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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1508


Senator LEWIS(4.55) —I could not understand what Senator Jones was on about during that harangue other than, as my colleague Senator Hill from South Australia said, that it was good fun on a Wednesday afternoon. Then I found out from Senator MacGibbon that the truth of the matter is that Senator Jones has a very difficult pre-selection coming on in Queensland. That is what his speech was all about. It certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject which the Senate is debating at present, that is the Government's rush to an unnecessary election this year before economic recovery fades and the Government 's deferral of unpopular issues until after that election.

When one looks at the papers produced in the Senate this year there can be no doubt that the Government is deferring bringing into this place any proper legislation for us to consider. It has all been on peripheral matters. In particular, the Government keeps bringing in insignificant issues concerning retrospective taxation and arguing about that. It seems to be the only subject that this Government is capable of bringing before the Parliament. I ask the Australian Labor Party to tell me what its policies are in regard to taxation. What are its policies in regard to the assets test for pensioners? As Senator Missen asked today, when will the Government tell the pensioners, who have been waiting nearly 18 months, what they can do with their funds? What is this Government going to do in regard to their assests?


Senator Chaney —Not before the election.


Senator LEWIS —It will not be before the election, as Senator Chaney said. That is the significant thing. Before the next election the Government will not tell the pensioners of Australia what they can do with their funds. What are the Government's policies in regard to defence? Where is the Green Paper on defence that the ALP promised it would being down prior to the last election? I have here the 1982 platform, constitution and rules of the Australian Labor Party and in it there are about 183 pages of promises. Where are those promises now? When will the Government bring in its promised constitutional and legal reform? When will it have the referendum that the ALP has been talking about for five or six years? When will the people of Australia be able to tell the Government what they think about its constitutional proposals? The people are interested in knowing what this Government is doing in regard to legislating. It is quite good at deferring matters and pushing them aside and under the carpet, but it is not too good at bringing legislation into this place and letting us have a look at it.

What are the Government's policies in relation to industrial relations? Where is it going in regard to its problems with the accord? The accord is being broken by strong sections of the trade union movement which at present are saying to the Government: 'We've lost 9 per cent under the Fraser freeze and we want that 9 per cent back'. Those unions are starting to squeeze this Government for that 9 per cent. What is the Government doing about that? Where is its policies? Is it standing up to those demands by those unions? Not on your life. This Government will not take any of those difficult decisions until after the next election. What is it doing about the enormous number of strikes which are going on around the nation at present? There are strikes all over the country and the Government is behaving as though there are no strikes at all.


Senator Crowley —Rubbish! We have had less industrial unrest since this Government was elected-


Senator LEWIS —Good grief-Mr Deputy President, are you going to allow that woman to behave like that in this chamber? Surely she should have some decency. She is one of those petite bourgeois tertiary educated academic slugs of the Labor Party.

Where is the Labor Party's minerals and energy policy that Senator Walsh was raving about for so long? What has happened to the resource rent tax? It was an absolute fizz. When are we going to see the Labor Party introduce some of these promises that it made in this 183 page document? Of course, the people of Australia ought to know that this document was prepared before Mr Hawke became the leader of the Labor Party, so it contains the promises made by Mr Hayden.


Senator Withers —Before the blood was spilt.


Senator LEWIS —That is right. This document was prepared by Caucus committees, back bench organisations and the organisation of the Labor Party working out their platforms. This document was prepared before this Government got its new ad-Hawkery policy-not ad hockery-because Mr Hawke seems to be making up the policies of the Labor Party on the run and his policies have much to do with views that he expressed before he had anything whatsoever to do with the parliamentary wing of the Labor Party. I see the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) sitting in the chamber at the moment. That is most unusual, of course, but where are her policies in regard to education? When is she going to come forward and table her policies so that we know what they are? When are we going to see the next paper in regard to the next triennium? I suppose the Government will try to keep that secret for a long time. When are we going to see that Affirmative Action paper that we should have seen last year when discussing the Sex Discrimination Bill? We still have not seen the Affirmative Action Green Paper, and here we are into May of 1984. This Government has continued on its merry way, hiding behind a whole series of events. Apparently I have upset the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs because she has left the chamber. Anyway, it seems that this Government is behaving at present in a manner which, it is clear to us here, is that of a government avoiding making any difficult decisions or any decisions of real note so that the people of Australia can see what this Government is proposing.


Senator Robertson —What has this to do with the MPI?


Senator LEWIS —I hear the honourable senator from the Northern Territory interjecting. I hope that he might get an opportunity at some time to tell us what is the Labor Party's policy on tax. What is the Labor Party's policy in regard to the assets test? What is the Labor Party's policy in regard to industrial relations? What is the Labor Party's policy in relation to minerals and energy? What is the Labor Party's policy in regard to education? Does the Labor Party have any policies at all that it is prepared to tell the people of the nation that it stands up for? In the days that Senator Withers was talking about, when the Labor Party represented the working class of this nation, there was a different situation. Then we understood what the Labor Party stood for, but at present, with academics running the organisation, we are unable to see what the Labor Party stands for. Now the Leader of the Labor Party, the present Prime Minister, almost immediately after gaining office, has started talking about an early election to bring the Houses of the Parliament into order. Yet for years when we were in government we kept hearing Opposition senators talking about early elections. I see Senator Walsh sitting in the chamber now, very quiet about having an early election. From 1976 to 1983 practically every week Senator Walsh made a speech criticising Mr Fraser for possibly having an early election. Senator Walsh used to talk up early elections almost from the day the previous election was held. Yet I do not hear him criticising any suggestion of the current Prime Minister having an early election. No, Senator Walsh is very quiet about Mr Hawke having an early election.

What reason is there to rush into an early election? The Government has a majority in the lower House and all that has happened in the Senate is that the Senate quite properly has referred some legislation to Senate committees which have come down with some excellent reports to improve the legislation. The Government was trying to push the National Crimes Authority Bill up to us last year and the Senate referred it to a committee. What happened? That committee came up with a majority report of some 60 recommendations to amend the legislation. What happened? The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) said that he thought that was quite reasonable and went very much along the lines that the Government was thinking. Dear me, why did the Government not bring in those amendments way back in November 1983 instead of waiting until it got the report to approve some 60 amendments to its proposed Bill?

This Government is involved in hiding the policies which we know it has. That is why we want them exposed. We know that the Government has policies in regard to the assets test. We know that the Government has policies in regard to the accord which the workers of this nation will not like when they are ultimately exposed. We know that this Government has policies in regard to winding down our defence forces. We know that this Government has policies in regard to industrial relations. But it will not expose them. It will not tell the people of this nation where it is going or what it is doing. So we sit in this chamber day after day debating insignificant matters, not able to debate proper legislation because the Government will not bring the legislation into the Parliament.

Time after time we are forced to have some sort of high school debate about matters which are not significant to the people out there because this Government refuses to bring before this Parliament legislation that would give us a chance to consider the various matters which ought to be considered. In particular, I ask the Government when it will please help the pensioners of this nation by telling them what it is going to do with regard to the assets test. When are we going to find out? Will it tell the workers of this nation what it is going to do with the accord? How is it going to cope with the unions who are demanding a 9 per cent increase in their wages on top of the 4.5 per cent they have recently had? How is this Government going to deal with the enormous numbers of strikes raging around this nation at present? There are strikes in Western Australia, from where Senator Cook comes, in Sydney, in Queensland, in Victoria, and in Broken Hill. There are strikes all over this nation, and this Government is sitting down and doing absolutely nothing about them. The people of Australia are entitled to know where this Government is trying to take this nation, if it is trying to take this nation anywhere, or whether it will allow this nation to continue as if there was no leadership at all.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time allotted under sessional order for consideration of a matter of public importance has expired.