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Wednesday, 2 December 1998
Page: 1118

Mr HARDGRAVE (11:59 AM) —On 1 May 1996 I made my first speech in this place and on that day I promised to be Moreton-centric. Today I renew my vow to the people of Moreton, just as they renewed my contract at the recent election. It remains a great honour for me to be the member for Moreton and while the second election victory, in a lot of ways, is somewhat sweeter than the first, it does commit my mind completely to keeping up the hard work and effective conduct that I believe ensured that we were able to extend that contract just a few weeks ago.

When I first came here I outlined a number of important matters for the record so that I could, in years to come, easily refer back to them. Today is one of those occasions. On that day I promised the people of my electorate solid representation, which I believed and still believe they rightly expect, and which they will continue to receive from me, both in the parliament and through departmental and ministerial channels. I would like—though not many others would—to quote something from my first speech, observations I made fresh in my time here:

The people of Moreton want this government to get the basic things right first: the family, small business, the creation of real jobs—all items which Labor left off its agenda.

Those sentiments are as true today, some 31 months later, as they were then. When one looks at the policy-free zone of the opposition—an opposition prepared to go down dying in the ditch to defend a 1930s tax system against the fine series of bills and changes that will take this nation and its prospects into the next millennia—one sees that the Australian Labor Party are continuing to display the sort of arrogance that lost them the election so decisively in 1996. Australian Labor continue to believe that they are right and all others are wrong about matters like private health insurance and reform of the workplace.

The ongoing opposition to workplace reforms from those opposite continues to rob Australians, particularly those in my electorate, of jobs. Week after week, month after month, small business operators in my electorate have said that they are afraid to hire a mistake, because industrial relations matters still have not been fixed to their satisfaction, despite the best efforts of the government. I would call on those opposite to reconsider their job-destroying opposition to the government's workplace relations reform.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you and all members in this place would know, the opposition from those on the other side of the House is based purely on the demands of the union bosses. The nexus between Labor—individual members and the Labor opposition collectively—and the trade union movement is a nexus that most Australians find repugnant. The opposition seems to want suppression of workers' advancement because it suits the cause of making union bosses far more important.

I contend alternatively that, if you free the workers, you will encourage enterprise, reward effort, reward those who are prepared to put something extra towards health costs, and you will encourage individualism. Individualism is the basis on which this country was built. Encouraging the role of the individual, as we go into our second century as a federated nation and into the next millennia, is really what this nation needs. But Australian Labor seems to want the collective to be king—or perhaps that should be president—of this nation's future.

These are all the reasons why the people of Moreton voted, in their wisdom, not to go back to Labor. They certainly did not trust Labor, and they had many good reasons for that.

People remembered very well just how Labor said that there was nothing wrong prior to the 1996 election. Those opposite continue to forget that they were in government for 13 years up until March 1996. Labor truly believed that families were well looked after when they were in government, that small business was booming. In Labor's mind-set there were plenty of jobs, and increasing crime was just one of those things that they really did not have to worry about.

Labor in government ignored local road and infrastructure problems in my own electorate, overcrowding in classrooms, increasing red tape affecting everyday people. Each of these real issues was ignored by Labor year in, year out, because they all relate to individuals—people. Labor continues to forget about real people. But the real people, happily, have not forgotten about Labor, and that is why they lost the October election. In my first speech I said:

I believe we must ensure that individuals recognise their responsibilities, achieve and contribute to their personal life and, by it, to their community while ensuring the protection of those less able.

In Australia today, we do not need opposition for opposition's sake. Sir Robert Menzies in October 1944 inspired the Liberal Party to set forth and create a nation where citizens are free to choose their own way of living out of life. As is the case with most, if perhaps not all, the observations of Menzies, they are as true for Australia today as they were then. Menzies inspired the Liberal Party. Liberal Party members in this place believe in the importance of thrift, of encouraging enterprise. We believe in reward for effort.

Menzies, in setting the style for the party to follow, also laid down the need for tax reform to help families, which of course is a key plank of the Howard government's second term. We believe in encouraging investment from individual Australians through the right types of monetary and other economic policy, and we believe that major public policy is not simply on-the-run, off-the-cuff pronouncements based on opportunistic politics but rather is based on an underlying and sound logic.

I see big government as authoritarian and dangerous, yet too many people these days still expect government to provide. It is a hang-up from the Whitlam era, perpetuated by the Hawke and Keating era, where there is a cradle to grave approach to government policy. That is the same sort of socialist rhetoric that crippled the once proud Russian nation. Those opposite are doing all they can to stop the Howard government's attempts to restart individualism in this country. I think Menzies said it for all of us on this side when, without any qualification—there was no caveat; no exclusion along creed, colour or class lines—he said about Australia:

I see the individual and his encouragement and recognition as the prime motive force for the building of a better world.

I continue to believe that all of those sorts of matters are certainly worth standing up and being counted for today in 1998. I believe that those who want to invest in themselves, in their own abilities, in productive assets, the provision of infrastructure, should not be penalised by government; they should be rewarded. I think in particular about self-funded retirees in my electorate who, at long last, have in place a government that recognises the concept of reward for effort. The Howard government, through various policy initiatives introduced in the last parliament and through new proposals introduced today, has set forth to do something for self-funded retirees.

I think also about the small business sector in my electorate, which is also looking for further liberation with regard to workplace relations but, nevertheless, knows there is a government that is prepared to take on the big issues like taxation reform and to put forward positive proposals which will help this nation. But, if you listen to those opposite, the sky is falling in, the great hurt is going to happen! I look forward in the next couple of years to proving those opposite so very wrong. People do expect government to reward individual effort. And, as Sir Robert Menzies put it in his famous `forgotten people' broadcast of 1942, people want Australia to become:

. . . a community of people whose motto shall be to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

I think that is a worthy motto for those on the government side of this place because I think not yielding in our determination to drive forward the right reforms that are going to bring about the right results for individual Australians, their families, and as a result their communities, their states, the entire nation, and—dare I say it—the world, really is motivation enough for us to keep going.

I have not changed my view since coming to Canberra. It is, I am told, easy to become isolated from the real world in this place. As Sir James Killen, a predecessor of mine, said to me on many occasions, it is important to maintain contact with your local electorate and to be working hard in your local electorate. To paraphrase Jim, `It is the parish, my boy. It is the parish.' Representing the people of the electorate of Moreton continues to be my first priority. I will be putting the people first, ahead of all other considerations. I would have thought, I guess from a practical point of view, a margin of about 900 votes is a challenge to defend, but over the next two years and 10 months—that is, by the time the October 2001 general election comes around—as a member of the Howard government, I will work very hard to prove Labor wrong and our plans right. This will of course directly help my own local cause.

I look back at some of the matters that were circulated during the general election that we have just had, and I guess it would be easy in one sense to feel quite angry—angry because of the personal slight that Labor authorised and circulated, misrepresenting and misquoting my own comments and representations, but I guess that would be a bit precious because that can be part of the political process. But I refuse to be lowered to the level of misleading that those opposite seem to have happily participated in to get votes during the last election.

I refuse to allow Labor to get away with it, and so do the people of Moreton. Whilst they were running an agenda of scare and lie based on the Howard government's fully publicised and detailed aspirations for taxation reform, if you could get any information out of Labor about their own capital gains tax proposal it was an absolute miracle. I find that quite disgraceful. It was up to us to ask some of the very big questions that Labor themselves would not provide answers to. Of course, their capital gains tax proposal was going to bring all the pre-September 1985 assets into the loop for the very first time—something even Paul Keating would not do. Gareth Evans, the member for Holt, and the Leader of the Opposition—and indeed all the Labor candidates—were quite prepared to put their names to a capital gains tax which would have particularly hurt older Australians and made things that had been long held in their families subject to capital gains tax for the very first time.

Labor's tax policy, as we said during the election campaign, is a patch-up solution and will not work. We put very clearly the fact that our proposals were part of a coherent plan. But what were Labor doing? Happily misleading the people of my electorate with brochures that they put out detailing their claims, put as fact, that things were going to go up by 10 per cent but not adding the fact that so many things were going to come down as result of wholesale sales tax being completely repealed and abolished. In fact, today we have seen the measures that will bring about a change to the wholesale sales tax system to the point where it will completely go away. We will no longer have to worry about wholesale sales tax and the unfair imbalance of taxation treatments in this country as a result of the proactive plan that this government has.

Labor campaigned on the question of keeping Telstra Australian. Last week we saw the government's own legislation which guaranteed majority Australian ownership of Telstra. Labor campaigned on the issues of nursing homes, child care and higher education. Their promise to restore funding in fact would have brought about a decline in funding because this government had increased funding in each of those sectors over successive budgets.

Labor said only they could stop the GST. The people of Moreton stopped Labor dead in their tracks and, as far as I am concerned, the people have seen through them. There is an absolute mandate for me to stand here and push very strongly the need for the government's agenda to be adopted in this place. Opposition senators had better understand very clearly that refusal to pass measures such as the private health insurance rebate that the government has planned will be negatively received by people in my electorate. We have 39 per cent of people in my electorate, about 34,000 people, with private health insurance. That is 34,000 reasons for me to push forward with the government's agenda.

So Labor's politics of envy were seen right through by the people in my electorate. So, as far as I am concerned, the mandate is exact. I am looking forward to proving the lies and the scare of Labor to those who were persuaded, or perhaps frightened, by Labor's disgraceful scare campaign in the last election and to winning back their support. I will be maintaining the level of activity I sustained over the last few years—the neighbourhood watch meetings that I attend; the community groups; the door knocking; the Moreton Youth Advisory Group, where I have brought representatives from various high schools in the electorate together to discuss some of those real issues affecting youth, the things that concern them and their aspirations and, more to the point, seeking some feedback from the executive to make sure some of their aspirations are realised.

I will continue to work with local small business and the chambers of commerce in my electorate through the Moreton Electorate Small Business Advisory Group. MESBAG has become an important meeting opportunity for a lot of people in small business in my electorate and has given a green light to the government's tax reform agenda. As I said in my maiden speech:

. . . the engine room of our economy, the small business sector—the mums and dads, the families, the individuals who give up a lot to try to make a go of it.

They are the sorts of people that we on this side of the chamber support. They are the sorts of people who are going to continue to rebuild this nation from the mess the Australian Labor Party offered over 13 years in government.

Moreton was vital to retaining government for the Liberal and National parties, and many people at the local level need to be thanked for their dedication to the campaign effort which was so important to our nation. There were about 650 people involved and we had a fantastic campaign team. Rather than name individuals, I will name—quite surprisingly for me—the collective; that is, the members of the Moreton branches: the MacGregor-Wishart branch, the Moreton-Ekibin branch, the Fairfield-Yeronga branch, the Sunnybank, Garden City and Mt Gravatt-Holland Park branches, the Moorooka branch, the Algester-Sunnybank Hills branch and the Sherwood branch. As well, I thank the Young Liberals from the Sunnybank-Wishart and Robertson branches. All of these people—these fine Australians—deserve great thanks and praise for their dedication to the cause. All of these people were always positive and always determined to go the extra distance to make a difference. All of these people were determined and, as it turned out, the majority of the people of Moreton were also determined to keep Labor out of government. The people did not want to go back to Labor. They did not trust Labor—and with good reason.

I also acknowledge my staff, who voluntarily worked way beyond the call of duty to try to keep up with the pace that was set by the many volunteers who gave so freely of their time. I acknowledge the role of my family, who were always there to assist me with everything from envelope-stuffing and letterbox-dropping to helping out on the day.

Suffice to say that such teamwork is inspiring and what we all should be about. I have one clear agenda for the next three years. It is to build on the work to date in the electorate of Moreton and to retain that seat. I will only do that by continuing to prove to the people in my electorate that I put them first. My catchcry of Moreton-centric is something that I will continue to remind myself of.

My conduct in parliamentary committees in this place is based on the importance of my contribution in specific areas and matters that are relevant to the people of Moreton. Those key issues of crime, law and order, transport, education, jobs and support for small business are all matters that I will continue to associate myself with in this place. The people of Moreton spoke again at the recent election, and I think this government has listened. I know I have listened and I will continue to listen and act as their local representative in this place, through departmental and ministerial channels.

I do not suppose for a moment that the lot of a member of parliament is well understood by most people. In fact, we so easily cop criticism from so many quarters about the way we conduct ourselves in this place, and the general perception about elected members is, unfortunately, bad. I often joke that, as an ex-journalist with my electorate office situated on the `Moorooka magic mile of motors', I am always ready for my next career move, which might be used car sales. Either way, it is very important that each of us has the opportunity to prove that we put our local electorates first, their interests first and our nation first, ahead of all other considerations. I would invite those opposite to revisit their opposition to some of the fine measures that this government has put forward. (Time expired)

Debate (on motion by Mr Sciacca) adjourned.