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Tuesday, 31 August 1993
Page: 573


Mr PYNE (8.53 p.m.) —A first speech is an opportunity to state a personal philosophical direction. That is what I intend to do. Many friends and family have travelled from Adelaide and Sydney to be here tonight, and I would like to acknowledge their presence. They worked tirelessly from my preselection to election day, and I am grateful for their support. The win on 13 March was as much theirs as it was mine and that of the Liberal Party of Australia. I have one disappointment; that is, my father, who died in 1988, cannot be here. I have been very fortunate to be the recipient of great affection from my very large and boisterous family.

  I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor, Ian Wilson. He served the parliament from 1966 to 1969 and from 1972 to 1993. He was the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment from 1981 to 1982 and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs from 1982 to 1983. He achieved the extraordinary feat of winning Sturt back in 1972 in the face of a landslide to the ALP. He will be fondly remembered here by friends on both sides of the House.

  I am currently the youngest member of the House of Representatives, at 26. Being the youngest member, I am close to young people suffering under narrow federal government policies. Whether they be students, young entrepreneurs or willing workers, young people are being consigned to the scrap heap or pulling up stumps and heading overseas. According to the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, up to 43,000 young people were denied places in universities in this country this year, while it is estimated that a further 100,000 failed to gain places in TAFE colleges.

  A generation of Australians is growing up with the very real spectre of long-term unemployment. Some 88,300 young people were characterised in the last ABS figures as being long-term unemployed. People at my age are making choices that will affect them for the rest of their lives. They are marrying, buying houses and establishing career paths. It is important that we consider these people in our deliberations. I hope that I will provide a voice for my contemporaries in this place.

  I am not a complete political novice. I served on the federal executive of the Liberal Party over two years and the state executive in South Australia for four years. I stood as a candidate in the 1989 South Australian state election against the then Premier John Bannon, in his seat of Ross Smith. At Adelaide University I was involved in student politics, as a member of the union board, vice-president of the students association and president of the Liberal Club. Over three years I worked for my friend Senator Amanda Vanstone. My previous occupation as a solicitor has equipped me well for the job of a parliamentarian. This experience brought me into daily contact with the problems faced by both business and individuals struggling to survive in this recession. I was responsible for helping to establish new businesses and trying to save existing firms from bankruptcy.

  I also worked for large corporations in both the mining and manufacturing industries. A large part of my practice was in immigration law, working for companies as well as helping individuals deal with government. One of the problems my clients faced over the last few years was unimaginative government policy that has been inclined to ignore the needs of businesses and individuals. This budget is just another slug. It seems the government is unconcerned by the damage it does to free enterprise in this country. The sales tax hikes and the still significant petrol excise increases will directly affect the add-on costs to business.

  The wine industry, particularly important to my home state of South Australia, is being hit for six by the government. Overseas wine experts have observed in the past that our sales tax system has impeded exports. Despite this, the industry has shown impressive growth. The 55 per cent increase in sales tax on wine may destroy this as, according to the Winemakers Federation, we will have the most highly taxed wine industry in the world.

  This budget is uncaring and discriminatory. The indirect tax increases are still essentially inequitable. Despite all the twists and turns by the Treasurer (Mr Dawkins) and the grandstanding from the Australian Democrats, they still disproportionately affect lower income earners. The government has increased HECS payments by one per cent and accelerated their repayment. There is no relief for anyone in the budget. The budget does nothing to build confidence in the government's ability to put our economy on the right footing. It further erodes the standing of politics and politicians in the eyes of the electorate.

  Politics and the things that governments do affect all our lives. The contribution that politicians can make to society is vastly underestimated and their worth is undervalued. The three most important aims of any government must surely be: to create an environment where equality of opportunity can truly exist; to alleviate hardship—whether that be violence, ill health and infirmity, loneliness, lack of education or job opportunities, isolation and the financial troubles that hardship can bring; and to alleviate all forms of human poverty. The single most important means to achieve these goals is through a strong economy and full employment. Only through a strong economy can all citizens participate and realise their full potential.

  The greatest threat to these goals is economic collapse. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures on budget day showing that one in six people were looking for work at some time in the last 12 months. Five bankruptcies occur every day in South Australia. We have become too comfortable with mediocrity in Australia. We seem to accept as almost inevitable the existence of an underclass in this country. We have one class with varying levels of wealth and privilege, education and comfort, stability, longevity, family and continued prosperity, and we have an underclass of poverty, isolation—both physical and mental—ignorance, uncertainty, ill-health, despair and pessimism.

  Today between 450,000 and 500,000 children are living in poverty. Some 1.85 million Australians are living in relative poverty, according to the Henderson poverty line, and 1.1 million are in absolute poverty. The budget will widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

  The Taxation Institute of Australia has calculated that, while the top 10 per cent of income earners will be better off, under the government's original proposals an average family on annual income of $25,000 will save only $115 on income tax while facing additional indirect tax imposts of $145. Still, this government likes to proclaim that it has a mortgage on social justice.

  Government must set the parameters. It must ensure that the players in our economy are free enough to expand and survive while at the same time protecting those incapable of protecting their own interests through lack of education, political might or economic strength.

  To we who are liberals there is a place for government in promoting economic growth and the recovery of this country; in protecting the weak from the strong; and in ensuring that all citizens are treated fairly and equitably. That does not imply that the state will always be right or will always have the panacea for our country's ills. Indeed, a true liberal will expect government to limit itself, to encourage the freedom of its people and broaden the opportunities for choices to be made by each individual as free as possible from government intervention.

  Liberalism, unlike socialism and conservatism, rejects historical determinism. Liberalism asserts that by acting as individuals we can shape our society in a way that learns from the errors of history. Robert Kennedy once said:

Neither fate, nor nature, nor the irresistible ties of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, will determine our destiny.

In the 1983 Alfred Deakin lecture, the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) said:

Liberalism, a faith in man's ability, reason and judgement is our best and our only hope in the world today.

The philosophy of liberalism, summed up in those statements, can be the engine that will drive Australia to greater prosperity and stability. My own state of South Australia is in need of such an engine. It is in need of a radical cultural change in thinking. South Australia faces severe economic problems. Last year's Arthur D. Little report summed it up by saying:

South Australia's economy is poorly structured and vulnerable. Industry today is structured for yesterday's conditions. Adapting to today's conditions will be challenging. Unless the challenge is met, standards of living will continue to decline.

The South Australian Centre for Economic Studies has found that if the challenges are not met up to 130,000 jobs could be lost between now and the year 2000. The Arnold government's own Economic Development Authority has warned that South Australia will face a 17 per cent unemployment rate by the end of the decade if its policies are not reversed.

  But we can rebuild. Adelaide is the centre of the wine industry in Australia. The Winemakers Federation is based in Sturt and the famous Grange Hermitage was first made at the Magill vineyard in Sturt. Our three universities, the Australian Submarine Corporation, the multifunction polis and defence and related science and technology industries can be the focus for future development of industry. Tourism is finding its feet in events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix, arts festivals, Kangaroo Island and the wineries.

  Adelaide has the potential to be at the forefront of technological change. If we develop an export culture similar to that already achieved in the wine industry and it is not sabotaged by the Treasurer (Mr Dawkins), our automotive component and electronics industries as well as precision engineering, food processing, medical and scientific instrumentation, health and education could all be growth areas for the South Australian economy.

  By using our intellectual ability we can rebuild South Australia and Australia. Companies such as the Australian Submarine Corporation are developing technology that is capable of export. The ASC is worth $4,600 million for South Australia, but in the long term it could provide much more. The ASC is not just about submarines. It is short-listed to build a fleet of minehunters for the RAN and is negotiating with the Philippines government to build three patrol boats. The ASC is looking for submarine work in Korea, Canada and Taiwan. This expansion in the technological field is vital for Australia. Our high level of educational proficiency and skills makes intellectual property and technology a natural growth export industry.

  My late father, Remington, an eye surgeon, helped establish the Australian Cranio-Facial Unit with its leader, David David. Since then the unit has performed nearly 4,000 operations to correct massive abnormalities of birth or injury through burns and disease. The unit is renowned throughout the world. It is an example of health as an industry capable of export and able to generate employment and investment. The unit contributes to research in the clinical aspects of cranio-facial surgery, in applied research in biomedical computing and imaging as well as speech dynamics. The unit's research group has evolved a safer design for motorcycle helmets. All the component parts of health and that which goes into developing a project such as the cranio-facial unit are saleable commodities overseas. Governments around the world will invest huge amounts of money to become proficient and set up similar projects—investment that all ends up back in Australia.

  Similarly, education is an industry that we can tap into both in South Australia and Australia. Adelaide, with its three universities—one of which now has a campus in Malaysia—and the multifunction polis can have a real role in education exports. Two of the three international high schools in Adelaide are situated in Sturt, offering students the international baccalaureate and drawing fee paying students from Asia. Education is not just about teaching and learning; it is about learning devices, curricula, textbooks, teacher aides, specialised equipment and technology. It is from these things that huge export income can be gained, especially in Asia.

  When a Brown Liberal government is elected at the coming state election I believe South Australia will overcome its collective defeatist attitude. A marketing company has placed in my electorate a billboard of a rear view of a nude with the caption, `Get off your butt, South Australia'. When new policies and new incentives are in place, we will be able to look again at some of the industries I have mentioned to get my state moving again.

  I was fortunate to be chosen by the Liberal Party as its candidate for Sturt. The Liberal Party is not just the anti-Labor party. Sir Robert Menzies was a great Australian as well as a man with great affection for the British parliamentary system we inherited. It is interesting that in 1944 someone immersed in all things British did not follow the example of their main anti-Labor forces and call his new party the Conservative Party. He called it the Liberal Party.

  The Liberal Party was started as a body of people who believed in progress, of people who looked to the future and wanted to keep Australia going inexorably forwards. Through the 1950s and 1960s it brought an era of prosperity unequalled in Australia's history. The Liberal Party stayed in government because it was seen as the party of ordinary Australians. The party was seen as one that cared, believing in both the individual's right to work hard and gain the fruits of that labour, as well as remembering those in society who were finding the going tough and helping them through. The party had a social agenda.

  One of our errors in the last few years has been that we have talked too much about economics and not enough about society. We have been a party too concerned with accountancy and more concerned with balancing the bottom line than thinking of the sort of society we want this country to be.

  When we look at our records and traditions, we see a proud history. Our party introduced old age and single parent pensions, maternity leave and, in South Australia, established the housing trust, to name just a few examples. The reason for their introduction was simple: Liberals felt that it was part of the role of government to actively intervene to make Australians' quality of life better. They did not just implement a framework for society to do so by evolution. It is people who count because they make up Australian society and give it its character. The Liberal Party exists to give Australians a more tolerant and egalitarian society, with opportunities for all to live their lives with dignity.

  I joined the Liberal Party because I believe that it represents the sort of Australia I hope we can be—individualistic, determined, self-reliant, compassionate and progressive. We have markedly differing views on both sides of the House on how we can get Australia moving again. However, I like to think we can be certain of one thing: we have all come here because we have a genuine desire to see good done.

  Honourable members—Hear, hear!