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Bob Hawke Announces The 1987 Double Dissolution Election

Prime Minister Bob Hawke rose in the House of Representatives at around 5pm on Wednesday, May 27, 1987 to announce a double dissolution of the parliament and an election on July 11.

Hawke had been prime minister since March 1983. His Labor government was seeking election to a third term.

The Leader of the Opposition was the Liberal Party’s John Howard. He responded to Hawke’s announcement, as did the Leader of the National Party, Ian Sinclair.

The double dissolution election was Australia’s sixth overall and its fourth in 13 years. The Hawke government was returned and Hawke went on to win a fourth election in 1990, before being overthrown by Paul Keating in 1991. John Howard and Ian Sinclair were both toppled as leaders of their parties in 1989. Howard returned as leader in 1995 and went on to win the 1996 election, ultimately becoming the nation’s second longest-serving PM. Sinclair briefly served as Speaker of the House before retiring in 1998.


Statement from Prime Minister Bob Hawke to the House of Representatives.

Mr HAWKE (Prime Minister) —by leave- Within the past two weeks two events have taken place of fundamental significance for the future of Australia. I refer to the May statement and to the Premiers Conference. Those events must be placed firmly in the context of the continuing work of this Government. The great need now is for certainty and continuity. In the past two and a half years and especially in recent months, the people of Australia have demonstrated a willingness to shoulder and share burdens and a sense of responsibility in the face of the huge difficulties imposed upon us by the changes in our terms of trade which have wiped $9 billion from our national economic capacity since December 1984.

I believe it is essential for Australia’s future that the sense of national responsibility, this new awareness and understanding of the problems, should now be harnessed to a great continuing and decisive national effort. The basis for this national effort is a renewed mandate from the people, a mandate to continue the directions now so strongly established, a mandate to finish the job. Accordingly, I have today met with the Governor-General and advised him to exercise his power under section 57 of the Constitution and dissolve the House of Representatives and the Senate on 5 June 1987 with a view to elections for both Houses being held on 11 July 1987. The dissolution is, of course, subject to the Parliament appropriating sufficient funds to enable the work of administration to be carried on during the election period. I am pleased to inform the House that the Governor-General has accepted my advice. In addition, the Government expects that the legislation presently before the Parliament necessary to implement our high priority programs will be enacted before the Parliament is dissolved.

The May statement and the Premiers Conference together constitute the substantive part, and certainly the toughest part, of the budgetary processes for the year ahead. The large areas of fiscal policy-social security, education, community services, health, defence and Commonwealth-State relations-have been compre- hensively reviewed. We will not be returning to them to secure further savings of any magnitude for the 1987-88 Budget. Our strategy is now firmly in place. There has been a decisive reordering of policy from monetary to fiscal discipline. By cutting Government spending in this unprecedented fashion we have continued to improve the climate for reductions in interest rates. Our measures will also provide greater scope for lifting business investment in the export sector and in industries which compete against imports. There is, however, a significant element in our long term commitment which has been thwarted.

The Australia Card Bill is an integral part of the Government’s tax reform package and is aimed at restoring fairness to the Australian taxation and social welfare systems. The Bill’s rejection by the Senate significantly reduces the Government’s ability to crack down on tax and welfare cheating and the Budget deficit in the years ahead. The most conservative estimate by the Australian Taxation Office of revenue gains in the tax area alone is $724m a year, once the program is fully operational. Gains in social security and Medicare expenditure would be of the order of $153m, thus the total gain to public resources from this measure would be nearly $900m. This is the ground on which I have advised a double dissolution. We are committed to reintroducing the legislation in the new Parliament.

The Senate’s rejection of the Australia Card does not stand in isolation. Only today the Senate refused to reconsider the Government’s legislation to extend television services in rural areas. The Government’s intention to give five million of our fellow Australians living in country areas equal access to television services has been frustrated-for the time being. The pattern of conduct by the Senate introduces an element of uncertainty and instability into our national affairs at a time when Australia’s greatest need is certainty, stability and continuity. That is the crucial issue in the election ahead. The measures that we have taken give this nation the tools for national recovery and reconstruction. Now let us finish the job.

Statement from Opposition Leader John Howard to the House of Representatives.

Mr HOWARD (Leader of the Opposition) —The Liberal and National parties both welcome with relish the opportunity to test the policies and failures of the Hawke Government. The announcement that we have just heard from the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has nothing to do with national reconstruction, it has nothing to do with Senate obstruction, and it has nothing to do with the long term interests of this country. It has everything to do with the supreme political cynicism of the current Prime Minister of Australia. This man, who only a bare month ago did not regard the identification card legislation as a sufficient warrant for a double dissolution, now has the temerity to tell the Australian people that it is. The real reason that the mob opposite is rushing to the polls is that it does not have the guts to show the next Labor Budget to the Australian people.

The great irony is that by the time the election is held the Australian public will have seen John Howard’s tax policy but not Bob Hawke’s next Budget. What is more, they will not see Bob Hawke’s next Budget. This has nothing whatever to do with Senate obstruction; it has everything to do with the supreme political cynicism of the current Prime Minister of Australia. Those who sit behind and those who advise him know well that by the end of the year-as the Hawke’s Government’s own economic statement of only a couple of weeks ago acknowledged-the Australian economy will be weaker than it is now. The Australian public is entitled to ask what the Government is hiding in its next Budget, what hidden taxation measures and new economic failures it is hiding.

Why on earth would a government go to the polls a bare five weeks before the delivery of its Budget? Presumably, both the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and the Prime Minister will tell us that the great issue in this campaign is economic management. Why on earth, therefore, if that is the great issue-and by interjection honourable members opposite endorse the fact that it is-can we not see the great instrument of the Government’s economic management before the ballot takes place? Why is it that the Australian public is not to see the colour of the Budget? Why is it that we are to be treated to this deception by the Government on what the Government itself says will be the great economic issue of the time?

As far as the Liberal and National parties are concerned, there are three issues that will dominate this election campaign, and they will ring around the country from now until the election is held on 11 July. The first of those issues is the way in which the Hawke Government has raped the living standards of Australian families over the past four years, the fact that over the past four years there has been a catastrophic fall in the living standards of Australian families. The alibi that it is all the fault of the foreigners is no longer available. The cut in national income over the past couple of years has been less than the reduction in national income suffered in the early 1980s as a result of the international recession and the domestic drought. After four years of government the mob opposite have to take a rap for what has happened to the living standards of ordinary Australians, and everybody on this side of the House will see that it takes the rap. After four years in office the Government cannot blame the foreigners or anybody else. The buck stops with the Government, and it is going to be made to stop with the Government over the next five weeks.

The second issue that we will fight the election campaign on is the issue of trade union power. Everybody knows, after the past couple of weeks, that if this Government, by misadventure, is re-elected, the trade unions in this country will be placed above the law; that a vote for Hawke is a vote to draw a circle around the trade union movement and to give it a privileged position. The people know that a vote for Howard and Sinclair is a vote to treat all Australians equally before the law. That is the second great issue. The third issue that we will fight the campaign on is the taxation issue. If there has been an area where this Government has conspicuously failed, it is the taxation area. The Treasurer has said repeatedly that the task of tax reform in Australia has been completed. I say not only on behalf of those who sit behind me but also on behalf of the Australian people that, if the Treasurer believes that the task of tax reform in Australia has been completed, he has been listening to the hype of his close advisers and he has not been noticing the hurt in areas of Australia such as Bankstown and all the other suburbs that he and his colleagues in the Australian Labor Party once represented very effectively.

The task of tax reform in Australia has not been completed. The task of tax reform is overdue. We will be offering to the Australian public a taxation policy that will benefit Australian families. The Australian public will see our taxation policy, unlike the Hawke Budget. They will not see the Hawke Budget, but they will see our taxation policy. They know that our taxes will offer incentives to Australian families; they know that our taxes will be lower and flatter; they know that our taxes will be funded out of reductions in Government spending; and they know that our taxation policy will include the abolition of the fringe benefits tax and the capital gains tax. Above everything else, our taxation policy will restore equity, fairness, hope and incentive to the overwhelming majority of the Australian public. We welcome the election challenge with enormous relish.

Statement from National Party leader Ian Sinclair to the House of Representatives.

Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —Madam Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the issue.

MADAM SPEAKER —Is leave granted?

Mr Young —I do not mind, but Joh will be in next. He will want to make a statement, too. How many leaders are there? Andrew wants to make one and the honourable member for Goldstein and the honourable member for Maranoa want to make one. There are more chiefs than indians.

Leave granted.

Mr SINCLAIR —The National Party of Australia, with the Liberal Party, welcomes the announcement. We do so on three bases. Firstly, we do so on behalf of those thousands of small businessmen who, over the course of the past four years, have been driven into the ground by the regressive economic and social policies of the Hawke Labor Government. Secondly, we-particularly the National Party-do so on behalf of those 160,000 family farmers who no longer have a chance to survive while Labor ignores the very essence of their well-being and while interest rates run through the roof, while inflation continues to rise and while our overseas debt is established on the basis of the policies of a government which believes that it can fund present living standards on the payments of the citizens of tomorrow. Those family farmers badly need an election.

Thirdly, and more importantly, on behalf of the pensioners and the young and average Australians, the Liberal Party, under John Howard, and the National Party, under Ian Sinclair, welcome the opportunity to be able to say to the Australian Labor Party, under the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), that enough is enough. There is no basis by which a government which successively has had its opportunity and has failed can again be given the opportunity of coming through a Federal election successfully.

The most significant of all the polls that have been conducted in Australia in the last little while was that conducted in my electorate last Saturday. I can tell the Prime Minister that in the State electorate of the Northern Tablelands there was not only a swing of 4.1 per cent, as a result of which Labor lost the by-election, but also that that 4.1 per cent swing was achieved in a seat where it is agreed that the personal vote of the Labor candidate was about 7 per cent. Therefore, we saw a swing against Labor of about 11 per cent. It will be on that swing that the Liberal and National parties will look forward to assuming office in Australia on the evening of 11 July next. The people of Australia have had enough. On 11 July they will show the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Keating) that they too have had enough.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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