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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 632

Mr CLEELAND(8.46) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have just listened to the most mealy-mouthed, feigned excuse for concern for the poor that I have ever heard in my life. We have just heard from the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), about his concern for the poor. We have given the Opposition the chance tonight in this Parliament, before the Australian people, to tell us once and for all what its policies are. This debate was brought on by the Government. Members of the Opposition have been given the chance to explain their policies. What have we heard? We heard nothing at all from the right honourable member for New England, the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair). We did not hear one policy.

We heard from the honourable member for Menzies (Mr N.A. Brown). Let us talk about the honourable member for Menzies. I have in my office a copy of a little magazine called the Liberal Forum. It was produced by the Liberal Party in the former Federal seat of Diamond Valley and it is dated August 1983. It criticised the former member for Diamond Valley-now the member for Menzies-for being a useless member. It blamed him for losing the Federal seat of Diamond Valley in 1983. That is the man who, through a series of distortions and half-truths, attacks the Government but did not produce policies.

We have given members of the Opposition this chance. Let them stand up before this Parliament and before the people of Australia and give us some details. But no, we were given a six-point plan. Let us look at that six-point plan. The first and most important plank of the six-point plan is to reduce taxes for the wealthy. That is the first point. The mealy-mouthed speech we have just heard from the shadow Treasurer talked about the poor. Of course, the six-point plan, first and foremost, will look after the white shoe brigade. It will cut taxes for the wealthy. It will give tax cuts to the 20 per cent and increase taxes for the 80 per cent. The Opposition proposes massive tax cuts, and with the $14 billion cut in expenditure, what one can glean from the Opposition's public statements-although it will not admit it in the House-is that this will be offset very simply by cutting pensions.

That is what members of the Opposition would do in government. They should not run away from it. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) might be interested in what will happen to the age pensioners in his elect- orate. Their pensions will be cut. That is the policy that honourable members opposite are supporting-the cutting of pensions to the aged. So that is the next part of their big plan.

Of course, we know that they intend to cut health expenditure. They say that they are concerned about the ordinary working people of this country, those who earn under $30,000 a year-the majority of Australians. Yet they will cut health expenditure. They will privatise the health system, give it away, add $15 a week to the average cost of health care for Australian families-and give them a $5 a week tax cut. And they say they are concerned about the family! Their six-point plan disposes of that proposition. We know that they do not give a damn.

They will also sell the education system. That is the very next thing that they will do. They will privatise it, give it away, and introduce a voucher system so that those of some wealth can use little vouchers. I notice that Senator Messner, who is in the gallery, is nodding in total agreement. He agrees that the Opposition will sell the education system, get rid of the cost of it so as to save $1 billion. I thank Senator Messner for agreeing with me. I know that that is what members of the Opposition will do. I hope that everyone here has noted that the good senator agrees with me. They will give vouchers so that the wealthy can skip along to their private schools and get the same per capita grant as the poor. This is their equity and their fairness. They are a wonderful, mystical lot of people. They talk so much about the family. We heard the honourable member for Mackellar express concern about the poor. Yes, they show a great deal of concern for the poor! They will sell the education system to private enterprise and then they will reduce family incomes. They intend to have a three-year wages freeze. I hope that the honourable member for Mackellar can answer me in this House because I would like to know. He talked about all the increases that Australians face-mortgage increases, food price increases, education and health cost increases. How can he equate his mealy-mouthed expression of concern with the fact that he intends to freeze wages for three years? He says he is concerned for families, yet he intends to increase those costs and give those families a three-year wages freeze. I do not think he is concerned; I think he is a fraud and a phoney and so are all the Opposition members.

Apart from doing all that to families, the Opposition will sell Australia to the highest bidder. It does not matter to whom it sells Australia, but when the first bidder comes along it will sell. Let us be honest about this: We know who the highest bidder will be. There is only one country in the world with the money to buy Australia-Japan. That is exactly what the Premier of Queensland-the Opposition's unknown hero, the one it will not talk about in this place-has been doing to Queensland. He has been selling it to the Japanese. That is the Opposition's plan. It will take the yen for Australia. It cannot run away from that fact. When Opposition members say that they will abolish all controls on foreign enterprise in Australia they know that there is only one country in the world that can afford to buy-Japan. I wonder what Mr Ruxton will say about that. I never hear Mr Ruxton concern himself about the fact that this country is losing control to the Japanese and that is what Opposition members want to support. Mr Ruxton never talks about that. Opposition members will sell Australia for yen. I wonder what they will do next.

Then of course the Opposition parties will privatise. That is the secret agenda of members of the Liberal Party-the very secret agenda. They will do what Maggie Thatcher has done in Britain. They will balance their Budget every year by selling off the assets of every Australian. They will sell the Commonwealth Bank for a start. Opposition members should be honest about this. We have given them the chance to debate this matter; they have had the time tonight. They should come clean and be honest. But they cannot do so. They cannot stand up in this House and give us their private agenda; they cannot come clean and tell the rest of Australia what they plan. We know that the Opposition parties will sell the Commonwealth Bank and Telecom Australia. We know what will happen then. Every Australian farmer will face an extra $1,000 on costs. We do not see the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) and other National Party members who express concern for farmers running around the place and saying: `What will happen to the farmer when we sell Telecom?'. They do not really care. After all, the white-shoe brigade from the Gold Coast are their new gurus; they are the people to whom National Party members now pay obeisance. Those are the people who will fund the massive billions of dollars for their next election campaign. Joh will come down with his fistful of dollars and look after you. That is the sort of campaign that we will get.

Honourable members opposite talk a load of nonsense when they come into this House. Why are they not honest enough to give us their policies? Why will they not come into this House and tell the Australian public and the Parliament what they plan to do about taxation? Why are they not honest enough to lay out a policy on health care? Why are they not honest enough to come into this House and tell us what they intend to privatise? Why do they not tell Australian families some decent truths for a change and tell them exactly where they stand in this whole debate. The answer is that either they cannot or they are dishonest. Those are the only possible solutions-either they have no policies whatsoever or they do not have enough courage to reveal their secret agenda in debate in this place. I suspect it is the latter. As the coalition's historical antecedents have shown to the people of this country in their years of government, they will go on the path of deceit. They will not debate fairness or equity; they will go down the path of deceit, as they have always done historically as parties. They will deceive the Australian people and destroy them should we ever have the disastrous luck to see them back in power. Opposition members are a hopeless lot.

Mr Downer —Beef it up! What will the people who are listening to this debate think?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mayo is interjecting while out of his seat. I warn him that if continues to do that he will be dealt with by the Chair.

Mr CLEELAND —When one speaks the truth in this place, when one stands up and issues an open and fair challenge to Opposition members to lay their policies bare on the table, put their cards down, they cannot do so. They do not do it. Their three senior shadow Ministers, the Leader of the National Party, the honourable member for Mackellar and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-and we note that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) will not speak in this debate, he is being protected yet again--

Mr Connolly —He will be here, don't you worry.

Mr CLEELAND —Oh, so he will be here. Why did he not lead the debate? The honourable member says: `Don't you worry'. Oh golly gosh, we will have the Leader of the Opposition too-that is terrific.

Mr Duncan —Which leader? Joh or John?

Mr CLEELAND —Yes, which leader? We have offered the Opposition members a chance to put their cards on the table, an opportunity to tell us their policies. Where are they? What about the six-point plan? That is hopeless. When we talk about tax in this Parliament Opposition members say that they will abolish capital gains tax. They have a strange notion about capital. They somehow think that those who have the capacity to take earnings in other than earned income should not pay tax. That is the argument they put forward. They say that those who have the capacity to use the stock market, property or other forms of investment which one could call capital under the terms of the Income Tax Assessment Act should not pay tax on the gains. That is a strange notion and Opposition members are quite prepared to give their friends those perks again. They are simply saying that those who gain economic wealth through one form of activity should gain that economic wealth and power without tax because it is not earned income, a salary or a wage. That is what they are saying when they attack the capital gains tax. They say that those people who invest in property, shares and other forms of capital should not pay tax. I would like to hear some arguments from one of the simplistic members opposite on these matters. I would like to hear why someone who invests income in an interest bearing investment account and who pays tax on the proceeds should pay that tax while someone who invests in a non-income earning capital investment, such as a rental property, should make a gain on the property but not pay tax on it. Why should a person who chooses one form of investment because that person does not need an income receipt at the time, and makes an accretion to economic wealth, not pay tax while a person who has less financial capacity and invests in an income earning asset such as a bank account or a fixed term deposit is disadvantaged? Quite frankly, the Opposition arguments are nonsense.

I was pleased to read in today's Australian some comments by Professor Galbraith, who is not a man to be taken very lightly. He is a former diplomat and a former American presidential adviser. It is worth while pointing out what he said. The article in the Australian says:

He said it must be understood that there were no magic monetary formulas-

unlike the honourable member for Mackellar-

therefore, it must be accepted that there was a need for expenditure restraint by governments, except on welfare-

the Opposition parties will cut welfare under their proposals; we will not, but they will--

coupled with increases in taxes.

That is what the good professor says. He advocates an increase in taxes. Opposition members are running around the place suggesting that they can cut taxes. They could have a $14 billion deficit, yet they still say they will cut taxes. Not one of them could lie straight in bed. The article continues:

`I am devastated by the commitment of a great number of people to the belief that there is some solution in major tax reductions . . .

That is the sort of stuff the Opposition is peddling. It believes that some magical, mystical solution to our problems can be brought about simply, by a tax reduction. This is the solution that President Reagan has inflicted upon the American economy. The Americans are printing money on their presses 24 hours a day. They cut taxes on a false notion and then they start printing money madly. That is the Opposition's solution. What does Professor Galbraith say about these weird notions of cutting taxes? He says:

This is a form of mysticism that adult people should not tolerate.

I do not tolerate it. Where does that leave members of the Opposition? It leaves them in infant childhood; they still have not grown up. He goes on to say:

As adults we should be willing, when demand presses on supply, when deficits are structural in our economy, to meet the task of appropriate increases in taxes.

But the Opposition is going to cut them. The professor continues:

I don't find myself coming as an advocate of the newest panacea, namely the flat tax.

Members of the Opposition have had their chance. Their three principal speakers-their three principal economic debaters-have spoken in this House after having been given the opportunity to debate their policies. What have we had? We have had the six-point plan of deceit and deception. Members of the Opposition could not come into this House and debate one principal matter on which this Government has given them the chance. They have had their chance; they can sit back and laugh their heads off. They had the chance to give the Australian people their answers. Have they given the answers? The answer to that question is no.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.