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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2193

Senator PETER RAE(7.36) —With a degree of concern and with a relatively heavy heart I rise tonight to refer back to what is to many of us, an all too recent history of Europe, of the 1930s and the rise of national socialism. One of the questions that a lot of people have debated for a long time is the difference between national socialism or Nazism and democratic socialism. I believe that tonight we can consider very clearly a demonstration, within the past 24 hours, of what the difference may not be. Within the past 24 hours there has been a Press release by the Minister for Industry and Commerce ( Senator Button) dealing with a policy relating to the Australian motor industry which I described in a Press release yesterday as an extremely troubled industry .

I would not have thought that there was a person in Australia who would question my use of those words 'an extremely troubled industry'. In speaking in the Senate I did not even use those words, but I referred to the fact that the previous Government had recognised that there were problems in relation to the Australian motor industry and that the Opposition welcomed the fact that the Government and this Minister had at last produced a plan in relation to the Australian motor industry. We welcomed that. I said that the Opposition acknowledged that many beneficial proposals are involved in the total program. I said a number of other things and obviously I am not here tonight to repeat the whole of the speech. However, what has happened today, reminiscent of the Goebbels philosophy, is that a Dorothy Dix question was asked of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to which he responded in these terms:

. . . I think it is very important that those who comment on this matter, particularly in view of the fact that it involves substantial restructuring of an industry, should get their information right. That includes, for example, the Opposition spokesman on industry and commerce, Senator Peter Rae, who yesterday in the Senate said that the motor industry was a wildly irresponsible industry-

I pause in that quotation to repeat the words that the Minister used this morning in answer to a question. He said that I had said that the motor industry was a wildly irresponsible industry. I challenge the Minister to find any words in Hansard which justify that wildly irresponsible statement. He continued:

. . . and that car sales had dropped by 19 per cent in the month of April compared with sales for the previous month. Car sales in April in fact were down 13 per cent on the previous month, a result that did not surprise the Government in view of the fact that there were only 18 selling days in April compared with some 24 in March. Senator Rae went on to say that he had consulted with the industry. If he had been doing that on a regular basis he would know that the number of car sales has improved in May.

I will quote from an Australian Bureau of Statistics document, embargoed 11.30 a .m. on 29 May 1984-today is 30 May; in other words it was yesterday morning- dealing with the main features in relation to registration of new motor vehicles in Australia. It states, and I will leave out a few irrelevant words:

Registrations of new motor vehicles . . . during April 1984 . . . fell 19.1 per cent when compared with March 1984.

It also states:

Seasonally adjusted, the April 1984 figure . . . is 6.0 per cent lower than March 1984.

I will read what I said yesterday, which is recorded on page 2019 of Hansard:

Car sales in April this year, the month just passed, were 19 per cent down on the previous month; that is, 6 per cent down in seasonally adjusted terms on the previous month.

This Dr Goebbels of the Australian Parliament accuses me of giving the wrong figures. He misquotes the figures. I seek leave to table the document from the Australian Bureau of Statistics setting out the figures I cited.

Leave granted.

Senator PETER RAE —The Minister not only falsely attacked me and misrepresented me but also then wrongly cited the actual figures. Is this to be the standard of behaviour from this Minister in his portfolio? So often when he is attacked he engages in personal venom, personal attack--

Senator Robert Ray —You have had a good go tonight as well.

Senator PETER RAE —Perhaps there has been a little bit of retribution. Perhaps there has been a little balancing out. I simply say: Does it not remind my namesake Senator Robert Ray and other honourable senators of something which happened in the 1930s when I read from the statement of the Minister which he made yesterday? He said:

The Government expects co-operation from the industry, and if it is not forthcoming, has methods at its disposal . . . to ensure that the intent of the plan is carried out.

Senator Robert Ray —What are you suggesting? Torture?

Senator PETER RAE —I am suggesting that the Minister is neither a democrat nor a socialist. There is another word which describes his behaviour in the past 24 hours. I ask the Minister for a withdrawal and an apology for the total misstatements he made this morning, accusing me of making the statement that the industry was a wildly irresponsible one, which I most certainly did not do. In a Press release I used the words 'an extremely troubled industry'. In the Senate I did not use any words which in any way described the industry as irresponsible or any extension of that. Further, I did not say that the sales had dropped by 19 per cent in the month of April. I gave the full figures as shown in the Bureau of Statistics report, with the comparison both in direct and seasonally adjusted terms. The Minister wrongly purported to claim that the facts I had stated were wrong. The Minister yet again has failed rather dismally to carry out his function, failed rather dismally to grasp the nettle, failed rather dismally to do one thing or another. He has simply carried on a sort of half-way house policy. He has struck out at anyone who dares to criticise him. He has struck out at the unions that have criticised him and he has struck out at the very mild comments I made yesterday. I ask the Minister for an apology. I do not expect to get it because I do not think he is big enough to be able to give it.