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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3645


Mr HOWARD (Leader of the Opposition)(3.18) —Earlier today I had the opportunity of being interviewed on the Midday Show on Channel 9. In answer to a question regarding the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) an exchange took place between me and the interviewer which really epitomises better than anything else one of the great and continuing questions to be asked by the Australian public over the next six and a half weeks. I said to the interviewer that it was ironic that, by 11 July, the Australian public would know what was in the Liberal Party's taxation policy but they would never know what was in Bob Hawke's 1987 Budget. That is a very basic question. The interviewer said to me: `Oh, but he's already brought down the mini-Budget'. I said `What about the revenue side of it?' and he replied: `You don't have to worry about that. The Prime Minister said yesterday that if he was re-elected there would be no increases in taxation in the 1987 Budget.' My reply to that was: `But he said 12 days ago that there was going to be no early election'. That was the end of the exchange. That epitomises what is going to be an underlying issue throughout the whole of this election campaign-the issue of trust, honesty and integrity. That goes to the heart of the choice that must be made by the Australian people.

The present Prime Minister is the most shop-soiled promiser in Australia's political history. No man in public life in Australia has made more promises and broken more of those promises than has the present Prime Minister. He may well be carried away with the hype of his own advisers. He may well believe that he has made a slick and smug decision on the timing of the election. However, the reality is that, once again, the Prime Minister has broken his solemn word to the Australian people. Once again, he has demonstrated, with breathtaking speed and clarity, that he is a man whose word is no longer his bond. He has demonstrated to the Australian public that his is the great proponent of the disposable promise. That will be an underlying theme in this election campaign, because in the undoubtedly difficult economic and social circumstances in which our nation now finds itself, more and more the Australian public wants a group of people in whom they can believe and trust. Demonstrably, we are led now by a man who cannot be trusted; we are led by a man who makes promises with reckless indifference to their accuracy or to his capacity to carry them out.

I think it is worth while to take the House quietly through the staggering list of broken promises. It is important that we do this not only to demonstrate the number of broken promises but also to show the quite extraordinary emphasis that this man has always placed upon what he sees as his shining integrity in public life. Towards the end of the last session I put together a document called `The Top Ten Disposable Promises'. They epitomise the fact that we are led by a person who makes promises and then casts them like confetti to the wind. The first promise which the Prime Minister made and broke was delivered on 13 November 1984 when he said:

We pledge ourselves to bring home ownership once again within the reach of ordinary Australian families.

Since November 1984 housing interest rates have gone from 11.5 per cent to a record 15.5 per cent and, in some cases, to 16.5 per cent. Monthly repayments on a $50,000 loan have risen by $172 per month. Average loan repayments as a percentage of median family income have gone from 19.2 per cent in March 1983 to a record 26.9 per cent in December 1986, at which time there was a record 154,000 Australians on the waiting list for public housing. So much for the promise of the Prime Minister that he would bring home ownership within the reach of ordinary Australians. But he waxed even more lyrical on the subject of interest rates. A week later, on 20 November 1984, he said:

At present, the outlook for interest rates is as bright as it has been for more than a decade. Australia and Australians will, during 1985, reap the interest rate rewards that are flowing from successful policies of the past 20 months. We've ploughed the fields and sown the seeds. In the near future we will harvest the crop.

That language has a faintly familiar ring about it, and we have heard a lot about it. Over the past few days we have heard the same language from both the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and the Prime Minister. We heard it at Question Time today from the Treasurer, just as in 1984, when they said: `Don't worry; the conditions are ripe; interest rates will come down'. They heavied the Reserve Bank of Australia before the 1984 election. They started heavying the Reserve Bank from the time that irresponsible 1984 election Budget was brought down. Towards the end of 1984 they engineered a temporary fall in interest rates at the cost of a very slack monetary policy. They went through the election period, and what happened in 1985? Interest rates went through the roof. The nation and this chamber should be on notice that this Government is again in the business of heavying the Reserve Bank to try to bring about an artificial fall in interest rates. I hope that the Reserve Bank of Australia has the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the Treasurer and not to be heavied; to tell the Treasurer to go and get lost with his political posturing and his political pressuring of the Reserve Bank. At the moment we are set fair for a repetition of what he endeavoured to do towards the end of 1984. So much for disposable promise No. 2. Disposable promise No. 3 was:

We expect inflation will be less than 5 per cent in the year ahead and we are determined to keep it below 5 per cent.

I know that the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Government front bench do not like being reminded of these facts. They feign indifference and boredom. The reality is that they will hear a lot more about these facts over the next 6 1/2 weeks, because these facts represent the nailing of the final shreds of the credibility of the man who is now Prime Minister of Australia. He made that statement on 20 November 1984, and we all know that our inflation rate is now almost double the figure that he undertook it would be when he made that commitment in November 1984. Now we have an inflation rate which has almost doubled since he made that promise. It is four times the average of countries like Japan and West Germany; it is four times the average of our major trading partners and it is the worst, relative to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in the past 30 years. So much for fulfilling the promise of lower interest rates.

We all remember that in the 1983 campaign, particularly when he opened the rural campaign for the Labor Party, he promised that there would be a reduction of 4c or 5c in the price of fuel. During the 1983 election campaign he misled every single farmer in Australia. What happened to that promise? As soon as he came to power, that was thrown out the window also.

Disposable promise No. 5 relates to something that is very important to the future of this country and that of the job prospects of young Australians. In his address to the nation on 18 August 1985 the Prime Minister stated:

In the coming year 10,000 traineeships will be made available . . . our aim of 75,000 young people in traineeships will be achieved in the bicentennial year.


Mr Cobb —What happened?


Mr HOWARD —I will tell the honourable member what happened. By September 1986, a year after that promise was made, only 2,025 young people had been found work and only 58 of those jobs were to be found in the private sector. The Prime Minister also dishonoured a promise which he made in 1983 to increase and index the dependent spouse rebate as well as the sole parent rebate. On 13 November 1984 the Prime Minister said:

And I now give this undertaking-that for the term of our next Government-

that is the government which was elected in December 1984 and whose term will expire on 11 July 1987-

the Medicare levy will not be increased.

In the 1986-87 Budget the Medicare levy was lifted from 1 per cent to 1.25 per cent. Disposable promise No. 8 concerns the trilogy-the centrepiece of the Government's economic campaign in the 1984 election. Those opposite talk about disclosure of policy. Their economic policy for the 1984 election was the trilogy. They do not even mention it. Months ago the Treasurer said that it was dead. So much for the veracity of election promises made by the Prime Minister and by the Treasurer. The Prime Minister said:

In our next three year term of Government the overall level of taxation will not increase as a proportion of gross domestic product.

That statement was made by the Prime Minister at the National Press Club on 29 November 1984. Yet that promise was consciously broken by the Government in 1984-85 and 1986-87. Of course, breaking the trilogy promises raised $1,000m additional tax in the current financial year. Many rural people, particularly the honourable member for Riverina-Darling (Mr Hicks), the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Andrew), the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Peter Fisher) and the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond), will be well aware of the blatant way in which the Prime Minister, through his teeth, misled the wine producers of Australia. If he really believes that a tax on wine is something that was justified, why did he not have the honesty not to mislead the wine producers of Australia, as he did on many occasions during the 1983 election campaign?

Of course, the daddy of them all is the one relating to capital gains tax. We all remember the contortions of the Prime Minister in relation to the capital gains tax. He once argued in favour of it before the National Conference of the Australian Labor Party. At the same conference of the ALP the current Treasurer argued against it. Then, the Prime Minister changed his stance and went before the public on 16 February 1983 and said:

And here let me make one point so that even our opponents can understand it; and let me make it beyond all their powers of misrepresentation and distortion. There will be no new capital gains tax.

That completes the top 10 disposable promises of this Prime Minister, who has elevated disposable policies to a political art form.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the integrity, trust and credibility of the Prime Minister will be a major issue on which the Australian public will make a decision over the next 6 1/2 weeks? He has given away his believability and has broken too many promises, even by his own past standards. In a cynical way, he has sought to manufacture excuses for an early election and to run from his responsibilities of telling the Australian public what might have been in his 1987 Budget. The cynical way in which he has behaved entitles the Opposition and many Australians to ask: `What on earth are you hiding? What on earth are you concealing from the Australian people? What do you not have the courage to tell the Australian people before the election?'. The cynical way in which he has broken his promise not to have an early election puts the final nail in the coffin of the fast diminishing credibility of this Prime Minister.