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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3229

Mr STEEDMAN(10.05) —I rise tonight to talk about the current disillusionment of the youth of this country about the political processes. I commend the Government for its current campaign to encourage the involvement of young people in this process and to highlight the rights and responsibilities which accompany citizenship in a democratic country such as ours. My major concern, however, is to examine the reasons why research shows such widespread and deep alienation amongst our young people. Between 500,000 and 600,000 young people are not on the electoral rolls, and a high proportion of this number indicated an almost universal lack of confidence that their vote had any significant impact on government, the bureaucracy or their own lives.

When we examine the position of young people in this society it should perhaps be no surprise that they have voted with their feet away from the ballot boxes. Successive governments, State and Federal, have produced policies and strategies for this country which ensure that the most powerless and the most disadvantaged have the least to hope for from their elected leaders. Young people suffer the worst effects of unemployment, have the least access to adequate housing and endure an education system which only now shows signs of recovering from 27 years of neglect, unless of course they are in a position to exercise the so- called choice of private schooling, pork barrelled for years by conservative governments.

I have been impressed during my visits to local schools in my electorate of Casey by the interest shown and the perceptive questions asked by the students. It is my strong belief that when young people are treated with the seriousness and respect that they deserve, they in turn have valuable contributions to make to political debate, especially in areas that concern them-employment, education , technology and recreation. What they do not tolerate gladly are attempts to patronise, to sidestep issues and to avoid honest discussion about their concerns. They are rightly cynical of 30-second grabs on television during election campaigns and they are equally cynical of unrealistic and subsequently broken promises. Therefore, whilst commending the Government's range of policies designed to reform and simplify electoral processes and practices and to encourage voter enrolment, I trust that the root causes of alienation amongst the young will be tackled with the vigour and commitment which the electorate expects of Labor governments.

It is not difficult to understand why many of our young people today are disillusioned with the political system and fail to register to vote when we note at times the morality and ethical code exhibited by some members. The most recent example, of course, is the newly elected honourable member of Bruce (Mr Aldred), who is not in the chamber tonight. This coprophiliac, who degrades our Parliament by his mere presence, managed to sneak into this Parliament in a by- election after the good voters of Henty rejected him several years ago. Pity the poor people of Bruce, who are neglected and ignored by their representative as he sinks to new depths of mud-slinging and character assassination under the protection of parliamentary privilege. This man who so inadequately represented the people of Henty has now foisted himself on another unsuspecting electorate.

I will not go into the file I have here on some of the actions of the honourable member for Bruce because that would only raise his status in this Parliament and I do not believe that that would be in any way useful to this Parliament or the Government of this country. I quickly point out that he is the great diplomat who, at a luncheon in honour of the King of Tonga in 1979, made a mountain of full wine glasses until at the seventh glass the lot smashed to the ground. This was well recorded at the time. He, being an insatiable publicity seeker and self-styled expert on crime, in August 1980 prepared with a Victorian member of parliament a 50-page document purporting to expose organised crime in Victoria. That document was dismissed by senior police as 'unfounded, based on rumour and conjecture and with no evidence to back up the allegations'. Unfortunately, he is still at the same old game here of smear, innuendo and unsubstantiated attacks under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

Mr Carlton —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. If the honourable member for Casey is going to make charges against the honourable member for Bruce, I think they ought to be made in the form of a substantive motion.

Mr SPEAKER —There is the question of a substantive motion. However, so far the honourable member for Casey has made criticisms of the honourable member for Bruce rather than charges of improper conduct.

Mr STEEDMAN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I realise the stalling tactics of the members of the Opposition whenever one of their members gets his just desserts. I realise that they have cut my time down. It is interesting also to note that on the staff of the new member for Bruce there is one Mr Verbickis, who was a key political figure in the 1980 election campaign and was responsible for dirty tricks in the now disbanded Government Information Unit.

Mr Spender —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Under no circumstances can those remarks be tolerated. It is perfectly outrageous that they should be allowed. The honourable member for Bruce is not here. The honourable member for Casey is abusing parliamentary privilege and he knows it.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for North Sydney knows that the matter raised is not one for a substantive motion.

Mr STEEDMAN —He has achieved his aim by silencing me at this stage.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.