Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Page: 2828

Senator McGAURAN(4.39 p.m.) —What a difference a week makes in politics. The handing down of the budget really was a watershed for this government. On any analysis, we have got over that very difficult period in the lead-up to the budget when there were many false reports and leaks. All the haunting that went on before the budget did not come about. The budget really has been welcomed by the Australian public and by all commentators who acknowledged that a strategy is now in place to bring the budget into balance.

If this is the week that was for the government, on any analysis the Australian Labor Party has had a disastrous week which began with those disgraceful scenes of violence the other day in the parliamentary foyer. For all the harm and shame that brought, it revealed the irresponsibility and the neglect of some union leaders—and no less than Bill Kelty. I remind the Senate that Bill Kelty has not retracted his comments that he believed it was one of the most successful demonstrations ever held in Canberra. That comment has damaged the opposition because Bill Kelty is clearly recognised as a Labor man. He must be an embarrassment today for the Labor Party.

Secondly, we had the absolute shock resignation of Senator Colston, which shifted the power axis in this Senate. Because we now have another option to get our budget through, we believe that there will be a less obstructionist attitude; whereas before it was a certainty that we would have our budget obstructed and frustrated.

On top of that very poor week for the Labor Party, they have now come into this chamber with this matter of public importance to cap it off. And to think there are still two days to go! Listening to Senator Sherry and the other opposition speakers, one would conclude that Labor is still in the self-denial mode of the 1996 election. I do not know how much longer it will go on. They really believe they are the keepers of the flame for the poor, the sick, the elderly, the young and the like.

But the truth is that they are the cause of these people's woes. They gave the poor a greater gap between the rich and the poor. In the last budget in government they lifted the Medicare levy of the sick. They broke the promise to the old to remove pensioners from the tax system. And they gave the young 28 per cent to 30 per cent unemployment. More over, during their 13 years in government, they took every Australian on a roller-coaster ride of high interest rates and debt. It came to a crushing end in 1996 with the equivalent worst current account deficit in the OECD—worse than Mexico's. I remember the ambassador for Mexico complaining that we even dared compare their current account with Australia's.

The Labor Party left us with a foreign debt greater than $180 billion; six consecutive deficits; an $8 billion hole which has now jumped to $10 billion; an interest rate second only in real terms to that of Italy's; and a disgraceful unemployment rate fixed at greater than eight per cent.

It is a privilege to be in government. But when the Labor Party had that privilege nothing greater symbolised their attitude towards breaking promises than the key 1993 budget. That has even been conceded by the former Prime Minister and by the best analysis by Gary Gray, a man who has all the research before him. He conceded that the 1993 budget was so full of broken promises that it ruptured for good the Australian voter's support for the Labor Party.

The first and most infamous broken promise was the l-a-w law tax cuts which never eventuated regardless of the then Prime Minister saying that the tax cuts were enshrined in law. Of course, that comment was a fraud. The second most infamous broken promise in that 1993 budget was the hiking up of sales tax to the tune of nearly $4 billion—a broken promise Senator Cook had responsibility for carrying through the Senate.

The third most infamous broken promise in the 1993 budget was the lifting of the company tax rate from 33 per cent to 36 per cent, regardless again of the former Prime Minister's commitment, `What I am promising is not to put up taxes.' Those opposite never recovered from that deceit and the magnitude of the 1996 election gives evidence to that.

Now we have the child of trampoline economics, Senator Sherry, preaching to the Senate about election promises. Senator Sherry's generation of politicians are going to have to wear for many years to come the deceit of their past colleagues. At every branch and community meeting and every industry meeting that the likes of Senator Sherry attend they will have this quoted back to them, `How can we trust you when you were so dishonest when you had an opportunity in government—you broke so many promises in government.' You will have this repeated to you out in the community at just about every meeting you go to.

It really will be a very long crawl back to credibility for the opposition. This week's events—the worst I have known for the Labor Party since I have been in parliament—really are a setback to the crawl back to credibility. Not only did the previous government have no regard for keeping their promises, but they had an absolutely reckless attitude towards taxpayers' money. I will just read statistics from the last four Keating Prime Minister budgets. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator McGauran, your time has expired. That brings to an end the matter of public importance.