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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2464

Mr DUNCAN(3.20) —I am very pleased to have the opportunity to reply to some of the nonsense we have just heard from the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter). People on this side of the House who heard the honourable member's comments must have been absolutely amazed at his feigned concern over the welfare of families in this nation. I find it quite extraordinary that someone who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, someone who comes from the squattocracy in South Australia should get up in this Parliament and suggest that he has any real concern for the families of this country.

Mr Downer —Labor cliches!

Mr DUNCAN —I see that the honourable member for Mayo is now leaving the chamber. No doubt he was concerned that he was not referred to as part of the squattocracy, so he sought to interject. It is worth recording that for Hansard. However, this feigned concern will not go over with the ordinary Australian people. There is no doubt that the people of this country, when faced with difficulties and adversities, have always stuck with the Australian Labor Party and Labor governments during the various periods of our history have always acted in the best interests of the ordinary people. A Labor government is doing so at this stage in the nation's development and will continue to do so. There is no doubt that over the past four years the Labor Government has protected the standards of living of pensioners and defended the standards of living of ordinary Australians. Faced with considerable national adversity, the Government is to be commended and congratulated, not disparaged by the Opposition.

Let us look at the reasons for the Opposition's raising this matter. One can have little doubt that the Liberal Party of Australia has been doing a bit of polling out there in the suburbs. It has found that when it asks questions such as: `Are you in favour of freedom, motherhood, democracy and the family?', it gets a big yes response. So what have we had this week? On three occasions when introducing matters of public importance the Opposition has moved motions about living standards and families. When I looked through Hansard today I noted this continuing theme and I was not at all surprised to hear the honourable member for Barker rendering the same speech again today as has been done on two other occasions this week. Those people who listen to the broadcasts of this Parliament will have picked that up and will not be at all surprised by my criticism that the honourable member's concern was completely feigned. The same series of statistics and essentially the same speech have been given in this House on three occasions this week.

It was interesting that the honourable member should mention the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, a large union covering shop assistants and teachers. While the SDA has expressed some concern about ensuring that the living standards of its members are protected and, in the case of high school principals, that education continues to receive a fair proportion of the national cake, let me tell the honourable member this: When it comes to the next election he should make no mistake about the way in which shop assistants and teachers will vote. They will not vote for the party that is planning cuts of $14,000m in Federal Government spending, no sir. They will not vote for the Liberal Party. Neither will they vote for the National Party of Australia and the crazy policies that it proposes to implement under the pervasive influence of Bjelke-Petersen. No sir, those people will vote for the Australian Labor Party because they know that in this difficult period the ALP is the party that has introduced and followed through policies which the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has described from time to time as showing restraint with equity. This is the party which, throughout history, has been called upon by the Australian people in times of national difficulty. Just as it is steering the nation through this difficult period at present in a competent and effective fashion, it will continue to do so and the Australian people will call on us to form the next government to continue that process.

It is interesting to note the way the nation is progressing at the moment and the statistics that have come to light in the past few days. One can see how the Government's policies are working and how we will get through this difficult period. One can see how we will be able to steer the nation to a period of continuing prosperity. As long as this Party maintains its position on the treasury bench, the Australian people need have no fear. The welfare of ordinary Australians will be the prime concern of the Government because that is the driving principle of the Labor Party and it always has been. We will not be in the position of honourable members opposite who must take account of the interests of their wealthy friends. No sir, that will not be the situation. Ordinary wage and salary earners, pensioners and the like can be assured that this Government will continue to look after them.

I wish to look at a few of the things that this Government has done recently to ensure that we have restraint with equity, that we look after the ordinary people of this nation. I mentioned pensioners a moment ago. One only has to look at the fact that the age and other pensions are now at historically high levels-proportionately they are at 24.2 per cent of average weekly earnings. We are well on the way to achieving the Government's undertaking that pensions would increase to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. When I have moved around the electorate I have found that pensioners appreciate this. They realise that although the Government has had to deal with a difficult climate, it has protected the standards of living of pensioners. We introduced the indexation of pensions on a six-month basis and although there was a delay in the payment of that last year nothing has been lost in the longer term and pensioner's incomes have continued to increase to the point where they are at the historically high level of 24.2 per cent of average weekly earnings.

In the near future wage earners in this country will be substantially better off as a result of the tax cuts which are being introduced. These will average $10 per wage earner and will be of considerable benefit to ordinary families. In addition, there is no greater step that a government can take to assist families than to provide jobs. This Government's record in that regard is second to none. This Government's record is in complete contrast to that of our predecessors, the Fraser-Howard regime. We have provided 750,000 jobs in the four years that we have occupied the treasury bench-an incredible record-and this contrasts quite extraordinarily with the 185,000 jobs that were lost in the last year that the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) occupied the office of Treasurer of this nation. A total of 185,000 jobs were lost in one year under the Fraser-Howard regime; under this Government 750,000 new jobs have been created in our four years in office. We have turned the whole situation around. We have led the nation from a period of steep decline to a period of modest growth which has ensured that as young people become eligible to enter the work force they have a reasonable chance of obtaining a job. We have reduced the amount of long term unemployment and certainly the amount of unemployment generally. As I have said, the Government's record in this area is second to none.

In contrast again to the Opposition's attitude to wages, there has been some modest wage restraint under this Government. There has been a 6 per cent decrease in real terms recently. I contrast that with the Opposition's policy in this area which is quite extraordinary. In 18 of the last 20 national wage cases the Opposition has urged a wage freeze. It has wanted no increase at all. The result of that would have been that on average Australian wage earners would have been $106 worse off had the Liberal and National Party policies been adopted by the national wage case Bench. The ordinary Australian worker must be thankful that the Opposition's policies have not been implemented over the past four years.

If we want to talk about Australian families we need to define what we are talking about. Everybody is in favour of the family, but it does not simply mean the average family of a husband, wife and two children of some age or other. It can mean elderly married couples; it can mean young married couples; it can mean single parent families; it can mean those people described as double income, no children families which are known, I understand, as DINKs. It can include the extended family; it can include de facto families. A great range of people is covered by the word `family'. I suppose the best thing one can say about `family' is that it is best defined, like beauty, as being in the eye of the beholder. When we are talking about family I suspect that most people relate that term to their own families.

The Government has a very good record in providing benefits to families. I mention, for example, the first home owners scheme which has set up 230,000 households in the past four years. It has created 106,000 child care places throughout the nation since it came to government. That is a pretty incredible record and it is one of which the Government can be very proud. In relation to the aged at home-this is very interesting and it might interest many people listening to this broadcast-the Opposition has clearly indicated that it does not like the home and community care program which, I might remind the House, is designed to ensure in particular, amongst other things, that elderly people can continue to live in their homes until it is no longer possible for them to do so. It provides support and assistance so that they can stay in the family home as long as possible. We have provided $132m for these types of programs and this support in 1986-87. What has the Opposition done? What has the Opposition proposed? It is very interesting. It has clearly indicated by stating the $14 billion in expenditure cuts it would make if the disaster ever occurred that it got on to the treasury bench that this program would be for the chop. It would wipe out this program. Elderly people who at the moment are able to have home visits from nurses and various other specialists would no longer be able to receive subsidies for those types of benefits. That would be a disaster for those people. The Opposition should not be given the opportunity to endeavour to put those dreadful and dastardly polices into effect.

I conclude my remarks by saying something about the matter on which the honourable member for Barker concluded his comments, and that is the treatment of under-aged de facto spouses. If ever I have seen a beat-up this has to be it. This issue, so-called, in my State of South Australia involves seven beneficiaries. Seven people are benefiting at the moment under arrangements by which they can obtain pensions or the unemployment benefit because they are under-age de facto spouses.

Mr Porter —What sort of principle is that?

Mr DUNCAN —It is front page news. We are talking about it as if it is the biggest issue in the nation.

Mr Porter —It is the principle.

Mr DUNCAN —I will get to the principle in a minute. From 1970 the Liberal Party in government paid for these people, as we have proposed to do.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. The debate is concluded.