Governor-General Bill Hayden Opens The 36th Parliament

This is the speech by Governor-General Bill Hayden opening the 36th Parliament following the 1990 federal election.

It was Hayden’s first opening of parliament since his appointment as Governor-General in 1989. Previously, Hayden was Foreign Minister in the Hawke Labor government (1983-88). He was Minister for Social Security and Treasurer in the Whitlam Labor government (1972-75).

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Hansard transcript of Governor-General Bill Hayden’s speech opening Parliament.

His Excellency the Governor-General entered the chamber and, being seated, with the President on his right hand, commanded that a message be sent to the House of Representatives intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honourable members in the Senate chamber forthwith, who having come with their Speaker, His Excellency was pleased to deliver the following speech:

Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia:

On 24 March, the Australian people gave to the Labor Government an historic and decisive fourth mandate-a mandate to continue the urgent and sweeping task of national reform in the 1990s.

In carrying out its mandate, and to implement the commitments it made during the election campaign, the Government will bring before this Parliament an ambitious and far-reaching legislative program.

As in the Government’s previous terms, these proposals will be designed to work towards two overriding and more complementary goals: the establishment of a stronger, more competitive and environmentally sustainable Australian economy, and the creation of a fairer and more compassionate Australian society.

Australia has already made good progress towards realising these goals. Futher progress will require a continued and united effort, underpinned by sound economic management; determined micro-economic reform; substantial and targeted measures of social assistance; and implementation of strategies for ecologically sustainable development.

The Government will continue its disciplined framework of macro-economic policies and with great vigour pursue the ten point plan for micro-economic reform outlined during the election campaign.

The Government will set about ensuring Australia is indeed not just the lucky country but the clever country-with new measures to enhance, dramatically, Australia’s scientific research efforts, and to improve the capacity of children of low and middle income Australian families to complete school.

And with an unprecedented expansion in the supply and affordability of child care and the creation of better job training prospects for the long-term unemployed, this Government will continue to open opportunities for all Australians, especially Australian women, to enter and re-enter the workforce.

The Australian Economy

The Australian economy has expanded strongly in recent years, with business investment reaching record levels and employment growing rapidly. However, major challenges remain. In particular, the current account deficit remains at a level which is adding unacceptably to external indebtedness, and inflation needs to be further reduced.

The main focus of macro-economic policy must now be on improving Australia’s external accounts and reducing inflation.

A tight fiscal stance, continued effective incomes policy and firm monetary policy, have removed the excess domestic demand that was evident in 1988-89. Significant improvements in the current account deficit and inflation are expected and policy will be maintained in order to meet these expectations.

The Government also believes that improving the health of the Australian economy requires the implementation of a continuing agenda of structural reform.

The recent strong growth in employment and the surge in business investment, together with the ongoing agenda of industrial and labour market reforms, has already started to enhance the efficiency, flexibility and competitiveness of the Australian economy.

The Government will continue to pursue broad-based structural reform. Reform is planned in trade protection measures; telecommunications and broadcasting; aviation; land transport; the waterfront; and international shipping. The newly established Industry Commission, with its wide charter and robust work program, is to play a key role as a catalyst for change. References to be forwarded to the Commission include railways, energy, statutory marketing arrangements and exports of health and education services. The co-operation of the States and Territories is vital to the success of these initiatives.

The Prices Surveillance Authority will continue to play an active role in ensuring that consumers benefit from micro- economic reform.

The Government recognises that economic restructuring will impose adjustment costs. A feature of the Government’s policy strategy is that this cost burden be spread equitably across all sectors of the Australian community.

All levels of government in Australia will need to exercise further fiscal restraint to assist with the task of stabilising our external indebtedness. The Commonwealth will be expecting the States and Territories to accept their share of the responsibility to restrain overall public spending and borrowing in the future.

The Government has already announced its commitment to a major study aimed at simplifying the income tax system for taxpayers and the tax administration by reducing uncertainty and complexity in the law. The study will provide further progress in modernising collection and taxpayer service arrangements.

The Government will reintroduce legislation to give effect to superannuation reforms announced in the August 1989 Budget. It will also examine measures aimed at enhancing the efficiency of superannuation funds and life offices, making them more accountable to their members and clients.

In the area of industrial relations, the Government’s immediate priority is to ensure that the processes of labour market reform are continued and accelerated. The Government will foster an acceleration of the process of award and trade union rationalisation along industry lines. In particular, it will ensure that there are no legislative impediments to the rationalisation process.

As a fundamental goal, the Government seeks the retention of a wage system which is fair, and delivers wage outcomes appropriate to the national interest.

Trade and Industry

The Government will establish a series of Co-operative Research Centres and will provide additional funding for this purpose, rising to $100 million a year after five years.

The centres will play a vital role in ensuring that Australia will benefit from the combined strength of the nation’s science and technology resources. They will help ensure that Australian research and training will remain at the forefront in those areas of greatest importance to this country or in areas in which Australia has special expertise.

Research and development is fundamental to productivity and innovation in Australian enterprises.

Research and development has grown substantially since the introduction of Government tax incentives and grants designed to boost our efforts to world standard, and the research and development tax concession will be extended to 1993 at 150 per cent and from 1993 to 1995 at 125 per cent.

The Government will also extend Research and Development Grant Programs to 1995 to ensure that an integrated package of measures is in place. To encourage leading edge research in fields of importance to our future, environmental technologies and services will be made eligible for grant assistance. Also, research programs for the eradication of Mimosa Pigra and for the control of the cane toad will be undertaken.

In addition to the revision and extension of the Export Market Development Grants Scheme for a further 5 years from 1 July 1990, a new export development fund will be introduced to support established exporters to enter new markets and launch new products. Smaller companies will be encouraged to form approved trading bodies to achieve the critical mass required to build a sustainable export base. In future, key services also will now be eligible for export grants. Of particular significance is the extension of grants to inbound tourist operators from 1991-92.

The greenhouse research program will be extended for a further three years, while forestry research will be upgraded with a new forest research laboratory for CSIRO in Tasmania, and a Tropical Rainforest Centre in North Queensland.

The Government will be aiming, as well, to ensure that Australian industry meets the highest environmental standards through processes such as the guidelines established for the potential development of pulp mills.

The current program of phased tariff reductions will be completed in 1992 and the Government already has indicated that further tariff reductions will occur beyond that time. In recognition of the long lead involved in major investment decisions, the Government will be considering post-1992 tariff arrangements at an early stage to ensure a predictable policy framework for industry.

At the same time, the Government will continue to seek a fairer and more open international trading system, most notably through its leadership of the Cairns Group in the Uruguay Round. It will continue its efforts to integrate the Australian economy with dynamic regional economies through the active pursuit of bilateral trade opportunities, and the promotion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation process.

Small Business

The Government recognises the importance of small business to the Australian economy. The recent House of Representatives Committee Report on Small Business in Australia (the Beddall Report) outlined steps that could be taken to increase the productivity and efficiency of the sector. Progress on some of these steps has already been made and the Government is giving high priority to developing a full response to the Report’s recommendations.

Transport and Communications

The Government believes that a national approach to our transport problems is required. With the co-operation of the States and greater involvement by the private sector, the Government will be moving to upgrade substantially the national transport infrastructure and to improve the efficiency of our transport systems.

Shipping reforms will progressively put the operating costs and manning levels of Australian flag shipping on a par with those of our major trading partners. Trans-Tasman shipping will be a particular focus. The program for waterfront reform will be actively promoted, and the Government expects that the major enterprise agreements will be concluded this year. Performance indicators are being put in place for both shipping and the waterfront, which will enable an accurate assessment to be made of progress in these industries.

Pursuit of a national rail freight initiative, following a feasibility study of the establishment of a national rail freight organisation, will be a priority.

The Government will also maintain its strong commitment to further uniformity in regulation of road use, and improved safety standards for our roads.

Deregulation of the domestic aviation industry will take effect in October, and the Government will ensure that new entrants have fair access to major airports. The Trade Practices Commission will take a high profile in ensuring effective competition, with the full support of the Government.

The Environmental Impact Statement on the third runway at Sydney Airport will be completed this year and, subject to the outcome, construction is due to commence in early 1991. In the next three months, measures will also be announced to alleviate the current congestion problems at Sydney Airport, and a decision taken on the introduction of a second international freight carrier, and further liberalisation of passenger charter arrangements. The Government will closely examine the merits of merging the Australian and New Zealand aviation markets as part of the Closer Economic Relations process.

There is scope for significantly greater competition within the telecommunications sector. The outcome of the review of the existing boundaries between the carriers, and the response to a number of AUSTEL reviews, are due over the next three months. The long term future of AUSSAT will be addressed.

In the broadcasting sector the Government’s review of the Broadcasting Act will be completed, and a further program of reform announced this year. In the current session the already announced efficiency package of reforms to the Broadcasting Act will be introduced. The regional television equalisation program will continue to be implemented. Other aspects of broadcasting on which decisions will be announced this year include the moratorium on pay TV, the future policy framework for Remote Commercial Television Services, and the second stage of the National Metropolitan Radio Plan.

Employment, Training and Social Justice

The Government’s initiatives in education and training have already done much to provide a firmer base for a more competitive, dynamic and adaptable economy and a fairer society where opportunities are open to all.

The Government will strive for higher national standards at all levels in the education process and a more effective relationship of education and training outcomes with employment opportunities.

A central theme of the Government’s social justice strategy has been to assist disadvantaged groups into the workforce and reduce welfare dependence through an active approach to social policy that assists such people with education, training and employment needs in a co-ordinated way.

The Government will build on its successful Jobs, Education and Training (JET) and NEWSTART programs. In 1991 it will replace the Unemployment Benefit with an active income support structure. Job Search Allowance will be available for those unemployed for less than 12 months and NEWSTART Allowance for the longer term unemployed. Income support and greater opportunities for training and other employment assistance will be effectively co-ordinated and delivered to those who need them, in conjunction with a stronger job search obligation on the individual.

An essential element in addressing disadvantage is to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have access to educational opportunities. Building on the dramatic improvement in school retention rates to over sixty percent in Year 12, a special allocation of $30m will be made in 1991 and 1992 to assist in improving facilities and equipment for schools. The Disadvantaged Schools Program-the cornerstone of the Government’s commitment to equality of opportunity in education-will be expanded to cover a total of 500,000 children, and enhanced by a new program to improve literacy and learning skills.

Low to middle income families will be assisted to keep their children at school through the Education Completion Allowance-two payments of $300 each year will subsume Family Allowance in these cases.

The Government intends to introduce legislation for a Training Guarantee, as a means of increasing the level and quality of industry training.

Massively increased access to child care together with the unprecedented growth in jobs under the Accord and the success of innovative programs such as JET, are all helping ensure that women have a real choice and real opportunities to escape the cycle of disadvantage.

Building on this, the Government will be improving further both the supply and affordability of child care. An additional 50,000 community child care places will be provided by 1995-96, including 10,000 new centre based places, 10,000 new family day care places, and 30,000 new outside school hours care places. An estimated additional 28,000 new child care places will be provided also by employers and private centres in response to the Government’s decision to extend fee relief to approved private child care centres. The existing fee relief system for users of community-based child care will also be improved to ease the cost of child care for low and middle income families.

These measures represent a substantial contribution to a fairer and more prosperous Australia, providing opportunities for all Australians to contribute to, and benefit from, the nation’s wealth generating processes.

During the Government’s fourth term they will be complemented by an increased emphasis on improving services for people in the communities in which they live and work, so as to address the locational disadvantages that too often face families living on the outer fringes of our major cities and in rural communities.

Family Resource Centres will be established, marriage counselling and family mediation services will be expanded and public transport improved.

The Government recognises that education characterised by quality and excellence is of critical importance to the social and economic development of the nation. This fundamental principle will continue to be supported by the Government through new and existing funding programs for schools; through the Government’s initiative of a National Negotiation on the Quality of Teaching in Schools; and through its reform program in higher education initiated by the White Paper Policy Statement in 1988. New initiatives, including a charter of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, will be introduced.

The Environment

The Government will give high priority to formulating a sustainable development strategy for major Australian industry sectors. The strategy will be developed through sectoral working groups. State and Territory governments, industry, union and conservation groups will be involved.

The activities of the Resource Assessment Commission will assist the Government in the resolution of complex resource use issues.

The management of land, soil, water, forest and fish resources will continue to receive close attention.

A forest strategy will be developed-with the aim of accommodating both the demands for forest preservation and the need to maintain a thriving and secure timber industry.

The work of the National Soil Conservation Program, the Decade of Landcare, the Murray Darling Basin Commission and the National Afforestation Program will all be upgraded. A Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation and an Australian Fisheries Management Authority will be established.

The Government will continue to pursue Australia’s joint initiative with France for a convention to establish Antarctica as a Nature Reserve and Land of Science. The Government will be intensifying its efforts in the lead-up to the November meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties in Chile.

The Government will maintain a strong stance in favour of a substantial strengthening of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, to bring it into line with Australia’s domestic measures which are among the most stringent in the world.

The Government will continue to give high priority to other major global issues such as climate change and drift-net fishing, and in these matters will pay special attention to the interests of our Pacific Island Neighbours.

The Government will develop a strategy for achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and work for an international convention on climate change to bind all countries to a program of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia will participate, too, in the promotion and development of an International Biological Diversity Convention and accelerate efforts in preparing a national strategy on biological diversity resulting in a National Biological Diversity Program.

The Government will be striving to develop national standards for air and water quality and national strategies to implement them. Steps will be taken to establish an Environmental Protection Agency to co-ordinate this work. A national waste minimisation and recycling strategy will also be developed along with the establishment of minimum goals for rates of recycling.

Foreign Affairs and Defence

The Government’s foreign policies will continue to be aimed at maintaining a positive security and strategic environment, and advancing Australia’s trade and economic interests in a way that complements the internal adjustments being made to the Australian economy.

The Government will continue to approach relations with the countries of the South Pacific within a framework of `constructive commitment’, or regional partnership; to consolidate our relationship with our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea; and to seek to strengthen and expand Australia’s relations with our ASEAN and North Asian neighbours. The Government will also continue its efforts to promote regional stability, particularly through the ongoing Cambodian peace process and the implementation of The Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indo-Chinese refugees.

The Government will continue to work actively towards the promotion of international peace and to promote our alliance relationship with the United States under ANZUS. It will also continue to respond in a positive and constructive way to the momentous changes taking place in Eastern Europe.

The Government will also give priority to the global issues including, in addition to the environment and Antarctica, the forceful and active promotion of human rights and maintaining our record of assistance to developing countries.

The Government’s policies outlined in the 1987 Defence White Paper will continue to guide the development of Australia’s defence capabilities and the involvement of Australian industry within the policy context of greater defence self-reliance.

The creation of new defence infrastructure in the north and west will continue as a priority with the development of a further bare base, RAAF Scherger near Weipa, and the relocation of elements of the Army to Darwin and Townsville.

The Government is committed to improve the living and working conditions of service personnel and their families. Enhanced employment and career opportunities for women will also be provided and improved family and community support initiatives pursued.

Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

The Government’s commitment to multiculturalism-to the principles of equality of treatment and opportunity for all Australians-will continue over the next three years. The reform and review initiatives arising out of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia will be developed and pursued.

The National Policy on Languages will be renewed. Improved processes for the recognition of overseas qualifications will be a priority.

The Government will continue to ensure that its immigration policy remains relevant to Australia’s needs. To assist in the evaluation of our immigration programs during the 1990s the Government has created an independent Bureau of Immigration Research which will examine the impact of immigration on our population growth and economic development. A national bureau will be established to provide more effective interpreter and translator services throughout Australia.

Law and Justice

A high priority of this Government is the enhancement of Australia’s ability to combat crime successfully-in particular, the prevention and detection of money laundering and international drug trafficking-through the continuing program of establishing extradition and mutual assistance treaties, and through effective co-operation among law enforcement agencies both within and outside Australia.

The Government remains committed to a national system of companies and securities regulation, and it will continue to promote sound commercial practices, particularly in the area of corporate mergers, takeovers and monopolies, while strengthening prohibitions on such activities as insider trader.

The Government is conducting a comprehensive review of Commonwealth Criminal Law to structure Commonwealth Criminal Laws on a more systematic and principled basis. The initial work of the present review is being undertaken by a committee led by former Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Harry Gibbs.

Aboriginal Affairs

The Government is committed to playing an educative and leadership role in bringing about a deeper understanding on the part of non-Aboriginal Australians of the culture, past dispossession and continuing disadvantage suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Government also remains committed to a genuine reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people. In particular, it will be seeking wide community support and bipartisan political endorsement of an instrument of reconciliation, variously referred to as a Treaty or Compact, between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the wider Australian community.

The form and content of such a document will not and cannot be finalised until extensive consultation is initiated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. This process of consultation will be enhanced following the recent establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

The Government will continue to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve broad equality with other Australians. To promote this goal, emphasis will continue to be placed on addressing land, health, education, housing and infrastructure needs and the further development of the Aboriginal Employment Development Policy.

Women

The Government has a strong commitment to equality of opportunity for the women of Australia-a commitment to give women a real say, a choice and a fair go in all aspects of life as set out in the National Agenda for Women.

To ensure women have a real choice, the Government, as I have outlined, places a high priority on access to affordable, quality child care.

The Government has ratified International Labour Organisation Convention No 156 “Workers With Family Responsibilities”. To support the Convention the Government will establish a Work and Family Unit to improve attitudes and practices in the workplace and will run a community education program to educate workers, unions and employers on their respective rights and responsibilities.

The Government will also support extensive reforms of school curricula in Australia aimed at ensuring equal relevance for girls and boys.

The Government will continue to expand, improve and target services in recognition of women’s special health needs. It will establish a National Program for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer in co-operation with States and Territories and Anti-Cancer Councils.

A high level Commonwealth-State Committee on Violence Against Women with funding of $1.35 million over three years will continue the work of the National Domestic Violence Education Program in changing community attitudes and will take on a policy development, education, research and co-ordination role.

Machinery of Government

The major machinery of government reforms the Government put in place in 1987 have shown significant benefits and no major adjustment has proven necessary. Several refinements have, however, been made including the appointment of a Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Northern Australia.

Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia:

The Government believes the initiatives of economic reform, social justice and protection of the environment I have outlined are essential to its programs to enable the Australian nation to meet the challenges of the 1990s.

As representatives of the Australian people you have the honour and privilege, in considering and debating these initiatives as they are brought into the Parliament, to ensure that the best interests of all Australians are advanced.

I wish you well in carrying out this ambitious but achievable agenda.

His Excellency the Governor-General and members of the House of Representatives retired-

Sitting suspended from 3.48 to 5 p.m.

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