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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1206

Mr HOLLIS(10.31) —Like many Australians, I have been waiting, if not exactly with bated breath with a certain degree of keen anticipation, for the conservative parties to release details of their various policies. Of course, policy issues are well down their list of priorities at the moment, as the Liberals do head count after head count to decide who will be the leader after next Tuesday, and the remaining Queensland Nationals wait for word from Joh and Sir Robert. Of course, the others do not know whether to stay in the coalition or hop out. They do not know what side of the fence to sit on.

Details of part of their policy have come to me and I am happy to share them with members of the House and the people of Australia. The details came to me from the Liberal candidate for Throsby. That will be a long term career, will it not? According to the local media, he has the authority of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Menzies (Mr N. A. Brown), to release details of the policy. According to the Liberals, we will have a referenda-led recovery. The candidate said that all of these questions will be put to the people by way of referendum. There will be questions on social, economic and trade union issues. All of these questions will be put to the people of Australia by referendum. A first reading of this policy is a little like reading about Joh's flat tax idea. The idea of putting these things to the people seemed like a fairly good idea and had some appeal. But let us examine it. Referenda have often been held in association with general elections. This has been going on for many years. But three years is a little long for people to wait between referenda.

I did some costing of this policy which obviously the Liberals have not done. A referendum held in association with a general election adds between $4m and $5m to the cost of the general election. That cost is irrespective of how many questions are asked. But a referendum that is not held in association with a general election costs between $26m and $27m. If the Liberals want to go to the people with all of these issues-say, four a year-the taxpayers of Australia would have to fork out an extra $108m a year. Over a three year period this would amount to an extra $324m. I am sure that the Special Minister of State (Senator Tate) would be delighted to know that his Department will need an extra $324m. I am not quite sure what the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) would say about this.

I would like to pose a few questions because the Liberals have been very vague with the few policies that they have released. Will voting in these four referenda a year be compulsory? Will people be fined if they do not vote? Many people in Australia say to me that we have too many elections. We have Federal elections, State elections and local government elections. Now the Liberals want to give the people four more voting opportunities a year. I know that that will delight all the sporting organisations and many other organisations. A number of schools will be tied up every three months because we will all trot along and vote in a referendum. It will really be very disruptive. I suggest it will go down really well with the people of Australia.

The Liberal candidate for Throsby said that he wanted to know people's views on a variety of issues. Any member worth his salt will tell people that his constituents never have any difficulty in letting the member know their views. They have heard of Australia Post and the telephone. I know that members on this side of the House get telephone calls at all hours of the day or night and at the weekends. So there is no need to hold these referenda. Honourable members on this side go out among the people and we ask people what are their views. They tell us their views. The difficulty with this proposal, as all honourable members would say, is that it is very rare that all people think the same way. A lot of views are put to me every weekend when I am in the shopping centres. Often those views are conflicting and contradictory. There is not one point of view that comes across. Frankly, the policy of the Liberals on this referendum proposal is as naive and poorly thought out-of course, it is not costed-as the few policies that we have seen so far. It is no wonder that they are rejected and will continue to be rejected by the vast majority of Australians.

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