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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1895

Senator VANSTONE(4.10) —I congratulate Senator Hill for proposing the matter of public importance we are discussing today, namely:

The detrimental effect on South Australians of the high interest and high taxation policies of current Labor governments.

I am pleased to speak in this chamber today, the tenth anniversary of certain events which have not been treated, in my view, as kindly as they should have been by history. I believe that in December 1975 the people of Australia overwhelmingly gave their endorsement to those events. It was a good example of government of the people, by the people, for the people and, in my view, a triumph of democracy. Having made those views clear I query Senator Haines's comments in relation to why the Opposition does not constantly side with the Australian Democrats in blocking certain tax matters put forward by the Government. I remind Senator Haines that it is the Opposition's view, and I think it should be the view of all oppositions, that we are not here to block every government move but to caution, to criticise and, within the parliamentary arena, to do the very best we can to ensure that the Government elected by the people puts forward the best legislation possible, and that is not always achieved by being recalcitrant and refusing to pass legislation put forward by the Government.

We are in a sense discussing the forthcoming State election in South Australia. I noticed an article by David English in the Australian today headed: `SA Premier plans to go it alone'. Apparently the South Australian Premier has indicated that Mr Hawke, the Prime Minister, will be `unwelcome' during the State election in South Australia. I think that is very unkind of Mr Bannon, but it is not at all surprising. Reports from people who attended the grand prix indicate that as Mr Hawke was being driven around in an open car he was greeted with groans of the type which would be unkind of me to attempt to put into words in the Hansard. What the people were saying was: `Oh no, here is the Prime Minister at yet another successful sporting event'. Mr Bannon was there and he heard those groans. That is why he does not want the Prime Minister involved in the coming election on 7 December. No wonder he does not want him there. If there was Federal influence in this State election campaign South Australians would be reminded, when they cast their votes on 7 December, that that Labor State Government has a similar philosophy to the Labor Federal Government, and they would be reminded of the wonderful examples of how that philosophy affects people in the Federal arena. I can understand why Mr Bannon does not want South Australians to be reminded of that.

The Labor policy is to tax, tax, tax. Mr Keating tried his reform. He carries the maxim `If at first you don't succeed, try, try again' to ludicrous extremes. It is most unkind of the Bannon Government to say it wants Federal politicians to stay out of the election campaign because we all know of the close interrelationship-Senator Maguire has alluded to this in comments he has made-between Federal and State governments. We all know that Mr Bannon was happy to accept a $34m special assistance grant from the Federal Government. We all know that he has got his so called youth employment scheme with Federal funding. We all know that he accepted $4m or $5m for the grand prix from the Federal Government and we all know that he is looking for some sort of back door deal with the Federal Government-I hope he does do whatever deal he can-to get the submarine contracts for South Australia. In an article on page 2 of the Australian today, Louise Boylen states:

The Federal Government's $2.6 billion submarine replacement program will also be a major Australian Labor Party campaign issue. Mr Bannon will argue that South Australia has no hope of securing the contracts should it elect a Liberal government.

Is Mr Bannon saying that if a Liberal government is elected, the Federal Government will not assist South Australia in getting the submarine replacement program contract? Is that the level we have sunk to in this country, that the Federal Government will say to a State that unless it replaces a State government with a government of its persuasion it will not get a contract? I think that is absolutely disgraceful.

I will make some further comments about some things that Senator Maguire said. I gather from his speech that he believes that interest rates, being what they are, in no way inhibit business activity. I ask him to ask the small business people and the big business people what they think about real interest rates being as high as they are now, higher than they have been for many years. In fact, in the March quarter this year they were 6.6 per cent higher--

Senator Hill —In real terms.

Senator VANSTONE —As Senator Hill says in real terms they were 6.6 per cent higher than at any other time for 50 years. What a disgrace. Senator Maguire did not pay a lot of attention in his speech to State taxes and charges. That is a part of this debate because the concern is with the high interest rate and tax policies of Labor governments. South Australians need to bear in mind when they go to the polls on 7 December that in 1981-82 when we had a Liberal Government in South Australia, South Australia paid the lowest per capita State taxes of all the States. However, in 1984-85 South Australia rated with the highest States. Between those times there has been an increase of 50.2 per cent. The Australian average increase for that period is 36.3 per cent, yet South Australia's increase in per capita State tax from 1981-82 to 1984-85 was 50.2 per cent.

It is not just South Australia that is affected in this way; it is the other Labor States as well. During that time Western Australian State taxes on the same basis increased by 37.9 per cent and Victorian taxes on the same basis increased by 34.9 per cent. The non-Labor States have had the lowest increase in that area. South Australians should, and will, bear that in mind when they go to the polls on 7 December. It is a matter of not only State taxes but also State charges. We all heard the promises about no increases. There have been almost 200 increases in State charges, most of which have been much higher than the increase in the rate of inflation. There have been all sorts of trickery and chicanery in relation to electricity tariffs. We give a bit here and we take a bit back there or, usually, we take a lot and give a bit back. We make a lot of noise about what we give back and no noise about what we are taking.

Another point I make with repect to Senator Maguire's comments and also with respect to Senator Haines's comments-I am sorry that neither of them is in the chamber to listen to my remarks-is that I have heard speakers, not only in this debate but also in other debates, constantly moaning and saying: `Look at the dismal state of affairs we took over when we came to office.' I remind people in South Australia that the current South Australian Government came in in 1982. That is three years ago and three Budgets ago. It has had plenty of opportunity to get the show on the road and it has failed dismally. This Federal Government came in in 1983 and due to an early election it is now in its third year and its third Budget. It is time to take responsibility. Honourable senators opposite are the ones who are in government. They are responsible for the parlous state of affairs that we find ourselves in.

I was, of course, interested to hear Senator Haines's comments on taxation because in the last couple of days the media has indicated that the vacillations and variations by the Australian Democrats on tax is evidence that they have more positions on that subject than can be found in the Karma Sutra. I was quite surprised to see Senator Haines entering the debate today and detailing further positions on taxation policy for the Democrats. In fact, I was surprised that Senator Haines was entering the debate at all, given certain comments in the media this morning. The media reported what the Liberals are going to do and what the Labor Party is going to do. Page 2 of the Australian states:

The Australian Democrats are campaigning at a disadvantage.

There is a temptation to laugh at that point. They have not yet decided what form their Legislative Council ticket should take. I understand that that is, perhaps, not correct.

Senator Hill —They had one but they threw him out.

Senator VANSTONE —They had one but they did not like it, so they changed it. The article continues:

Moreover, the conservative and progressive factions of the party have been publicly brawling over policy directions.

I think it is very good of Senator Haines to take time off from the problems within the Democrats to enter into this debate today. I suggested a couple of weeks ago that the Australian Electoral Commission offer its assistance to the Democrats because they seem to have a complete inability to conduct adequately the ballots within their Party. As we offer the assistance of that Commission to recalcitrant unions, I do not see why we should not offer it to the Democrats as well.

It is my view that the high tax policies of this Government do nothing for youth employment. You may remember, Madam Acting Deputy President, that several weeks ago I raised the matter of this Government's Priority One: Young Australia scheme. I raised the genuine concern that there had been inadequate consultation between the Government, big business and the unions. Honourable senators opposite, some of whom are also in the chamber at the moment, did not take seriously the proposal that I put forward. They said that they believed that the Priority One scheme was doing a wonderful job. Since that time there has been a run of media coverage. In particular, today an article carries the headline: `Youth scheme's planner now doubts its success'. That is Mr Kirby. He states what the problems are and that he doubts that the much vaunted Priority One scheme will succeed.

South Australians will bear that in mind because they saw all the ads with the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) on television. They saw the full page ads that this Government paid for with the Prime Minister telling the youth of Australia that they were now his number one priority. They now realise what a con job that was. They remember that there was no telephone number at the end of those commercials for them to ring to find out where they could get a job. It is a good job that there was no telephone number because only one training scheme has been arranged with private enterprise. The Government said that there would be 10,000 jobs in the first year; however, there is only one private enterprise training scheme and one public sector one. It is a disgrace. No wonder the Age has a headline: `Bungling will destroy youth plan, says union'. It is no wonder that the Australian on another day had an even bigger headline: `Unions reject ``cock-eyed'' youth job scheme'. Quite right the unions are too. Let me add that the unions are not backing out of the Priority One scheme; they were never in it. It was announced before adequate consultation had taken place. It is a disgrace.

Comments have been made about employment in South Australia. Not much has been said about youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is 23.4 per cent-the highest of the mainland States. South Australians will bear that in mind when they go to the polls. They know that the national average is 19.1 per cent and they are ashamed that their State has a youth unemployment rate of 23.4 per cent. The growth in South Australia in employment between 1982 and 1985 was the lowest of all the States. It was only 2.7 per cent. That is what a Labor Government has done for South Australia and it is a disgrace.