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Thursday, 27 May 1993
Page: 1539

Senator MAGUIRE —In this valedictory I would like firstly to thank all of those who have assisted me in this place over the years, from colleagues through to staff and the Clerks. I have certainly made many friends in the 10 years that I have been here, among staff and my colleagues in particular. I say at the beginning how I valued the speeches made by the party leaders earlier this afternoon when they canvassed a number of points about all of us who are leaving this place. I have learnt a great deal since I have been here. I trust that I have contributed—I certainly have tried to contribute—at all times while I have been here.

  While I am not a sentimental person, I would like give special thanks to my family for the many sacrifices that they have made over the years with me being here in Canberra and not at home. I also thank my parents for their great help, particularly as volunteer workers in my office over the many years that I have been a member of the Senate. I give particular thanks to my very loyal, dedicated and professional staff who are second to none, particularly Kath Couper, my personal secretary, who has been with me almost from day one as a member of this place; and Cassandra Gelade, one of my research officers who is here today.

  I also thank my staff in Adelaide, Andrew Blue and Paul Dunstan. I see one of my former staffers in the gallery. A number of them went on to bigger and better things after getting the rigorous training in my office that was required of anybody who contributed to The Canberra Reports—one of my publications—over many years. They went on to the Premier's office, House of Representatives seats or wherever. They now have much bigger and better careers than they had prior to those wonderful opportunities.

  While I was here I tried to focus on the economy and taxation. I tried at all times to help lift the standard of debate on the themes of the economy and public finance throughout the years. I trust that I have had some impact in the time that I have been here. I am well aware that many in the chamber tonight would not agree with very much of the content that I have put forward a lot of the time, but they were certainly aware that I believed in what I was doing and that I was trying to set standards for myself and keep the debate on the economy at a high level. I hope that I have had some impact in doing that.

  Part of that participation occurred during the period of tax reform in 1985, which was an important time for Australia. I was pleased to be a small part of it as a member of this place by supporting the reforms month after month. One of the great reforms that this Government has brought in in the time that I have been privileged to serve here is the introduction of the capital gains tax. Of all the things that I wanted to see before I came to Canberra, one was a capital gains tax. It was just so unfair and unjust that many people in this nation derived their wealth and economic wellbeing from increases in asset values while the rest of the community paid tax regularly on its income. It was a tremendous unfairness in the Australian community. I know I am in good company. I will not name names across the chamber tonight, but I know one illustrious Opposition senator made a maiden speech on this very same subject and made that point.

Senator Hill —Why do you always pick on me?

Senator MAGUIRE —We both went to the same university, so maybe we were brainwashed at the same time about these things. That was a long overdue reform. The introduction of the capital gains tax helped drag Australia's tax system into the 20th century. We basically had a 19th century tax system until the mid 1980s. The capital gains tax was certainly a very important element in bringing fairness and equity to our tax system.

  It is fair to say that when I came here the Australian economy was basically a quarry and a farm. Our export proceeds essentially came from rural products, either in mining or from growing crops and exporting them. They are very important industries now—they always will be—but we have seen over that 10-year period a diversification of the Australian economy towards value adding in the manufacturing sector. A now very large and growing area of our export proceeds is generated by manufactured products and, most importantly, by elaborately transformed manufactured products.

  I was also pleased to be here at the time when perhaps the most major revisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act occurred—the period 1983-84. The Act dates from 1918. Perhaps the most major changes since that time occurred at a very privileged time for me in the early 1980s. I was pleased to be a very small part of that process of bringing in major reforms to voting procedures in Australia. One of them was to ensure that more Australians could cast valid votes. We had the situation prior to those reforms where, in some parts of Australia, one-fifth of all voters voted informally because they simply could not get past a ballot paper with 78 or 74 names on it. That was one of the many reforms that came in during that period.

  I was also very pleased to have a small role in helping give more recognition to women in public life in Australia. In fact, I put forward a proposal in 1984 that more House of Representatives seats in Australia be named after women of achievement—prominent Australian women. I did a lot of research—my staff helped—on that subject. It is always very easy to make a proposal about doing something; we not only made a proposal but also did the hard work and suggested who the seats might be named after. I am very proud to say that most of the names put forward by me were adopted by the Australian Electoral Commission. So many members of the House of Representatives today represent seats with names that I proposed which commemorate and mark the enormous achievement of women in the Australian community.

  When I came here in the early 1980s, the six-year Senate turn prescribed under the Constitution was largely theoretical. With one exception, very few people had actually served a six-year term in this place. The only person at that time who served a full six-year term, which was the one laid down by the Constitution of Australia, was the former President of the Senate, Senator Douglas McClelland. He had the distinction in the late 1960s and early 1970s of having served a six-year term. The rest of us during the 1980s found that we were serving one and a half-year terms, three-year terms or whatever. It is something to note now that half of the 72 senators in this place who come from the States will have served a six-year term on 30 June. So that is quite a change from the past.

  In passing, I refer to one of the ironies of politics as it has affected me. There are many ironies in politics, but one has affected me particularly. As a result of the 1987 double dissolution, I had the misfortune of being the last person to get a six-year term. Senator Robert Hill, who is on the other side of the chamber, was the one who missed out on getting that six-year term and was the first person to get a three-year term. Had events turned out otherwise, I would have been facing re-election in 1990, not 1993, and I will leave you to work out the implications of that proposal.

  Looking over that particular time, I remember listening to a very impassioned speech by Senator Jim Short, who was the frontbencher in the Opposition who had carriage of electoral matters at the time. He made a very moving speech about how we should work out who would get a short term, a three-year term, and who would get a six-year term in this place. He made a very interesting speech saying that we should in fact use the proposal set down in section 282 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act; that is, that after a double dissolution one could look at the votes for the 12 elected persons and assume that it had been a half-Senate election, and the six who would have been elected in the half-Senate election would get the long term.

  It is a matter of history now that we on the government side of this place decided to stick with the traditional method of working out who got the six-year terms and who got the three-year terms. I very consistently supported that position over the time, but that is one of the unresolved items of business perhaps facing this place in the future; that is, whether we will ever actually determine that we will use that section 282 to determine who gets a long term and who gets a short term or whether we will stick with the traditional method which is basically that senators get the six-year terms according to the order in which they are elected.

  One of the things that has struck me about being in this place over the last decade is one of the limitations on debate and on ideas on this place; that is, the number of times—it must be thousands of times I could have counted up over this period—that honourable senators, in making a comparison in a speech or in framing a question, have been able to compare Australia only with the United Kingdom or the US. I think this is one of the big limitations that we have to face up to in this country.

  In recent years, of course, it was fashionable to make comparisons with New Zealand for certain reasons. Sometimes Canada got a guernsey in these international comparisons. But we really do have this very serious problem in Australia, which has been reflected time and time again in this place, that honourable senators on all sides of the chamber—those on the frontbench and the backbench—do not seem to be able to talk in any great depth about what has been happening in the non-English speaking countries of the world.

  We do live in a very conservative country and I think that this limitation that is imposed by our inability to speak other languages—of course I am generalising; I am a bad offender too as I do not have the ability to speak other languages—is an enormous inhibitor to the flow of ideas in this country.

  Very few people can talk about economic reforms that are occurring in, say, the non-English speaking countries in Europe. Very few people know about these sorts of things, such as some of the very imaginative things that are done in running economies, in dealing with employment and in a whole range of policies. Time and time again we hear what has been happening in the UK or the US, or sometimes in New Zealand. I think we really have to deal with this. It is an important issue that has to be looked at in terms of language education in Australia.

  Over 10 years I have published a number of newsletters. I called them The Canberra Report. They dealt with a range of issues, as you know, Mr Deputy President, as you yourself received them time and time again. The very catholic selection of issues—with a small `c', I might emphasise—

Senator Cooney —It should be the big one.

Senator MAGUIRE —Senator Cooney asked for the big one. There was a classic which I think Senator Boswell got very close to referring to this afternoon. It was the one that had that tantalising title `Inside Queensland's faltering economy'. It was published in 1985. It was one that I did a lot of work on to examine whether Queensland really had the dynamic economy that the National Party was saying it had. It looked at the competence of the then Queensland Government to run the Queensland economy. That was a bit of a landmark. It seemed to get quoted everywhere in parliaments around Australia. I think I was a bit of a bete noire in Queensland for a while, but it certainly did put some of the problems of Queensland's economic situation on the map. It pointed to the lack of diversification in that economy and its narrow base. Of course, things have changed over the last five years or so with diversification into tourism and so on in a very big way, but that was one of the ones I particularly remember.

  Another of those newsletters I particularly remember is the one published in November 1990. So it is now 2 1/2 years ago that I was able to publish my first research report on the implications of the goods and services tax in Australia. I looked at that in great detail. I believe that I did expose a number of the problems with that tax at that time and certainly helped expose the arguments in support of it over the next 2 1/2 years. I think it had some small impact in getting the ALP to think about what the implications of the GST were, were an election to be held some time in the future.

  I have had the privilege of serving as a committee chair for six years. It has been a very interesting time. A number of people in the chamber have served with me and I have certainly valued their contributions to my committee work. I must say that I have been helped enormously by having an extremely high calibre secretariat. I would like to particularly thank the committee secretary, Ms Ilze Svenne, who has been a tower of strength to all of us on the committee on all sides of the chamber and has helped us turn out some extremely good reports, particularly in recent times. There was one on Australia's role in UN peacekeeping and one that I think was referred to by Senator Hill today on Latin America. I think we also had the same sort of support from our secretariat staff before her time and were able to turn out a landmark report on Australia's relationship with India which has led to a number of the recommendations being adopted by the Australian Government.

  That is basically what I propose to say tonight. I have enjoyed my time here. I have enjoyed the 10 years that I have had in the Australian Senate. It has been an enormous honour for me and an enormous opportunity. I have never sat in opposition in this place and that is, I suppose, something to be remembered. I do know what opposition is like. I served on the staff of an opposition leader prior to coming here. I know it is a very hungry, very difficult and very lean time, but I can certainly say that in the Federal Parliament I have never had to serve in opposition.

  I will be working hard in the future. I will not be winding back my activities. I will certainly be working hard to see Labor returned for yet another term in Canberra.