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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2273

Mr DONALD CAMERON(1.35) —Mr Deputy Speaker, in following the honourable member for Moore (Mr Blanchard) and the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Langmore), and preceding the honourable member for Phillip (Ms McHugh), one has to acknowledge that the two speakers who have spoken and the one who is about to speak, following me, truly believe what they are saying. One must also acknowledge the fact that their speeches were very carefully prepared-and, in fact, actually read. Therefore a lot of thought went into what they said, and what they have said they have to stand by. It is also worthy of note that two of the three speakers are definitely in the Left camp of the Australian Labor Party, and the honourable member for Fraser, who has just spoken, is in the Centre Left. Having listened to him speak, one wonders why he is not in the Left, and I guess the honourable member for Phillip and the honourable member for Moore must also wonder that and wish that he was there with them to boost their numbers and their strength, and their influence upon the Australian Labor Party.

I would say that we have just been fed a hymn of hate-a hymn of concern, granted, but regrettably also a hymn of hate. When the honourable member for Fraser started citing those people who have done well in this country, he was saying that those people should not have succeeded. He also referred to the introduction of death duties, wealth duties and a whole lot of other duties to bring them back to the field. Here we are, four and a bit years after the Labor Party came to power, and we have the left wing elements of the Labor Party moving this General Business motion which condemns the inequality in the distribution of income and wealth in Australia, and-I can agree with this-calls on the Government to continue to pursue anti-poverty measures as a major priority of government programs. But the honourable member loses me when he homes in on eliminating the special advantage to the rich through strengthening anti-tax avoidance and other measures. It is not that I do not believe in fairness, but his emphasis is surely astray. Then he has the audacity to call on the Government to support the efforts of the community and State governments to end poverty-I can agree with that-and also to support the effort of the trade union movement to end poverty. A great percentage of the problems that this country faces today result from the irresponsible efforts of some of our union leaders.

Strikes continue to be a part of our way of life. I believe that now it is Australian grain, the product of the farmers, which is locked up in the silos. Support the unions? Little wonder that Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, looks so good to many Australians. He is perceived as a person who is prepared to take the unions on. I am not saying that I agree with everything he does, but I believe that the Australian population is screaming for a stand against the excessive power displayed by the trade unions. Money is not the only tool of power. Position has power, and when a union leader can say `All out' and bring a multi-million dollar industry to a stop with the flick of a finger, that is an abuse and misuse of power, and an abuse and misuse which surely increases the extent of poverty which exists in this country today.

This Government has been in office for four years, and the question we must ask the people of Australia-not just the poor, because the honourable member for Fraser has already conceded that the Government has improved the position of the really poor, the single families and everyone, by a measly 3.3 per cent-the vast majority of Australians who provide the sweat and the national income as a result of their taxes, is whether or not they believe they are better off than they were four years ago. I hope people listening might just contemplate that question, because I believe that at least 80 per cent of Australians are worse off, as a result of the last four years, than they were prior to this Government's arrival.

The honourable member referred to new taxes being introduced. The Government has done that already. It has introduced its capital gains tax. It has introduced measures to prevent what is commonly called negative gearing. What is the end result of that? We have seen that in Sydney-and the honourable member for Phillip is the next speaker-the average figure for rental accommodation is something like $260 a week for a three-bedroom home. What has the Government done? The people with the money, the people who are investing, can see there is little point in putting their money in that area because if they do make a profit it will be taken back, and, if there are losses, the losses are theirs and they will not be able to wipe it off against other income. So they are simply not buying properties for rental. What has this led to? A drying up of availability. Who do honourable members think is being hurt? The little people who could never afford to own their own home in the first place, who are reliant on the rental market. They are the ones who are being further and further squeezed.

The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) came to power on the promise of consensus. In many ways it is regrettable that that has not worked. There is another regrettable fact: In this Parliament, or in our democratic system, not all the wisdom in terms of philosophical approach, or even brains, is necessarily nestled in one side. A lot of the concerns that those opposite feel are also held on this side of the House. I care, and I know my colleagues care, about the standard of living of fellow Australians. It is a pity that, if we win or they win, we go down a certain road. Liberals are more likely to understand how the Government's steps in relation to negative gearing have shot the cost of rental accommodation up, as has happened in Sydney. Liberals better understand the way the market-place works and the way people will place their money for return. Nobody out there places their money in the name of charity unless they are making a definite donation to charity. Regrettably, those opposite have looked at a ladder and have sighted those wealthy families. The honourable member for Fraser talked about what the top 10 per cent of this nation holds. They have then set about climbing up that ladder and knocking out the top rungs.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! It now being 1.45 p.m., in accordance with standing order 109, as amended for this session, the debate is interrupted.

Motion (by Mr Duffy) agreed to:

That the time for discussion of notice No. 1, General Business, be extended until 2 p.m.

Mr DONALD CAMERON —Members of the Government have set about knocking out those rungs and saying: `Hey, you people up the top, come back down here into the fold and join the rest of us'. What they inadvertently have done is to accidentally create a lower average level of wealth and an increased pool of those who are wallowing in poverty. The previous speaker made reference to supporting parents on their own and everything like that. I can remember years ago being about the first in this Parliament to start ringing the warning bells as to what was happening with the growth in the supporting parents benefit, the number of beneficiaries, and the number of children who were coming out of either broken families or out of situations where single people had approached parenthood with reckless abandon. A former Minister, who has just gone off to Amsterdam, was then shadow Minister and I was portrayed by him to this nation as some kind of a troglodyte. It was suggested that I was a person without concern and that I was anti-women and anti-kids because I was picking on them, while all I was saying at that time was: `Whoa, there are mistakes being made; just look at the graph'. I remember in the first year of the supporting parents benefit we had a $40m bill, and now it is up to about $1 1/2 billion because a lot of people opted out. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) has always boasted that he was responsible for its introduction. It was one of the greatest mistakes that have ever been made because it encouraged people to walk away from their responsibilities. It was made easier for them.

In the years I have been in this place I have seen this nation enter a stage of great conscience and become very welfare minded-we have to go and do this for that group and that for this, and pick up everybody and help them. But we have pulled the nation down. The average income earner is paying more tax than he or she has ever paid in the history of this nation, because if we are going to give away we are going to have to pay. It is the people in the work force who have carried the can. It is not just the rich people who have to pay, it is all people. That philosophy of this Government's of handing out more and more has seen Budget allocations since it came in go from $56 billion in 1983-84 to $63 billion the following year; and from almost $70 billion in 1985-86 to almost $75 billion in the current year. Even all the tax increases that the Government has imposed have not been enough to provide all the money that it has been spending. The Hawke Government has notched up a cumulative deficit of $20m in four Budgets. It has not indexed personal income tax rates, it has not adjusted family allowances for inflation and it has not adjusted the spouse rebate. Indeed, there is even talk now that the Government will eliminate the spouse rebate. The Medicare levy has jumped by 25 per cent; we have seen introduced capital gains taxes and fringe benefit taxes; the disallowance of so-called entertainment expenses; the introduction of prescribed payment systems; and a tax on lump sum superannuation. People are out there providing for themselves; this Government moved in and upped the taxes as much as 700 per cent in that particular area. There are so many things that those opposite have done to try to bring about the removal of the inequality that they talk about today, but so many of those measures have had a counter-effect. I go back, as I conclude, to the question I asked about 10 minutes ago: Hands up all those Australians who think that they are better off now than they were when the Hawke Government first came to power? Twenty per cent of the hands will go up and 80 per cent will stay down because the people are not better off. The sooner the Government abandons some of the socialistic tendencies it displays in this Parliament, and in this motion today, the better off we all will be. I cannot wait for the next election, because we have tried the Labor experiment in the 1980s and it has been found wanting.