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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 15968

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Financial Services and Regulation) (4:05 PM) —Thank you.

Mr HOCKEY —I would like to ask the member for Corio to withdraw that comment.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Member for Corio, before you leave the chamber, I require you to withdraw that, please.

Mr O'Connor —What term are we referring to here?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think you know exactly what you said.

Mr O'Connor —Was it that the Treasurer is a friend of the tax bludger? That was the statement I made, but the honourable Treasurer is not here to take offence—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I hear the honourable member for Corio. I had, like the minister, misheard you. I accept what you say. There is no need to withdraw.

Mr HOCKEY —The member for Hotham is wrong. He is just plainly wrong. I urge the member for Hotham to hang around and wait for the legislation that is going to be coming before this House later today. The member for Hotham is walking out the door, and I will chase him like a rat up a drainpipe. If the member for Hotham is going to come into this House and make allegations about what is going to be in legislation later today and make assumptions about what is in that legislation, he had better be sure he is damn right because, under those circumstances, it will be a very embarrassing episode for the member for Hotham when he discovers what is in the legislation. The matter of public importance today is about an issue that we believed on this side of the House was near and dear to the Labor Party:

The failure of the government to maintain a fiscal and monetary stance that will ensure sustainable economic growth and the equitable distribution of benefits from that growth.

So they wanted to talk about fiscal policy, monetary policy, economic growth and the fair distribution of the nation's success. I am going to talk about those issues; I am not afraid to deal with the content of the opposition's matter of public importance, which they have chosen not to talk about.

Let us talk about fiscal policy. As all members of the gallery and all those people listening to this broadcast would be well aware, when it comes to fiscal policy the Labor Party have created their own legend. The legend of the Labor Party is the truth that they are a deficit party. When in government the Labor Party tend to leave a bucket of deficit for the party that is coming into government, which is inevitably the coalition. Everyone would remember that, in 1996 when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Finance, only a few days and a few weeks before the 1996 election, he was pledging to the Australian people that the budget was in surplus. Miraculously, within a matter of days, $10.3 billion was spent. So in comes the coalition government and it discovers—`whoa'—where has the surplus gone? That was their fiscal strategy. That was a great success story for the Labor Party, leaving a bucket of deficit for the coalition to deal with.

Let us talk a bit about monetary policy, which is the second component in the Labor Party's MPI. Members on this side of the House, people in the galleries and all the people who are listening to this broadcast would be well aware that the Labor Party were the architect of interest rates of 17 per cent for the average home owner. That was the most significant issue that crucified small business in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That is when Paul Keating went to the Australian public and said, `This is the recession we have to have,' and he jacked up interest rates. He said he had Bernie Fraser and the Reserve Bank in his back pocket.

Mr HOCKEY —And he said that he had the central bank of the Commonwealth in his back pocket. Interest rates went up to 17 per cent. Small business was screwed, people with small home mortgages and large home mortgages were screwed, the average family in Australia was screwed—and all thanks to the Labor Party. What a surprise that they should come in today and submit a matter of public importance about monetary policy and then not talk about it! How ironic that they should submit an MPI about fiscal policy when they left the Australian people with accumulated debts of $69 billion after their 13 years in government and then, when the MPI comes on for debate, they do not even want to talk about it.

The third component mentioned in the MPI that the Labor Party wanted to talk about today was economic growth. The Labor Party wanted to talk about the growth that they had left for Australians. Members on this side of the House, people in the galleries and all those people listening to the broadcast would well remember that the Labor Party left Australia with an average annual inflation rate of 5.2 per cent per annum. So, no matter how much money you were earning, you were left with inflation of 5.2 per cent per annum from the Labor Party, compared with the coalition that has had an average 1.1 per cent per annum inflation.

How ironic it is that the Labor Party, who had unemployment at a peak of 11.2 per cent, would submit an MPI for discussion and then not talk about unemployment either, given that the coalition has now delivered unemployment levels of less than seven per cent compared with Labor's 11.2 per cent. Why is it they submit these matters of public importance and then do not want to talk about it? I will tell you why: because the Labor Party are embarrassed by their history. Their actions and not just their words embarrass the Labor Party.

How ironic it is that the Labor Party should come into this House and submit a matter of public importance for debate and then berate us about these issues—our performance on the economy, our performance on monetary policy, our performance when it comes to economic growth and claiming there is no fair distribution of wealth in Australia—when we on this side of the House, the people in the gallery and the people listening to the broadcasts would be well aware that, after the Labor Party introduced l-a-w tax cuts in 1993, they were then re-elected and delivered higher wholesale sales tax rates with not one dollar of compensation to Australian families, Australian retirees or any disadvantaged members of the community who were going to have to pay more tax under the Keating Labor government.

On this side of the House, we well remember the promised l-a-w law tax cuts. Then the Labor Party came in and increased the wholesale sales tax from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, 20 per cent to 22 per cent, 30 to 32 per cent and so on, without one dollar of compensation for the Australian battlers. Yet they have the gall to come into this House and debate this matter of public importance, which talks about the fair distribution of wealth, when we are giving Australians the most generous tax cuts in Australian history, we are introducing the consumption tax and we are giving Australian families huge benefits that are going to make them between $40 and $50 a week better off. The Labor Party want to debate those issues, but they come into the House and do not even talk about them.

There is a single reason this is the case. The Labor Party do not stand for anything. The Labor Party do not believe in anything. When the Leader of the Opposition is caught in the headlights and goes to the Sydney Institute tonight he will pledge that the Labor Party will do everything it can to stop the privatisation of Telstra. Yet not six years ago, the Leader of the Opposition, in one of those quiet little briefing sessions for industry groups, said `You know what: privatisation is pretty good. You know what: privatisation is necessary. You know what: telecommunication is a pretty important industry for Australia's future. We have to unshackle the telecommunications industry from the burden of government ownership.' The Leader of the Opposition has yet again been caught out. Why? Because he chooses to walk on both sides of the street. The Leader of the Opposition has already told the Labor caucus, `If we just hang on, we can surf our way into government on the GST'— Midget Beazley on the big malibu board going down the surf—`Wow, we're going straight into government,' with the net result that what he tells the Australian people is very different from what he does.

We on this side of the House believe that we should be judged not on our words but on our actions. We believe that we should be judged not on what we say we are going to do but what we do. We deliver low inflation, we deliver high economic growth, we deliver lower interest rates, we deliver a better quality of life for Australians and we deliver a fair distribution of wealth that makes sure that the Aussie battlers are not suffering the full punitive measures of a government that may lie and deceive as Keating lied and deceived about tax reform. There is one significant philosophical issue that separates the coalition from the Labor Party: we on this side of the House believe in being fair dinkum with Australians. We believe in having the courage of our convictions. Our convictions may not necessarily be politically popular at times, and our convictions may not necessarily win all the seats we want to win at the next election or wanted to win at the last election, but, damn it, we are doing it because we believe it is right for the Australian people. We are doing it because we have the courage to say, `This is the direction Australia should head, this is in the best interests of the Australian people and we want to take the Australian people with us to a better quality of life.'

The Labor Party, with all their hypocrisy, come into this House and as an example today debate a matter of public importance about economic growth, about the budget, about monetary policy, and do not have the guts to stand up here and talk about those issues. The member for Hotham, who lectures and berates us about honesty, did not have the courage to stand at this dispatch box and talk about economic growth, to talk about fiscal policy, to talk about monetary policy, to talk about the fair distribution of wealth to all Australians. Have no doubt about it: the Labor Party will be judged on their words as well as their actions. So when the Leader of the Opposition, without any courage at all, chooses to take the politically popular path rather than what is in the best interests of the Australian people, the sad part about it is that he is not only deceiving the Labor Party but also deceiving some of the Australian people who take him at face value. Over the next few months and over the next few years, we on this side of the House are going to do everything we can to make sure that the Labor Party are held accountable for both their words and their actions.