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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4760

Senator MacGIBBON —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government. He would be aware of the manifestations of not only continuing, but increased, support for the government policies, as demonstrated by the Lindsay by-election and by recent polls. What are the implications for economic reform if the Labor Party continues to frustrate the express will of the Australian people?

Senator HILL —I think that the logical conclusion is that Labor Party support will continue to fall. It is incredible that the Labor Party is not prepared to listen to this sequence of polls, which consistently demonstrate how out of touch they are with the aspirations and hopes of the Australian people. It consistently demonstrates that they fail to appreciate the reason they were defeated in the March poll.

Senator Schacht —You ran away from the vote on the Telstra bill.


Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! There are far too many interjections in the chamber. It is almost impossible to hear the answer being given.

Senator HILL —Commentators are now starting to reflect on the fact that there are so many ex-Keating ministers still on the front bench. If the electorate was to be heeded and if the message—

Senator Robert Ray —Why didn't you talk out the Telstra bill? Why not bring it on now?

Senator HILL —You like to pull the strings from the back bench, but if the electorate was to be heeded and listened to, the Labor Party would start with a fresh front bench. It should get some new people with some new ideas. The record of Labor was one of failure. Labor gave this country one million unemployed. Labor gave this country record debt. Labor gave us as the incoming government the problem of a $10 billion budget deficit—a budget deficit that Labor, particularly Senator Cook, told the Australian people did not exist.

We had the Beazley black hole. The Labor Finance Minister, Mr Beazley, was responsible for a budget deficit of $10 billion at the end of five years of economic growth. This is the economic failure of Labor which led to so much misery within the Australian community. At its height we saw one million Australians out of work and three-quarters of a million Australians still out of work at the time of the election.

The Labor Party still does not believe what happened. They still believe that they were entitled to government. They still claim that they were a good government. There were one million Australians out of work. The gap between rich and poor had never been so great in this country. We saw for the first time in this country the development of an underclass. The party of social justice gave Australia an underclass for the first time, arising out of one million unemployed, and they still will not listen.

The Australian people, through the Lindsay poll and through these other polls, are saying, `You've got to take notice of us.' They wanted something better. That is why they elected us. They wanted a government that was prepared to take hold of expenditure, prepared to take the hard decisions and to start bringing down interest rates. The first reductions in interest rates for years occurred under the Howard government, and it did not take long, did it?

Senator Bob Collins —What?

Senator Cook —Come on!

Senator HILL —The first official reductions for years occurred under the Howard government. Good inflation figures came out last week. We even saw sustainable wages growth figures come out.

In other words, the economic fundamentals are starting to come under control, which gives people a hope for the future and a hope for jobs, which they did not get under Labor. It gives them hope for rising living standards, which they did not get under Labor. The people now say to Labor, `You failed; you couldn't do the job. How about getting out of the way and letting the new lot get on with the job. Give them some support; let their programs stand. They will be tested in due course by the electorate, but give them a chance to implement the program that they were elected by us, the people, to implement.'

Senator MacGIBBON —I have a supplementary question. Are there any further implications if this increasingly irrelevant and irresponsible opposition continues to frustrate the will of the Australian people?

Senator HILL —It does remind me, Senator, that they will not even listen to their own kind. Do you think they have read what former senator Graham Richardson has now said to them? What does he say about Labor in the latest Bulletin ? He says:

The electorate doesn't want to have anything to do with them or their party.

Did Labor take note of that? Did they listen to their own kind? How did he headline his article? `Labor's sins neither forgiven nor forgotten.' Does Labor recognise that? He says:

The electorate has neither forgiven nor forgotten.

This is what you refuse to listen to. He says:

The further decline in Labor's vote last Saturday leaves the party looking at the certainty of six years in the wilderness, and the possibility—

we think probability—

that its exile may last considerably longer than that.

That is the point. The point is that it will last longer than that if they are not prepared to start to listen to the people. We put a program to give the battlers a chance and the battlers said, `Get in there and do the job.' (Time expired)