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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3126

Senator ABETZ(3.33 p.m.) —The underlying issue in this whole debate is that the Labor Party and the Democrats still cannot grapple with the fact that this budget has been so overwhelmingly accepted by the Australian people. That is the thing that disappoints them; that is the thing that really gets to them. It narks them.

So what do they do? They try to pick on very small bits and pieces in the budget, misrepresent them to the electorate, set up a straw man to knock it down. That is what the Labor Party and the Democrats have set out to do because Mr Costello and our Prime Minister (Mr Howard) put together an excellent budget which has got the overwhelming support of the Australian people.

Sure, it inflicts some substantial cuts. Why does it have to inflict those substantial cuts? Because of the overspending of the previous government. We were left with a legacy that has to be cleaned up and the Australian people understand that. They accept that we were left with a mess and that we have taken on the responsibility of cleaning up that mess.

It is for that reason that the shadow Treasurer, Mr Evans, admitted in one of those rare insights he gives into himself that he was suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome. The reason is that he is trying to scare people about the budget and he is failing; they are not listening to him. And why aren't they listening to him? Because they did not listen to him and his party before the last federal election.

And why don't the people of Australia listen to the Australian Labor Party? I don't have to quote myself. I can quote Gary Gray, the federal secretary, who came down with a report, ably assisted by Senator Sue Mackay. What did they say about the Labor Party? `When we promised something, the people of Australia would not believe us. We had broken so many promises that basically we were on the nose and, no matter what we said, the people of Australia would not believe us.'

But, instead of changing their attitude to policy and government actions, they are continuing the same old line. `We will misrepresent, we will say that black is white, we will try anything to regain government.' They have not learnt the simple lesson: the people of Australia want some integrity back in the political debate. It is not good enough simply to say, `We will accept all the good things in a budget, but we will try to block some of those harsher things.' The people of Australia have seen the broad picture. They realise that we were left with a mess and that it needs to be fixed up. We have committed ourselves to cleaning up that mess.

I would like to suggest to Senator Woodley and others who want to go nitpicking within the budget that they remember what was in today's Australian editorial, with the heading `Senate must not fiddle this Budget.' This pretty strong statement coming from the Australian editorial says:

The Australian believes the government strategy is essential to sound economic management and that undermining or delaying it would be against the national interest.

I think that the Australian editor is in touch with his readership and with the people of Australia because they genuinely believe that our budget is within the national interest.

That is why the Labor Party are having problems gaining some relevancy within the Australian body politic today. By nitpicking at our excellent budget, a budget which has been so overwhelmingly received, they will ensure that they remain in opposition. It is somewhat ironic that I should be speaking against the Labor Party in this brief debate because, quite frankly, the more they and the Democrats, and anybody else who cares to join them, nitpick on this budget, it will ensure that those people who do so will remain in opposition and we will remain the government. The bottom line is: this budget has been an excellent budget well received by the Australian people. I am sure it will be supported ultimately by this place but, if not, ultimately by the people of Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.