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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1503

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(4.27) —I always follow Senator Withers with some misgivings. I am pleased because I know that he not only kept the audience he had when he began but probably increased it because of the entertaining and forthright speeches he delivers to this place. I am impressed by the refreshing honesty with which he expresses himself. I compliment him on his speech. It is a hard act to follow. He said, with refreshing honesty, that he does not mind political parties taking advantage of situations. Well there at least is one politician who has put the facts on the table. I thought the wording of the matter of public importance brought on by the Liberal Party of Australia was rather quaint. It reads: 'The Government's rush to an unnecessary election this year before economic recovery fades', et cetera. Good heavens! One wonders at any political party, particularly a Liberal Party, talking about rushing to unnecessary elections.

I have some figures on elections. Up to 1983 there had been 37 elections in Australia in 82 years. That is one election for every two years and three months . But if an election is held in December of this year, which is almost certain, it will mean that there will have been an election every two years and two months. There will have been an election in this country every 26 months on average. But the figures are even more illuminating when it comes to the Liberal Party talking about unnecessary elections. Since 1972-I am presuming an election will be held at the end of this year-we will have had seven elections in this country in 12 years or an election every one year and eight months. If I am right, every one of those seven elections in the last 12 years has been caused directly or indirectly by the Liberal Party. One wonders how Opposition members have the gall to say that this Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is rushing to an unnecessary election. Let us have a look at what Mr Hawke did say. In an article in the Australian of 15 February, it is stated:

Mr Hawke gave an undertaking yesterday he would not go to the polls early once the ALP won government.

That was said on 15 February 1983. In fact, he did win government three weeks later. A few weeks after winning government speculation was coming out of his office that it may be necessary for the Australian Labor Party to go to an early election. Senator Withers summed it up perfectly. Political parties do take advantage of situations. We now have statements such as this coming out of Mr Hawke's office, obviously to try to frighten the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Democrats: 'Don't you dare knock any legislation back twice; otherwise you will provide a trigger for a double dissolution'. The Prime Minister ought to know that people on this side of the House have shown in the past they do not scare easily.

That threat is not only hollow but also it could bring about something even more irresponsible. If Mr Hawke forces a double dissolution, or uses the trigger that we may or may not provide him with and takes the option of a double dissolution, that will further destabilise this country. As I understand it, although such a situation would be eminently suitable for the Democrats, it would destabilise the country to an extent where, a year and a half further down the track, we would then be looking to another early election. If Mr Hawke wants to live up in any way to the image of a responsible Prime Minister that he wants the electorate to have of him he ought to say now that there will be no double dissolution. I think Senator Withers, with great respect to him, spoke a little with his tongue in his cheek when he said we should not have a House of Representatives election before next June. He has been one of the chief advisers to the Liberal Party over the years-a very efficient adviser-and he ought to know that, if a government is going to the people it does so in November or December. There is no way in the world that a government would go to the people early in the new year when people are receiving their Bankcard accounts after their Christmas spending, when unemployment figures are bad and whatever.

If the Government has to go to an early election-Mr Hawke has to go before the end of June next year because of the half Senate election-then surely we can make some excuse for it to go before the end of this year. However, that does not take away from the fact that all these elections we are having, of which people are sick and tired, mean that the hard issues are being shelved. I have had a very rough estimate taken out-I do not swear by these figures but they are roughly correct-which show, in the last year of the Fraser Government and the first year of the Hawke Government, the time spent by both Houses of Parliament on what one could call the 'non-hard issues'. We have had the colour television set affair, a shocking and scandalous waste of the time of the Parliament. We have had the dairy scandal, the meat scandal, the spy flights over the Franklin River, the Combe-Ivanov affair, the Mick Young affair, the Button versus Kramer affair, the Ian Sinclair affair, et cetera. Those 'fundamental' matters have taken something like 70 per cent of the time of the national Parliament over the last two years.

One would have thought that a Bill of rights would have been a hard issue with which to grapple. Certainly it was promised, and promised vigorously. It has now been shelved until after the election because it is too hard and it might offend certain sectional groups. Fixed-term parliaments were promised; a faithful, vigorous promise made by Mr Hawke in March 1983 when he criticised Mr Fraser's expediency. But that was shelved by the end of 1983 because his hard-headed advisers of a type such as Senator Robert Ray-I mean that as a compliment and not as an insult-said: 'Why should you give up the options that the Liberals have been using for years?' Mr Hawke bowed to expediency.

The question of uranium mining has probably been the most classic sellout of all time. I still find it almost incomprehensible that a political party can win hundreds of thousands of votes on a platform which makes 'an unequivocal commitment to phase out uranium mining' and yet it then mines the largest uranium mine in the world. I cannot understand a political party telling its electors before an election that it will review the alliances with the United States of America and review United States bases in Australia. I cannot understand a political party winning votes, putting fear in the minds of people by saying that the United States base at North West Cape makes Australia a nuclear target. It does. I have elicited that information from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden). He has now admitted that the North West Cape at least is a nuclear target because of the United States presence there. Pine Gap, Nurrungar, Watsonia and Perth in my view, and in the view of some observers, would also be nuclear targets. Yet the Party that campaigned on the issue 'Let us keep Australia out of the nuclear business' has its Foreign Minister standing with his legs astride the largest, most heavily nuclear-armed warship the Americans have, the United States Texas, in the port of Brisbane only a few months ago, saying: 'Is it not a wonderful thing to have our great and powerful friends in Australian ports?' One would not have thought-

Senator Townley —It is.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Townley interjects. 'It is'. I respect his view, but Senator Townley did not campaign on the basis of getting the Americans out. The Australian Labor Party did, and that is the difference. I disagree with Senator Townley's view, but at least the Liberal Party has had the honesty to say: 'This is our policy. We welcome the Americans. We welcome United States bases in Australia'. I do not agree with that, but at least the Liberal Party has had the honesty to front up to the people and say: 'That is our policy'. On the other hand, the Labor Party says: 'These bases make us nuclear targets. We must rewrite these policies'. But when the Labor Party comes to power it embraces these policies even more warmly than do the Liberals. I was attracted to Senator Withers's description of Mr Hawke as 'Malcolm Fraser revisited'. I cannot top that. I only hesitate to say that he is now being called the best and most effective conservative Prime Minister since Robert Gordon Menzies. I think both statements are true.

On the question of foreign policy any semblance of morality or principle has now vanished. All has been sacrificed for great and powerful friends. East Timor and human rights abuses in that country have been ignored. Does anybody remember the statements made by Labor spokesmen during the last election campaign about how they would correct the human rights abuses and the tortures in East Timor? We now find Labor Party foreign affairs spokesmen saying that Mr Suharto is a statesman, with no mention being made of abuses of human rights in East Timor. President Marcos still receives our aid so that he can suppress his population.

I have never been one to talk down the economy. I notice that Senator Chaney, on behalf of the Liberal Party, did not do so either today. What he did was sound a prudent warning, and I do the same thing. If we politicians talk down the economy we are doing a disservice. I do think we should not become too euphoric about present indicators. Things do look better now. It would have been disastrous had we continued to decline as we were declining in the latter months of the Fraser Government. We have to remember that some of the causes of this recovery have come about because of the end of the drought. A drought does not end two years running; that is a oncer. It will not occur again, hopefully, for a few years. The United States economy recovered. That is a oncer in a period of five years. That will not happen two years running. Stocks were run down desperately as a result of the 1982-83 recession. Part of this recovery has been due to the building up of stocks again. That will not happen again. All I am doing is saying that these are the sorts of things which the Government ought to be addressing as well as the restructuring of industry.

There has been a lot of talk over the years by both political parties, Liberal and Labor, about the need for lower protection, about the need for long term plans and the phasing out of uneconomic and inefficient industries. Can any honourable senator in this place stand up and say that these constructive things have been done in the restructuring of industry? What about the impact of the silicon chip and the effect the technological revolution is having on our work force? We all know that every day thousands of jobs are being lost that will never be available again. Those jobs are not being lost as a result of bad policies either of the Fraser Government or the Hawke Government. They are being lost because of the technological revolution. Is any long term planning being done to restructure the economy and the society to cover these points? To my knowledge, no.

The Australian Labor Party, when in Opposition when running for office, quite properly made a great deal about child care centres. It gave assurances and promised that a new child care Act would be introduced when it attained government. Nothing has been done. I will speak for one moment about this question of child care. All the reading that I have done indicates that with children the first three or four years of life are the formative years; the personality is virtually established and things such as ambition, character, the will to survive, the will to fight one's surroundings and the ability to get on with one's fellow human beings are all formed in those early years. What we middle class politicians do is to judge all children by the standards by which we raise our own. We assume that all children have the happy home, the meals-we assume that they do not suffer hunger-and the good education of our own. Tragically, that is not true. We middle class politicians must assume that there are a great number of children in Australia who are deprived of those things through no fault of their own. It is the responsibility of governments to step in and assist in that direction.