Wake up before it is too late. I am reminded of the quotation which says: 'All dictatorships look good until the last 10 minutes'. Queenslanders need to act now. They need to write to their National Party members and say that they are fed up with the economic mismanagement, fed up with the division, fed up with tolerance, and, as I would say, fed up with the Bjelke-Petersen Government.