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
Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 311

Mrs DARLING(4.40) —After hearing the words spoken by Opposition members during this debate I can see precisely why we needed the National Economic Summit Conference. People like that, who are meant to be representing the public in this Parliament, do not understand the value of getting together and talking to each other. They do not understand that there is a need, if we are to get a recovery under way in Australia, for people in the three sectional power groups- government, unions and industry-to get together, not to shout at each other in an adversary situation but to talk to each other. That was the real basis of the consensus-a much abused word-which issued out of the Economic Summit.

In speaking to the motions to take note of the papers issuing from the National Economic Summit Conference, I wish to pay attention to the enormous significance of that Conference when considering the way in which Australia will develop in the future. History of most civilisations has shown that an economy can grow in an ad hoc manner, swelling to meet needs as they are pushed on to it, or in an ordered fashion, adhering to a plan. The immediate post-war experience in Japan shows the manner in which a society can adapt to meet change thrust on it. Its planned operation since early 1970, when it had to bring in extensive legislation to turn back the clock on previous bad decisions, exemplifies that planned society. It has been successful in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China and Israel.

Australia has grown like Topsy. We have devoured our national resources during the good times and smiled in contentment when we should have been planning for the future. As a result we are in crisis. We must get together and plan so that those who are missing out on any shred of material comfort in this once affluent nation will miss out no longer. The Summit Conference was a necessary starting point to this forward and co-operative planning. My honourable colleagues have capably outlined the ramifications and success of the Summit in setting the foundation for economic and societal recovery.

Of equal importance to the future of Australia is the manner in which this recovery is effected. To endure, it must be built on a sound base of values rather than a power base, which may corrupt. I believe that the Prime Minister ( Mr Hawke) in initiating the Summit Conference was aware of the need for a shift in values in Australia. Past governments and power bases in Australia have displayed a brick and mortar mentality when considering courses of action. That was the whole problem with the Fraser Government. That Government thought that money well spent must be money spent on impressive structures only. Education to that Government meant large school blocks in comfortable areas but without good programs or enough teachers and with parents and citizens associations and parents and friends associations working year round to get the necessary equipment. It meant poor Catholic parish schools where children did not get the educational support which is the right of all children in Australia. We needed a change of values in Australia. More, we needed an end to the confrontationist policies of the past. We need to get together and talk. We do not need the hot air which expands this chamber to breaking point but real communication between young and old, black and white and government and governed.

It is important when evaluating the success of the National Economic Summit to understand that the only basis for national economic recovery is sectional reconciliation within our nation. The National Economic Summit provided the basis for that reconciliation by drawing together sections in our community who had not met in the past and who had not had the opportunity for personal discussions on matters affecting our nation-industry, government and the unions. It is important that other community groups be represented. There has been criticism to the effect that they were not fully represented, but those groups will be represented by this Labor Government. They have access to us in pre- Budget discussion. It is the barons of industry, the leaders of unions and Ministers of government who need to communicate. That need was reflected in the comments of the leader of industry after the Conference. Mr John Uhrig of Simpson Ltd, speaking of unions, said on the Nationwide program:

I'm surprised that they-

that is, the unions-

are so aware of some of the problems and problems I would have thought they appeared not to be aware of and I'm also surprised at the extent to which they behave as normal Australians in dealing with those problems in this discussion.

That is what the Summit was about. People who previously did not have the opportunity to understand the other viewpoint have now been given that opportunity. When we consider the confrontationist policies of the past Government, the attitude that existed up to the time of the Summit is not surprising. It has been part and parcel of the manner in which the Fraser Government strived to sell its policies and keep power for so long. Social security beneficiaries were set at each other's throats. It was a matter of who was getting the most-a supporting parent or someone on an age pension. The biggest scandal I have seen in this Parliament during the time I have been in this House since 1980 was when I saw members of the Fraser Government encouraging a viewpoint which branded unemployed people as dole bludgers. That has happened in this Parliament. In my first couple of years in this House-1980 and 1981-I was outraged to hear that viewpoint. Those barriers were put up. They were to the detriment of the unemployed. That was done merely to cover the lack of any policies-and any shift in policy-put forward by that Government to try to meet the needs of the unemployed. Members of that Government have no right at all ever to criticise any other government which is trying to do something about that matter.

In regard to the sex discrimination legislation, women again are being encouraged to attack other women, as people listen to a distorted viewpoint on that legislation. Women in the home are told by politically motivated people that if the legislation goes through so that others in the work force and in other areas of society are not discriminated against, in some way the women at home will be hurt and will have to go out to work. Of course, this is misinformed and mischievous nonsense but it is part of that confrontationist attitude which has existed in Australia. We must break down these barriers.

Today members of the Opposition have been busily building them with their jaundiced viewpoints of the Summit. The honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) saw the Summit as a publicity stunt. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) thought it was a matter of people getting together to talk about a soft option. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) thought it was a grog up at the taxpayer's expense and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) thought it was merely a political public relations exercise. But delegates at the historic Conference did not share these viewpoints. I will mention a couple of them who attended this encouraging meeting of people from different sectional interests. The Prime Minister said:

. . . I believe having and sharing knowledge, factual knowledge, is the indispensable condition of allowing people to resolve problems and to make correct decisions.

Sir Roderick Carnegie of CRA Ltd said:

I think it's a great learning experience for everyone that's privileged to be there. I think it's been great for all the information to be shared and the points of view, and I'm learning a lot.

Sir Eric McClintock from Woolworths Ltd said:

I think it's a major conference . . . it's been more a process of turning leading or influencing . . . Australians-turning them round making them face each other and stand and listen to criticisms of themselves, suggestions without having the luxury of flouncing out in a fit.

Alan Coates of the Australian Mutual Provident Society said:

. . . I think the greatest advantage from my point of view is that I don't have a great deal of contact with people in the industrial relations or in the union movement and it's a marvellous opportunity for me to hear and learn about their point of view.

Following the Summit Simon Crean from the Australian Council of Trade Unions said:

I congratulate the employers in terms of their attitude . . . today.

Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) said:

I think that certainly it was of some good by providing more information than before . . .

In this context we must consider the refusal of the Premier of Queensland, which has been touched on today, to endorse the joint communique. One would have thought that it was some nasty, destructive document rather than a document formulated by people who were working together. They were people from varying interests who wanted to do something about the unemployed and to get Australia moving again. Before the Summit began the Premier of Queensland said that he expected it to be a load of hoo-ha. When asked to endorse the communique he said :

The Queensland Government does not commit itself to the document. Queensland is not prepared to put its foot on the sticky paper and be stuck with it. Thank you .

He was heard in silence and at the end of his speech he returned to his seat in silence. He was the first and only speaker during the four days of the Conference not to be applauded. The other gem of misinformation spoken by him occurred when he criticised the acceptance by business delegates of a Commonwealth price surveillance mechanism. He said:

We cannot allow the spirit of co-operation evident here to submerge reality.

His reality was the protection of those who have a power base in our society against the exploitation of those who do not. This confrontationist attitude of the Premier and the Queensland Government is typical. It was displayed at the Adelaide Australian Constitutional Convention where again members of the Queensland Government refused to co-operate with delegates to have passed good motions regarding the need for constitutional change in the area of family law, an area which that Government had endorsed in the past but which it then voted against at that Constitutional Convention in Adelaide. That confrontationist attitude of the Queensland Government was shown again when all of the States rose to meet the call by this Government to get together and get jobs for our young people in the community employment program. Millions of dollars were ready to be poured into that program. Two weeks after the program had been announced officially and had started across Australia it still could not be announced in Queensland because the Queensland Premier refused, with his usual self-interest, to sign the necessary papers and to allow jobs to flow into Queensland.

The Summit succeeded despite the tantrums of the Queensland Government and its representatives. But that success can flow only if people such as those in the Opposition who have spoken today, people with a one-dimensional viewpoint, strive to enlarge that viewpoint, to look beyond the spending of money simply for buildings-just for brick and mortar-and to realise that sometimes a bit of organisation and money has to be spent to get people together so that they can talk to each other in the way that happened at the National Summit Conference. That conference succeeded because people of good will in government, unions and industries, in a week long moment of sanity, submerged self-interest for the benefit of the future of their nation. It was a worthwhile exercise.

Some people do not have the mentality to understand that in this world we must get together and talk to each other about world peace between nation and nation and about peace in Australia between one sectional interest and another sectional interest. If that does not happen it will not matter what good policies are implemented or what money is spent; we will not succeed. We need the sort of initiative shown at the time of the Summit Conference. We need the sort of leadership we now have in government-imaginative leadership under the Prime Minister. We need people of good will such as I believe those of my colleagues in government to be, as well as those in unions and the representatives of business who are concerned about the growing number of the unemployed in Australia and who are willing to act on their behalf.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.