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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2790

Mr TICKNER(1.02) —I intend to respond at least in part to what the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith) has just had to say. He spoke of honesty before one gets in to office. I remind the honourable member and the Opposition just what they have put on the public record about their policies. I will also talk a little bit about the Howard team that the honourable member referred to. Before I do, let me remind the House that we on this side of the chamber are steeped in history. We reflect the views of former Labor Prime Minister John Curtin:

You can't get from anti-Labor governments great change in social practice. Their main purpose is to resist innovation, to delay reform, to prop up vested interest, to maintain the existing order.

Labor challenges all this. It challenges poverty; it challenges the causes which lead to war; its purpose is paramountly humanitarian; and it seeks to promote the widest possible scope for men and for women, so that they can live happily, and contentedly.

The Opposition, regrettably, has abandoned its history. It has abandoned its roots and the views of Sir Robert Menzies and has now become an extremist Opposition, one lacking in compassion and concern and even more reprehensibly dictated to by the faceless men of the New Right, not only outside the Parliament but outside the very Liberal Party itself. That Party, as is the National Party, is deeply factionalised. The differences are not just within the parties; the deepest divisions exist between those two different parties. Moderate members of the Liberal Party have been excluded from the front bench and the Liberal Party has become a marginalised and increasingly irrelevant force.

Those are strong words. Let me give them force, not by putting forward my own views but by referring to the public record of what members of the Opposition have said about themselves. Let me first of all tell the House and the people of Australia just what sort of relationship the person who would be Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) has with the extremist forces of the New Right. Those forces are on about the cult of the individual. They have abandoned any pretext that governments and society ought to be about community values, about concern and compassion. They are on about making money. They have abandoned all the things that the Liberal Party once stood for. Mr Howard is on the public record as having said on 2 March, on radio station 2GB in Sydney:

Everyone who knows me knows that I am the most conservative leader the Liberal Party has ever had.

He was confronted with his attitude towards the New Right on the Ray Martin show on 2 September last year. Mr Martin asked about the New Right:

Are they political allies of yours?

The honourable member for Bennelong replied:

Many of them I know; many of them I like; and many of them have views on some matters that I agree with.

Mr Martin pressed the point:

Would you call people like Andrew Hay or John Stone--

before he could even finish, Mr Howard interjected: `Yes'.

Mr Martin continued:

. . . or Charles Copeman allies of yours, though?

The honourable member for Bennelong said:

Well, certainly their broad political views would be similar to mine, yes. And I make no bones about that.

Time and again when pushed on the issue the Leader of the Opposition has failed to stand in support of an independent Liberal Party in the mould of Menzies. Time and again, as honourable members would know, the Leader of the Opposition has linked himself with the extremist forces of the New Right.

When we come to examine in detail the Howard team referred to by the honourable member for Flinders in his contribution, perhaps we should have some regard to the precise words that members of that happy little team use to describe themselves. When we examine the splits within the Liberal Party, we see that the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) and a number of his colleagues who made their coming out on Four Corners on 4 May put on the public record pretty clearly their attitude to some of their colleagues. Senator Puplick was asked on that program by Mr Olle:

Is there a single word, if you had to, that sums up what's lacking in the current approach in the Liberal Party? I mean, is it courage? Is it compassion? Is it sophistication?

Senator Puplick responded very frankly:

I think it's compassion.

The Opposition has no compassion and no heart. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) in his statement on 28 January this year went on the public record in even more extreme terms. He said:

The sobering facts are that the extreme of our Party has never been able to win power as a government in its own right.

He went on to say:

Some in the Party, particularly the urgers from outside the Party, seem to want to appeal in their own right for majority public support . . .

He went on to say that the public does not like extremes, and I agree with him. He is a former Liberal Premier and I agree that the public does not like divided parties. The former Liberal Premier of South Australia went on to say-and I am somewhat embarrassed using this language because it is not the way that I would speak-that those people `could dwell even a little longer on the slopes to perhaps justify their actions in risking ripping the guts out of the Liberal Party with a butcher's knife of extremes'. That is what the honourable member for Boothby says about the Howard team referred to by the honourable member for Flinders.

Senator Robert Hill gave a number of examples of what the extreme policies of the Opposition would do should, in fact, those policies become the law of this land if the honourable member for Bennelong gained government. If we examine the National Party that used to be part of the Howard team referred to by the honourable member, we see that that National Party is also bitterly divided. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) said of his own Party Leader:

Any leader who relegates his party to this position of mediocrity-

they are the words of a National Party member, the widely respected honourable member for Wide Bay-

should resign.

The honourable member for Groom (Mr McVeigh) has been on the public record attacking his leader on a number of occasions and, in fact, more than anyone else in this House has been the outspoken backer of Sir Joh. The point that I wish to make it that the most bitter divisions have begun to emerge between the parties. In the words of Michelle Grattan, writing in the Age:

Name a dictator and Joh's been likened to him by someone on the non-Labor side . . .

He has been likened to Gaddafi by the National President of the Liberal Party, Marcos by the current Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) and even Hitler by Senator Peter Baume. The divisions are extreme; they are irreconcilable. Their natural consequence, should the Opposition ever gain government, would be to result in a country polarised, bitterly divided and so unstable that it would be an international laughing stock, particularly in the financial community. The Leader of the Opposition himself has acknowledged this publicly. I refer to his comments on the Sunday program of 1 March. He was asked about the scenario when the Queensland Premier comes to Canberra, as he inevitably will. The question asked of him was:

But are you suggesting that even if he ended up with fewer seats than the Liberals, he would still insist on being Prime Minister?

The honourable member for Bennelong said:

I believe that he would want to have the top job and settle for nothing else. And nobody should be in any doubt that that is his goal.

The Leader of the Opposition was asked what would happen in the event of that occurring. Then the questioner said:

So we're talking about an extraordinary unstable situation, aren't we?

The answer given by the Leader of the Opposition was:

If you do end up with an unstable situation it will be his fault.

It is untenable that the Opposition could ever become the Government of this country. We believe the only hope for a stable and progressive government for this country is for the people of Australia to support the Australian Labor Party. I began with a quote from a former Australian Labor Party Prime Minister and I finish by referring to the words of Ben Chifley, when he said:

. . . it is the duty and responsibility of the community and particularly, those more fortunately placed, to see that our less fortunate fellow citizens are protected from those shafts of fate which leave them helpless and without hope, this is the objective for which we are striving.

We will never lose sight of the light on the hill and we are confident our fears will be justified.

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