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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1120

Mr FITZGIBBON(12.56) —I found the advocacy for pagan gods rather diverting but my attention was captured when the honourable member for Casey (Mr Halverson) used the words `bruised, battered and splintered'. I am sure one could be forgiven for believing that he was referring to his own Liberal Party. A few weeks ago a letter was circulated throughout my electorate urging people to join the Liberal Party and inviting them to phone particular numbers for further information. One of the phone numbers that people were invited to ring belonged to a Mr John Tassell who has spent the last few years trying to turn small business people away from the Australian Labor Party and lure them into the camp of the Liberals. Mr Tassell has been silent of late, which is not surprising when we consider the factional disputes which are occurring in the Liberal Party and the disastrous policies being promulgated by the conservatives.

It is possible to lump the Opposition together under the title of conservatives, but the delicious air of madness which is currently wafting through the corridors of this House makes it impossible to refer any longer to the Opposition by traditional names such as Liberal or National. In fact, the Opposition is so hopelessly riddled-perforated even-by factionalism that it is easy to identify at least 20 groups the members of which are now pursuing their own separate grubby little grab for power. The headlines in the papers this very morning scream that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) lacks the numbers, according to his colleague. His colleague? That is a reference to the honourable member for Bennelong, and Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard).

So we have the Bennelong and the Kooyong factions, but it does not end there. Two factions have a definite nautical lilt to their names. We have the Sinkers faction being rivalled by the `anchors McVeigh' faction. The list goes on: the Joh faction, the McGauran-Hicks group, the Hodgman-Goodluck duet, the Everingham group, the Steele Hall group, and the Ian Cameron group. The Opposition is a hopelessly divided rabble.

The delicious air of madness which circulates among the Opposition groups has drifted into my Hunter electorate. Last election the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) and his deputy, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), spent much time in the Hunter displaying extraordinary loyalty towards their candidate there. Their candidate spent a fortune on his campaign but ran a very poor third, finishing 16,000 votes behind me and 4,000 votes behind the Liberal candidate. However, the National Party candidate learnt from that campaign-he learned a good deal about loyalty and how it should be repaid. Recently he has spoken on local radio and burst into the regional Press eulogising the Premier of Queensland and attaching himself to the Joh drive to Canberra. ``I don't want to be a back bencher in opposition'', he says, ``I want to be a member of the Joh led Government''. I bet those words stoked a warm glow of appreciation in the hearts of the honourable member for New England and the honourable member for Gwydir.

But things are looking up for the Leader of the National Party and his deputy. Now that the Joh factor has self-destructed I am sure that the National Party candidate in Hunter will jump out of the `cart of senility driven by the nut from Kingaroy' and probably join forces with them again. However, I am sure that the voters of Hunter will never forget Mr Turner's flirtation with the Queensland Premier, and I am sure the Leader of the National Party and the honourable member for Gwydir will not forget the strength of Mr Turner's loyalty.

I have said that the Opposition is hopelessly divided. It is necessary to add that conservative policies are equally hopeless. I have written to small business people in my electorate warning them how horrendous procedures would be for them were the Leader of the Opposition to succeed in introducing a value added type of consumption tax. The costs of compliance imposed on business enterprise by a value added tax are far from trivial and would choke many businesses-particularly small businesses. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that small business people in the Hunter electorate are not waxing lyrical about his consumption tax advocacy. Nor is anyone else in the electorate ecstatic about his policies, as he would have learned from his recent visit there. The Leader of the Opposition is having trouble not only with his wafer-thin policies; he is having trouble also with his candidates in the Hunter. Last election in Hunter the white hope of the Liberal Party was a Dr Ron Dolton, who has been dumped in favour of a candidate who cannot tell the difference between Federal and State government issues.

The greatest boo-boo committed by the Liberal Party's new candidate for Hunter is his showing of his total ignorance of the Hunter electorate's most important industry. The Liberal Party candidate in Hunter has called for the total deregulation of coal export controls-a move which would have catastrophic effects on the coal mining industry in every region of New South Wales and some regions in Queensland. The coal mining industry has enough serious problems without them being added to by the Liberal Party candidate's unsympathetic ideas. Mr Dunkley's insane pronouncements, if put into practice, would cause massive job losses in Hunter Valley mines and destroy the prosperity of the Hunter electorate. Miners will not be voting for Mr Dunkley, nor will the small businesses where miners spend their wages.

Pensioners in the Hunter electorate are justifiably terrified of conservative flat tax policies which would benefit the rich and penalise the poor. Returned servicemen are disgusted that the Leader of the Opposition refuses to give an assurance that the Department of Veterans' Affairs will not disappear as a separate entity. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer), the shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs, has visited the Hunter electorate spewing spurious nonsense, but he has remained mysteriously silent about the future of the Veterans' Affairs Department.

When the Federal Opposition decided last year to abandon the first home owners scheme if it were elected to government, the screams and protests were long and loud. Under the scheme the Federal Government has directed over $1 billion to help more than 230,000 households acquire their first home. As a result of the public outrage at the Opposition's proposal, it has now decided to retain the first home owners scheme should it be returned to government. However, the coalition's new housing policy released last Friday announces the termination of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, which makes money available for all public housing including housing commission homes. People on the waiting list for housing commission homes will not be too happy about this decision. Voters in the Hunter electorate are furious about it.

The Liberal and National Party runners in the Hunter electorate have had plenty of lead placed in the saddle bags they have to carry. Liberal and National Party policies are disastrous for the Hunter electorate. Policies which seek the removal of all protection for the textile and clothing industries would throw more than 2,000 workers in my electorate on the unemployment scrap heap. When the Leader of the Opposition visited my electorate recently he shed plenty of crocodile tears about high interest rates but he did not visit National Textiles Ltd, Bonds Wear Pty Ltd and other textile and clothing factories to tell the workers that he wanted to take away their jobs. The conservative parties care about profits-they care not for workers and job losses. When company directors vote themselves staggering fee increases, the conservatives say not a word. But listen to them squeal when wage and salary workers are granted an extra $10 per week. They are hypocrites!

Consider the gall of those opposite. A carefully orchestrated campaign has been initiated by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl) to transfer funds from the New England Highway to the Pacific Highway. The conservatives are trying to kick Hunter Valley businesses, industries and voters in the teeth. They want Federal funds taken from Hunter Valley roads and transferred to roads which run through their electorates on the north coast of New South Wales. They do not care two cents for the people in the Hunter electorate. Councils in my electorate are enraged by the gall of those opposite.

The national highway is a vital element of the future prosperity of the Hunter Valley and every council has written to me, saying, `Stop these Liberals and Nationals from stealing our road funds'. I am acting on their behalf, and as far as I am concerned this present Government will not have a bar of such an idea.

Coalition members of parliament who visit my Hunter electorate never raise this matter. What they are pursuing is theft by stealth. It is apparent that the policies of the Opposition seriously disadvantage the Hunter Valley and one might well ask why the coalition is seeking to crucify the Hunter Valley's people. In the past two years councils in the Hunter electorate have received record grants. The new bridges at Hexham and Singleton were totally funded by the Federal Government, and so too was the new Wallis Creek bridge at Maitland. This Government has provided the highest level ever of road funding for the Hunter Valley and there have been extremely generous funding grants for community employment program projects, the first home owners scheme, tourist information centres, nursing homes, day care centres, housing and a whole range of expanded community services, including $10m for a new technical and further education college.

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