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MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE: Howard Government: Performance

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.10 p.m.) —Someone making claims of integrity and honesty and accusing others of lacking those attributes should first of all be examined to see whether or not those claims can be justified in relation to their own conduct.

I expected that the Leader of the Opposition would have some grounds to be able to make the claims that he has in this matter of public importance debate today. I found very quickly that the Leader of the Opposition has no basis for making claims that he accuses the government of. Firstly, I came across an interview that the Leader of the Opposition had recently when he was asked about the Treasury audit for the calculations of policies for the upcoming elections, the so-called budget honesty that is required prior to an election. Mr Latham said:

We are on the job now and of course we are doing so much more than the Howard government in releasing funding plans and costings. We have been doing that consistently in the past and of course that process continues—albeit under a different format with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

When he was asked would all policies be audited, he said:

All our policies, come election day, people will know the full funding and costings that go with them.

That is a pretty positive sort of statement. It was unfortunate for the Leader of the Opposition that he was not telling the truth. The fact is that the senior partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers had to correct the Leader of the Opposition by saying that they would be doing little more than adding up the sums, the calculations of the Australian Labor Party, to see whether the total at the bottom of page was consistent and accurate. They were not testing the valuations, they were not testing the pricing of the policies; they were doing nothing more than a simple mathematical sum to make sure that the figures added up. I would have thought anybody with a simple desk calculator could have done that, but the Leader of the Opposition made an outrageous attempt to pass off Labor's bodgie figures—and they must be considered bodgie if they were not prepared to put them through a full audit. Mr Latham claimed they had been fully audited. In his statement he says, `We are on the job now and of course we are doing so much more.' [start page 32572]

He said they were doing consistently what they had done in the past. But I went back and looked at what the Labor Party has done in the past about budget honesty. I found that in the 1998 elections the ALP made 319 spending commitments, submitted 28 on the Tuesday before the election day and submitted a further 87 two days before the election, too late to have them costed. I would have thought that the criticism that was aimed at the Australian Labor Party for dishonesty at that point would have caused it to be rectified by the 2001 elections. It was not. In 2001 the Labor Party did not begin submitting its policies until the Monday before the election. Only about half of its election commitments were submitted, most of them two or three days before the election, again too late for costing. So much for budget honesty. So much for honesty of the leader and his claim for the honesty of his party. Both he and his party have demonstrated in the very basic thing of wanting to govern that they are dishonest.

I found that that was further endorsed when I looked at Western Sydney. Being a member from Western Sydney, as the member for Macquarie is, I am conscious of the activities of fellow members and local government representatives in Western Sydney. We have watched for some time the progress of Liverpool council and the Leader of the Opposition's role in the management of that outfit. We have found that, despite his claims, an inquiry found that he is responsible for jacking up by $40 a year the rates that are being paid by every person living in that council area. That was $40 a year out of the mouths of the children, the people in the Liverpool area, because he went on a spending spree which he subsequently claimed was good management. He said that the clerks and the people employed by the council did not understand his intention, his good management, and that they got it wrong rather than it being his direction and his management that caused the disaster. There again, I am sad to say that a person making a statement of integrity has been proved to be absolutely unreliable.

Another claim that has been made by the Australian Labor Party and by the Leader of the Opposition is that they are committed to producing in government budget surpluses in each year, reducing the net debt, reducing Commonwealth spending as a proportion of GDP and reducing Commonwealth taxation as a proportion of GDP. They are almost impossible goals, but the claim is made time and time again. They are goals that I believe cannot be borne out when they come to submit the figures to the budget audit process—the honesty of budget that is required before the election.

That would not be so bad, but then the Leader of the Opposition gets down to people who are battling. He ought to know about battlers. The Leader of the Opposition feels he knows about battlers, but just recently when he was critical of the government for not being able to give tax concessions to people with incomes of less than $52,000 he had to admit two or three days later that he was not even considering giving concessions to people with incomes of less than $30,000 a year. They are the very battlers he claims to represent. He had to admit that he had misled people by saying that our budget was terrible but he admits that he is unlikely to give any sustenance or relief to those with an income of less than $30,000.

I point out to the House that with that sort of record, and with the claims that are being made about changes to industrial relations that are supposed to improve things, it is time that we looked at what this government has been able to achieve in the period that it has been in office and compared it with the massive unemployment created by the Hawke-Keating governments. The fact is that they put over 320,000 people out of work in just two years, from 1990 to 1992. In the six years from 1990 to 1996 they did not create more than 8,000 jobs. It is a shameful record when you compare it with what this government has been able to achieve in its period in office. There are an extra 1.3 million jobs. The unemployment rate is at a 23-year low. This government has provided savings of more than $500 a month in interest repayments alone for every home buyer. That is a wonderful record that goes home to the very people this government represents.

We understand what the electorate is on about. We have made the commitments and we have fulfilled the commitments. That is $500 less per month on interest repayments than people were paying when we came to office in 1996. Home loan interest rates have fallen from a peak of 17 per cent under Labor to just 7.05 per cent today. Eighty per cent of taxpayers are now paying a top rate of only 30c in the dollar. Small business overdrafts are 8.8 per cent, well below the peak under Labor of 20.5 per cent. We remember those days of closed and vacant shops. The retailers had gone bust and the small contractors had gone out of business. [start page 32573]

Despite the claims that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition, real wages over this period have risen by 13.2 per cent compared with just 2.4 per cent under Labor. There was a 2.4 per cent increase over 13 years. That was 0.2 per cent per year. You cannot even measure it. I do not know if there is a coin that could be used to pay that amount per week to Australian workers. That is the penalty under Labor. The figure was 2.4 per cent under Labor, over 13 years. It is 13.2 per cent since the current government has been in office. There are now 406,000 people in apprenticeships and traineeships compared with just 142,000 in March 1996. That is looking after young people. I believe this man is dangerous. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition will do anything to achieve office. I believe that the way he treated that cab driver shows an inbuilt and burning hatred for people he distrusts or dislikes. If he were to become Prime Minister he would carry on those characteristics. (Time expired)

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 12th August 2004
Release Date: 6 Dec 2004


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