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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26651

Senator HUMPHRIES (3:18 PM) —The opposition, in raising the question of trust in Australian political life, has somewhat misunderstood what is happening at the moment. It does not understand that during an election campaign it is not just truth in government that Australians expect. During an election campaign Australians expect truth in opposition as well. Australians expect to see the opposition, as an alternative government—it retains that title at whatever stage it is in an election campaign—present to the Australian people its vision, its policies and its fiscal plan before they go to an election and make a decision about whether to retain or reject the sitting government. Therefore, we not just need to talk today about what the government has said, and what its record is, on the question of truth in government but also need to know what the opposition will do if it is chosen on 9 October to be the next government of Australia.

There has not been truth, there has not been honesty, on the part of this opposition with respect to the Australian community. To be truly honest, to be truly trustworthy, this opposition—this Labor Party alternative government—should spell out in detail what its plans are for the Australian community and how it will pay for those plans. It has failed to do so. That is the test of political honesty, or dishonesty, on which the Australian community will judge the opposition come 9 October. Where is the honesty in the opposition not telling people how it intends to pay for its promises? Where is the truth in the opposition not explaining how it is going to tax people and pay for its plans well before the people have a chance to vote on those plans?

In my political memory, the greatest exposition of political honesty, of political trustworthiness, in this country happened in 1998, when Prime Minister John Howard put on the table a comprehensive plan for a new tax system. The new taxation program taxed most of the goods and services that Australians consume at the rate of 10 per cent. He said, `Here is my plan to put a new tax on Australians, and I now ask you whether you will approve of that plan by re-electing my government'—which, of course, the Australian people did. In my political experience that was the most breathtaking example of truth in government, of political honesty, that I have ever seen. That was the same Prime Minister who, today, those in opposition attempt to impugn.

Contrast that approach—of being trustworthy, of being truthful—with the approach of the Labor Party in 1987, which went to the Australian people saying: `Yes, we believe in free education. Don't worry. Under us, a free education at tertiary level is still guaranteed.' Australian students and their families discovered just a year or so later that the Labor government was going to impose a charge for the right to obtain a university education.

We know that the Labor Party have made many promises in this campaign, and we can trust them to do a number of things to pay for those promises. We know they will reduce the diesel fuel rebate by $467 million. We know they will abolish the Office of the Employment Advocate and take away protection for Australians negotiating better wage outcomes. We know they will abolish extra industrial relations commissioners. We know they will abolish Invest Australia, which attracts people and investment into this country to support the retention and growth of the Australian economy. We know they will scrap the National Office for the Information Economy and the Australian Government Information Management Office. We know all those things but we do not know where the unspecified $852 million, and counting, in savings will come from. Until Labor spell out that and explain what jobs will be lost, particularly in the Australian Public Service, as a result of those decisions that have not yet been shared with the Australian community, they have no right to come into this place and raise the question of truth in government. (Time expired)