29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, I inform the Senate that the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, will be leaving Australia today to lead the Australian delegation to the 1975 annual meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group in Washington. He is expected to return to Australia on 1 1 September 1 975. During his absence the Minister for Overseas Trade, Mr Crean, will act as Treasurer.
-I present the following petition from 42 citizens of Australia:
To the President, and the Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, respectfully sheweth:
That the progressive taxation scale is seriously reducing the ability of wage earners to keep up with ever increasing costs, and by forcing them to apply for large gross salary increases in order that their nett take home pay will meet these costs, is a major cause of inflation.
With these considerations in mind, we urge that the Australian Government adopt, at the earliest possible date, the recommendations of the Mathews Committee Report on taxation indexation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Radio Station 2JJ
– I present the following petition from 432 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned students of Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many areas of the Sydney region are unable to receive any of the broadcasts of ABC radio station 2JJ, and that other areas receive poor quality broadcasts from the same, because the equipment used by that station is too lowpowered to provide the service and coverage desired by many citizens of the city.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will do all in its power to bring to the attention of the Government this matter, that by legislation, regulation or administrative fiat this matter may be speedily attended to.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 53 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
1 ) Lead to Nationalisation of the Insurance Industry
Have a serious effect on the private sector of the economy
3 ) Cause unemployment in the Insurance Industry.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 9 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
1 ) Further shrink the flow of funds available for finance for private enterprise in Australia.
Will eventually lead to nationalisation of much of private enterprise in Australia.
Cause serious unemployment in the private insurance industry throughout Australia.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1892 citizens of Australia:
To the honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
. Shrink the flow of funds to the private sector.
Add to the Taxpayers burden.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 1 citizen of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 1 citizen of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Accelerate the growth in ratio of Public Servants to others.
Destroy private initiative and corporate enterprise.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 2 1 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation, for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established as in other countries, using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October 1 974.
That no reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) have been given by the Government.
That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government Office would only be harmful.
That the insurance industry is already faced with:
the effects of inflation,
b) increased taxation on life assurance offices,
the effects of recent natural disasters,
other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated ) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 27 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will: .
Destroy the Free Enterprise Insurance Industry, and thereby
Jeopardize the livelihood of not only those who work in the Industry itself but countless others from almost every trade and profession who depend upon the Industry or upon finance from the Industry for their living, and
Lead to mass degradation of a large cross section of the Nation ‘s workforce.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-I present the following petition from 346 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
. Cause the loss of jobs and future prospects of employees and agents of the private Insurance Industry throughout Australia.
Compete unfairly with private insurers.
Require large taxation subsidies for a lengthy period.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 300 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
. Nationalise the Insurance Industry.
Make for mass unemployment in the Insurance Industry.
Greatly increase taxation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 53 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Nationalise the Insurance Industry.
Reduce the flow of funds to Industry and Commerce from the Private Sector and increase their dependency on Government finance.
Endanger the economy by undermining confidence in Industrial and Commercial Company Shares and by thereby causing share prices to tumble.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate reject completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 39 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Lead to the nationalization of the Insurance Industry.
Divert a substantial flow of funds from the private to the public sector.
Depress the private sector still further and create unemployment both within the Insurance Industry and elsewhere.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 49 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will nationalize the Insurance Industry:
. Causing widespread unemployment,
Stirling freedom of choice and virile competition, and
Making mendicants of former Industry employees and policy-holders alike.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-I present the following petition from 224 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Our concern that the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975 does not serve the best interests of the Australian Public.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should not assent to the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1 975.
Alternatively, your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should not assent to the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975, without first referring the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975 to a Parliamentary Committee which Parliamentary Committee would hold a Public enquiry into the proposed Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975 and accept submissions from interested parties and report to the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate with recommendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present 3 petitions, identical in wording, from 100, 96 and 98 citizens of Australia respectively, in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
1 ) That Parliament should pass the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Corporation.
That an Australian Government Insurance Corporation will benefit all Australian women and men by offering equal opportunity for employment and insurance cover.
That there is a need to establish in Australia National Interest Insurance so that cover is available against natural disasters.
That the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will compete fairly with the general and life insurance companies thereby benefiting the industry and the policy holders.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will pass the Bill without further delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petitions received, and first petition read.
– The following petitions have been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Baume, Senator Sim, and Senator Chaney.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Chaney.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter:
The effect of the container method of handling cargo on the stevedoring industry and on overseas, interstate and coastal shipping, with particular reference to the effect of limited call on outports.
-Does the Minister representing the Treasurer accept that last year companies were paying tax at the rate of129 per cent on their real profits because of the effect which inflation had had upon depreciation and the valuation of stocks? In these circumstances, has he noted the proposition of the Opposition that real relief could be given at present by suspending during present conditions the imposition of quarterly tax payments on companies? Does not the Treasurer accept that the value of this course would be self-evident and a commonsense way of alleviating some of the liquidity problems of these companies? Will the Government adopt this proposal or, if it will not, will the Minister explain why the Government persists with maintaining quarterly tax payments at this time?
– A number of suggestions were made in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition last night. I do not propose to debate them during question time; I do not think it is appropriate that we should do so. We will be embarking on a full-scale debate of the Budget commencing today, and I think that will be the proper time to argue out the merits or otherwise of the policy statement laid down by Mr Fraser. I also would not fall into the trap of making comments on such a lengthy document, which contains some contentious proposals, without making a proper examination of them. I would not do what Mr Fraser did last week when he himself made statements on and criticisms of Mr Hayden’s speech without having proper time to reflect on the proposals that Mr Hayden was laying down. I am not in a position to answer specifically what the Treasurer’s policy would be on these specific proposals. I have no doubt that he will declare his position on them as time goes by.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of a growing practice by both airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia, to eliminate several of the nights in their published schedules? Will the Minister have this matter investigated to ensure that the public is not unnecessarily inconvenienced by the airlines in this way?
– I presume that the honourable senator is not referring to occasions when there is some emergency due to -
– Normal cancellations.
– Yes. Some cases have been pointed out to me by Senator Poyser and others, particularly relating to the shorter routes where the frequency of flights is high, where airlines follow the practice of adjusting flights at rather short notice so that their seat load factors may be maintained in order to ensure the economic viability of the service. I have the impression that the airlines may have been doing too much of this, which in turn has led to the situation where passengers are being inconvenienced to an unreasonable extent. For instance, I know that the airlines adjust their Tasmanian services at short notice. I will refer the matter to Mr Jones to see whether he can propose to the airlines that they should adopt a more balanced attitude to this question so that passengers might be sure that the scheduled services will operate.
-My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the cancellation or deferment of the examinations set down for June and August for amateur operators to obtain a certificate of proficiency under the telegraphy section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Does the Postmaster-General acknowledge that great disappointment and frustration have been experienced by in excess of 800 applicants throughout Australia who had set themselves for those examinations, who were advised by his Department that those examinations would not be held and who have been left entirely unaware as to when their knowledge now will be tested? Why were the examinations cancelled? When will the matter be resolved? What is the position concerning the thousands of dollars in fees that have been paid by those candidates? Can the Postmaster-General indicate when the examinations will be held so that equity can be shown to the candidates for them?
-Senator Webster and Mr Peter Morris discussed this matter with me yesterday. This situation has resulted from an industrial dispute. The decision to cancel the examination for the novice amateur operator’s certificate of proficiency, which was scheduled to be held in all States on 24 June, was caused by a ban imposed by the Professional Radio Employees Institute of Australasia. Since that time there has been an extension of the ban. The industrial action was taken by that union as a protest against the delay in finalising an organisational review of the regulatory and licensing sections of the Postmaster-General’s Department in all States that occurred when the Australian Post Office was in operation. The 833 candidates have been advised that the examination has been deferred. There have been discussions between the head of my Department, the union and the Australian Public Service Board. Some progress has been made in identifying the issues in dispute. Those discussions will continue tomorrow. I hope that the matter will be resolved by next week. Some of the classification issues seem to me to be matters which can be settled very reasonably and quickly. I hope that once the issues between the parties have been settled we will be able to take immediate action to have the applicants examined very quickly. I should think that that could be done within a month or two.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, follows one asked yesterday by Senator Melzer and also the quotation made by the Minister from the minutes of a meeting of an insurance company. Am I correct in drawing the conclusion that it is now becoming obvious that a continuing campaign is being conducted by insurance companies to defeat the Labor Government? Does the Minister have any more documents of this nature in his possession? Does he feel that the fact that workers in the insurance industry are prepared to leak those documents to him must be an indication of less than total agreement among workers in the industry with the campaign being conducted by the industry? Finally, does the Minister have any other evidence that workers in the industry are dissatisfied with the industry’s operations as an industry and its present political conduct?
-As a matter of fact, now that Senator McAuliffe has raised the matter, I have noticed that. My experience over the last few months has been that the situation is rather curious. In my time I have belonged to some organisations that I thought were notorious for their leaks, but they have been nothing like some of the insurance companies. Once there is a meeting of the board of directors of any insurance company or a rally of the most closely trusted senior executives of the various insurance organisations, I find sooner or later- generally it is sooner rather than later- that there is in my hands complete documentation of what was decided. If I were Sir Vincent Fairfax or one of the other gentlemen who manage to mix their occupations of disseminating news through their journals and wellbeing to citizens through their insurance companies I would be very distressed to think, as I am sure Senator McAuliffe would be also, that people who occupied positions so close to them were obviously so opposed to the policies of their insurance companies that they provided all this information to a socialist as notorious as myself. In fact I am sure that does show, as Senator McAuliffe has so rightly pointed out, an upsurge of opinion amongst those people. No one could be more experienced in the machinations of insurance companies than those who work there in their sexist, racist and discriminatory anti-Labor activities. Only this very morning another document came into my possession, one published by the life offices.
– Has there been another meeting?
-There have been a number of meetings. They were supposed to be secret meetings but they were not as secret as the secret people who called them thought they would be. I had something handed to me today.
– Like Caucus.
-No. I can assure the honourable senator that compared with this, Caucus is like a Franciscan confessional. The document that I received this morning is entitled Life Leads. It has a lot of interesting information in it. It contains an article by Mr Baume of Patrick Partners, the candidate for the seat of Macarthur. He has given some advice to the Government on sound financial management. That was quite interesting. There are some legal thoughts on the constitutionality of the Compensation Bill. There is a sort of a forerunner of where to look for advertisements; you know, those funny advertisements of a man with a rabbit’s thing over his head and somebody else with a hole in his head. It says that if you watch your newspapers you will be able to see these advertisements and if you would like special copies on glossy paper you can have them.
It turns out from this document that between 8 June and 24 November 188 of those advertisements have been inserted by insurance companies in major daily newspapers throughout Australia. One may well ask where the money is coming from to pay for these advertisements. I would be interested to hear from the Opposition members, who talk so freely about secret ballots in trade unions and the democratic election of trade union officials- something with which I largely agree- when they are going to call for a secret ballot amongst the policy holders in these insurance companies -
-. . . about the use of their money to bring down the Government for which the majority of the policy holders voted.
– I take a point of order. I thought it appropriate that I should draw your attention, Mr President, to the distinction between a circus and the giving of information.
– No point of order is involved.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it a fact that the method of charging for landline services used by radio stations has been changed? If so, what are the changes and will a detailed statement be made to the Senate? As telecommunications charges have increased by as much as 50 per cent, is it correct that landline charges to radio stations are to be increased also? If this is so, is the Minister aware that the increased charges and the dropping of concessions will place on many radio stations great financial strain which could send some of them bankrupt?
-Last Thursday Senator Young directed a question to my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland because recently he and I had announced new charges for television relays. The charges had been readjusted. In fact in many cases, particularly in respect of Tasmania and Western Australia, the charges could be reduced because of the new adjustment. In answer to Senator Young’s questions, yes, the present concession on the basic news relay is to be discontinued as from 1 September. Under the concessional arrangements as they now stand the landline relay charges may be provided to enable country broadcasting stations to take a split of news broadcasts by metropolitan stations 3 times daily for a fixed annual charge of $104. As from 1 September, however, these relays would be charged at the prescribed itinerate rates or treated as regular part-time services, whichever results in a lesser charge to the broadcasting stations concerned. As to part-time broadcasting program lines, the existing concession for the regular part-time use will be discontinued from 1 September. At present broadcasting stations are required to pay 1 VS per cent of the full-time annual rental for each hour. From the date mentioned the stations would be required to pay 2lA per cent of the full-time annual rate.
It should be noted that the total value of news and general relay concessions for all the stations in Australia amounts to only $ 100,000. The Australian Telecommunications Commission took the view that it is not for it to subsidise the operations of the stations. The position is, as the honourable senator probably knows, that the first proposition that such subsidies should be cut out arose in the Coombs report. I take it that there is nothing in the Opposition’s policy that such subsidies would be continued. The Commission is prepared, if necessary, to send out monthly bills but it takes the view, in line with the general obligations of the Commission, that it should be able to recover, within reason, the cost of the services.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General a question concerning the problems being met at Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. Has the Postmaster-General discussed with representatives of APPM their operations at Wesley Vale in Tasmania? Is he able to say whether consideration will be given to diverting some projected overseas orders for paper used in telephone directories to the Wesley Vale mill to alleviate the serious production difficulties facing APPM at Wesley Vale?
– I agreed yesterday to meet representatives of Government senators and members from Tasmania led by Ron Davies in company with Mr Bowen to consider again the proposition that the paper mills might be given a further order. As honourable senators know, in April last we persuaded the Australian Post Office to take an order of 3,000 tonnes which at that time it did not require and had to store. Government members from Tasmania have been most active in trying to urge upon me some representations to the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I have asked Mr Curtis, who attended the discussions yesterday with the representatives of the company, to consider what might be done to take a further order and also to put it to the Commission that such a request might be properly considered. Honourable senators will remember that in addition to the 3000 tonnes that I have mentioned the Federal Government provided a grant through the State Government of $650,000 to the mills in the past year. The Commission will try to do what it has been asked to do. It has consistent supplies which it wishes to keep but I have asked representatives of the Commission to review the representations which were put to me yesterday. When I have an answer I will give it to the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry tell the Senate whether in the year ended last June twenty-three of the manufacturing items in the total of thirty-two given in the national production statistics showed massive declines in production for the 12 months? Can he also tell us whether steel production in value has gone down 1 5 per cent in the last 2 months?
– I do not have the statistics at my fingertips, but knowing the honourable senator as I do I have no reason to doubt that he would be giving the Senate accurate information. It is of course merely another way of saying what we all know- that is, that the economy at the present time is in a state of recession. However, if the honourable senator is genuinely seeking information I will check on his figures and let him know whether he has stated the position accurately.
– The Minister representing the Attorney-General will recall that on 29 May, in answer to my question in respect of Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 7 of 1 966, which deals with the amount of wages subject to garnishee proceedings in the ACT, he undertook to raise the matter with the AttorneyGeneral. I now ask the Minister whether the Attorney-General has taken any action to amend this outdated Ordinance.
-Yes, Mr President. The Senate, indeed the country, has reason to be grateful to Senator McLaren for uncovering this social anachronism. I can now inform him that a draft Bill to amend the Ordinance is presently being prepared. The Bill will require a debtor to be left with an amount equal to the minimum weekly wage for adult males in Canberra as determined by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or, if the debtor has no dependants, 75 per cent of that amount. The Bill will also remove the discrimination against women wage earners which is in the present legislation. It is expected that the Bill will shortly be submitted to the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory for consideration.
– I address my question to the Minister for Agriculture and refer to the emergence in Australian wheat storage silos of a new and unidentified insect which is proving resistant to known insecticides. Has a loss of some millions of dollars been incurred through dockages imposed by importing countries, particularly China, because of infested and damaged wheat? What action is being taken to identify and eradicate this pest?
– I am not aware of any new variety of insect which is infesting Australian grain at present. I understand that there was a newspaper report to this effect, but my departmental people are not able to confirm that the existence of any such new variety has been established. The general question of infestation is one that we live with all the time throughout the whole of our grain industry. There has been no dockage of Australian wheat resulting from the recent discovery of new strains of pests. It is a constant and continuing battle to contain the spread of insect pests in wheat, especially because of the resistance that had been built up over the years by these insects, particularly against Malathion which is the principal agent used here to control the insects. I assure the honourable senator that I am not aware and my departmental people are not aware that any new strain has been discovered recently.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he is aware that very little material concerning the Women in Politics’ conference has been distributed among women in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands communities in Queensland? Is he aware that Queensland Aboriginal and Island women have organised their own International Women’s Year seminar to be held at Townsville this weekend? Will the Minister discuss with the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, the possibility of financially assisting those delegates attending the Townsville conference who are able and anxious to attend the Canberra conference?
-I will certainly take up the matter with the Prime Minister. I do not know what the procedures would be in respect of the assistance which is sought, but obviously it would be a very worthy cause. I will discuss the matter with the Prime Minister with a view to seeing whether it is possible to accede to the honourable senator’s request.
– I address my question to the Special Minister of State who I understand is the Minister administering the financial aspects in regard to International Women’s Year. I noticed this in the Estimates. Is the Minister able to provide the Senate with a detailed account of the items on which moneys have been expended or authorised to be expended as part of the Government’s allocation of $2m for International Women’s Year? Has a request been made for a grant of a further $2m? Has the request been complied with?
– It is a fact that my Department provides the administrative support for the National Advisory Committee on International Women’s Year which as a body is responsible to the Prime Minister. Last year some $2m was made available by the Australian Government to that committee for purposes of International Women’s Year. I think it is correct to say that a further request for some $2m was made this year but, if I recollect correctly, the Government acceded to an amount of $1.6m being made available to IWY for the purpose of meeting commitments that were undertaken in the previous financial year. However, if there are any other details that I can obtain for the honourable senator as to the way in which the expenditure was met I shall see what I can do to provide the honourable senator with the details.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I refer to the Minister’s statement that from 8 June to 24 August 190-odd full page advertisements appeared in Australian newspapers campaigning against the Australian Government Insurance Corporation, the costs of which exceed approximately $3m? Is the Minister aware that these advertisements have continued up to 25 August, that is, 2 days ago, even after the Senate had rejected the legislation, and that the advertisements have appeared in at least the Sydney Sun and the Sydney Daily Mirror! Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate whether the costs of such advertising can be claimed as a tax deduction by the insurance companies? Will he raise the matter of such deductions with the Commissioner for Taxation to ensure that Australian taxpayers are not obliged to subsidise such extravagant advertisements?
– I must confess that I had not thought of that aspect of the matter, but it would seem to me that if tax deductions are to be given for advertising then the advertising ought to be relevant to the business in which the person is engaged. I do not believe that it is relevant to advertise for the defeat of a democratically elected government or proposals on which that Government was elected. I shall certainly refer Senator Gietzelt ‘s question to the responsible Minister. It does seem to me that it would be quite improper for subsidies of this kind, paid by the taxpayers in general, to be given to insurance companies in a way in which they are not given to any other section of the community. None of the rest of us, when we make donations to the Australian Labor Party to assist in its campaign, are entitled to deductions. I do not believe that when the Australian Mutual Provident Society provides its facilities to the National Country Party it should be entitled to a taxation deduction.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer to the statement made by the Minister in response to Senator Cotton’s question earlier this morning. I shall quote the Minister’s words. He said: ‘The economy is in a state of recession’. Is the Minister aware that this statement is in direct contradiction of the Treasurer’s assurances that the economy is in a state of upturn and of the fact that the Treasurer has cast his Budget on the basis of a 5 per cent growth in the economy? Would the Minister enlarge on his statement in response to Senator Cotton that the economy is in a state of recession?
– Gladly, Mr President. I think Senator Guilfoyle quite unwontedly has been guilty of a facile oversimplification of the statement made by the Treasurer. The Treasurer pointed tentatively, cautiously and anything but euphorically to slight signs of upturn in certain aspects of our economy. But I think that a careful examination of everything that he said in the Budget Speech would lead any fair minded person to the conclusion that he was being anything but over optimistic. He stressed the fact that the economy still faces grave perils, that any recovery which is evident is fragile and tentative and that the measures which he put in as a package in his Budget are all essential if the economy is to have any real chance of firm and certain recovery. I am sure that if Mr Hayden were here in this chamber to answer Senator Guilfoyle ‘s question he would gladly concede that the real state of the economy at this moment is one of recession. I see no conflict whatsoever between what I said in answer to Senator Cotton and what Mr Hayden said in the Budget Speech. I think that the beginning of wisdom is to confess our difficulties. Our difficulties are of an economy still in a state of deep recession. We hope that there are signs of recovery. We believe that we have done the correct things to speed that recovery, but we will not blink the fact that the state of the economy as at the present time is depressed.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen the article in the West Australian of 23 August 1975 from which it appears that a patient in New South Wales receives a rebate of $5.55 for a general practitioner surgery consultation, $8.20 for a home call and $ 1 1 .25 for an after hours home call, while a patient in Western Australia receives $4.85, $7.35 and $10.20 respectively, or differences in rebates between the 2 States for the same services of 70c, 85c and $1.05? Will the Minister advise the Senate why this should be so?
– That is regionalism.
– I have seen the item referred to by Senator Coleman. In fact, it was a letter from a Dr Cranley who, apart from being a medical practitioner, has lost his deposit on innumerable occasions as a Democratic Labor Party candidate for Parliament. The Health Insurance Act provides that the medical benefit for any medical service in a State shall be calculated at 85 per cent of the scheduled fee for that service in that State, subject to a maximum difference of $5 between the benefit and the scheduled fee. From 1 July 1975 scheduled fees were determined by an independent private inquiry. Its terms of reference were to determine fair and reasonable fees for medical benefit purposes. I think it is fair to say that in determining those fees there were found to be differences between States. As Senator Sheil said, in an unaccustomed flash of lucidity, that is regionalism. I am sorry to see this difference between Senator
Sheil and a fellow member of what was known in its brief career in Western Australia as the National Alliance.
The Australian Medical Association participated in this inquiry in conjunction with the Department of Social Security. The Government accepted the fees determined and implemented them for medical benefit purposes. In many instances the fees so determined for the same medical service varied from State to State. In fact, quite a number of complaints were received from Tasmanian medical practitioners, who found that their fees had been fixed much below the fees fixed in all, I think, of the mainland States. In the example which was cited by Dr Cranley, the benefit as determined is a percentage of the scheduled fee, so it naturally follows that the benefits payable for those services will vary from State to State. It would have been a much fairer example, if Dr Cranley had wanted to be fair, to quote both the fees and the benefits applicable to those services.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask whether the Budget Papers show that payasyouearn taxation on wage and salary earners this year will be 43 per cent greater than last year. Will the Minister confirm that figure for me?
– Order! I remind the Leader of the Government that the Standing Orders provide that questions shall not anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter which appears on the notice paper. The Leader of the Government may answer the question if he desires to do so.
– It is my understanding that the Treasurer has pointed out that if the old tax rates had continued throughout 1975-76 we would have seen an increase of that order in collections of personal income tax; but, because of the new system which has been introduced as a result of the Budget, that figure now will be approximately 35 per cent. That is my understanding of the position. There will not be an increase of 43 per cent or 44 per cent in the current financial year.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Labor and Immigration been drawn to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in Perth last week to the effect that the Opposition, if elected, would attempt to end discrimination in employment? Is it a fact that a national policy to eliminate discrimination in employment and occupation was enunciated for the first time by the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Cameron, in a statement to Parliament on 22 May 1973? Is it also a fact that the Australian Government has since been active in pursuing that policy, that committees on discrimination in employment and occupation have been set up at the State and national levels and that the first annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation was tabled in this Parliament on 5 March 1975?
– I am aware of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition to which Senator Button referred. I believe it is an extract from a waffling, flaccid document known as the new industrial policy of the Liberal Party. Unfortunately, Mr Fraser is a little late in the field of anti-discrimination. The Australian Government already has a policy against discrimination in employment. Australia is committed to the implementation of this policy by an international agreement, International Labour Organisation Convention No. 111. My predecessor first enunciated this policy in May 1973. The Australian Government, after consultation with the States, was able to achieve ratification of this Convention on 15 June 1973. It should be noted that previous governments, which have suddenly discovered the virtues of anti-discrimination, never took any steps towards ratification of that document. They become converts to high principles evidently only in Opposition. Ratification of the Convention obliges Australia to eliminate discrimination in employment on the grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin. This obligation has been fully accepted.
A national committee and committees in each State have been set up to investigate complaints of discrimination in employment and occupation. The committees have a conciliatory and educational function. I am pleased to advise the Senate that they have achieved wide community acceptance. They have been able to achieve satisfactory resolution of a number of complaints by employees, after discussions with employers. They have drawn up guidelines for the removal of discrimination in advertising employment. The first annual report of the National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation was tabled in Parliament on 5 March last and contains all the above information. Apparently it has escaped the attention of the honourable member for Wannon, because he speaks as though the high principles which he so belatedly espouses are his personal discovery.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Media. It relates to ethnic radio and to the Minister’s reply to my question yesterday in which he said that the work of the initial advisory committee in connection with ethnic radio would not be disregarded. If that statement is true, can the Minister explain why the chairman or the executive officer of this committee was not included in meetings held last night and last Tuesday night in the office of the Department of the Media in Sydney, which were presided over by Mr White of the same Department, and which were called to make arrangements for the continuing of ethnic radio? If the Government is satisfied with the work of the present committee and if it regards the committee’s operation as successful- the Minister acknowledged both points yesterday- why is the Department of the Media taking over the work of ethnic radio without reference to those who are already conducting it?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Davidson will be aware that the information which I gave him yesterday was information that had been supplied to me by my colleague Dr Cass. Any additional information that might be required as a result of the honourable senator’s question today, naturally, would have to come from the Minister for the Media, Dr Cass. However, I shall call upon my background in the area, having been Minister for the Media. I notice that the honourable senator referred to Mr White of the Department. I assume the Mr White to whom the honourable senator referred is Mr Brian White, the former radio commentator on 2GB, who was appointed to a committee established by my colleague the Minister for the Media to inquire into and to advise the Minister on all aspects of public broadcasting, including ethnic radio. I understand that the committee was established about a month ago. I understand that it has been and still is in the course of taking evidence. I do not know of any meeting which took place at the Department of the Media the day before or last night. It could well be that that committee was taking evidence that day or last night and it still could well be- I am proffering this as a suggestion- that the committee merely is awaiting the report of the committee of which Senator Davidson and Senator Mulvihill are members so that, when that report is received, the globo committee can discuss that report with the chairman of that committee. Anyway, I will endeavour to obtain further information for the honourable senator.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to Press comments that resignations from the armed forces are on the increase? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the current position in relation to officer resignations from the defence forces?
– Some Press comments conveyed that opinion. The true position is that officer resignations have been declining since March 1974. Resignations for the 6 months period ended June 1975 fell by 12 per cent compared with figures for the previous 6 months. Overall resignations in 1974-75 fell by 1 1 per cent, compared with resignations in the previous financial year. It should be remembered that under the highly favourable defence forces retirement benefits scheme introduced by this Government two-thirds of the officers who left the Services in the past year were eligible for pensions. Under the previous Government, officers were obliged to serve until they reached the prescribed age for retirement; otherwise their service could not attract the benefits. I might add that the strength of the defence forces has been increasing steadily. I suggest that this is a reflection of the improvements made by this Government in respect of conditions and standards of service.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction confirm that the Department of Housing and Construction undertook early this year to effect renovations to the value of approximately $40,000 to one of the houses in the Glebe lands scheme? In view of the Government ‘s policy that Glebe lands properties would be available at low rental to low income earners, was this particular house also to be available at low rental? Was the intended tenant of this property a member of the Commonwealth Parliament? Why was work on the property discontinued after contracts had been given and renovations effected? What was the cost of the renovations actually completed by contractors? Does the Government intend to recommence and to complete renovations to this property? If so, will it be available at low rental? Does the Government intend this property to be available only to certain selected tenants? If so, on what basis will the selection be made?
– It is obvious that the details relating to price and the particulars of the amount of work done would not be known to me as Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. I shall try to get the information from the Minister together with details as to whom it is intended to let the house and at what cost. I would say that persons are not barred because they are politicians. The honourable senator is quite able to make an application if she has an interest in the particular cottage.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Agriculture, concerns the arrival of refugees from Timor at Darwin and the possible introduction of foot and mouth disease or other animal diseases. What efforts are being made to ensure that such diseases do not enter Australia by way of Timor refugees?
– Foot and mouth disease is not known to exist in Timor. So there does not appear to be any increased danger of its coming from Timor as a result of people leaving now in fairly large numbers to travel to Australia. There is the parallel problem of Newcastle disease which affects poultry and which is endemic on Timor. But every precaution is being taken in Darwin to ensure that no materials which comprise this foodstuff are permitted into the country. If they are found, they are confiscated and burned.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Last week I directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs several questions concerning the status of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, and I asked to which government the Australia Ambassador is to be accredited. The Minister advised that the Australian Ambassador is to be accredited to the Provisional Revolutionary Government. I now ask: Is the Minister aware of a reported statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and of North Vietnam made in Lima, where I understand the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs is at present, stating ‘the unification of Vietnam is now accomplished and an official announcement is now only a matter of procedure’? In view of this statement, is it still the Government’s intention to accredit an Australian Ambassador to a non-existent government of a non-existent state?
– I recall the series of questions relating to this matter. No, I cannot answer that question. I will have to refer it to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs to get an answer.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Do local governing bodies in Australia deal with many single purpose or specific development projects? Are such projects within the ambit of the Grants Commission scheme?
Applications for assistance for single purpose or specific developmental projects on the part of local government organisations are not the responsibility of the Australian Grants Commission. They are matters which come within the purview of my colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren. Incidentally, I can tell the honourable senator that yesterday I saw a publication produced by Mr Uren’s Department setting out the details of all the types of specific purpose grants that are or can be made available to local government bodies through his Department. I suggest that the publication is worth while reading because I know that in the near future the honourable senator will be addressing a local government organisation in Victoria. However, assistance with these projects will continue to be provided by the Government through the Department of Urban and Regional Development through a variety of specific grant programs.
Financial assistance that is provided by the Australian Government as a result of recommendations by the Grants Commission is in the nature of general equalisation grants. These grants, which are made on a regional basis, enable local government bodies which have relatively low revenue-raising capacities, or which are obliged to incur relatively high expenditure, to provide standards of service comparable with those provided by other local government organisations within the region. It is on the basis of equalisation grants that recommendations are received by the Government through the Australian Grants Commission.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the Australian Golf Union Council recently voted unanimously to send a team to South Africa in November- in company, of course, with teams from many other countries- but decided not to proceed because of opposition from the Australian Government? Does the Minister know that there are representatives of the black population on the South African Olympic Games Council and that in golf tournaments in South Africa the number of black Africans who play is higher than the number of black people who play in golf tournaments in the United States of America? In view of the South African Government’s policy which is encouraging integration in sport, and of the obvious desire of Australian golfers to send a team to play in that country, will the Australian Government give its approval for the visit?
-I am afraid that I am not able to answer that question, either, because I think that at the moment it would come entirely within the discretion of the Prime Minister in his capacity as the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Australian Government has a policy towards South Africa in respect of these matters and, of course, of trade matters. I will have to refer the question to the Prime Minister and get him to provide the honourable senator with an answer.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. The Minister would be aware that the Government sent a delegation to the United Nations Conference on Women that was held in Mexico this year. Can he advise the Senate when a report on that conference is expected to be tabled in the Senate?
-I am having a bad day. No, I cannot. I will need to refer that question to the Prime Minister, too.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister, on East Timor, as read in this chamber by the Minister, and the assertion of the Prime Minister that the responsibility for restoring order and achieving long term equity in that colony must rest with the Portuguese Government. Is the Commonwealth Government aware that the Portuguese Government is confronting at the moment such internal chaos at home that it amounts virtually to civil war and also is facing the overwhelming task of evacuating some 300 000 of its citizens from Angola? In such circumstances, does the Government continue to assert that the Portuguese Government has the capacity to provide, and provide quickly, an adequate peacekeeping force for East Timor and to maintain that force for the lengthy period that will be necessary to allow the people of East Timor properly to determine their future? On the reasonable assumption of the total incapacity of Portugal to undertake such a vital peacekeeping role, what remains of any credibility in the Prime Minister’s statement? How can law and order be restored and self-determination brought about? Who will provide the peacekeeping force?
– I am quite sure, as the Prime Minister has said on several occasions, that Australia would act in whatever capacity it could to assist in providing a settlement in Timor. I am also quite sure that the last thing that we as a Government should do is to suggest any overt involvement on our part.
– That is not the question.
-Just let me finish. I am quite sure that the majority of Australians feel that the proper thing to do is to act in conjunction with other nations in the area that may be involved. I understand that we have been in consultation with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and that nothing has emerged from those consultations that would lead us to believe that those countries consider that they could play a useful role at this stage. The main immediate hope still lies in the Santos mission. We understand that Dr Santos is due here in a day or so and that he hopes to be able to get into the Timor area to begin mediation between the parties. An advance guard of 2 Portuguese representatives is reported already to have left for Darwin. The Portuguese have raised the matter in New York in discussions with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr Waldheim. The Bureau of the Committee of Twenty-Four also is considering the matter. We understand that the strong disposition there is that Portugal should maintain its responsibilities in the territory. I think it is evident that the Australian Government has made its position quite clear; that is, that it is prepared to act in the role of a mediator if it is at all possible to do so.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. My original question was: Does the Commonwealth Government assert that the Portuguese Government has the capacity to do what the Commonwealth Government said yesterday it must do; that is, maintain a peacekeeping force, and a long term one, in East Timor?
– I am not able to say what the Portuguese Government’s capacity is. I assume that the Portuguese Government would maintain sovereignty over the island and its activities in Timor to the extent of its capabilities. There may be further information that the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs can give. If there is, I will supply the honourable senator with it.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation whether his attention has been drawn to an advertisement in the Sydney Daily Mirror of 25 August that was authorised by N. E. Renton for the Life and General Insurance Committee, Melbourne, that appeared under the heading ‘Fair Competition’ and that read:
The Australian Government has the final say as to whether a private insurer remains in business. But if they go into insurance, who watches over them? They already make up the rules and now they want to play in the game. Is that fair competition?
Can the Minister advise in what circumstances the Australian Government has the final say as to whether a private insurance company stays in business?
-The only say which the Australian Government has is when there has been a breach of the Life Insurance Act or the Insurance Acts under which there are independent commissioners who are responsible. The regulatory power which the Australian Government has largely results from legislation introduced by the previous government which had found that there was such a dreadful mess, particularly in the field of general insurance, that it had to regulate the activities of the companies. We support that action. We have made it perfectly clear in our proposals to establish an Australian Government Insurance Corporation that in all material respects it will be subject to precisely the same legislation. It will be subject to the Insurance Acts, it will be subject to the Life Insurance Act and it will be subject to the Trade Practices Act. I noted that although there have been a number of comments, to the effect that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will not be subject to the Trade Practices Act, by the spokesmen for the -
– Now -
– I know this is upsetting Senator Wright.
– Not at all.
– If he is not upset I would hate to see what his face looks like when he is upset. Although the spokesmen have said that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will not be subject to the Trade Practices Act it is our advice that it will be. Unless Senator Wright was demurring in some way- it was a little difficult to disentangle precisely what it was he was uttering- none of the Liberal Party lawyers has said at any stage that it will not be subject to the Trade Practices Act. The only people who have been saying it are Mr Renton and other public relations men who work for the insurance companies. It is interesting that although a couple of days ago I incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department giving an opinion as to why the Australian Government Insurance Corporation would be subject to the Trade Practices Act, nobody representing the insurance companies or the Liberal Party has attempted in any way to rebut the opinion that was there given.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to the massive 40 per cent increase in Tasmanian freight rates which was imposed recently. I ask: When is the Nimmo report anticipated? Has the Minister received requests from Tasmania to seek an interim report? Has the Minister discussed such requests with Mr Justice Nimmo? Will the Minister seek as a matter of urgency an interim report?
– I will discuss the matter today with Mr Jones to see whether he can give an answer to Senator Rae. I will see whether I can give an answer tomorrow.
– The Postmaster-General will be aware that I have made a number of representations regarding postal and telecommunication services for the population of Lord Howe Island. I remind the Minister that mail services to the island are in the hands of a north coast charter airline operating out of Port Macquarie and that another airline is operating directly between Sydney and Lord Howe Island but does not carry mail. Is the Minister aware of continuing concern expressed by the island’s elected committee about the irregularity of mail services under present arrangements? Will he give consideration to allowing mail to leave Lord Howe Island on each day that an air service is available, whether this be by the north coast airline or the Sydney based airline?
– I will discuss the matter with the Postal Commission and let Senator Baume know as soon as I can.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General and I refer to the very strong reaction in the business community against the increased postal charges and its efforts to find alternative methods of delivering mail or economising in mail costs. I refer also to the very clear efforts now being made by State governments and, indeed, Medibank in order to achieve very great economies in the use of the mail services. In the light of all this fever of activity in relation to the usage of mail services, is any review being made of the estimate by the Postal Commission that its traffic would decline by at least 12 per cent in the coming year on the previous year’s level?
– The honourable senator has referred to the estimate which the Australian Postal Commission made, which was at that time 12 per cent. I am not clear whether at that time it expected the general efforts of government departments and of our own services also to save money. I would have thought that it would take some account of that, but I shall certainly ask the Commission to what extent the new economy moves by government departments anyway might reflect their readjustment.
I might take the opportunity now to reply to a question which Senator Rae asked me in relation to what might be done concerning mail which is posted and delivered in the same postcode area. Last Thursday Senator Rae asked me what consideration had been given to a reduced rate of postage for letters which are posted and delivered in the same area. I am advised that the staff of the Commission are undertaking a study of the economic and operational feasibility of applying a reduced rate to standard letters which are delivered within the same postal area as that in which they are posted. The matter has been raised with me not only by some retail associations but also by some of the postal unions. Preliminary indications are that the Commission would be very substantially disadvantaged by the introduction of such arrangements, but further studies have been made of the matter which is listed for detailed discussions this week and for consultations with State managers later in the week. I hope to have some indication next week as to what the position might be.
The most current estimate of the losses which might arise from a reduction of lc, 18c to 17c, from, say, 1 September to the end of June would be about $7m. The matter all turns around what the community might expect the Government to do having set up the Vernon Commission. I have seen nothing from the Opposition to indicate that it would subsidise any more than we have done the services of both the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I indicate to Senator Durack that I shall undertake to have an examination made of the new economic trends that are proposed by customers and by State government departments. I think probably in the long range one will find that when people look for alternatives, those alternatives are a bit impractical anyway. There can be some savings of course. The Australian Postal Commission is attempting to face some of the competition. I was advised this morning that those negotiations about which Senator Durack knows regarding the setting up of courier services have been finalised and we expect those services to be operating in the 3 States soon. I have also urged the Commission to ensure that the activities take place in my State and in other States.
-Yesterday Senator Bonner asked me a question without notice about the position held by Mr Barry Cotterrell in the Australian Government Centre in Brisbane. The honourable senator asked whether Mr Cotterrell was a member of the Australian Public Service. Mr Cotterrell is a ministerial officer grade 2 in the Australian Government ministerial offices in Brisbane. He was seconded from the Department of Housing and Construction in November last year to the staff of the Minister for Northern Australia. He was a clerk class 4, acting class 6, and is a public servant of 8 years’ standing. He has served in the Department of Customs and Excise in both Brisbane and Canberra and in the Department of Housing and Construction in Brisbane. He was endorsed in July this year by the Australian Labor Party to replace Clem Jones in the Camp Hill ward in the Brisbane City Council elections next year. Senator Bonner also asked yesterday when Mr Cotterrell ‘s employment would terminate to allow him to conduct his campaign for the forthcoming municipal elections.
In reply I would say firstly that the Brisbane City Council elections are not due until 27 March next year, which is 7 months away, and, secondly, that it has never been assumed that employment in the Public Service in itself prohibits people from campaigning for public office. Honourable senators will know that the normal procedure in the case of public servants who seek election to State or Federal Parliaments is for them to resign before the close of nominations. The Public Service Act does not make provisions about public servants seeking municipal office. However, I understand that Mr Cotterrell intends to seek leave of absence from his duties prior to the closing of nominations and that positions on the Brisbane City Council are full time. Mr Cotterrell will of course resign from his employment if he is successful at that election.
– I regret very much that Senator Missen has had to raise this matter. I can quite see that the matter Senator Missen raises results from the practice I have followed of calling for the first question from one side of the chamber and then calling for the next question from an honourable senator on the other side of the chamber who is seated approximately opposite. Senator Missen appears to be in a shadow area. I will have drawn up a list of the numbers of questions that have been asked by various honourable senators and I shall do my very best in future to make sure that all honourable senators have an equal opportunity to ask questions if hitherto they have not had that opportunity. While I am speaking I should mention that earlier today I drew attention to standing order 99 in regard to questions which anticipated discussion on matters on the notice paper. I draw attention also to standing order 100 which states:
In answering any such Question, a Senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
I think that if we observe these 2 standing orders more closely the problem of some honourable senators not having an opportunity to ask a question will be overcome. I ask honourable senators to observe those standing orders.
– Do you seek leave to make a personal explanation?
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
-Mr President, at question time today while the Australian Government Insurance Corporation was being debated by Senator Wheeldon he made the allegation that the Australian Mutual Provident Society had contributed funds to the National Country Party of Australia. I believe that there is a responsibility for truth from Ministers in this chamber. The only donation, which we are aware of from public statement, is the $70,000 donation by Rupert Murdock to the Australian Labor Party. In truth there has never been a suggestion published -
– I rise on a point of order. Senator Webster sought leave to make a personal explanation. In the whole time that he has been speaking he has not offered one word in personal explanation of anything that was said earlier today.
– Does any other honourable senator wish to speak to the point of order? I should like to draw attention to standing order 408 which provides:
By the indulgence of the Senate, a Senator may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no Question before the Senate; but such matters may not be debated.
I ask Senator Webster, in his personal explanation, to confine his remarks to where he has been personally misrepresented and not to debate the matter.
-Mr President, that is exactly what I am doing. I am making a personal explanation so that the Senate will understand the point I am making; I realise it is difficult for some honourable senators to understand. The personal explanation I am raising, as you will acknowledge, Mr President, relates to whether there is truth in the statement that the AMP Society had made donations to the National Country Party. It is a matter of personal concern to me that a Minister should stand in this place and make that allegation. I was not debating the matter, Mr President, but was bringing to your attention that the only donation that the Senate knows of, reference to which has been published recently, is the allegation that Mr Rupert Murdock -
– I rise on a point of order. Senator Webster is not making a personal explanation at all.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Webster was given leave to make a personal explanation. Now he wants to enter into a debate about the matter. I do not suppose that anybody in this place has a greater false morality than Senator Webster. I suggest that he be asked to complete his remarks and to sit down.
– Order! Senator Webster has completed his remarks.
-Mr President, I have not completed my remarks. It is no suggestion of yours that I have.
- Senator Webster, you will confine your remarks to the personal explanation.
– He will never get the chance to make a personal explanation again.
– Well, you might not get one either, Mr Minister. We might have an interesting session if you like to keep it going in this way.
-Mr President, the Minister who interrupts apparently is quite happy for some untruth to be said by his Minister, but he is not willing to have it put back to him. I am raising the point that there has been only one basic truth stated in relation to donations to Parties. I put that point. But I say to the Minister that unless he can produce today or tomorrow a statement in satisfaction that verifies that the AMP Society has donated to the National Country Party, I shall ask him to make a personal apology to me.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I am rather pleased that Senator Webster has raised this matter. I do not intend to produce anything today or tomorrow because in fact it has already been produced. The documents were incorporated in a speech of mine and, if I recollect correctly, were tabled. The documents referred to a meeting which took place in Parliament House between representatives of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and a number of members of the National Country Party in which the AMP Society entered into an arrangement with the National Country Party to provide the services of its field officers to assist National Country Party candidates. Now that is a donation of services which are paid for by the policy holders of the AMP Society; that is a donation to the National Country Party. As the matter of other donations has been raised, I must say that it is rather curious that one other interesting donation from an insurance company has slipped Senator Webster’s memory. The Leader of his own Party publicly acknowledged that the sum of $70,000, I think it was, had been received by the National Country Party from Federation Insurance Ltd in Victoria.
- Mr President, I rise on standing order 408. What the Minister has just reiterated is blatantly untrue.
– Order! Is this a point of order, Senator Webster?
– I am seeking leave, Mr President.
-Is leave granted? There being dissent, leave is not granted.
– For the information of honourable senators I present statistical returns for each State showing the voting within each subdivision in relation to the Senate Election 1974 and the General Elections for the House of Representatives 1974. Due to the limited number available reference copies of these papers have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the report of a survey conducted in all Australian schools from May to November 1974 entitled: Television Equipment in Australian Schools 1974’. Due to the limited number available reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of a survey conducted in 1973 by the Department of Education in conjunction with the Australian Union of Students, entitled: ‘Why Students Reject Tertiary Places’
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Telephone exchange building at Deakin, Australian Capital Territory.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate Notice of Motion No. 1, relating to the proposed disallowance of regulations made under the Health Insurance Act 1973-1975, be postponed until Thursday, 4 September 1975.
Debate resumed from 26 August on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is intended to increase the amounts payable by patients for drugs and medicinal preparations supplied as pharmaceutical benefits. The Bill amends the amounts of the patient contribution for general benefits under the National Health Act. The increases are from $1 to $1.50 in the general benefit area and from 50c to 75c in the subsidised benefit area, and there is a continuance of the no charge basis for prescriptions in the pensioner benefits area. It is to be noted that there is an increase of 50 per cent on the amounts previously payable by the Australian people for prescriptions they require under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. It is of interest to note that the last increase occurred in 1971. The Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) in his second reading speech pointed to the fact that in the past 4 years prices generally have increased by 53.8 per cent. The Government sees justification in that for an increase of 50 per cent in the charges made for pharmaceutical benefits.
The Opposition also notes that the increased charges were not included as part of this year’s Budget but were announced by the Minister on 24 July, prior to the Budget discussions. The Minister also announced on that day that the Government had rejected the Scott Committee recommendations on retrospective payments for prescription fees or dispensing fees dating back to 1 July 1973. The Opposition makes some comment in that regard, because the Scott Committee originated from an arrangement made by the previous Government when Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was the Minister for Health. The Committee was set up to look at the arrangements which existed between the Government, pharmacies and the people of Australia under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. It was expected that the report of that Committee would provide a great deal of information with regard to the scheme. The 4 Government representatives and the 4 Pharmacy Guild representatives, together with the independent chairman, were considered to comprise an appropriate body to do the investigatory work that needed to be undertaken at that time. One of the conditions of the agreement being accepted in those terms was that if the Government or the Pharmacy Guild disagreed with the recommendations made at the time they would be submitted to arbitration.
The Opposition regrets the announcement made on 24 July that the Government did not accept the Scott Committee recommendations. Although some arrangements were made for retrospectivity to 1 July 1973, there is a great difference between those recommendations and what actually will be paid to the pharmacists. The recommendations would have resulted in a payment of $73.5m for the 2 years during which the pharmacists had worked prior to the recommendations being made available to the Government. The Minister announced in his second reading speech that higher dispensing fees would be paid in part retrospectively to 1 July 1973, but it should be noted that instead of the $73.5m recommended by the Committee an amount of $33m will be paid to the pharmacists. I think it is important to state here that the increases which have been noted, from $1 to $1.50, are not amounts that are received directly by the pharmacist concerned. They are increases in the contributions from the consumers. These amounts will be offset against the amount which the pharmacist will in turn receive from the Government under this Act. It is not sufficient to suggest that there is a 50 per cent increase in the fee that the pharmacist receives; rather it is an increase in the contribution that will be applied to the total cost of the pharmaceutical benefit that each patient enjoys.
We make note of the fact that Government policy is to the effect that there should be no direct payment or contribution by patients for pharmaceutical benefits, with the proviso that the Government Party considered that there should be some deterrent to over-prescription and over-use of pharmaceutical drugs. However, we see an inconsistency in the increase at present with the attitude of the Government that there should be no patient contribution for medical benefits. We see the pressure that is being put upon the medical profession with regard to bulk billing so that there is no direct charge to the payment as somewhat inconsistent with a 50 per cent increase in the pharmaceutical cost, which is a direct cost to the patient concerned. We believe also that there should be a contribution from the patient for the services and that the whole scheme was instigated by the Government to be of assistance to patients, not necessarily to be one by which the Government was bearing the total cost. We recognise that in this year the Government is attempting to offset increasing costs of Government commitments. We understand that the increase in costs about which we are speaking under this Bill will produce an additional $34m in a full year.
For these reasons the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. We point to the fact that we believe that the agreement which was entered into between the Pharmacy Guild and the previous Government has not been honoured by the present Government, in particular the recommendation that arbitration would be the way in which we would decide any disagreement on recommendations which originated from the Scott Committee. With these remarks I indicate that the Opposition wishes this Bill a speedy passage. We hope that future negotiations which are in progress between the pharmacists and the Government will be undertaken with an honouring of commitments. We regret that on this occasion there has been the resultant disquiet in the profession from the rejection of the recommendations and from the fact that discussions were not held in the way that had been undertaken.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (12.34)- I enter into the second reading debate briefly because we, as an Opposition, as Senator Guilfoyle indicated, are supporting the Bill. The principal thrust of the Bill is the increase of 50 per cent which is now to be put upon preparations of pharmaceutical products. In 1971 when I was Minister for Health I brought down legislation which had the effect of increasing the contribution by 100 per cent. On this occasion the increase is 50 per cent. When one looks at the debate in 1 97 1 one finds that the present Special Minister of State, Senator Douglas McClelland, who led for the Opposition, moved a motion against any increase in this regard. He spoke with great fervour about the matter. The amendment was supported by Senator Wheeldon, the Minister at the table. Senator Cavanagh also opposed the increase. The debate was on 14 October 1971. The amendment moved by the Opposition was to exclude the increase and to exclude the whole amount. That amendment was put.
– It was their Party policy.
– It was their Party policy. The then Opposition members voted against the principle of making any person other than pensioners, including repatriation pensioners, who got a prescription pay the amount which we increased by 100 per cent from 50c to $ 1 . Now this Government is proposing an increase of 50c. In the Committee stage clauses 4 (b), 5 and 6 were voted against by the Opposition following speeches by Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Cavanagh, both of whom are now Ministers. One of the little quirks is that Senator Douglas McClelland argued on the question of philosophy. I said:
In relation to the philosophical point of view, I think we have to agree to differ.
Senator Douglas McClelland said:
Ne’er the twain shall meet.
I think we have reached the stage in politics at which Rudyard Kipling’s words have some variations, because we now have a situation in which the present Government is doing the thing for which it belaboured the then Government and me as Minister for Health. It did so not in relation to the increase but in relation to the charge. I wish to make that distinction. There it is. We support the Bill. As was said by Senator Guilfoyle, who led for us, we believe that there should always be a patient contribution to the free medicine concept, except in the case of social service recipients or pensioners. Therefore we support the Bill.
Senator Guilfoyle referred to the fact that in 1971 I was Minister for Health, and I negotiated an agreement with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia in relation to these charges. A matter had been in disputation for some considerable time, and we entered into an agreement. It was agreed to by the Guild on behalf of all its members. It provided increases and a formula for subsequent increases. I do not want to go too deeply into this matter because we want the Bill passed now, but my understanding is that until more recent times the present Government applied that principle and formula for increases. It did so until this more recent occasion when it ran into disputation. It is true that there was provision in the agreement entered into between the Government of the day and the Pharmacy Guild that Sir Walter Scott should act as arbiter if either of the parties was not prepared to agree. My understanding is that Sir Walter has acted in the role of arbiter. He has given a decision. The present Government is not prepared to accept that as a decision.
I would be the first to acknowledge that no government is necessarily and absolutely bound by the decision of a previous government but I think that the present Government will find that leaving the area of settlement by conciliation and arbitration in the ultimate and in entering this area of disputation in which it is virtually now with the Pharmacy Guild will be a distinct disadvantage to its relationship with the Pharmacy Guild. This will be a continuing sore until they can again reach some situation of agreement not in relation to something that applies only for a year or whatever period, but over a sustained period in the free medicine concept to which the Pharmacy Guild and its members make a quite significant contribution.
I do not wish to continue beyond that because I do not want to be drawn into the argument. The problems that we had in entering into an agreement with the Pharmacy Guild were difficult to overcome. I have always felt pretty proud of the fact that we made an agreement which subsequent governments would be able to follow and which removed this area of disputation. It grieves me to find that apparently the present Government has permitted this matter to return to disputation again. I do not want to argue its merits. At least Sir Walter Scott is an impeccable arbiter to deal with the matter. In the short time available to me I have tried to read some of the evidence. Having said that I, with Senator Guilfoyle, wish a speedy passage to this Bill.
– in reply- I appreciate the comments that have been made by Senator Guilfoyle, who always speaks in a most moderate and sensible manner on the subjects she discusses, even if I am not necessarily in agreement with her, and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson whom we all remember as a most distinguished Minister for Health. I suppose that I have to accept some of their strictures. There has been a departure from the Labor
Party policy which we put forward in 1 97 1 when this Act was being debated. But I do not believe that in the existing circumstances we can afford to be dogmatic about a number of matters on which I for one would like to be dogmatic.
As the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) said earlier today, we are in a position at the moment of economic crisis. Perhaps minor crisis is the correct description. It may not be a major crisis, but certainly there are elements of economic crisis. One of the factors which contributes to that crisis we believe- it is a conclusion which we have come to only very reluctantly- is that there has been excessive expenditure in the non-profitable and non-productive elements of the public sector such as in the field of social welfare including pharmaceutical benefits. Although our ultimate objectives remain the same as they have been, and as they were put forward in 1971, it would be irresponsibly dogmatic of us to persist in every given circumstance with general principles which may not have applicability in the particular circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The increase in the price of pharmaceutical goods, for the people who receive those things, is only of quite a small order but it does bring an anticipated $34m into the revenue of the Commonwealth. It does reduce the deficit by $34m. It does thereby reduce the pressures of direct and indirect taxation on the productive parts of the private sector. That is why we have done it. There is no argument about that. That is why we have taken this action. I am sorry that we have had to do it. We still abide by our original policy but we have taken this action because we believe that we had no alternative.
Despite his romantic name Sir Walter Scott seems to deal with a number of very mundane matters. One of them is this question of pharmaceutical charges. Once again I personallyand I think I would be speaking for the Governmentwould prefer matters such as this one to be settled by arbitration and not by arbitrariness on behalf of the Government or on the part of anybody else. I do not think that Senator Guilfoyle is quite correct in saying that pressure is being applied to doctors to bulk bill. Certainly I, as Minister for Social Security, would prefer them to bulk bill. I believe that ultimately they will bulk bill in the same way as the Canadian doctors with a rather similar scheme in that country have done what is tantamount to bulk billing. Certainly I have not applied, and I have given instructions that my Department shall not apply, any pressure to any of those doctors who use the other 2 methods which are lawful under the Health Insurance Act for the billing of patients.
In fact, my own State branch of the Australian Labor Party wanted me to provide it with a list of doctors who were bulk billing. I refused to do so. I believe that it would be improper. There are other means, quite lawful, which we negotiated with the Australian Medical Association whereby doctors could function within Medibank. I do not think that it would be proper for us to apply pressure. In due course, I think that these doctors will come to the conclusion that this is a more sensible way for them to transact their business, in the same way as the Australian Optometrical Association right at the beginning agreed.
I am advised by officers of the Department of Health regarding the Scott Committee that the original agreement which was entered into by the previous Government with the Pharmacy Guild provided that the inquiry into pharmacy earnings, costs and profits in the financial year 1972-73 would form the basis of new rates of remuneration. No undertaking was given at that time, so I am informed, that the recommendations of the chairman of the joint committee would be automatically accepted by the Government. Sir Walter Scott provided recommendations on 2 matters only. They were the inclusion of goodwill in the funds employed and the relatively economic pharmacy approach.
As I understand it from this information undertakings were not given, although I do repeat that I would prefer that matters such as this should be the subject of arbitration, but as we are not bound in this instance to be subject to this arbitration, as we are in the economic situation to which I have referred, and as we need the $34m which is to be forthcoming from doing this, we decided in the best interests of everybody that this was the proper course to adopt. I do not believe that the additional charges are of such a nature that they will impose great hardship particularly when one takes into account the special benefits which are available for repatriation beneficiaries and pensioners. I thank the Opposition for its co-operation in the handling of this second reading stage of the Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I did not wish to prolong the second reading debate by speaking then and I will be brief now. After the last rise in the fees that we are discussing, an alteration was made to the pharmaceutical benefits schedule to remove those items the cost of which was less than the fee to be charged. The last fee was $1. There was a number of pharmaceutical benefits items whose cost was less than $1 which were then removed from the schedule. If that is not done now the situation will arise where the new fee of $1.50 will exceed the cost of quite a number of items. I have the pharmaceutical benefits schedules here. On a brief cursory perusal this morning, I have found a number of items the cost of which is between $1 and $1.50. For example, the cost of all kinds of thyroid extract is between $ 1 and $ 1 .30. Are they now to be removed from the list of benefit items? If they are not there could be a financial anomaly. If that happens, what is the situation for pensioners who have to pay a different charge? I understand that you remove the items if they are general benefit items because it costs the members of the general public more if they have to pay $1.50 than if they buy the drug as a non-benefit item. But the situation for pensioners is a little more complicated. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify those points.
– I understand that the items remain as benefits for pensioners. I am informed that items which cost $1.50 or less are not regarded as pharmaceutical benefits, but they remain as benefits for pensioners. I hope that that answer satisfies Senator Baume.
– They will be removed from the schedule?
-They will not necessarily be removed from it, no. I suggest to Senator Baume, because I think he will appreciate that I am in this chamber the Minister representing the Minister for Health and that I do not have this type of detail in my possession, that if he were to direct a question on notice to me at a later stage I would provide him with full information about the matter. I am afraid that I am just not in a position to provide that type of detailed information in this debate.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.52 to 2.1 5 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance 1975-76
Civil Works Program 1975-76
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure 1975-76
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1976
Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1 976
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1 975
Income Tax Statistics
National Accounting Estimates of Receipts and Outlays of Australian Government Authorities- Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin, dated 1 August 1975
National Income and Expenditure 1974-75
Payments to or for the States and Local Government
Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the year ended 30 June 1 975
Urban and Regional Development 1975-76
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland)- by leave- agreed to:
That the Leader of the Opposition be permitted to speak without limitation of time.
– I thank Senator Douglas McClelland, who is the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, for his courtesy and I thank the Senate for agreeing to the motion. I trust that I will not go much over the 30 minutes normally allotted.
This Budget epitomises the problem that has been worrying the Government for some timethe problem that its members describe as the communications gap’. This Budget proves that the Government is suffering from a communications gap. The fact, however, is not that the Australian people do not understand the Government; it is that the communications gap has arisen because the Government does not understand the Australian people. Never has there been a government that has been so out of touch with reality. Never has there been a government that has so capriciously betrayed its own supporters and the Australian people as a whole. The Government, through this Budget, will go down as the great betrayer of the Australian people.
To anyone other than the Government, the needs of the Australian people are clear. The people want an end to inflation. They want an end to the horrors of unemployment. They require real, not illusory, relief from crippling taxation. They require a genuine cutback in government spending. They want an end to the wasteful, extravagant expenditure that has typified this Government. They want freedom to spend or not to spend as and how they choose. They want to have confidence in their economic future. This Budget has given them none of those things.
The Budget itself assumed an inflation rate of 20 per cent; yet actually it will add to the inflationary pressures that have been operating for some time. Its imposts upon beer and cigarettes undoubtedly will add to wage demands. The National President of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, Mr Scott, already has warned that his union will demand compensation for the price increases that will occur in that respect, and others will follow. Wage restraint has been destroyed by this Budget. The increased excise on petrol is even more incredible. It will addestimates vary in this respect- up to 10c a gallon on the price of fuel. That does not penalise merely the motorist; it flows right through the whole community. I ask: Does the Government not understand that the price of petrol affects the price of almost every commodity? The increase will add to the cost of everything.
When he announced the details of this Budget the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) said:
Our present level of unemployment is too high. If we fail to control inflation unemployment will get worse.
For once the Opposition agrees with the Treasurer. But I ask: What has the Government done? In one stroke it has added to the inflationary pressures within the economy by its incredible decision to increase indirect taxes and charges and by cutbacks in the wrong areas, it has increased the threat of unemployment.
This Budget is full of inconsistencies and irrationalities. On the one hand we have the Treasurer claiming that he wants to curb inflation; on the other he himself admits that his Government’s actions will add to prices and therefore to inflation. He claims that it should assist wage restraint; yet in its very framework the Budget must increase pressures on wages. He claims that it will redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor; yet it is the poor- those who can least afford it- who will be forced either to pay more for both their luxuries and their necessities or to forgo them. For the wealthy this Budget is an inconvenience; for the middle income earner it is inequitable; but for the poor it is a disaster. For the rich man an increase of 4c in the price of a glass of beer is petty cash, but for the poor man it is outrageous. For the rich man the increase in the price of his foodstuffs that will be brought about by the increased petrol excise will be hardly noticeable, but for the poor man it will be destructive of his standard of living. The rich man may have to purchase a more economical car- perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) could trade in his petrol gulping Mercedes for a Mini- but for the poor man the increase in fares that will result from the increased petrol excise may mean that he will have to walk to work. I ask: Is that social justice? Is that social equity? Is that what a Labor government is supposed to be about? It once appeared that the Government wished to drag everybody down to the lowest common denominator. It now appears that the Government wishes to reduce the lowest common denominator itself. Never has there been a government that has been so determined to erode the living standards of all Australians and never has there been a government that has been so out of touch with reality and so unconcerned for the aspirations of all Australians.
Nowhere are the duplicity of the Government and the dishonesty of this Budget more obvious than in the proposals for taxation changes. The Government claims that the new taxation system will benefit the average family man. The Treasurer claims that he is giving tax relief to the great majority of Australians. Those claims are totally nullified by the figures themselves. The Budget itself predicates a 22 per cent increase in average earnings this year. Let us take the example of a man earning $ 135 a week at present- the type of man who falls within the $100 to $150 a week of which the Treasurer talks- with a dependent wife and 2 children. Because of inflation his wage will rise to $ 163 a week over the financial year. So his tax actually will double from $570 under the previous system to $1,060 under the proposed system. So much for the benefits of the radical new tax structure. It is a hoax. It is a confidence trick. It is typical of the dishonesty and duplicity of the Government.
Nothing could have demonstrated the philosophical differences between the Government and the Opposition more than this Budget. Like its predecessors, only more so, the Budget aims at the creation of the welfare state. Honourable senators will recall the death bed repentance of the late Clement Attlee when, asked whether he regretted any of his Government’s activities, he said ‘The welfare state’- and rightly so. Nothing could be more destructive of a society, of the individual, than the true, total welfare state; yet that is what the Government has set out to create. The Government presumes to judge what is good for people, irrespective of whether the people wish it. It has set out to destroy initiative, to annihilate ambition and to end incentive.
The Government has tried to make much of its so-called progress in the welfare field, but what it has not admitted is that welfare assistance is not free. It has to be paid for and it is being paid for at the moment at the expense of the overall community wellbeing. I need only point to Medibank- the creature which has distorted this Budget and which, more than any other single item, has placed a heavier than ever burden on every taxpayer. That creation has given the average Australian no new benefits. It has not made the cost of medical treatment any cheaper or any better. It has not made the time for refunds any quicker, as those who queue at its payout centres can confirm. Personal records of payment no longer can be kept by patients. Medibank will not return them. It merely has replaced a system that offered freedom of choice with one of compulsion and I ask: At what a cost? While the Government creates the illusion that it is providing free medical treatment the fact is that Medibank has placed an immense burden on every taxpayer. Its stated cost of $ 1,445m, which I predict will be a gross under-estimate, amounts to $289 per taxpayer. Medibank, I repeat, will cost an average of $289 per taxpayer but medical research will receive only $4m. It is too little to maintain many important research programs. People may die because of the Government’s tight-fisted approach to medical research but those who survive can rely on what- Medibank? I put to the Government: Is this its order of priorities?
This Budget is a hodge-podge of deceit and duplicity, riddled with anomalies, contradictions and distortions, of which the taxation rip-off and the medical scandal are but a part. It is, nevertheless, a fascinating document. It is fascinating because of the picture it paints of the Government’s sense of priorities and the Government’s total lack of understanding of Australian society.
At a time of rapid movement in the defence area the Budget effectively cuts back on defence. Defence spending falls from 9. 1 per cent of total outlays last year to 8.2 per cent this year. The Government apparently chooses to ignore the growing instability in our region. The Prime Minister washes his hands of the Timor problem.
Mr President, Pilate is alive and well in Australia. Like an ostrich the Government buries its head in the sand and hopes the troubles will go away.
I note that in outlining the Budget at the National Press Club the Treasurer made much of it as a document of redistribution- but what a redistribution. One example is the railways. South Australia and Tasmania are to gain $32m to cover the losses on their railways, which is of advantage to the governments and the people of South Australia and Tasmania even if they forgo control of their railway systems, but I ask: Who pays for this? The answer is that the people of the other States will pay. So the taxpayers in the other States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and my own State of Western Australia not only have to meet the cost of their own railway systems but also are required to subsidise the losses incurred in South Australia and Tasmania although they are effectively denied any political control over the running of these systems. Such is the Government’s principle of equality. It believes in robbing the poor to pay the poor.
I point to another contradiction in this Budget and that is the question of tourism. This year the Government is to spend $8. 9m on assisting the Australian tourist industry. That is a commendable objective but that $8. 9m will be more than negated by the other measures the Government is taking which will wreck this already ailing industry. Air fares to Australia and within Australia already are so high as to effectively deter tourism. Australia is a long way from other countries and the current fare structure makes it even further away. But this Budget will make aviation fares even dearer. The combination of higher fuel prices plus the savage increases in navigation charges will effectively price Australia out of both the international and even the internal tourist market. Landing charges for international airlines already are the highest in the world. The Government’s policy in relation to aviation fuel for international airlines will cause serious financial difficulties for Qantas Airways Ltd and could lead to hundreds of Qantas employees losing their jobs. Yet the Government will spend almost $9m on the one hand- it really is only a drop in the bucket- to help the industry while on the other hand it will make tourism so expensive as almost to destroy it. In blindly applying its user pays principle the Government is throwing away millions in revenue which could have been gained by encouraging, really encouraging, people to visit Australia and to travel within Australia.
Perhaps there is nothing that typifies the Government’s distorted sense of priorities more than an item which appears on page 61 of the statements appended to the Budget speech. There we find that the Government is to increase its commitment to the Australian National Gallery and the collection by $1.5m, an amount offset by a $1.5m reduction in its spending on wildlife and national parks. The Prime Minister has determined that his love of art, his determination to spend Australian taxpayers’ money to ensure that Australia has the most expensive art collection that the taxpayers can buy, should take priority over conserving Australia’s real natural heritage. The Government says that it has pruned every expenditure possible yet this year it will spend $3m on the construction of the Prime Minister’s plaything, the National Gallery. I ask: Why, in a time of so-called restraint, should this project escape notice? I do not question its ultimate worth but it seems a strange priority in current economic circumstances.
This Government’s order of priorities defies comprehension. The information from the Budget so far shows a total lack of understanding of community needs, a total inconsistency of approach, a leaning to promote the frivolous and the unnecessary on the one hand while cutting back on the more important needs of the community. For example, the Government plans to cut its total payments for housing by $69m, including $20m for welfare housing for the needy and the under-privileged, yet its overseas housing program, the building of luxury office blocks and residences for its diplomats, will cost millions. Millions are to be spent for buildings for diplomats at the cost of housing for the needy in Australia. No doubt the Prime Minister wants to ensure that he is well accommodated on his next overseas odyssey, even if that means that poor Australians are denied a roof over their heads.
Never has there been a government so anxious to inquire into trivia at the taxpayers’ expense. It has set aside more than $2m for royal commissions and it is so intent on keeping up taxpayer-financed royal commissions that it is now advertising for staff to fill a permanent pool of people to work on these and future inquiries. That, Mr President, no doubt is one of the areas in which the Government found it impractical to cut expenditure.
The Government’s spending on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to rise by $800,000 according to the Budget, and again according to the Budget, this is due to an ‘increased level of activity’. Presumably the Government expects, rightly, that its budgetary activities will cause such an upsurge in industrial unrest that it will have to spend even more of the taxpayers’ money on the machinery of resolving it. Then there is the Government’s propaganda machine. This year the Government will be spending $ 1 1 .4m on what it describes as publicity services. Presumably there will be more taxpayerfinanced advertisements espousing the Government’s non-existent virtues. This is just another example of frivolous waste.
The Opposition believes this Budget is a hoax and a confidence trick upon the Australian people. We believe it will not achieve any of the objectives that are claimed for it or that we believe a Budget should aim at in the current circumstances. In particular, it will not ease inflation; it will exacerbate it. It will not reduce unemployment; it will increase it. It will not allow people the freedom to save or to spend as they wish. It will not give business the confidence it so desperately needs. It will encourage reliance on the Government, not on oneself. Last night the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Malcolm Fraser) outlined what a Liberal-Country Party government would do. So that there will be no misunderstanding about what we would do I repeat what Mr Fraser said last night. He said:
There must be a whole-hearted effort to reduce the rate of inflation. If inflation is to be cut back, the over-expanded demands of government must be cut back. This requires further reduction of government spending, the provision of real tax relief to reduce excessive income claims, and monetary growth at a rate which will not accommodate continuing high rates of price increases. We are firm in the view that action must be taken now to revive production and investment. Without this there will be no genuine basis for expanding employment opportunities
We believe this year’s Budget strategy should be set within the framework of a 3-year program with clearly indicated objectives and programs to achieve them. The Government must set an example as an essential pre-condition for curbing inflationary expectations which have spiralled out of control during the past 3 years. This is an unambiguous approach which would rely on substance and not a fragile psychology to revive the economy and get unemployment down. There is now an overriding obligation to tell the Australian people about the budgetary situation.
The failure to recognise and deal with problems as they have arisen has made the immediate task of economic management enormously difficult. There is less flexibility this year than there was last year. But we do not accept that the cumulative impact of past policy errors has so reduced flexibility as to prevent a major change of direction commencing now. The economy will not be brought under control by a policy of economic neutrality. Inflation will not be controlled unless pressure for wage and salary increases is lightened. The proposed 43 per cent increase in PA YE income tax collections represents a direct threat to the objective of wage and salary restraint.
We therefore believe that an additional $500m should be set aside for reductions in income tax receipts during 1975-76. The changes we would seek to make would be designed to give the maximum chance of achieving wage restraint. The only way, in our view, that a government can reasonably ask for restraint and responsibility is to be resolute about its own expenditure. As evidence of our unambiguous determination to do this we have decided to adopt the recommendations of the Mathews Committee report for individuals and companies. Discussions with the ACTU would be necessary.
We would introduce over a period of 3 years personal income tax indexation as recommended in the Mathews report. We would expect the ACTU and trade union leadership to play a national role in arguing for wage and salary restraint in the interests both of their members and all Australians. The Mathews Committee emphasised the need for a proper adjustment of the income tax scales. We would structure the tax scales to assist families, especially single income families. We would want a system of rebates or concessional deductions which encouraged people to look after their own future. Our income policy would be introduced not only as a pan of the program to control inflation but also to provide greater equity as between taxpayers and to restore the incentive to work and to save which has been so eroded in the past 2Vi years.
Our policy is tangible evidence of our long-term objective to return a greater degree of choice and independence to individuals and to families. In our view we must ensure that the system of personal income tax is free from the distortion and enforced disincentive produced by inflation on an unadjusted and progressive tax scale. Tax indexation provides the solution to this dilemma. It would prevent future governments from using the silent tax of inflation to transfer resources from individuals to the government sector.
Two important objectives would be advanced by our income tax proposals. The first is a policy of incomes restraint. Unless a policy of incomes restraint is successfully pursued, the damaging rise of costs throughout the economy will continue. The wage determination procedures chosen by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission must be supported. The erosion of the after-tax benefits of indexation must be minimised. Without the additional measures we propose, the necessary reduction of wage-cost pressures will not be achieved. The second objective of the tax cuts is to stimulate overall demand for goods and services. We believe that without the support of additional incentives, consumer spending at an economically desirable level will not be sustained.
I turn now to the second major thrust of our budgetary proposals, the re-generation of investment and the creation of jobs. We have decided to endorse the most far-reaching reform of the company taxation system since its introduction. A Liberal-National Country Party government would implement the recommendations of the Mathews Committee on company taxation. We believe that this should be done in 3 separate stages, beginning immediately. We consider that the stock valuation adjustment proposals of the Mathews report should be introduced for company tax payable in 1975-76 at 50 per cent of the recommended rate for stock valuation. The company tax rate during this period should be held at last year’s rate of 45 per cent as recommended by the Mathews Committee. The company taxation reforms, beginning this year, would provide a solid basis for the restoration of business confidence. The second and third stages of the Mathews reforms should be implemented within the 3 years. This is a significant decision. It reflects our fundamental commitment to the restoration of a healthy private sector and to the right of every Australian to work.
But we believe that further measures are warranted this year. We would introduce a 40 per cent investment allowance to supersede the accelerated depreciation allowance. This would be available for plant and equipment installed before June 1977. It would be continued at a rate of 20 per cent for a further 5-year period. We would suspend for the period ofthe present crisis the present system in which company tax is paid on a quarterly basis. Specific incentives are clearly demanded for the primary industry sector. We believe that the beef export levy should be suspended and the superphosphate bounty reintroduced. In addition we believe that beef producers, like any other section of the community which has lost its means of livelihood, should be eligible for welfare payments.
Finally, we believe that there is room to make a start on adjustments to the problems created for private companies, small business, by the taxation of retained earnings. The small business sector must be assisted through its immediate difficulties if investment and employment are to be stimulated. In full, our expenditure proposals for the private sector would amount to $500m during 1975-76.
Together with the major ongoing reforms which we would implement during a 3-year period, this program represents the most decisive and soundly based commitment given to the private sector in the post-war period. We believe that it provides the basis for a return to growth and stability.
In conjunction with the program of incomes restraint, we believe that this year’s Budget should be accompanied by a responsible program of monetary control. The erratic monetary strategies pursued since the earliest days of the Labor Government have been important elements of the economic breakdown which we now face.
Our program is based on no increase in the deficit, and this will be made possible by a reduced rate of government expenditure. Government spending is not accelerating at the mad rate of last year, but the rate of increase is still far too fast for the Australian economy. It is always harder for an opposition than a government to demonstrate in detail its expenditure proposals. Nevertheless, we believe that the rate of spending can be reduced down towards the Government’s projected rate of inflation to achieve additional funds of $1 billion. This means that government spending would be held back by 5 per cent from its planned level. This would hold it constant in real terms. If there is to be large-scale tax relief and incentives to the job-creating productive sector, there would have to be substantial cuts in government spending. Many programs for worthy and worthwhile ends would have to be cut back or deferred. They would be cut back or deferred for one reason only: Australia is not rich enough to afford all the good and desirable programs we would all like.
There is simply not enough money to go around for all the worthy goals we want. At some stage we have to make choices. We would choose job opportunities, a return to real improvement in Australia’s wealth, and real choice back in the hands ofthe individual consumers.
Let me be plain. We choose this course at the expense of some desirable government programs because we place first priority on restoring Australia’s health. If we do not beat the monster of inflation stalking across our country, we can forget all the desirable government funded programs we would one day be able to afford. We would go the way of unluckier countries we can all name. We would tell the Australian people that, and I believe the Australian people would support us. I believe they would prefer to fund real productive jobs and choice for themselves than many of the programs which are still being funded. Spending can be reduced further. After Labor’s first 3 Budgets, Federal spending will have increased by $12 billion. In just 3 years, Labor will have doubled total Government expenditure. The programs administered by the Department of Urban and Regional
Development have increased in cost by almost 200 per cent in just 2 years. Expenditure on basic services in the Australian Capital Territory has virtually doubled during the same 2 years. No government- no business undertakingcan expect to expand major programs at this rate without waste.
Let me now illustrate what we would have done to reduce expenditure. We would have stopped the build-up of public servants in Canberra by imposing a zero growth limit on the Public Service. Why should the taxpayers support an extra 504 employees in the Taxation Office and a further 1 124 staff in the Social Security Department? The growth limit would have provided a saving in wages and salaries and associated administrative expenditures. We would have made special administrative economies in the Department of Minerals and Energy and the Department of Urban and Regional Development, which took on an extra 1318 staff this year. We would have abolished the Department of the Media, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Australian Legal Aid Office and the Australia Police. This could have been done while maintaining grants to the States and to Aborigines for legal aid and while maintaining the existing numerical and equipment strength of the police forces. These first 2 economies would have led to a wind-back of this year’s capital works program which includes government offices, overseas embassies, and so on. This policy therefore has 3 phases- the zero growth limit, the special administrative economies and the wind-back of capital works. In total our program to halt the growth of the Government’s bureaucratic apparatus would have saved $150m during 1975-76. We would have renegotiated the sale of the Pipeline Authority project. This would have brought additional revenue from the value of work already completed of about $130m. It would also have resulted in foregone expenditure this year amounting to $67m. In total we would have saved about $200m by this device.
We would have suspended the Australian Industry Development Corporation’s capital advance of $25m and its access to the loans raised by the Government. This would have saved $75m and we make no apologies for this. Until such time as secrecy about the AIDC s public investments is removed, no effective assessment of its performance can be made. We would have suspended the special advance to the Australian Housing Corporation. This would have saved $20m, and would not have interfered with the $25m advanced last year but not drawn upon by the Corporation. We would have cut this year’s Advance to the Treasurer to save $75m.
All told these economies amount to more than half of the $1 billion reduction in spending which we believe is necessary this year. There is in excess of a further $500m which could have been carved off public spending. As evidence of this I give the following examples: We would have abandoned the uranium exploration ofthe Australian Atomic Energy Commission. We would have suspended the growth centre expenditures and made special economies in the urban rehabilitation and area improvements program. What is the point of growth centres when there is no growth? This would have saved millions of dollars and would not interfere with expenditure on land commissions, urban flood mitigation, the sewerage program, and the development of Aboriginal community amenities.
We would have sold the pharmaceutical corporation. We would have means tested the employment training scheme. We would have wound back the proposed new works ofthe National Capital Development Commission. There would have been still further economies in our program which would arise from our abolition of the planned Australian Government Insurance Corporation and Overseas Trading Corporation. I have clearly set down the way in which we would have made substantial economies in Government spending.
With detailed departmental advice and our fundamental determination to slow down the expansion of the government sector, we would have had no difficulty in achieving our overall target. But the present Government has not adopted this course of action and we must accept the continuing high growth of spending. The reality of the Government’s Budget is that it will lead Australia closer and closer to the British disease. The deadly philosophy which has brought Britain down- that redistribution is more important than achievement- is now enthroned in Canberra.
That, Mr President, is what our policy is and what was stated by Mr Malcolm Fraser last night. There is a function of the Parliament which can neither be lightly dismissed nor capriciously passed over. That is, it is the duty of the Parliament to scrutinise spending of taxpayers money. It is, in many respects, regrettable that this Budget comes into this Senate as a fait accompli. The Government, in its private counsels, has framed this document without consultation with or consideration by the Parliament. We believe there are many areas of it which could have been pruned further. Had we the power to do so, we would have done so as I have just outlined. But if we do not change the Budget itself, we can- and do have an obligation to- investigate it carefully, so that the public itself can judge its faults and its excesses. If the Parliament cannot change, the Parliament can expose, and this it will do. If the Parliament’s attempts to expose are to be frustrated, the consequences will fall upon the Government.
I note that the Treasurer, in announcing the Budget, offered a challenge. He claimed it was impracticable to cut government expenditures by a further $500 or $600m. And then he said that he hoped those who suggest the contrary would bring forward specific suggestions as to where the Government could have cut spending further than it has done. The Opposition has taken up that challenge. We have indicated how Government expenditure could be reduced further.
In the next few weeks the Senate’s Estimates Committees will have the opportunity to examine the Budget in detail. I give notice today that the Opposition will expect full and detailed information to be given at those Committees of why so much of this spending is necessary. The Opposition is becoming increasingly concerned about the way this Government has treated requests for information from these Estimates Committees. In April of this year I requested certain information about Commonwealth car costs. That information is still not forthcoming.
After that length of time, this is an unreasonable and unconscionable delay. It should not, and will not, be tolerated in the future. If this Government expects to get its Estimates through the Parliament expeditiously it should make sure that information- all the information- is provided to the Parliament and the Senate. It should not rely on stalling and log rolling to conceal it.
We believe that this Budget could have been pruned much more than has been the case had the Government arranged its priorities sensibly and constructively. For this reason we shall be demanding all the information possible during the discussions in the Estimates Committees- information which will allow the Opposition and the taxpayers to judge whether this Government has genuinely attempted restraint or has instead indulged in an outright confidence trick. I have no doubt of the result. I give notice of the Opposition’s plans now so that the Government cannot again refuse information with specious claims that it was not anticipating certain questions or that details are too difficult to provide. All the details must have been made available- or at least should have been made available- to the Cabinet when it framed the Budget. They should be available to the public as well. Parliament has a duty and an obligation to the public to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are used properly, not frivolously. This is an honoured tradition of the Parliament. Without this right Parliament need not exist. A government that denies its taxpayers information is a government that cannot be trusted. This is a government which has betrayed the trust of the Australian people. It is the Australian people who have had to suffer because of past economic errors of this Labor Government. Therefore I move:
At end of motion, add- , but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia’s economic crisis because:
1 ) It does not provide an adequate program to defeat inflation;
) It does not relieve unemployment;
It does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy;
It does not provide real tax relief to provide a proper basis for wage and salary restraint; and
5 ) It fails to restrain Government spending. ‘
This Budget further exposes the inability of the Government to grapple with the enormous problems confronting Australia. I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– I rise to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) and to support the motion moved by the Government. Firstly I should like to make two or three remarks on the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. His speech was deadly dull. It was probably an excellent exercise in rhetoric, but the substance was a bit like Canberra’s weather today- very dull and uninspiring.
– He could not even read it properly.
-The interjection by my colleague attracts another observation. I think that the Leader of the Opposition would be well advised to obtain a new speech writer or, alternatively, he would probably be well advised to read his speech through two or three times before he delivers it so that he may understand some ofthe three syllable words. It was significant too that during the whole of the speech the Leader of the Opposition- this man who claims to be upholding the fortress of democracy in Australia- only one pressman at any one time was in the Press gallery, and that it attracted from his colleagues on that side of the House only one of the proverbial parliamentary ‘Hear hears’. In other words, even his own Party was bored with his delivery of his speech. A number of misstatements were made. I feel I must remark on this before going on to the Opposition’s policy as outlined by Mr Fraser last night. One of the allegations made by Senator Withers was that the Government had washed its hands of the Timor problem. This, of course, in substance is not true. The Liberal Party has a great ability to get involved in foreign wars, private wars in particular, and is most anxious to look after that section of its supporters which makes money out of guns and armaments generally. He criticises the new development with regard to Medibank, where all of the receipts are not returned to the patient. On the other hand he also criticises the fact that the Government allegedly was not endeavouring to save public money. This particular method which will take away nothing from Medibank will save the Australian taxpayer something in the vicinity of $2.5m to $3m. That hardy old annual, criticism by him and other members of his Party of the petty cash that has been made available to the development of the arts again received a notable place in his anti-Government Budget speech. If we get down to the real nitty gritty we find that the amount of expenditure in this particular field is less than one-tenth of one per cent of the total Government expenditure. He then claimed that the country was not rich enough to finance some ofthe proposals outlined in the Government’s Budget. It is noticeable that the Australian Financial Review today paid tribute to the Government in a front page article. The first paragraph states:
An August loan subscription of $68 1.7m has put the Government off to a good start in its big task of restraining monetary growth.
So at least there are other people in the community in the field of high finance who believe in the policies of the Labor Government even if Senator Withers does not.
I turn now to some of the statements made by Mr Fraser in his speech in the other House last night. He said that under his program there would be additional taxation relief of $500m. But it was significant that he failed to say where he proposed to adjust this particular taxation deduction. I suggest that it would be confined to those in the upper echelon group- those in the $15,000, $20,000 and $25,000 salary and wage group will get- that relief. It will not be given to those who will benefit under the proposals outlined in the Budget presented by the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, and which will be implemented in a few months time. He then said that proposals would be made to stimulate the private sector and that this would cost $ 1 ,000m. I want to point out that somewhere in the financial calculations of the Opposition $500m are missing. I suggest that this $500m will be found in another area; I will nominate those areas as I progress with my remarks during this debate. He surprisingly now agrees that deficit budgeting is an acceptable method of government financing. This of course repudiates some of the things that have been made by members of the Liberal Party and more particularly by members of the National Country Party over the last year or two and in particular over the last 12 months. This policy apparently has now been adopted by the Liberal Party, which again proves that the Labor Party as a government is correct in its method of trying to control the finances of this country. We are told that if the Liberal Party happened to be the government of the day it would increase the investment allowance by 40 per cent, that there would be an abolition ofthe beef export levy and there would be assistance to the beef industry. But there is no clear way shown in which assistance to the beef industry will be given. I think it is significant to emphasise that the Labor Government is not responsible for the unfortunate set of circumstances that face the beef industry today. If the advice of the Labor Party had been taken -
– Are you saying -
- Senator, I wish you would not interject. You remind me of someone nibbling at a sausage. Might I say that the Labor Party in opposition gave a lot of advice to previous governments that there ought to be long term trade arrangements with various countries. But as I have said on various occasions, the Liberal Party failed to undertake such agreements. It had ad hoc arrangements for the sale of Australian beef. It kowtowed to other countries and did not have any long term arrangements anywhere. So when the beef industry subsequently collapsed honourable senators opposite sat back and I think were delighted that they were not in government at the time.
– With some help from the Government, senator.
– Another pound of beef sausages? Is that what you said?
– I said: ‘With some help from the Government’.
-You will have to speak louder, senator; I cannot understand you. The reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty is probably justified in some areas, but it is not justified as a general principle. It is very difficult to work out the bookkeeping outlined by Mr Fraser. The total saving that would be made is a very insignificant amount. Reference is made to small businesses which would receive the huge sum of about $3.4m in assistance. Company tax would be increased from 42 Vi per cent, as advocated by my Government, to 45 per cent. Already people involved in the business world have complained to me today. They have said that even though they may not be very happy about some aspects of the Labor Government, they would be less happy with the Liberal Party in government, if that is the sort of attitude it would take.
We move to the workers. The Opposition would really move into them. One of the first actions to be taken by a Liberal-Country Party government would be to reduce the Public Service growth rate to zero. In other words, kick a public servant and make him pay for the shortcomings of a Liberal-Country Party government. The Opposition would abolish the Department of the Media. No doubt there are Press barons in this country who would be delighted to see the Department of the Media abolished. It may not be a method of control that ought to be used, but at least it is a restraining influence on those who want to make mighty capital in this field. The Opposition intends to abolish the search for minerals by the government. There was no need to put that statement in the alternative budget speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because we know that that is what the developers, the speculators and the fly-by-night mining companies want. They want to do this on their own, unfettered by any sort of government controls.
The Opposition intends to abolish the Prices Justification Tribunal. As I mentioned on a previous occasion, I think there are certain areas in which the Prices Justification Tribunal should have stronger and longer teeth. Nevertheless, the Tribunal has done something towards keeping down the rate of inflation in Australia. One can understand that the masters of the Liberal Party have decided that the Prices Justification Tribunal must go. Mr Fraser and, of course, his echo in this chamber decided that it would be a jolly good idea. The Opposition wishes to abolish the Australian Legal Aid Office. Of course, this is not the great dragon that many people in the profession of law claim it to be. It helps those people who cannot help themselves- people who do not have large sums of money or the ready cash and who have to seek legal advice. But the Liberal Party intends to abolish the Legal Aid Office also. That is again kicking the worker as well as kicking the public servant who is already in the higher echelons.
The Opposition would abolish the Australia Police. I am not quite sure what this would do, but maybe my good personal friend in Queensland, the Premier, might be able to explain why he thinks the Australia Police should be abolished. In recent times about 60 people have resigned from the Queensland Police Force to join the Australia Police because they were dissatisfied with conditions in the Police Force in Queensland. The Opposition would cut back on government capital works. Yet here last night we heard members of the Opposition agreeing that something ought to be done about the construction of a new and permanent parliament house. I doubt whether that would be the first building to get the axe. No doubt, the Opposition would cut expenditure on hospitals, schools and places like that where capital expenditure is involved. It intends also to abolish the Cooper Basin pipeline as a government enterprise. This would be sold to private industry. I suppose that as a government we expected this. The oil companies put a lot of money into the coffers of the Liberal Party and they will want something in return for their money- perhaps a cheap pipeline. (Quorum formed). It is significant that, of the 2 members of the Liberal Party who were in the chamber when a quorum was called for, one was talking about the price of sausages and the other was trying to big-note himself by sitting on the front bench.
I will refer again to some of the cuts in expenditure that would be made by Mr Fraser and those on the other side of the chamber. Mr
Fraser said that the Opposition would reject the sum of $2 5 m being granted to the Australian Industry Development Corporation and also access to loan funds of $75m. No doubt, while the Opposition is taking this action it will encourage the re-establishment of shady firms such as Patrick Partners to fiddle away people’s money. He said also that there would be a cut of $20m in the special advance to the Australian Housing Corporation. With the big building combines in this country, I suppose it is an expected move from the Opposition because the Australian Housing Corporation was established to provide low cost and low rental housing for those people in the community who most need it. But the forces of the building empires naturally will apply pressure to the Opposition to ensure that they are able to make 1 5 to 20 per cent interest on all the funds that they invest in housing development.
As a final slap at development in this country, suspension of the growth centre program is the next step proposed by the Opposition. Apart from kicking the wage and salary earner in the so-called alternative Budget, $500m is still untraceable. I am suggesting that that $500mprobably much more- will be made up by cuts of millions of dollars in health services. There will be cuts in pensions. This has been stated already around the hustings by elected members of the Liberal Party. It has been said that age, invalid and repatriation pensions are far too high and need to be reduced. This is a shocking state of affairs.
- Mr Calder said that, too.
– I do not take much notice of members of the Country Party because usually they speak from a vacuum. The Country Party is advocating cuts in Aboriginal grants right around Australia because of their opposition, on racial grounds, to the Aboriginal community. Education will be cut in every area. These are things that Mr Fraser is promising this country today. This is the alternative Budget that he hopes to have the opportunity of introducing. Not the least of these cuts, of course, will be the cuts in health services with the emasculation of Medibank.
Let us turn to the other side of the ledger. The Australian Labor Party Government has produced a workable Budget that not only is designed to encourage the private sector but also has gently pruned government spending in many areas. I want to quote, in the limited time that I have available to me, a number of the points from the Budget that have the most impact on a social basis. Under the heading ‘Student Assistance ‘ the Budget Papers state:
Estimated outlays for 197S-76 include $2.9 million for the first full year of operation of the new Adult Secondary Education Assistance Scheme under which means-tested allowances are made available to adults who, subject to certain conditions, are undertaking full-time studies in the final year of the secondary school system. Allowance is also made for the continued phasing out of the Senior Secondary Scholarship Scheme, expenditure on which is estimated to fall from $6.1 million in 1974-75 to $1.2 million in 1975-76.
This of course has been superseded by many other initiatives of the Labor Government. In relation to special groups it is stated:
Assistance by the Australian Government for the education of special groups is estimated to increase from $65.7 million in 1974-75 to $78.4 million in 1975-76.
Aboriginal education has not been overlooked, and in those areas where it has been necessary to increase financial spending this has been done. The Budget Paper states:
The Aboriginal Study Grants Scheme provides, in the main, for assistance to Aboriginal students taking courses at universities, teachers’ colleges and technical, business and agricultural colleges. Expenditure in 1 975-76 is estimated at $1.7 million compared with $1.4 million in 1974-75.
The Australian Government has direct responsibility for the education of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory and, in accordance with its policy of preserving Aboriginal languages and cultures, has introduced a program under which Aboriginal children living in Aboriginal communities receive primary education in their own language and instruction in traditional Aboriginal arts, crafts and skills. Total outlays by the Government for Aboriginal education in the Northern Territory are estimated at $21.9 million in 1975-76, compared with $16.6 million in 1974-75.
The Opposition has criticised this Government for neglecting education in this field, as it has in every other field, but the Opposition proposes to cut education expenses by 50 per cent. In relation to migrant education it is stated:
Expenditure under the Immigration (Education) Act 1971-73 on special English language instruction for child and adult migrants in 1975-76 is estimated to cost $23.6 million, compared with $2 1.3 million in 1974-75.
In the field of health there are many new initiatives and there is provision for the consolidation of many of the initiatives that have been taken over the last 2Yi years. I refer to only one or two of them. Under Health it is stated:
Direct outlays from the Budget on health are estimated to rise from $1,283.5 million in 1974-75 to $2,777.6 million in 1975-76 . . .
In other words, that is an increase of something in excess of 1 1 6 per cent-
Estimated outlays on health are equivalent to 12.7 per cent of total estimated outlays in 1 975-76.
Ex-servicemen and women can expect this year to have expenditure on health costs increased by $12. 1m to $1 10.3m. This is an area in which previous governments for 20 years failed to do very much at all. I can recall that during previous debates in this chamber the Liberal Party refused consistently to give medical treatment to Boer War veterans and to World War I veterans. It also refused to recognise for treatment cancer which had been contracted by ex-servicemen and women. This Government has made significant changes in the degree of financial expenditure and in the area over which a number of social developments have taken place, particularly in relation to the children of this country. I quote again from the Budget Speech:
The Government is establishing, in co-operation with the States, an Australia-wide school dental scheme. The aim is to provide a free dental service to all primary school children by 1982, and subsequently, to pre-school and secondary school children under 1 5 years of age. The Government -
That is the Australian Government- is meeting the capital and running of training facilities as well as the capital costs and 75 per cent of the running costs of clinics.
That is the sort of thing the Liberal Party wants to see abolished-
Expenditure on the scheme is estimated to increase by $7.5 million in 1975-76, to $26.4 million.
In relation to social security and welfare it is stated:
Total direct outlays on social security and welfare are estimated to increase from $3,703.4 million in 1974-75 to $4,772.2 million in 1975-76.
That is an increase of almost 29 per cent. These are areas in which over the years the Labor Party has laid down very firm guidelines and where in government it is endeavouring, consistent with the finance that is available, to carry out and implement its platform policies. We heard Mr Malcolm Fraser say that under a Liberal government spending on urban and regional development will be suspended. The Labor Party recognises that this area has a very high priority, but there are other areas which have been allocated higher priorities. The Budget Speech states:
Outlays for activities within this function which include some of the major programs of the Australian Government . . are estimated to total $448.0 million in 1975-76 compared with $378.6 million in 1974-75. This increase -
And I emphasise this point- reflects within the overall budgetary restraints the continuation of programs designed to improve the environment and the quality of life of the community.
I mention those few points because I believe that they are of outstanding importance for the continuing development of this country. The Government has also provided increased appropriations for flood mitigation, and I will refer to only two programs. One program is in the Seymour area in Victoria which was not carried out last year due to the inability of the State
Government to produce the necessary legislation. Some $200,000 was spent last year in Brisbane, and that amount has been increased substantially this year.
I wish to refer finally to two or three other areas in the field of social service which I believe are of importance. The document from which I will quote highlights the fact that the Government has been restrained in its spending in the public sector and at the same time has tried to encourage an upsurge of spending in the private sector. The document makes these points in relation to social security:
An inter-departmental committee is to undertake a review of income security. All proposals will be examined so that a comprehensive, valid and consistent income security system can come into being.
That is a very important development so far as the Australian people are concerned. There are other changes to be made which were not announced in the Budget Speech and which I am probably referring to publicly for the first time. The document states:
Double orphan’s pensions will be extended to cover children whose sole surviving parent or adoptive parent has been committed to prison for not less than 10 years or is a long term patient in a mental hospital.
The minimum amount of payment to a pensioner will be increased from $0.20 to $ I a fortnight.
That minimum payment was one of the weaknesses in the Liberal Party’s old scheme and the Labor Government has now caught up with it. In relation to the field of rehabilitation it is stated:
Funds for expenditure under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act will be double the expenditure of $ 15m last year. However, the full effect of the 1 974 amendments is now being felt and, as the $30m available will not be sufficient to meet all demands, consideration of some projects will have to be deferred until 1976-77.
Funds for expenditure under the Aged Persons Hostels Act and the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act total $70m, an increase of $27m on last year’s expenditure of $43m.
Nevertheless, in this area too there will be some expenditure that will have to be deferred for the time being. In relation to nursing home benefits it is stated:
The ordinary care nursing home benefit will increase from the first pay period in November 1975 in three States -
In New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia-
The supplementary intensive care nursing home benefit will increase by $9.80 per week in all States.
The above increases will not apply to patients in government nursing homes.
Under Migrant Welfare it is stated:
The funds provided ($0.587m) will enable the grants currently operating to be continued but it will not be possible to approve additional grants; applications for grants towards the salaries or additional social workers now on hand will have to be deferred.
There are a number of other points such as those that are of very great interest, but that does give the lie to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), the man who has led his team, his rabble or whatever it is, on the other side of the chamber to the point where they have rejected more than 20 Bills in this chamber over the last few months. The Opposition has produced an alternative Budget that kicks the public servant, kicks the worker, and kicks the small salary earner. It sets out totally to undermine pensioners and all other disadvantaged people living in the Australian society. One of the clauses in the amendment states that the Budget does not restore confidence in the private sector of the economy. I do not think that is true. I believe that the Budget which the Australian Labor Government has produced is a very brave one. If it receives the support of all sections of the community and not the knocking sort of attitude that our opponents in this chamber have tried to attach to it, this country will be quickly restored to a state of total prosperity, and the disadvantaged people whom we have set out to assist since we were first elected in December 1972 will not have any of their rights eroded.
– Shortly after Mr Whitlam came to office he made this statement at the Blacktown Civic Centre:
The Australian economy is one of the most buoyant and vigorous in the world. In Australia alone there is no unemployment. In Australia alone unemployment and inflation do not march side by side.
There is not one citizen, not one senator, who would take satisfaction from seeing the Australian community facing the disastrous situation which it faces at present. The previous speaker, Senator Keeffe, spent much of his time criticising the Opposition. I believe there is no basis for criticising the Opposition for the present situation. An Australian Labor Party government, a socialist government, has been in power now for 2 1/2 years. It must take some responsibility for the state of the economy, for the state of the nation at this time and for the reflections contained in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) that we are debating this afternoon. Senator Keeffe referred to several areas in which Labor has certainly achieved a high degree of expenditure in recent years. From a business point of view, from a personal point of view, achievement is not gained purely by spending money. It is gained by spending money in a manner which achieves something for oneself or for the community. The spending of money should be with the intention of gaining elevation in a particular area of social welfare and being able to maintain it under the conditions resulting from the policy that one sets about to implement. This Budget indicates that Labor is unable to do that. On a number of occasions Senator Keeffe said that a particular item would have to be deferred or a program would not receive as much finance as it did in previous years. Nearly every one of the whole range of social welfare benefits which Labor has been proud to say it has brought to this community will find some cutback as a result of the disastrous inflationary situation which we have at present.
The Budget brought down on 1 9 August will most certainly contribute to the inflation rate. I cite inflation and unemployment as two of the underlying problems in our community at this moment. Inflation is running at approximately 16.9 per cent at the moment. The number of unemployed is approximately 270 000 or 4.5 per cent of our work force. This is disastrous for our community. Surely all of us would want to try to cure those two ills. It can be expected from the Budget proposals that the inflation rate this year will rise to at least 20 per cent. That puts Australia, finally in 1975, into the class of what people call a banana republic led by a socialist government. People must attempt to evaluate whether this Government has brought Australia to this situation by intention, whether the situation has been achieved because Labor was unable to control the economy, or whether the Government has been so inefficient as to cause this result. In the Budget Speech last year the then Treasurer said: ‘We are planning for a $560m deficit’. As a result of his planning his Government found that within 12 months it had brought about a $2,500m deficit. Therefore one can only say that those who were in charge of Australia’s finances were totally incompetent. The incompetence is certainly shown and demonstrated by the actions which have been taken against those who have pretended to be Treasurers. In the financial control of this country in the 2Vi short years of Labor office Mr Whitlam has discharged one Treasurer after the other, putting the blame for the economic circumstances firstly on Mr Crean ‘s shoulders and secondly on Dr Cairns’ shoulders. Now one wonders how long Mr Hayden will be kept as accountant for this nation.
It appears to me from looking at the Budget figures that again this year the Treasurer has over-estimated his receipts and grossly underestimated expenditures. The reason for that comment is found in the fact that the figures produced in the Budget show that as at 30 June the deficit in this country was running at $3,500m. That was at the same time that the Treasurer was formulating a Budget that suggested the deficit would be $2,600m. The Treasury figures for July 1975 indicate that in that month Australia had been running at a $760m deficit. Perhaps it is an incorrect calculation to multiply that by 12 and say that the deficit will continue at that rate for 12 months, but it is almost impossible to say that the Budget as put down by the Treasurer, which purports to show a $2,768m deficit, will be achieved when the first month of the financial year has shown a $760m deficit. I think one can confidently look forward this year to Australia having a deficit approaching $4,000m. Surely that would cause great distress to anyone in this community who is proud of Australia, who is proud of its achievements and who is proud of the attempt by the workers in this community to save, to obtain their own dwellings and to obtain their own possessions. During the year these will be frittered away. They will be lost by a government that plans in this way.
There was an interesting comment by an economist in June 1975. 1 would agree with this comment by Professor Colin Clark who stated:
Inflation is caused by Government spending.
The fact that inflation is now world wide tells us nothing more than that almost every government in the world is overspending.
The most widely heard excuse for Australian inflation is that it is part of a worldwide inflation. This is no excuse at all.
A country which firmly maintains order in its own monetary and fiscal systems (and this is of course the first prerequisite) while prices and costs are inflating in other countries can totally neutralise the effect of what is happening in other countries by the simple device of raising the exchange rate.
Statements such as this do harm by diverting attention for the guilt from those really responsible- the Prime Minister and Treasurer of the day.
Colin Clark continues:
The only cure for inflation is a reduction of Government spending.
The Government in these circumstances is not really attempting to cut government expenditure. Writers have given the Government reasons why difficulty is faced in attempting to cut back expenditure in so many areas. But the Government has produced the current situation. If in actual fact the Government now is looking at a year in which there will be an expenditure of $4,000m in excess of income, this cannot mean other than that at the end of another 12 months this nation will be facing disaster. Economically, its reputation will go to pieces. The value of its currency will go to pieces. Indeed, our internal economy in so many areas will be at risk.
From the economic standpoint, 2 features should have been cured by this Budget. One of those factors is inflation; the other is unemployment. It is difficult to imagine when we have had statements from Ministers and a statement from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)- I would have attempted to believe those statements- that Labor’s policy was that it would not stand for unemployment. I imagine that we will hear not one Labor speaker in this Budget debate refer to unemployment in sympathetic terms.
When Labor came to office there was practically no unemployment in Australia. Mr Whitlam said so in the remarks that I quoted earlier. Today we have the dire picture of approximately 270 000 Australians unable to obtain work. The Budget papers indicate that Labor expects this number to increase. How a reasonable Labor Government, true to its principles, can accept a program which provides in Labor’s expectations for an increase in unemployment in this country is absolutely beyond my ken. Why is it that a Government which basically stands for the worker is willing to see the work ethic in this community brought to catastrophe?
I wonder what the position will be in JanuaryFebruary next year when those whom Labor has encouraged to continue at school seek to join the workforce. Labor has offered free tertiary education to these people. It has taken many actions which it purports have increased the availability of the benefits of education in our community. Is Labor willing to stand by, after taking this action, and to see unemployment figures increase in Australia? Is Labor doing this intentionally? These 2 ills, particularly unemployment, are the areas which should be attacked in a Budget such as we have before us. The Government should work on that basis.
At this time the Australian community is not yet totally socialised. If there had not been an Opposition which had to some extent control of the Senate, Australia now would have in 1975 a highly socialised community. I would say that the first thing that needs to be done in our community at the moment is to see that jobs are provided for school leavers in the Australian workforce. It appears to me that this is a much better investment than to provide in excess of $600m as was available last year in the form of various unemployment benefits. Incentive should be given to industry whereby it is attracted to employ these people. The very effect of what Labor has consciously set out to do has been to produce a loss of employment opportunities in Australia.
Labor was very keen on its decision that it was going to restructure industry in Australia. The result of this decision has been retrenchments and loss of employment. Where are those great trade unions which stand for such industries as the electrical industry, the textile industry, the clothing industry, the footwear industry and the motor vehicle manufacturing industry? Are they heard demanding that Labor change its attitude relating to the restructuring of industry? Restructuring of industry in Labor’s terms has meant that what it intends to do is to import more from overseas and to build less in Australia.
I refer now to a report that was before the Jackson Committee in which was set out the number of notified retrenchments in various industries to June 1975. This report shows that over 9600 jobs had been lost in the textile industry, 701 1 jobs lost in the clothing industry, 2500 jobs lost in the electrical industry and another 2100 jobs lost in the footwear industry. I could go on and speak of the other employment losses that have been deliberately created by Labor. My understanding would have been that Labor would wish to maintain the opportunity for employment in this community.
I return to the speech by Mr Whitlam at the Blacktown Civic Centre in November 1972. Let me quote one of his comments there. I only wish that I could speak as he does.
– Don’t we all.
– Yes. He speaks in such a way that leads one to believe that he is telling the truth.
– You will need to try a lot harder if you want to do that.
-Let us hear what the Prime Minister said. I wish I could speak as he does. He said:
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years?
That is Mr Whitlam ‘s statement.
- Mr Whitlam said that?
-Yes. He said that at the Blacktown Civic Centre. Honourable senators may think I am wrong, but I am right. Mr Whitlam said:
Will you again entrust the nation’s economy to the men who deliberately, but needlessly, created Australia’s worst unemployment for 10 years?
At June 1972, the unemployment figure was 1.78 per cent ofthe workforce. In June 1 974 the figure was 1 .3 5 per cent ofthe workforce. But, 7 months later, when school leavers came on the market, during the reign of Mr Whitlam, the unemployment level rose to 5.2 per cent of the workforce. That is the highest level since the depression of the 1930s.
On 9 February 1975, at about the time when that level was reached, the former Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, who still held the Labor and Immigration portfolio then, said that the Government’s measures were starting to take effect. One is inclined to believe these Ministers. He said further:
By June 1975 there were 245 975 people, or 4.9 per cent of the workforce, unemployed. A month later that figure rose further. The point that I make to the Senate is that Labor is planning further unemployment under this Budget. I believe that with school leavers coming on to the employment market at the end of this year and early next year, as well as other job opportunities falling off, the unemployment figure will reach 400 000 in January 1976. Mr Cameron promised to resign if the unemployment figure ever reached 250 000, but he was saved the indignity when this year he was transferred from the portfolio of Minister for Labor and Immigration to that of Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs. According to the Budget allocations, the Treasurer and the Government do not believe that the level of unemployment will fall. They have allocated $6 10m for unemployment relief, which is $133m more than was allocated last financial year when the average number of people unemployed was 200 000. If the current predictions of unemployment reaching 400 000 to 500 000 this financial year prove to be correct, the Government will have to allocate at least another $400m to assist those people.
The point I make is that a Labor government should introduce innovations to overcome this unemployment problem. I shall put forward one proposal. In industry at present there is great pessimism, and there is good reason for the pessimism. It has not all been created by the Labor Government. Those who are closely associated with industry know that, with the effects of arbitration awards, long service leave, maternity leave, 5 weeks annual leave in respect of which the Government gave a lead by providing it in the Public Service, the introduction of more holidays and the rises in salaries that have been granted, it is impossible for industry now to gauge how it can successfully employ more staff. I suggest an innovation which Labor may consider in order to overcome this problem. It could take a base figure for average employment in a particular factory in March or June 1975, as disclosed in a census or in payroll tax returns which every employer has to present. If the Government were to say ‘We will give $500 assistance to industry every 6 months for every new employee who is placed on the payroll’ in a year the Government would pay out $1,000 for each such employee. That would amount to $20 a week for each such employee. The present unemployment benefit is some 3 times that amount.
When the Government decides under the Regional Employment Development scheme that it will encourage municipalities, sporting bodies and others to employ some of the unemployed in the community, it pays some $99 a week or nearly $5,000 a year to keep each person in employment. Under my suggestion, which would assist to overcome the unemployment situation very quickly, the Government would make a contribution of $1,000 for an employee and in all probability at least one-half of that amount would be returned to the Government in taxation. Also the amount of $ 1,000m which the Government will provide this year to maintain the unemployed in the community certainly would be reduced. The Government could take that action, together with the action of relieving employers of the impost which is levied on them by way of payroll tax. This Government has kindly handed over the levying of payroll tax to the States, and the States in their endeavour to get more income are increasing the rate of payroll tax at every opportunity. Employers should be relieved of that impost so that they are encouraged to put more staff on their payrolls. The result of that action would be to increase production, to have people more effectively employed and to lower the rate of government expenditure.
Without any such action being taken in this field, some 1500 manufacturing plants in Australia have closed in the past 12 months, according to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. In my State of Victoria some 224 plants have closed down. Larger companies are confronted with the strictures of the Prices Justification Tribunal, and all companies are seriously troubled by inflation, rising wages, strikes and liquidity problems. On 12 August this year the President of the Australian Electrical Manufacturers Association said that Australia had virtually exported at least 25 000 electrical workers’ jobs during the past 12 months. Figures prepared by the Bureau of Statistics show that $7 19m worth of electrical products was imported during 1974-75, compared with $292m worth in 1971-72. Four out of five small businesses have suffered profit reductions of between 25 per cent and 30 per cent, according to the Chamber of Commerce in my State. We know that on 12 August last Mr Tom Ivankovitch, who resigned from the beginning of August 1975 as the national co-ordinator of the Federal Government’s Small Business Bureau, said that the Government just does not understand the problems of small business. How the Government can change its attitudes and views I do not know, but I plead with it to see that there is a place for free enterprise in this community. There is in this community a necessity for businesses, for entrepreneurs, to be encouraged to provide job opportunities so that we can continue, on an ongoing basis, some of the social welfare benefits that have been given to the people.
Primary production has faced enormous difficulties in the past few years. In answer to a question recently we heard Senator Wriedt say that if he were to enumerate all of the things that this Government has done for rural industries there would be no time for any other questions. I invite Senator Wriedt to put down in this place a paper indicating those individual things which the Government has done for primary industry, and at the same time to offset against it a statement showing what the Government has taken away from primary industry. This remarkable statement, coming as it did in the Senate yesterday from the Minister for Agriculture, flies in the face of the facts and confirms the age old propaganda teaching that if you repeat a certain line often enough you eventually believe it yourself, no matter how wide of the truth it may be. Senator Wriedt made that statement only 2 weeks after the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimated a disastrous drop in real farm income this financial year- down to $655m, compared with $l,068m in 1974-75 and $2,042m in 1973-74. We are facing very grave difficulties, and unless the Government understands this we are likely to run into far greater trouble.
There is no real joy for the public in this Budget. I shall quote what Mr Whitlam said at the Blacktown Civic Centre in November 1972. He said:
The basic pension rate will no longer be tied to the financial and political considerations of annual Budgets. All pensions will be immediately raised by $1.50 and, thereafter every spring and every autumn, the basic pension will be raised by $ 1 .50 until it reaches 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings. It will never be allowed to fall below that level.
That is a statement that one should think people would be entitled to believe but, in the light of this Budget, it has been found to be a lie because if the pension were raised immediately there still would be a loss in the ensuing years of $3 compared with what has been promised to pensioners in past years. That is a great loss to a pensioner. Housing, education, transport and health are now at risk under this Government. I noted in the Institute of Public Affairs publication Review reference to what was described as the ‘English disease’. We are headed directly towards being infected by the ‘English disease’. Mr Graham Hutton, who is a leading British economist, has warned that Australia shows symptoms of the English disease’ and has said that runaway inflation, poor productivity, unemployment, chronic industrial strife and progressive government expansion will lead this country to ruin.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-I begin my speech by congratulating Senator Webster on his new payroll bonus, which I think is a unique answer to the problems of payroll taxes in the past. I hope that he will advise us in due course whether it is the official policy of the National Country Party of Australia. The other matter about which I wish to comment in relation to the speech of Senator Webster relates simply to the attention that he drew to the dangers of being infected by the ‘English disease’. In the course of my speech I want to draw attention to the different attitudes adopted by the Opposition party in Great Britain towards dealing with the English disease’ and the attitude that the Opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate are adopting to this Budget.
We are today debating what is a quite historic Budget because of its radical reform of the personal tax structure. It is the most sweeping reform in Australia’s budget history and the first reform of the tax system contemplated by any government in the last 20 years. The Budget introduces a tax system that is simpler, fairer and more efficient than the existing system. It is simpler because it substitutes the complex concessional deductions that are inequitable because they favour the higher paid earners with a system of direct rebates. It is fairer because it redistributes the burden of taxation away from those who are least able to afford to carry it. It is more efficient because it allows for a more accurate calculation to be made of the P.A.Y.E. deductions, thereby eliminating the existing system of over-deduction and the consequential necessity for a refund to be made by the government at the end of the tax year. For those matters alone I say that it is an historic Budget.
The overwhelming strategy of the Budget is to combat inflation, to restore confidence to the private sector, to maintain the essential aspects of the Government’s program in education, urban development, health and social welfare and to redistribute the burden of taxation. None of those things is easy to do at this time, either in Australia or elsewhere. For that reason the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has accompanied the Budget by a call for restraint in all sections of the community and a joint effort to combat inflation. That call is based on a frank recognition of the fact that the aspirations of the Australian people have, over a number of years, outrun the possibilities of fulfilment of those aspirations in an economic sense. The Budget has tried to take a middle way to achieve the objectives to which I have referred. The course that has been adopted, though fraught with difficulty, has been accepted as a challenge by the Government. There are risks involved. The Treasurer himself put the position in this way:
The course charted has its risks and the possibility of temporary reverses cannot be overlooked.
Any realist will agree with that assessment. I emphasise the aspect of restraint because the psychology of the whole matter in the present Australian economic context is important.
One has reason to query whether the days of the lucky country are any longer with us, either in this country or in a similar situation overseas, and whether we will be able to continue to go for the sort of soft options that we have been able to take in the past. That is a problem which exists overseas as well. In Great Britain harsh measures have had to be taken to combat inflation and unemployment. It is interesting to note the reaction of the Conservative Opposition in Britain to the harsh measures that the Government there had to take last week. The reaction of the Conservative Party in Great Britain was to put out a strong statement in support of the program announced by the Prime Minister to try to combat inflation and unemployment, which both exist at high levels in Great Britain. The statement made by the Acting Leader of the Conservative Party was simply this:
Anyone from any quarter who seeks by any methods to break the Government’s counter inflation policy will receive neither comfort nor encouragement from the Conservative Party.
That is a fairly strong statement of support for the Government which was adopted by the Conservative Party in Great Britain. No such statements have been forthcoming from any Opposition leader in Australia. No such statements have been forthcoming in relation to wage indexation and the Government’s policy, as enunciated in the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in relation to wage indexation. No such statements have been forthcoming because the Conservative parties in Australia have not made up their mind on the subject. When wage indexation was first suggested by the Government it was opposed by the employers and the State governments. Last week the Liberal State governments were falling over themselves in the Arbitration Commission to support the continuation of indexation. A slow process of change takes place within the Conservative parties in Australia compared with their counterpart in Great Britain. There is a slow recognition of the realities of the situation and the need to deal with them. Compared with the statement of the Conservative Party in Great Britain that it would support in every respect the Government’s fight against inflation we have had here today, and it is a shocking commentary upon Australian politics, Senator Withers, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, directing his main attack on the Budget to the price of beer. That is the difference between conservatism in Great Britain and conservatism, or what runs for it, in Australia. That is the burden of the attack which has been levelled at the Budget.
The reaction of the Opposition Parties in Australia to the Government’s proposals contained in this Budget has been totally deplorable. Before the Budget was introduced the Government had the benefit of advice obtained from a great variety of sources. Commentators were prepared to tell the Government what it ought to do. Industry was prepared to tell the Government what it ought to do. Academic economists were likewise prepared to tell the Government what it ought to do. Of course, there was also the benefit of advice from the Liberal Party of Australia itself. For a long period of time the Government has received the benefit of that advice from the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and, of course, Opposition spokesmen here in the Senate.
– Why did you not take it?
-I will be coming to that in a moment. Senator Missen should restrain his enthusiasm and he may be able to avoid embarrassment in a minute or two. That advice has been tendered over a number of months. I will refer to it briefly in the next few minutes. The Government was told by a variety of sources that it ought to cut the rate of expansion of government expenditure. That has been done. The rate of government expenditure has been cut by half- from 46 per cent to 23 per cent. The Government was told by numerous spokesmenOpposition and otherwise- that it ought to define certain parameters for the size of the deficit. That has been done. The Budget falls within the projected parameters of all the experts. The Government was told that it ought to reform the tax scale. It did so in a way which was quite unexpected, one suspects, by the Opposition. It was told to reform the tax scale in order that it would reduce wage pressure and put more money in the taxpayers’ pockets as a basis for the expansion of the private sector of the economy. That has been done. There may be quibbles about the way it has been done, and that is a legitimate area for argument, but the fact is that it has been done.
The Budget was prepared with all these parameters in mind, but within one hour of the conclusion of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Malcolm Fraser) appeared on television saying that this Budget will not give confidence to the private sector. One might be pardoned for asking how he knew within an hour of the Budget being announced. One might be pardoned for asking that question. Is it that the Leader of the Opposition knew one hour after the Budget Speech that the Budget would not restore confidence to the private sector, or is it a fact that he was hoping, for political reasons, it would not restore confidence to the private sector? That is the important question which people ought to be asking themselves.
– The judgment is right though, is it not?
-Three weeks ago the same Leader of the Opposition, who Senator Missen apparently now espouses, was talking about the need to put money back into the pockets of ordinary people. That was only 3 weeks ago. We were painted a picture of the average Australian as a sort of squirrel who was trying to gather all his nuts together and to store them for a rainy day. The Government was advised about that by the Leader of the Opposition. When the Government did that in its Budget by means of the tax alterations the Budget was described by the same Leader of the Opposition as ‘a massive incentive to be spendthrift’. The Australian Financial Review, on the other hand, commented on Mr Fraser ‘s comments in these terms: . . Shifting the taxation burden away from the married couple with young school-age family to young single taxpayers and affluent mature taxpayers who are exploiting tax avoidance techniques.
That is not ‘a massive incentive to be spendthrift’, to use again Mr Fraser ‘s words. Since then Mr Fraser has said that the Budget penalises those who save through life or superannuation policies and who want to provide a different kind of education for their children. That is what he said very shortly after the Budget Speech and again in different terms in his speech last night. The economics writer for the National Times and the Sydney Morning Herald put the same thing in these terms:
The Budget does not penalise those who save through life or superannuation policies. It merely removes a socially unjustified and economically costly privilege they formerly enjoyed at the expense of their fellow citizens.
When that writer says that it removes a privilege it is worthwhile noting that it removes a uniquely Australian privilege because the same privilege of concessional allowances for life policies has not existed in European countries and certainly not in Great Britain. It is a uniquely Australian privilege which has been handed out to the life assurance industry over many years, the same industry which Opposition senators went in to bat for only three or four days ago and to defend on the grounds of its apparent efficiency. That is the sort of level of comment that we have had from Opposition spokesmen about what the Budget ought to include before it was brought down and about what it did include when it was brought down. And last night we had a number of specific proposals which illustrate some of the fulfilment of the Opposition view. For example we were told that the Liberal Party in government would immediately implement the Mathews Committee proposals on stock valuations of companies. Mr Fraser said a number of times: ‘We wil not tell you what we are going to do in government because we will need to get advice. We will need to find out from the Government experts what we ought to do’. But he is prepared to make this commitment of what they would do in government.
– That statement was in regard to cuts in government expenditure, was it not?
– It is quite clear in Mr Fraser ‘s speech what that statement is. The Liberal Party would implement the proposals of the Mathews Committee on stock valuations. The other statement has been made in various guises on numerous occasions. In any event, to come back to the point, if his Party gained government he would see fairly quickly, he would discover fairly quickly, that there are very grave difficulties about implementing the proposals of the Mathews Committee on stock valuations. It may even be said that those proposals in the absence of very stringent and difficult administrative procedures would amount to a licence to the dishonest to swindle the government, whichever complexion it may have. So there are problems about some of these suggestions which are so benignly thrown away by the Leader of the Opposition in commenting on the Government’s Budget.
The next thing promised last night was that the Australian Legal Aid Office would be abolished. The Legal Aid Office has dealt with 130 000 people in Australia since it came into existence. It is dealing with Australian people at the rate of 10 000 a month, people who come to it in search of advice about the numerous problems which ordinary citizens in this community have, people who have not been in the habit of going to see solicitors about those problems, for a variety of reasons. Every Opposition senator knows that the Australian Legal Aid Office, if it has done nothing else, has demonstrated a massive area of neglect in Australian society which no State government and no private lawyer has been capable of dealing with. That Office would be abolished under a government led by Mr Fraser.
We are told, on the other hand, that the Pipeline Authority’s pipeline will be sold to private enterprise. Implicit in that is the understanding that there is somebody in the private sector who has the money to buy it and who is interested in buying it. That is an implicit and congratulatory comment to the Government. Of course one might ask what the consequences of such a sale would be to the consumers of natural gas in Australia. They are the people about whom we on this side who support the Government have been concerned in the construction of the pipeline.
These are just 3 examples of specific criticisms and specific promises which the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives has now been prepared to make. What they reveal and illustrate is the philosophical bankruptcy and the social irresponsibility of the Opposition in Australia. As one commentator put it, ‘if you compare what Mr Fraser said with what Mr Hayden proposes you will soon realise who is the hoaxer who does nothing to solve our economic problems’. That is right, I suggest. The difficulty arises because of the philosophical framework in which the Liberal Party suddenly finds itself cast. It is an extraordinary thing in Australian politics that a major political party could elect as its leader a person who has been in Parliament for 20 years and then discover 2 or 3 months after electing him, not before, what his political philosophy is all about. That happened 2 or 3 weeks ago when Mr Fraser gave an address at the National Press Club luncheon. Suddenly the Liberal Party, the party which has shown itself to be the party of expediency in the last few years, finds itself saddled with a philosophy, which is rather embarrassing, no doubt. It is an incredible thing for a party like the Liberal Party to have.
I want to refer very briefly to one or two points expressed by Mr Fraser as being the philosophy of the Liberal Party. I quote the opening of his speech to illustrate the point I am making. It is not just Mr Fraser speaking off the cuff for Mr Fraser. He said it is: . . especially important for the Australian Press and the Australian people to have a clear sense of the basic approach and philosophy of the Opposition Party. But let me say straight away that I certainly don’t see the next LiberalNational Country Party Government restoring the pre- 1 972 status quo.
We can all be thankful for that because let us recall what the 1 972 status quo was like. Mr Fraser continues in the course of his National Press Club address to talk a lot about the concept of freedom. Let us remember what the status quo was like in 1972 in relation to that concept. In 1972 we had the total freedom of the stock market to behave as it wanted- 3 Vi years later we are still hearing rumblings from that- and at the same time we had a different sort of freedom for young Australian men who were conscripted to fight in Vietnam. There were 2 kinds of freedom. We can all be grateful that Mr Fraser would not want to restore to Australia the pre- 1972 notion of freedom if he were ever to lead a government in this country. He continued:
– Good stuff.
– Let us analyse the good stuff because Mr Fraser quite clearly understands that the notion of freedom and the notion of equality are closely interwoven. Let us look at his allegation that ‘we reject the notion of enforced equality in education’. One might ask oneself at the beginning how one enforces equality. There is of course the capacity in any government, in any society, to do its best to encourage or enforce equality of opportunity. That is very different from enforcing equality. I do not think any government could do it and I do not think any government would want to do it. But Mr Fraser clearly does not understand the notion of equality of opportunity when in criticism of this
Government he said: ‘We reject the notion of enforced equality’.
Let us look at what the notion of equality or equality of opportunity means in the context of education. Mr Fraser went on to say that people should have freedom to choose what kind of education they wanted for their children. I agree entirely. Should that freedom of choice be limited to a few people- Mr Fraser ‘s friends- or should that freedom of choice be available to the whole Australian community? That is the question which is involved. It is not a question of enforced equality; it is a question of whether equality of opportunity is a right of the upper classes or a privilege of every Australian.
– But they are not the same thing.
- Senator Missen has said that they are not the same thing; I am not quite sure what he is talking about. The fact is that in attacking this Government Mr Fraser said: ‘We reject enforced equality in education’. I will tell honourable senators what enforced equality of opportunity means insofar as this Government is trying to encourage it for many Australians. It means that 208 000 more children are now attending technical schools in Australia than when this Government came to power. It means that 208 000 more children have the opportunity to attend those schools. That is an exercise of freedom by those people which they never had previously. It is an exercise of freedom which will lead to greater equality- not enforced equality -of opportunity in this community. Hundreds and thousands of other school children in Australia are now for the first time getting the benefit of decent equipment and better buildings. That is their exercise of their freedom- a freedom which they did not have the capacity to exercise before this Government came to power. As a result of that exercise of freedom which has been made available to them for the first time there will be, I hope, greater equality in this country; but it is not enforced equality- it is the fulfilment of freedom and the opportunity to have the same chance as everybody else in this society.
Clearly what Mr Fraser means when he talks about freedom in education is that freedom of people to send their children to private schools with the benefit of big concessions which favour the rich. It is the freedom of wealthier people, in the context of this Budget, to gain a disproportionate benefit of life insurance concessions. It is that sort of freedom about which he is concerned; but that is not the sort of freedom about which this Government is concerned. It is not the sort of equality of opportunity about which this Government is concerned and it is not the sort of freedom or equality of opportunity which thousands of Australians who benefited from these programs in education, health and matters of that kind have achieved in the last two or three years. In his speech Mr Fraser explains these fundamental political concepts and gives the Liberal Party a new philosophy, however embarrassing it might be.
– There is nothing new about this. It is just well stated.
-I am terribly glad that Senator Missen has said that it is well stated. This is a trendy senator from Victoria saying that Mr Fraser ‘s views on equality and freedom are well stated. I will be happy to have that in the Hansard record, Senator Missen.
– You do not understand it; that is the problem.
-Mr Fraser continued:
Freedom means choice in the hands of individuals.
One could not disagree with that He said:
Choice of career, of business, of school, of newspaper, of doctor, supplier, product and service, and there’s a wealth of policy implications in that one sentence.
One must agree with that. He continued:
In society it means minimum controls in the pursuit of alternative life styles which are themselves compatible with human freedom, and human dignity.
There has been some speculation about what Mr Fraser means about suitable alternative life styles. One has heard people ask whether he has turned out to be latter a day hippy. I think not. The substance of that part of his speech is: ‘Freedom means choice in the hands of individuals’. The Australian Labor Party agrees totally with that view and there is nothing to which Opposition senators can point in the 3 years of this Government which suggests that we as a Party do not espouse that view to the full. But we do try to analyse what it means.
Does freedom mean choice in the hands of a few select individuals or does it mean choice in the hands of the whole of the Australian people? Does it mean freedom to enjoy privilege or does it mean freedom from fear? Does it mean the sort of freedom from fear which a million Australians have now been guaranteed by the introduction of Medibank- the freedom from fear of the consequences of sickness? That is the sort of freedom with which this Government is concerned. It is quite apparently not the sort of freedom with which the Liberal Party is or will be concerned in the future if the philosophy which is espoused in this speech is indeed the philosophy of the Opposition in Australia. Mr Fraser said that it means ‘choice of career, of business, of school … of doctor’. Of course it does, but it means that that freedom of choice should be available to every Australian citizen and not to a select few. That is what freedom really means.
In speaking about this Budget I have criticised the way in which the Opposition has indulged, in my view, in total irresponsibility in a social sense in the current economic context by attacking, for reasons of expediency, the Budget rather than trying to deal with the more positive aspects of it. Indeed, in the spirit in which the Conservative Party in England acted, the Liberal Party should support the Government in its efforts to counteract a very grave problem which this country and many other countries face. In Britain the position of the Conservative Party is quite clear. It has indicated its support for the Government’s attack on inflation. The Liberal Party here has not. Instead of it putting forward alternative suggestions we have had a series of carping criticisms about the Budget and a series of statements which as policy statements have been constricted by the very philosophy with which the Liberal Party apparently is now stuck- a philosophy which makes it quite clear that the sorts of priorities about which a Liberal government as an alternative to this one would be concerned are the sorts of priorities which favour sectors of the Australian community, which favour the pork barrelling approach and the handout approach to certain sections of industry, which favour concessions to the rich -
-No doubt that company would get a substantial pork barrel from a Liberal government. A Liberal government would favour concessions to the rich and concessions to those who want the freedom to send their children to private schools at the expense of every other child in Australia. I support the Budget.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am always fascinated by these Budget debates. I am reminded of the observation that the whole of Australia, and this matter indeed, does not revolve around one crowded hour on a Tuesday night in Canberra. We have once again the annual Budget ritual, or what might be called the annual ticket dance of the Parliament, in which people are thinking about the Budget as if it happened all on the Tuesday night and all the solutions will be available from the Treasurer and all the defects in the Opposition will become manifest. Of course this is not the case. It is nothing like the case. The whole thing ought to be done away with in the context of thinking like that. What we are really talking about in a Budget situation is the planning operation for a whole year. Most of the critical decisions which really affect the construction of the Budget flow out of a position which becomes rather clear in about April or May, when the shape of the previous year’s Budget begins to emerge quite clearly and indications for the coming year also are discernible. A government is then committed to its promises, its extravagances, its economies and its general intentions.
To the extent that this Budget is presented as an exercise in economic restraint and understanding on a Tuesday night, I think it can best be described as a sleight of hand trick. First of all, as a Budget it has great problems. Senator Button has asked for some constructive comment. I hope that he will take what I have to say in that context. The Budget, for a start, is constructed on a proposition, not disclosed but quite real, that there will be involved in this economic scene a massive over-run of past decisions, past expenditures and past extravagances and once again the accumulation gradually of past errors of judgment and management. There is, I think, quite clearly now in modern society the need for a longer term consideration of events than one year. I am a proponent of the view that we need to have an illumination in the Parliament and in the community of what a government’s three to five year intent will be in economic terms. We should not expect people to get this thing into grips on a Tuesday night, because it will not happen that way.
The difficulty in the Labor Party- looking at it in a constructive way- is that it is very hard for a Treasurer to operate on a yearly basis. The Labor Party has had 3 Treasurers in 3 years, so the job of Treasurer is a hard one. The learning that the Treasurer has to do takes longer than one year, and if the practice of changing Treasurers yearly goes on the lack of understanding in the Government will become quite manifest with the next Treasurer. Also it is quite proper to observe that a Treasurer’s job is not a job of popularity. It is a job of restraint. He has to be, in many cases, a person who is prepared to take a position against his colleagues and against the big time spenders. There needs to be a process so that the person concerned can, if possible, stay in the job for a number of years and learn its problems. That has not happened in the Labor Party. That is part of the problem of members of the Labor Party running the economy. Part of the problem they have is that on Tuesday night they expect the Treasurer to get up and pull a white rabbit out of a hat and to fix everything on Wednesday. They are looking at the accumulation of many misdeeds, mistakes, inaccuracies and stupid decisions. What we are really looking for is some indication of the Government’s three to five year program to recover from the 3 years of mess it has made. That would be a very useful exercise for us all.
We have heard all kinds of contemplative positions put out in the Press over the months- from about April through to May and June- of the kind of massive problem with which the Government was grappling bravely. The Press was saying: ‘Government members were looking at a deficit of $5,000m. Were they not remarkable people to get that deficit down to $2,800m? What a remarkable piece of financial management’. It was nothing of the kind, of course. It just demonstrated 2 levels of incompetence: One massive and one hoping to become manageable, which I do not really think will happen. Perhaps I will deal with that a little later. I look now at the ability of this Government to estimate- and budgeting is estimating for the coming 12 months. The estimating capacity of this Government can be illuminated by the experience of last year when in September it estimated that in the coming 12 months it would spend $570m more than it would take in. The net result was that it spent $2, 567m more than it took in. The Government was out 5 times in its calculations. That shows the Government’s estimating capacity. It does not give one great confidence.
This year the Government is talking about a deficit of $2,800m. It is starting 5 times higher up than it started last year. Will the Government finally get back to the $5,000m it talked about through the Press, with such worry, round about May? Numbers of people close to the Labor Party have expressed views on this matter. Mr Crean, for whom I have very considerable respect, indicates that he is not entirely happy with the way things are shaping and that there may need to be some changes. Dr Cairns is indicating separate kinds of views, but they are rather along the same lines, namely, that there may have to be some changes, more money may need to be spent, etc. Mr Hawke, the Prime Minister of Australia outside the Parliament, also is giving out messages about how things would be run if he were here- that is if he comes here. Maybe he will; maybe he will not. I shall interest myself greatly in that when it happens. Mr Dunstan from South Australia, another potential Labor Prime Minister, also is indicating views about this matter. He thinks that perhaps he could do better. Maybe those members of the Labor Party could do better and maybe they could not. They are not here to try, are they? I sympathise greatly with the people in the Government who are here trying to do things. Some of them, freely understanding the tremendous mistakes that have been made, are trying to catch up with them; but there are very great internal contradictions in the Budget strategy which is laid down by the Government. Nobody wants to see his country in an economic mess. Nobody has enjoyed the mess ofthe last 3 years. Nobody wanted it to happen. It is equally wrong to close one’s eyes to some ofthe essential facts.
I refer now to the Treasury papers which accompany the Budget. The Budget Speech is always circulated with a series of statements which make up the full volume of the Budget documents. Treasury Statement No. 2 is quite illuminating. It clearly indicates some of the Treasury’s concern, in contradiction of what is expressed by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) in his optimistic forecast for the coming 12 months. At the same time as the Treasurer is on the white rabbit job, Treasury Statement No. 2 says:
Australia had been comparatively insulated from the oil price rises; and the downturn in world activity also reflected in only muted fashion in demand for Australian exports.
Clearly, the Treasury is saying that if there is a mess made of the economy and there is inflation we did it ourselves. The statement continues:
Mid- 1974 proved a turning point . . . aggregate output declined very sharply; for the year as a whole consumer prices rose by almost 1 7 per cent -
This is the officials of the Treasury talking; not politicians- -and the unemployment rate reached a peak of almost 5 per cent.
The statement then goes on to refer to the second half of the year and states that private consumption expenditure showed little growth because of the progressive tax scale’s effect on disposable incomes and tight finance. Private investment also turned down. These are the Treasury’s observations on the Government of the day. They are Treasury’s own qualifications of what it believes to be the facts rather than the fancy. Given some of these Budget decisions, the Treasury has asked: ‘What is the economic outlook for the period ahead?’ The Treasury has said in its Statement No. 2 that a combination of still very high rates of inflation and high levels of unemployment make economic prospects for 1975-76 extremely difficult to foresee, and that it would hardly be surprising if forecasts proved wrong.
So here we are looking at the forecasters. Last year the estimated Budget deficit was $5 74m. The actual result was $2,500m, or 5 times wrong. This year the estimated Budget deficit is $2, 800m. Treasury has said that a forecast would be very hard to make and was likely to be wrong. Gentlemen, I leave it to you. We are looking at all kinds of possibilities, most of them horrendous. The Reserve Bank, another non-political and detached institution, in its report which was brought down 2 days ago said that during 1974-75 the Australian economy experienced more instability than for many years. Aggregate output declined for the first time since 1952-53, consumer prices rose by about 17 per cent, faster than any years since 1951-52. The unemployment rate rose to almost 5 per cent, the highest in the post-war period. What a terrific record for a government to stand upon! What a wonderful proposition on which to ask us for sympathy for their problem, as Senator Button did. The Reserve Bank further stated that private business investment fell for the third time in the last 4 years. This is the record of the management scene of the Australian nation by the current Government as expressed by two of its notable advisers- the Treasury, as recorded in statement No. 2 and the Reserve Bank as recorded in its report of a couple of days ago. I suggest to honourable senators that what they need is some constructive inspection of this situation. It could well be that the Budget is based on a number of false assumptions. As far as we could detect- it has not been stated- the Budget has been based upon an assumption of inflation rate of 1 6 per cent. How has that figure been arrived at? There is still the most massive imbalance between resources available and demand on those resources. That is one of the principal producers of inflation. In that context, how does one hold the inflation level when the whole scene is out of balance, when it is agreed freely by most detached people that over government expenditure is of itself the principal cause for inflation and has been demonstrably so in this country. The likely rate of inflation could be 3 per cent above the current rate of about 17 per cent. I suggest a better Budget assumption would have been a 20 per cent inflation rate. It would have made more sense of the figures. Last year Budget outlays increased by 46 per cent. This year they are increasing by 23 per cent. There again, members of the Government should not be too pleased with themselves. Twenty-three per cent is a long way too high; 46 per cent was just madness. Twenty-three per cent is well above the capacity of the economy to sustain sensibly through time.
Wage increases last year rose by 26 per cent. This year they have risen by 22 per cent. Again, many people say that the assumption of 22 per cent is too low, particularly when the tax is shown to be 43 per cent. There is talk in the Budget statement about economic growth. It was a fascinating observation, I must say. The Budget paper- the Treasurer’s speech, note- states that this year we will have an economic growth rate of 5 per cent. Bully for the Treasurer! How is he going to get it? When the figures are analysed, it is learned that one per cent is to come out of population expansion and 4 per cent is to come out of productivity. Where is the productivity 4 per cent going to come from? I want to point out to honourable senators that if they read through last year’s Budget papers carefully they will find that according to the supplementary statements for 1 974-75 there was expected to be a 2 per cent plus growth in non-farm product. That proved to be wrong. The actual figure was minus 2 per cent to minus 3 per cent.
What we are talking about therefore is the Treasurer’s assumption as outlined in his speech that the minus 2 per cent to minus 3 per cent of last year can be turned into a plus 5 per cent this year and that in effect the economy can grow by approximately 8 per cent over last year’s rate. There is no evidence to support that proposition as tenable and one which will work and will be realised. We are also told, though not in express terms, that the money supply will be kept in a reasonable state of growth. The best information one can gather by searching out the figures is that there is some assumption that money supply will be allowed to grow by 15 per cent and that that will be manageable. Will it? If the money supply grows by 1 5 per cent and inflation grows by 20 per cent, how does one finance the private sector on a minus 5 per cent money position? Will somebody please tell me that? There is still an increased government’s share of the resources! There is still a transfer from the private sector to the public sector. It was stated I think many years ago and it is still being stated that when a government takes more than 25 per cent of the total resources for its own purposes disincentives begin to apply with regard to wage earners, the savers and the corporate structure. That has been shown to be the case because the current take is now about 31 per cent. With current inflation rates, I suggest to honourable senators that the private sector which needs recovery for the purpose of investment and employment will have less money to survive and less ability to finance itself. All the evidence that the Opposition has been able to get shows that lenders are most reluctant to lend now in the general scene of expansion, investment and productivity for the reasons that the total productivity is going down, the profitability of the sectors are going down and that people cannot finance their debts out of their cash flows because they have no profit. Inflation is eroding their liquidity. They are transferring capital assets into operating assets to keep going. The scene is one in which there is money, without any doubt, in the system, but it is in the wrong places, it is not being unlocked and is not available. There is likely to be some trouble out of this. If the money supply is going to grow at a lower rate than the inflation rate there will obviously be a problem. If inflation continues at its present rate interest rates will be unmanageable. Whichever way one looks at this, the inflation rate which we now have was maintained, nourished and nurtured by this Government. It took over a situation where there was the lowest inflation rate in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development freemeasured world. This Government took office when the inflation rate was about 4 per cent; it now has that inflation rate moving towards 20 per cent. It did it all by itself; alone and unaided.
The other problem that I see in the assumptions of the Budget is that the revenue is likely to be less than the forecast. That will again present problems. It is possible that the expenditure patterns, because of the help of Mr Hawke, Mr Dunstan and others may grow. It is equally likely that the revenue may shrink because of the declining profitability and the much lower economic growth rates than the assumptions take into account.
The inflation side of the situation is bad enough, but it becomes worse when considered in context with unemployment. When I stand in this chamber and look at the Labor Government in office I find it hard, really, to contain my total hostility. When we left government and handed over to the Labor Government, unemployment was almost negligible; it was very low indeed. Without any doubt the unemployment we now have has been constructed by the Labor Government. The Government has to face the fact that it has so done. This does not come easily to somebody who has been unemployed himself, who was a product of the previous great unemployment era and who always swore to himself that in his own lifetime he would work to make it possible that this situation would never happen again. Now we have a situation where the unemployed include many of last year’s school leavers with more to come. They are good young kids who cannot get a job. They will not be able to get a job. What a great set-up! If I were a Labor Party man today I would be ashamed of myself. I would not want to think about my forebears, my principles or my Party.
Look at the situation. Look at the small businesses. Many honourable senators here know about small businesses. They come from families that have been involved in them. They know that the Australian scene has grown out of the small operator, the individual who tries to do things. In a lot of the sectors of small business 50 per cent of those engaged are almost in desperation. They come and see people like ourselves almost daily. We can do nothing for them but sympathise. There are times when we feel really more than cross when we think that none of this needed to happen. To put people and this country into such a state of misery seems to me to be one of the worst things I have seen any government do. In fact, if I were a member of this Government I would get out now. I would not have the face to stay in office with the present levels of inflation and employment, knowing that they had been caused by my government. I can remember years ago listening to Dame Enid Lyons- she came from a great Labor family as do many honourable senators- when she said:
This country must always be a country where any person who wants a job of useful work can get that job.
That is not the case today but it was the case when we were in government, despite all the criticisms the supporters of the Government might care to make about us. I should like now to refer to taxation. The Budget presumes to present a proposition in which the tax is said to have been reduced. The amount collected by pay-as-you-earn tax will rise by 42 per cent this year, despite the claims that taxation will be lower. In 1972-73, $3, 161m was collected from PAYE tax; in 1974-75, $6,07 lm was collected; and in 1975-76 it is anticipated that it will be $8,683m. It has risen by 46 per cent in one year. It has increased more than two and a half times since the Labor Government has been in office. This is where the money has come from which has enabled the Government to throw it down the drain, to put people out of work, to create unemployment and misery for people, to destroy all the small businesses, to break down investment and to produce inflation. PAYE taxation, as a percentage of wages and salaries, has increased from 1 4 per cent to 1 9.8 per cent. If that is not bad enough, I turn now to the next problem which arises.
I ask honourable senators to look at the massive extravagance and the tremendous overexpenditure in which the Government has been engaged. How does the Government really, in a governmental sense, finance over-expenditure? It is all right to say that it does not matter. It does matter. I want to recite to honourable senators some figures which appear in the Budget papers on page 144. It is a record of how governments have financed their activities through the years. It is in a summary form. Last year, in this extravagant style, the Government drew on the cash balance of previous years to the extent of $660m. It floated the 13-weeks and the 26-weeks money in Treasury bills to the extent of $ 1 ,689m. Let us look at the 2 comparisons. Over a span of years, going back to 1966-67, governments had run domestic borrowing programs in the Australian loan market. They raised more cash than they needed and they accumulated cash balances. Those cash balances had grown to $ 1,399m. Last year, the Labor Government took half of it. It also floated short term money for 13 weeks which amounted to $ 1,689m. The previous highest figure for one year had been $165m. That is almost ten times the amount of the short-term money floated out by previous governments. The present Government, in effect, overdrafted and it has to overdraft itself back again.
The Government has referred to loan raisings. It has begun to raise money on the domestic loan market. It is not a fact- as the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) has stated- that his loan was a huge success. When the loan figures are analysed honourable members will find that the principal subscribers to the loans are the banks which have money because of the excess money supply. It is going into the loan rather than the banks have it taken away in statutory reserve deposits. It is not really loan raisings from the community as such- the institutions, the private lenders- it is a money transfer. No useful amount of money is yet coming out of the domestic loan market. Why? People do not have confidence in the Government and they have no confidence in the lending of money. That is pretty simple. I said at the time of the overseas loan issue, and I say it again, that lying hidden away in that overseas loan nonsense was an attempt to borrow overseas in some strange way to be part of the funding of a deficit proposition by shuffling money around.
– There is no doubt about it.
-That is so, Senator. I have spoken about how this money was handled last year. I should like now to refer to the situation in the coming year. If honourable senators examine the Treasury table to which I have referred, they can work out that the sum of money accumulated in cash balance was, in effect, $ 1,399m. This Government last year took out $660m. It left $739m in cash balances at the end of June. The information made available for July was that the order of financial deficit of the Australian Government in July was slightly less than that. The best assumption we can make at the moment is that the Government has run out of money but not out of credit because it has practically used up, as far as I can see, its surplus of cash.
– The Government has run out of credibility.
-Yes. The Government, therefore, has to be prepared fairly soon to go into the domestic loan market more massively and with more attractive terms if it wants to get its cash. If not, there are two other methods that could be used. The Government could continue to float Treasury bills out; firstly, to recover the previous ones to be paid off; and secondly, to bill new ones or, on the other hand, to run the printing press. Either course of action will lead to increased supply of money and will exacerbate inflation. How, in that context, can the Government make the assumption that the rate of inflation for the coming year will fall below the rate of last year. It is not a tenable proposition.
From the Opposition’s point of view I put it to the Government that these are constructive concerns about the assumptions made by the Government. They will test the validity of the Government’s Budget in which it has stated that it will come out with restraint, a lower rate of inflation, in the end a reduction of unemployment, and growth of business confidence and investment. The Government believes that it will be able to achieve this within the balance it aims to strike of $2,800m. I want to say that I cast grave doubts on the ability of the Government to do so. In many cases I believe the assumptions of the Government are wrong. I think the Government’s management plans have been upset by pressures that it cannot control. The Opposition has, I think, quite properly through its leader, Mr Fraser, set out what ought to be done in Australia at the present time. I might not be able to state fully all the points he has made. First of all- I think this is totally correct- everybody has to lend a hand. The Treasurer (Mr Hayden) said this himself at the end of his Budget Speech but he did not demonstrate how the Government was going to do it.
Inflation is the major enemy in this country. It is true that we should all lend a hand to break it down, to stop it, to control it. If we do not do so I really do not know where we are going. We have raised these points many times and I have raised them again in this debate. Australia is a great trading nation. Our rate of inflation is growing much faster than is that of our trading partners. We are going down the world ladder in trade and monetary reform. We are losing opportunities. Living standards are declining. These are the realities of a higher inflation rate on the overseas scene, let alone on the domestic scene.
I think it has to be accepted that the Government has tried to do far too much too quickly. It has put a strain on the resources which the resources cannot possibly meet. Restraint will have to be implemented over a period of time. I am not arguing- I never have argued- that 3 years of incompetence and over-expenditure can be fixed in one year. I am arguing for the Government to put down a program which will put us in a 3-year recovery phase. The Government should not attempt to pull a white rabbit out of a hat in a Budget presented on a Tuesday night. I think it is necessary, as Mr Fraser said, to recover production and investment. I think the Government needs, as Mr Fraser said, a Budget strategy in a 3-year context. The Government needs to restore the economy, objectivity and purpose for the Australian people. I do not think there is any real incentive to the labour force to moderate its claims in this Budget, though I had hoped there would be. I think, with our proposals of tax indexation, tax relief and understanding, a case exists for the labour force to moderate its demands.
I should like to refer to the fuel cost increases for companies. The coal excise duties will put many collieries out of business and will add to unemployment. There is no doubt about that. This is becoming obvious and can be proved. Indirect taxes will put up people’s costs. I am informed that it is not possible for the Government to direct the court to ignore these indirect taxes as part of the cost structure. I think Mr Fraser was quite correct in saying that restoring confidence and demand is essential in Australia. I think that the $500m tax reduction in income tax receipts proposal is wise and sensible, if it equals wage restraint. I think the Mathews indexation proposals, carried out over 3 years, would equally be wise and sensible. It would be a pre-requisite, an essential factor, that the trade union movement should not only co-operate but also should underwrite such a program. Without that underwriting, the program itself would not work.
We have had about as much as we can have of the transfer of corporate profitability into the hands of the wage earners with a disastrous effect- if I may say so- on the employment capacity of the wage earner and the corporate structure. There has to be an incentive in this country for people to work and to save once again. The Government must restore choice to families and individuals. I think the tax scale needs freeing from distortion. The regeneration of investment, the creation of jobs and the implementation in 3 stages of the Mathews Committee recommendations on company taxation are essential. Australian companies are amongst the highest taxed companies in the free world. The corporate tax scale here is excessive by comparison with other parts of the world.
The Opposition simply says that it is unbelievable that a good competent government could not bring about economies of 5 per cent across the whole scene of government expenditure. The members of the Opposition believe, through our own experience and through our own lives, both personal and otherwise, that this could be done. The Government has not yet begun to try to reduce its own expenditure. It has talked about it, but if a proposal were put to all departments stating: ‘The Government is looking to you to maintain your efficiency, to keep your labour employment at very low levels and to reduce your overall demand on the revenue by 5 per cent, and that is an instruction to you’, then it would be done. I say that it would be done because I was a Minister under Mr John Gorton when it was done. It was effective and it worked. Those would be specific priorities for the Oppositionto restore economic health and reduce unemployment and inflation.
Some of the recent production figures that have been put out by industry have been so disturbing as to be quite alarming. I make the point to the Senate that much as one would like to see one’s country recover quickly, it is my firm belief that this country will not recover, people will not gain confidence, investment will not be restored while the present Government remains in office. I think it is demonstrably incompetent and cannot manage.
– Naturally I support the contents of the Budget, but before I deal with some of its specific innovations I should like to make a few comments on the utterances of Senator Cotton. He referred to the ritual of the Budget, and of course he has a brief on behalf of the Opposition and I have one for the Government. He referred to the question of how a parliamentarian deals with constituency problems, but I should point out that the one embarrassment this Government does not have at the moment is that of convincing a mother that her 18 year old son should go into the jungles of Vietnam. Australia never received a dividend from that expedition, and the more that South-East Asian politics develop the more one wonders how we ever got involved in 1963. We have heard talk of duplicity and failure to give answers, but when one reads that splendid article in the National Times and sees all the double talk that went on, I do not think that any member of Parliament need have any inhibitions about the present manpower problems when we remember the Vietnam call-ups.
Taking the question of Government action a little further, when our trade skill limitations showed up distortions in the employment pattern this Government endeavoured to improve the apprenticeship intake. As a matter of fact, in Senator Cotton’s speech he developed a theory that the faults of a previous government cannot be overcome in a year or 2 years. In relation to the Government’s manpower policy and the vast reservoir of Australia’s work force, I should point out that the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric project was the brainchild of the Chifley Labor Government. Senator Cotton and I came into this Parliament in the 1965-1966 era, and when the fragmentation of the Snowy Mountains Authority was implemented a lot of Labor senators pointed out to the then government what a vital role the Authority played. I listened today to Opposition speakers and I tried to recall an equivalent national project. There is the great white elephant, the Ord River scheme, into which the previous government put millions of dollars. I do not know what dividend the country has to show for that. Personally, as I have said since to my Government, as a conservationist I think that gigantic wetlands area would be a marvellous Mecca for Australian birdlife. However, even as a conservationist, I believe that the country would be paying quite a lot for that sole benefit from the scheme.
In relation to the overall inflation pattern, we know that in a democracy- and I use that word in a fairly broad sense- the greatest problem, unless it is in wartime, is to get the entire population to accept the various imposts, and that is particularly so in Australia. I can remember that early in its life this Government attempted to implement a prices and incomes policy and it sought additional constitutional powers. It did not get the majority vote that it sought, and it was a fair political ploy for the Opposition to ridicule the referendum proposal. In fact, the Opposition carried on a great scare campaign and said that the powers sought were unnecessary. Then we had the Snedden era, when the then Leader of the Opposition argued about wage pauses and so on. We all know that with such a policy there would be employers who would have special reasons for requiring special assistance. The Tasmanian senators in particular know that the paper industry clamoured for special assistance, yet when my illustrious colleague the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) attempted to do something for them it was implied that he was the victim of a confidence trick.
In relation to the capacity of an industry to pay, the present Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) was able, in a situation of disunity among private mining operators, to go to Japan and negotiate a better price than had been offered individually to the various operators. I believe it is only right that Utah Mining Australia Ltd and other big organisations which have these contracts should pay a higher amount, whether it is called a coal levy or excise duty. There is no reason why they should not pay it. It may be that some coalfields are more profitable than others, although Senator Cotton did not refer to that- and I know that western coal is different from the coal in other areas- but the fact is that when an impost is placed on those who are able to pay even the people who should pay that impost are not very co-operative with the country of their birth. When one thinks of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd one thinks of Oliver Twist asking for more. The BHP made out a case to the Prices Justification Tribunal, whose members are not a pack of Labor socialists but cover a pretty broad spectrum. The Tribunal granted an increase to BHP, but within a matter of weeks the company came back and asked for more.
I do not refute completely the argument put by Opposition speakers about the basic needs of the work force and the requirements of the steel industry. I know the industry has to plan ahead, but how does the man in the street react if the Government agrees to endless price increases for one organisation. After all, the steel companies do get a certain amount of feather bedding and protection against imports of steel. I have always leaned towards a high tariff policy, but I know that there are some industries which on the one hand have resisted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission demands made by their employees and on the other hand have run to every government, both Labor and Liberal, and asked for the high walls of protection. That is a dilemma in a democracy. If a tribunal is set up and questionnaires are sent to employers they believe it is a case of big brother looking over their shoulder, but how else can a proper temperate assessment be made?
Senator Cotton referred to the dilemma of the small businessman. I think that is a greater embarrassment to the Opposition than it is to the Government because the Opposition is constantly complaining if the Government gets tough with the big oil companies. If there is one sector of small business that has been ground into the dirt it is the service station operator. It does not matter which of the oil companies one takes- and some of them try to wrap the Australian flag around themselves while others do not- when it comes to the crunch none of them has a very good record. There is no question about that. If the Government attempts to get tough with the oil industry and the big oil companies and makes a plea on behalf of the small service station operators, the Opposition accuses the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) or the Minister for Labor and Immigration of being too vicious.
On one occasion the present President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Bob Hawke, who is also President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was involved in a very complex dispute. Because he had the temerity to stand up to the oil companies we witnessed the disgusting spectacle of Mr Lynch, who purports to be the spokesman for the Opposition on the economy, taking the side of the big multinational oil companies. That was the most degrading spectacle that this country has ever seen. I waited in vain for Mr Fraser, in his speech on the Budget, to indicate some strictures on the multinationals. We often use the term ‘multinationals’. The problems which we are having today have been experienced in Latin America. Although some big businessmen might like to see happen in Canberra something that happened in Santiago, I believe they would be only a minute minority. Let us be real about it. Let us look at the overall pattern. We attempted to weave a reasonable electoral code. When we tried to curb multinational interference in our electoral laws honourable senators opposite went out en masse and would not have a bar of those laws. It is an unhealthy situation when there is a manifestation of external meddling in a democracy. I look at the whole history of Latin
America. I start at the Argentine and go to the bottom of that continent. All the interference has been by Western and other totalitarian powers. They have meddled in Latin American governments. The interference has not reached those proportions here yet. I say this: Some ofthe public relations people who wander around Canberra no doubt are getting external subsidies. That is something which our electoral code would have been able to combat.
I deal now with the pluses in the Budget. My colleague from Victoria, Senator Button, in his usual lucid style, referred to the vast injection of educational opportunities. When we went through all these traumatic experiences and disputes about the ratio of education funds from Canberra to the needs concepts schools, we said then and we say now that the idea was to lift up- I do not use the term disparagingly- the lower grade urban schools to some reasonable parity with schools which in the main had pupils whose parents were on a higher income. I know it is very difficult at times to get the perfect setup, but at least during the period of office of this Labor Government we have breached the gap considerably. I do not run away from the Opposition ‘s criticism about our reducing the individual deduction for education. The plain fact is that in the bricks and mortar concept in metropolitan Sydney- I refer particularly to the developing area around Fairfield, Guildford and those areas- these tremendous injections of money were something that the community as a whole could enjoy.
Take another innovation. Despite the current rate of inflation, millions have been injected by the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, into traffic engineering projects. I live in the electorate of Lowe. If this money had not been injected into the old system I might not be a senator today. It could be that I am here only because we have had better traffic lights. It does not matter whether the money came from Canberra. I do not think there is a senator who has not driven around and found areas that were death traps. I know that Senator McAuliffe and others have. It is only as a result of the greater injection of money into projects such as new traffic lights that he and I fortunately are alive. There is no question about that.
While on the question of the injection of finance into the community, I turn now to the question of Medibank. Undoubtedly it will be a bigger ingredient in future budgets. At least we do not have the sort of health roulette that we had under the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of
Australia Ltd by which, if one had an illness that was not a standard illness one was up for considerably more than one is up for under this more chartered system which we have now. With all the brickbats that were hurled at the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, when he was the Minister responsible for that innovation, it is virtually only on a parallel with the Canadian system. I can imagine the types of questions and utterances by professional medical groups. Medibank is not the end of the world as far as our health scheme is concerned. What will happen? I challenge Senator Cotton and other people on that side to refute this statement: If by some stretch of the imagination in a decade hence they become the Government they will not be game to change the concept of the Medibank system, any more than the Conservative governments in Britain were game to tamper with the Attlee Government’s achievement of a national health scheme. It is simply that when a private hospital fund makes a mistake the big dailies are always reluctant to print the mistake. If a government department makes a mistake, they have a Roman holiday printing the error. This is all part of the situation that we face.
The biggest innovation was this new concept of an income tax structure. I do not suppose anybody will know how they will fare until the full effect of it is known, but it was an honest attempt to grapple with the situation. I know that as a counter Mr Fraser has grasped the Mathews report. I can do no better than apply the words of a leading character in the French Revolution, Danton, who said: ‘Audacity, always audacity, more audacity’. I say this: We were committed to vast social reforms, and we have attempted them in the field of health and social security. They are being maintained. It is very hard to maintain the ratio of pensions to the national wage. If one compares the achievements of this Labor Government with the achievements of previous governments one finds that we were much closer to our target than they were. I suppose all of us speak to pressure groups. I spoke to pensioner groups last week. Of course they were disappointed that the phasing out of the means test has been delayed, but at least we gave evidence of what we were doing. We have introduced many other fringe benefits, but there are many other aspects to it.
I refer now to the question of our manpower policy. It is all very well to talk about doing more. That is part of the prerogative of an Opposition. I wonder whether last Thursday honourable senators opposite read on page 7 of The Australian the plight of certain guest workers in Europe.
They were in countries which have been relatively prosperous, such as France, Germany and Switzerland. These poor people who are living in hamlets have the choice virtually of being turfed out of the country to which they have given 10 or 15 years good service or being on the run as illegal immigrants. From time to time we get a surfeit of criticism as to the number of people whom we are prepared to take from a country in which there is turmoil. It does not matter whether this question is raised in the context of South Vietnam, Chile or one or two other Latin American countries that I might think of or perhaps one or two countries in Europe. The plain fact is that we must have regard to the capacity of a country to take people and to look upon them as something more than cannon fodder.
While I am on this subject of manpower I wish to make another point. Honourable senators opposite and I know that in some countries which have tough manpower directives certainly every person could be put into employment. Do honourable senators opposite suggest that we bring in a sort of Allied Works Council complex in peace time? Of course they do not. They harp about unemployment. We agree that there is unemployment. We do not run away from it. Do not run away with the idea that we do. Quite apart from the question of inflation, are they suggesting that at a given time a government should tell the motor industry, say, that it should dispense with added mechanisation or added automation? That is something that is affecting employment. In Britain at the time of the Industrial Revolution the Luddites went around smashing certain equipment. If the trade unions today take a certain stance about better severance pay, for example, honourable senators opposite suddenly see a Carmichael or a Halfpenny, or perhaps even a Bob Hawke, behind it. This is the difficulty in a democracy. Everyone rightly claims that Jack is as good as his master. At what time does the State apply any form of discipline? It is not an easy situation. We do not relish it. I think that honourable senators opposite, with a few notable exceptions, did not relish it either. They are the great difficulties which we face.
I take my speech a little further and extend it to wage relativities and indexation. One of the problems relates to the people who matter most. I refer to people in the basic industries, whether it is a person working in the open hearth industries at Port Kembla or Newcastle or a person working in the mines at Cessnock or somewhere like that. Those people often found it pretty hard to get an industrial hearing. If they did, the argument was raised about the flow-on to all other wages. I say that, with the wage structure which we have, those people make a greater contribution to the economy of this country than people who leave school at 17 or 18 and stumble into an air-conditioned office, people who have never had to fight on the workshop floor, people who do not know what it is like getting up at 6 a.m. to go to work in a heavy, dusty area. These are some of the perplexities that we have in Australia. They are the problems that any government must face. I simply say, in relating my comments to this Budget, that we are aware of all the situations.
Honourable senators opposite might think their business expertise is better than ours, but they have not shown it to be so. As yet they have not given us any satisfactory explanation about the escalation of cost of the FI 1 ls in the contract which we negotiated with the American manufacturers. Speaking about defence, I mention what this Government did when it was elected. The Government first endeavoured to improve the wages of those in the lower ranks. Secondly, it provided retirement benefits at better rates. Of course there was an exodus of officers from the defence services.
The next point that I mention is in relation to procurement in which the Government will be active this year. I think honourable senators will agree with me that some of the delays in procurement have not been of our making. After all, probably all honourable senators read the other day that the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) has been in dispute with British manufacturers about wiring in respect of certain submarines. Some submarines destined for Chile were on the stocks in front of our submarines. When we suggested that certain components could be flown over, the manufacturers did not want them. I do not know what the Opposition seeks in regard to defence. It may be said that the Opposition when in government procrastinated as to the replacement for the Centurion tank. I suppose that Opposition senators receive the journal that is produced by Peter Young, a former Australian Army major. Peter Young has drawn some lessons from the last Middle East conflict. It may be, as Mr Barnard pointed out when he was Minister for Defence, that by delaying our procurements a little we will be able to satisfy our requirements through a better form of shopping in Europe. Having said that, I cannot resist making the comment that, in setting the terms and conditions of purchase of any of the equipment that we buy, we will not be conned as
Australia was in the purchase of the Fill aircraft.
Let me conclude on this point: Senator Cotton referred to Oppositions giving some examples of responsible leadership to governments. When the Estimates are being dealt with frank answers are sought to questions that are asked. One vivid illustration is emblazoned on my mind. I refer to the occasion when we knew that a lot of racketeering had gone on with respect to the supplies that Australia was sending to Vietnam. I asked a question about this matter in the appropriate Estimates committee. I had letters from Congressman O’Hara of the United States House of Representatives concerning it. I will admit that the performance by the Minister was a professional one. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was handling the estimates for the relevant department. He said: ‘Senator, it is not the function of this Estimates Committee to give you answers about how much of our goods is squandered by the merchant class in Vietnam’. The Committee went on to the next business. I speak very frankly on this matter. Some honourable senators on this side of the chamber will be chairmen of the Estimates committees that will be meeting soon. I have seen members of the present Opposition persist with questions which we, when in Opposition, would never have attempted to ask. We felt that there was a certain protocol, and we followed it. I speak as a chairman of a Senate Estimates committee. I pay a tribute to the Opposition senators who were on the committee of which I was chairman. Perhaps they were a different breed from one or two senators I can think of. I believe that I will be on a different Estimates committee this year. I certainly will be quoting the incident in which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was involved.
In the time at my disposal today, I have tried to argue that in a period of world-wide inflation this Government has not jettisoned its social reforms in the fields that I have mentioned. At the same time, we have endeavoured to curb expenditure in other areas. My final sally at the Opposition is in relation to grants to the arts and expenditure for recreational purposes. I remind the Opposition of the pleasure that has been obtained from the activities of netball teams, Softball teams and others engaged in littlerecognised sports, such as weight lifting. Those sports or recreations have a place in the Australian community and, as far as I am concerned, the grants that have been provided in those areas by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart) can be described as helping Australia to become a more healthy and vigorous nation.
– In addressing myself to the Budget Papers, I wish to do so as an ordinary runofthemill businessman. I speak not as a theorist, not as an expert in the field of high finance, not as an academic, but as a practical businessman called upon to operate within the framework of economic policies laid down by this Government. In this setting, the prospects for the immediate future and for the long term are far from happy. This Budget does practically nothing to engender confidence in the business world. It does not give anything like a real answer to the ills besetting the whole economy.
We are suffering from continuing and rampant inflation. At present it is running at 16.9 per cent per annum. When we look at the disabilities within the whole of the economy, I think that we can relate these problems to governmental outlays over the last two or three years. The Budget introduced into this Parliament in 1971 by the then Treasurer of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government provided for an expenditure of some $ 10,000m. That expenditure was looked upon at that time by a number of people as being excessively high. Inflation was running then at 3.8 per cent per annum. Fears were expressed that a $ 10,000m Budget at that time might spark off higher inflation. In the following year, the first Budget of the new Government provided for an expenditure of $ 12,500m. Expenditure was up 25 per cent. The second Budget of the Labor Government proposed an expenditure of $ 1 5,000m. The Budget that we are now considering provides for an expenditure totalling $2 1,9 15m. The increase last financial year was 30 per cent; this Budget proposes an expenditure increase of 23 per cent. It is my firm opinion that many of the ills that are with us today are due directly to the volume of spending by this Government. Admirable though that expenditure may be in many areas, it represents an amount which was beyond the capacity of the Australian economy properly to afford.
Productivity is declining at present and living standards in actual and real terms are falling. I am one who believes in the payment of the highest wages possible and the highest salaries possible, within the bounds of what productivity will allow. I believe that we can do a great harm to the recipients of income if their earnings are large but do not buy the goods and services that they require or enable them to do what they desire, such as engage in home building. In those circumstances, I feel that the hurt goes back to the person to whom, in the first instance, assistance has been sought to be given. I think that we are suffering from the lack of the provision of meaningful incentives for investment and growth. In this Budget the depreciation allowance to industry is continued; but this allowance is not enough to get the economy off the ground and to give confidence back to the industrial and business sectors. What is required is that which we as a Party are advocating: A 40 per cent investment allowance should be provided immediately. This allowance could be phased out or reduced to 20 per cent on 1 July 1977. Such an allowance would really be an incentive to industry, which is now fearful of outlaying money because of the high cost of obtaining that money as well as the doubtful ability to dispose of the product that one produces. This lack of confidence perturbs me.
Then, were credence to be given to the findings of the Mathews report and were its proposals to be implemented, as we propose, this would be a step in the direction that would lead to a recovery in the economy. These aims cannot be achieved for the benefit of the whole community unless there is the base of a sound and progressive economy. This fact, I think, has to be realised. There is in this Budget a denial of worthwhile encouragement to individual initiative. Later, I shall submit some figures in regard to the incidence of taxation and the amount of income tax which will be collected this year under the pay-as-you-earn system. I believe that we are suffering from persistence in Government spending at the cost of reduction in investment in the private sector. It is the private sector which produces the wealth. There is no gainsaying that. Because of the transference of so much of the monetary resources of the country to the public sector, there is a weakness in the private sector, with the resultant tragically high level of unemployment which is currently running at 4.5 per cent of the work force. It is suggested that the figure could reach 7 per cent or 8 per cent next year; that is, 500 000 Australians would be unable to find a job. All these things put the Budget under a great cloud at present.
Now is the time to do such things as would lead to the prospect of betterment in the future, but I am afraid that that prospect is not with us; at least it does not arise from this Budget. As an ordinary little businessman I am looking for reasons why our nation is in the unholy mess, financially and economically, that it is in now. I think that a pretty valid analogy can be drawn between the governmental stewardship of the economy and the irresponsible actions of, say, the young inheritor of a sound business who, through his attitude and policies in directing the affairs of the business of which he is suddenly put in charge, places the business in a ruinous position. The young fellow suddenly finds himself in control of an organisation which has been built up over a long period of family endeavour. Those associated with the business, both employers and employees, have enjoyed high living standards, have provided assistance to community welfare projects and so on. Then the new management sets out on a major spending spree, disregarding the need to nurture and preserve the productive base of the business interest. The advice of tried and proved personnel is rejected. Major cash outlays are made on unnecessary new departments and activities within the business. Those outlays are not conducive to building up the base of the enterprise.
These bases are neglected, and suddenly there is the realisation that the income which previously the business seemed to generate of its own volition- just happened sort of a thing- was no longer forthcoming. All the laudable plans for providing better living standards for those dependent on the enterprise are incapable of implementation in a situation such as that. The new management frantically seeks further financial accommodation at any price but it cannot raise the money. There is a reduction in outlays, men are dismissed, production is reduced and finally a bankruptcy situation faces the enterprise. As I see it, that is the condition of the Australian economy today. It is tragic that we are faced with this situation. This may be an oversimplification of the situation which we face in Australia, but it is a fundamental one, in my opinion. It is time that this Government came down from its high pedestal and viewed the scene realistically. The fact is that basic business principles apply equally to government as they do to private enterprise. The production of national wealth through the whole gamut of primary and secondary industry, and into the tertiary section, is the basic requirement in providing the means to enable government to meet the obligations of the community to provide those services which are expected from government.
What does this Budget do to promote productivity and economic growth? What does it do to halt inflation, to reduce unemployment and to restore confidence in the private sector? So far as the business sector is concerned, there is a concession of $120m by way of taxation relief to companies. But we must consider this in the light of last year’s experience of industry generally, when income was $ 1,300m, or 30 per cent, less than that earned in the previous financial year, because there was the economic situation in which there was not the incentive to work or to produce, and in which the escalation in inflation resulted in caution on the part of industry in investing. As I see it, there is no meaningful endeavour in this Budget really to promote productivity. Inflation will not be halted with a 23 per cent increase in government expenditure. Even Mr Hawke has suggested that unemployment will rise; it could rise as high as 500,000.
In looking at the overall situation, what is being done to generate basic confidence within the economy? There is this lack of confidence. I revert to the question of the misdirection of funds, which is a disincentive, as it were, to the private sector. The Government has done this to meet its very high ideals, its ideology of providing a welfare state. But it is doing this at a time when, to go so quickly, is just beyond the means of the country. There is a dismal lack of any really constructive provision in any of the areas to which I have just referred. In order to promote productivity there must firstly be a return to a spontaneous desire for everyone who has a job to work harder than ever before in the knowledge that his efforts will be rewarded in real benefit to himself. Great play has been made of the claim by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) that he has reduced income tax in this Budget. If that were factual we could expect a rise in productivity. But the facts are that there will be an increase in the total pay-as-you-earn tax return to the Government and also a sharp increase in the average rate of tax.
I shall look at the figures relating to wages and salaries earned and pay-as-you-earn taxation received by the Government since 1972-73. In 1972-73 wages and salaries totalled $22,384m and the pay-as-you-earn take totalled $3, 161m, or 14.1 per cent ofthe total wages and salaries paid. In 1973-74 wages and salaries totalled $27,502m, and the pay-as-you-earn take totalled $4,238m, or 15.4 per cent of the total wages and salaries paid. In 1974-75 wages and salaries totalled $35, 177m and the pay-as-you-earn take totalled $6,07 lm, or 17.3 per cent of the total wages and salaries paid. The official Budget estimate for 1975-76 is that wages and salaries will total $43,774m and the pay-as-you-earn take will total $8,683m.
– An all-time record.
– It is an all-time record. The pay-as-you-earn take will represent 19.8 per cent of the total wages and salaries paid this financial year. So looking at this thing overall, how can it be said that income tax has been reduced in this Budget? Whilst certain persons will benefit from the reduced income tax provided in the Budget, in the overall viewing of things the plain facts are that the Government will receive a greatly increased amount of revenue by way of pay-as-you-earn income tax. That, to my mind, is a denial of the claims that have been made that there have been reductions in income tax. Of course, the revenue available to the Government is very definite in that it is there through the inflationary situation. I think that a lot of our troubles lie in the fact that the financing of projects and activities has not been by real money but by money received by way of revenue by the Government arising out of inflation. They are not sound, wealth-produced projects and activities; they just involve a figure that is not in itself a real yardstick of our wealth. That really means- looking at these figures again- that there will be $2,6 12m more from pay-as-you-earn tax in the coming year than there was last year. There has been no easing ofthe tax burden.
– Did the honourable senator say$2,000m?
– I am saying that there has been a $2,6 12m increase.
– Paid by the wage and salary earners.
– Paid by those who pay income tax under the pay-as-you-earn system. The Budget Papers predict a 22 per cent rise in wages in the next 12 months. If that occurs it will place taxpayers in higher tax brackets. That is again a situation from which demands for wage increases flow. If the tax take is excessive one finds that there are further demands for compensatory increases in wages to get the takehome pay at a level that will buy those things that are regarded as reasonable to be had in the hands of the wage earner.
I turn to the $540 across the board rebate. I can appreciate that it will provide a temporary benefit to a few people, particularly where there is no multiple family income. But in this respect I see further seeds being sown for denial of the encouragement of thrift and responsibility to be shown by each person to do all within his power to ensure that he will be the master of his own ship in due course through life assurance, superannuation and so on. Incentive has to be provided to encourage people to make provision for a better way of life in their later years. To deny that governmentally through taxation is in my opinion to make a most undesirable attack upon a social level. I have noted with concern that in the promotion of the social welfare state undue emphasis has been placed on that which is provided and that there has been a denial of any personal desire to better one ‘s position and so on. In this respect I refer to an article entitled ‘It’s Time’, which was published in the Institute of Public Affairs publication Review and which states: . . in 24 months’ time Australia could be floundering in the same evil bog in which the British people are at present sinking- a hideous morass compounded of rampant inflation, 5 per cent unemployment, crippling taxation, a huge and rising external deficit, irresponsible, power-drunk unionism, near bankrupt industries, business investment at a virtual standstill, declining living standards, a despairing, bewildered people, a helpless Government, a society in disarray.
I do not want to see a situation arising in Australianobody does- that would answer such a description. That is why I make a plea to the Government to adopt a more realistic approach towards finance and towards encouraging the private sector. This Budget simply cannot reduce unemployment when it makes only a token attempt to bring about a recovery in the private enterprise section.
The proposals put forward in the other place yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) were very constructive alternatives to the policies that are being pursued by the Government. In those alternatives really basic, constructive approaches are made towards meeting the very serious situation that exists at present. The suggestion that there should be an extra $500m in cuts in income tax on top of the Government’s so-called cuts is the first step towards wage indexation and has the twin aims of achieving wage restraint and encouraging the demand for goods and services. Another alternative, which surely should have been noted by the Government as being something that possibly should be done at the present time, is the introduction of the stock valuation adjustment proposals contained in the Mathews Committee’s report by which 50 per cent of the recommended rate for stock valuation would be accepted. That would be the first step in a 3-year program for acceptance of the full recommendations of the Mathews Committee in its report. The 40 per cent investment allowance proposal, the provision of specific incentives for rural industry, the return of the provision of a bounty on superphosphate, the abolition of the levies imposed upon the beef industry and that sort of thing are all matters which would have an impact upon the economy if implemented. This Budget does not provide for them.
I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, that the following words be added to the motion that the Senate take note of the papers: but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia ‘s economic crisis because-
My humble endeavour has been to relate my remarks and my attitudes in a way that is in accord with that amendment, which I warmly support.
Bill received from the House of Rrepresentatives.
Ordered that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania-Minister for
Agriculture) (5.45)- I move:
This Bill is a machinery measure which is required to secure authority to borrow amounts for the financing of defence expenditure which will need to be charged to the Loan Fund during the financial year 1975-76. The Australian Government’s financial transactions are recorded in three separate funds- the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. Honourable senators will, however, be aware from the summaries presented in Budget Paper No. 4- Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure- that estimated expenditures for 1975-76 normally charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund substantially exceed the estimated receipts of that Fund.
The prospective deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund- which is only part of the estimated overall deficit which was announced in the Budget Speech- must be met in one way or another within the total of the financing arrangements for funding the overall deficit. In this kind of situation, successive governments have obtained authority to charge to the Loan Fund some expenditures which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the purpose of this Bill which will authorise borrowings for defence purposes so that defence expenditures from appropriations approved by the Parliament can be charged to the Loan Fund rather than to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The Bill does not authorise additional defence expenditures. It will sumply allow us to reallocate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund part of the expenditures of the Department of Defence already authorised in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76 and which are subsequently authorised in the 1975-76 Appropriation Acts. When this Bill is enacted I shall move an amendment to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76, to permit the defence expenditure specified in that Bill to be charged to the Loan Fund.
It is not possible at this stage of the financial year to be at all precise as to the amount of defence expenditure which will have to be charged to the Loan Fund. That amount, which can be expected to be sizable, will be a residual affected by all other transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is for this reason that the Bill does not specify a fixed amount of borrowing. Instead, like similar Bills introduced in recent years both by this Government and by previous governments, the Bill seeks authority to borrow, to finance defence expenditures authorised by the Parliament, amounts not in excess of what is considered necessary to avoid a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The timing and amounts of borrowings and the particular form of securities to be issued will be determined as part and parcel of the Government’s overall domestic borrowing activities throughout the financial year. As I said, the Bill is a machinery measure and it follows the pattern of similar Bills enacted in past years. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– I have received letters from Senator the Honourable James McClelland resigning his place as a delegate of the Australian Parliament to the Australian Constitutional Convention and from the Leader of the Government in the Senate nominating Senator Everett as a member of the delegation in his place.
– One could be forgiven for thinking that Senator Laucke, who resumed his seat just prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner, was addressing his fellow directors in his capacity as chairman of directors in 1914, the year of his birth, because whilst it may have been a fitting speech then it was out of character and out of date as far as present circumstances are concerned and contributed nothing either destructive or constructive to the debate on the Budget. Before I discuss the Budget I would like to pay tribute to the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) for the courage, skill and ingenuity that he has revealed in introducing this mammoth Budget to meet one of the gravest crises in our history. With masterly judgment- I mean what I say- he has kept the deficit to a reasonable $2, 798m, which is a little less than last year’s deficit of $2,888m. That is a substantial achievement because people who have some knowledge of government financing and accounting were predicting a potential deficit of approximately $5,000m or $4,500m.
The Treasurer has been able to give us a reasonable deficit without in any way being prevented from improving the lot of the pensioners or people in the low income group. He has also enabled the Government to continue with its welfare policy, particularly in the fields of education and health. Possibly the Treasurer’s most noteworthy achievement in this Budget is the introduction of a radical new tax system which will give the average family man $5 a week extra in his pay packet and will allow him to keep much more ofthe wage increases that he will receive in the future. I think that is the most noteworthy achievement of the Treasurer because he is the only Treasurer for decades who has had the courage, the industry and the capacity to tackle such an important question. However, I will say more about that later. As our Treasurer- I am happy to say as a Treasurer from Queensland- Bill Hayden has played his part incomparably well judged even on the high standard and possibly the model standard of previous Treasurers from Queensland such as E. G. Theodore and the late Sir Arthur Fadden whom Mr Hayden has followed but does not lag behind.
In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said that the Budget is framed in a situation in which inflation is this nation’s most menacing enemy. It is true that the Budget has been presented at a time of high inflation and, judged on Australian standards, in a period of high unemployment. Inflation, which is a form of indirect taxation, has been described by many acknowledged authorities as the most corrupt and insidious form of taxation. A taxpayer knows how much he will have to pay as direct taxation and in most instances he knows how much he will be called upon to pay in indirect taxation, but he has no idea of the extent to which he is committed by inflation until he has to pay the ever-increasing prices for the commodities which he intends to buy.
The impression that honourable senators opposite, particularly those who have at different periods been described as purveyors of misery and prophets of gloom and are hoping for the worst and fearing the best, have endeavoured to give to the electorate at large is that inflation is peculiar to Australia, that it was manufactured by the Australian Labor Party and did not come into existence until December 1972 when the Whitlam Government occupied the treasury bench. But the commonsense and intelligent people in the electorate know as well as all honourable senators in this place should know that all countries are suffering from inflation. Some are suffering less and some more but we all have the same problems. Of course inflation in Australia today, contrary to what honourable senators have been endeavouring to tell us during the past months and no doubt will be endeavouring to tell us in the future, is not at a record high level. They have been claiming erroneously that that is so but inflation was galloping at 22 per cent in 1950, 1951 and 1952.
In the Menzies-Fadden Government when the Leader of the then Country Party was the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer, in his first Budget inflation was running at 13.6 per cent, in his second Budget it was 16.7 per cent and in his third Budget it was an all time record for Australia- 22 per cent. That is the history of inflation in this country. Yet we will all agree that the late Sir Arthur Fadden as the handler of the nation’s finances was a giant of a man compared with the pygmies who are handling the Opposition’s financial strategy today; but he was unable to do anything about inflation.
The point I want to make quite emphatically this evening is that, despite the claims made by honourable senators opposite, even though inflation is too high today it is many points below the record figure for this country which was established in 1952 under a Liberal-Country Party government with the late Sir Arthur Fadden as Treasurer. After listening to the criticism of the strategy of the Government and being told what the strategy of the Opposition would be if it were in government, I endeavoured to find in our past a set of circumstances comparable to those that exist today. After blowing the cobwebs off the Hansard records and thumbing through the pages I was forced to return to the period 1950, 1951 and 1952. I carefully researched not the promises that were made by the government in that period but the actual Budget strategy that it employed.
Let us look at just what the Government of that time did in similar circumstances to those that we are experiencing today. Before I do so I wish to remind all in this chamber and all who are listening- if anybody needs reminding- of the great catchcry in 1949 when government supporters travelled the length and breadth of this country and said: ‘We will put value back into the pound if you will return us as the government’. When they were making the claim that they would put value back into the pound they knew as well, as I did that under the Western capitalist system it was impossible for them to do so. So impossible was it for them at the time that an eminent Treasurer and former great Prime Minister was forced to make a statement. I refer to Joseph Benedict Chifley. Ben Chifley, when speaking of the claim by members of the Opposition that they would put value back into the £ 1 if they were returned as a government, said:
No person can be so mean or despicable as a politician who makes promises he knows he cannot fulfil.
When the Liberal and Country Parties came into government they introduced a Budget. For 3 years they had a similar strategy. They assisted the monopolies and the big industries but slugged the workers and did very little for the pensioners.
The Tory story about sales tax in the period from 1950 to 1952 is a very sad one indeed. Let us look at some of the Fadden levies. The Government of the time put a 33 lA per cent sales tax on children’s toys, a 20 per cent sales tax on ice cream and sweets, a 20 per cent sales tax on razor blades and a 25 per cent sales tax on the birthday cake and the Christmas cake. It was not satisfied with slugging the kiddies of this country. Before a young man and his bride could go to the altar in marriage they had to give 14 guineas to the Treasury. This represented a 66% per cent sales tax on their engagement ring. That was the sort of tax that was introduced in circumstances similar to those of today by those who sit opposite. Fadden wiped out the subsidy to dairy farmers and also abandoned the wool growers. What was more despicable than the sacking of 10 000 public servants? That was the strategy, the tactics and the Budget philosophy of the Tories in 1950, 1951 and 1952. They made promises similar to those we are hearing today, but when they got into government they repudiated those promises and gave the whole of the nation a terrific bashing in the form of restrictions and restraint.
Earlier I heard Senator Wright interjecting. It is appropriate that he should, because one can recall his stand by reading the Hansard of the time. The measures that were taken in the Budget were almost entirely opposed to the promises Senator Wright made to the Tasmanian people. In 1949 Senator Wright, together with Senator Guy, Senator Henty and Senator Wordsworth, issued a pamphlet which set out all the things they had promised to do if their Party were returned to power. In case the honourable senator has forgotten them, I will remind him of some. The manifesto stated that they would fight for the highest living standards, give generous help for house owners, increase production to lower inflation, reduce taxes, introduce social services without a means test, stabilise primary industries, put value back into the f 1 , and so on. Those were the promises Senator Wright made in 1 949. Now, almost 30 years afterwards, he remains a repudiator of those promises.
How can anyone take Opposition senators seriously in the future as to anything they promise about what they will do in the Budget if their Party becomes the government again? Opposition senators might say that that was 3C years ago and that there are different senators, there is a new ball game and there is an entirely new set of circumstances. We all know that the Tories today are the same as the Tories of yesteryear. Of course they are. Honourable senators should not just take my word for that. An eminent statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, whose words should be acceptable to the Opposition because he was the founder of the modern Tory party in Great Britain today, said of the Tories on 17 March 1845- a very important date for such a provocative statement:
A conservative government is always an organised hypocrisy.
What Disraeli said more than 100 years ago is still true of all the conservatives and the Tories today. It applies whether they are in office or out of office. It applies all the time because all the time they are pretending to be something that they are not. So, just as they broke their promises in 1950, 1951 and 1952 and adopted measures as harsh as I related previously, they will again make idle promises in 1975 or whenever it will be the ill fortune of the Australian people to have to suffer them on the treasury bench. But, as sure as day follows night, one can bet that they will again repudiate their promises.
I cannot help but mention the promises and the strategy that were outlined by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He made many promises, but the whole pattern of his Budget strategy was to look after the strong and to forget about the weak. Any leader who does not display any humanitarian instincts, anyone who is devoid of a spark of humanitarianism, will have a very shaky passage as the leader of a national government, a State government or any other government. One of the prerequisites for good leadership is a humanitarian approach of being able to help those who cannot help themselves, and not just making life easier for the strong and neglecting the weak.
On the other hand let us examine now some of the promises of Labor. I have told of the promises of the Tories and how they repudiated those promises. What Labor has promised Labor will do. We have kept our promises in all the things for which we have been given a mandate, except when we have been frustrated or blocked from doing so in the Senate. Let us examine some of the points in the Hayden Budget. Highlighting the many innovations is what I previously referred to- a radical new tax system. Many wage earners with families will receive income tax cuts of more than $4 a week from 1 January next year. In some cases taxpayers earning more than $10,000 a year will have more than $10 a week extra in their pay packets. A person earning $7,000 a year or $135 a week, with a nonworking wife and 2 children, will pay $4.06 a week less in tax- a cut of some 27 per cent in his tax bill. A person in the same circumstances earning $13,000 a year or $250 a week will have $5.03 extra in his pocket- a saving of 8.1 per cent. Another significant aspect of the new system is that as from next year income earners will lose in tax a smaller proportion of pay increases they receive. Wage earners on average weekly earnings of $ 1 55 a week pay 45c in the $ 1 at the moment. Under the new scale they will pay 35c in the $1. What a progressive move is the abolition of the old method of deducting allowances to arrive at taxable income. Instead there will be a new scale of 7 tax steps ranging from 20c in the $1 on incomes up to $2,000 to 65c in the $1 on incomes of $25,000 a year and above.
One could go on at length examining the highlights of this Budget. I understand that the list of speakers for this debate is very lengthy. My colleagues no doubt will canvass very eloquently and adequately the points that have not been dealt with already. Before concluding I would like to say that we on this side of the Senate would be foolish if we said that this was a perfect Budget. Has anyone ever seen a Budget that has been accepted as the perfect Budget or has been warmly received? In realism, we say that this is a good Budget in the circumstances and has gone a long way to putting the country on the path to correcting inflation. Unfortunately there are some hardships associated with it. These taxes have had to be levied because money has to be raised and the Government is keen to press on with the welfare policies that it has 2 mandates to carry out. If money has to be raised one has to be realistic. Instead of taxing the child’s ice creams, the birthday cake and the engagement ring, this Government has put an excise on cigarettes, beer and whisky.
We here all know that man cannot live by bread alone. It is regrettable that there has to be such a heavy excise on these commodities, but I sincerely hope that it will not be for long and that the Government, in its next Budget, will be able to reduce these indirect taxes and carry on with its very progressive welfare policy. In view of all the circumstances the problems that we have are not bedevilling only Australia, but also bedevilling other countries. As I have said, this Budget has gone a long way to correcting these things. In all the circumstances it is a good Budget. I have no hesitation whatsoever in enthusiastically commending it to the Senate.
- Senator McAuliffe referred to Disraeli and brought to mind a story that I believe true about Disraeli and which is very applicable to the honourable senator’s speech: A young member of the House of Commons, recently elected, went to Disraeli and said: ‘Sir, should I make my maiden speech at the first opportunity?’ Disraeli said: ‘Young man, it is better that they ask “Why did he not speak?” instead of asking “Why did he speak?”.’ I therefore propose to cut out the balderdash, ignore what has been said since 8 o’clock and talk about the Budget.
The Budget is the fiscal policy of the government in power which should portray its policy in that line to the people of Australia and businesses in Australia for the following 12 months. As Senator Cotton rightly reminded us this afternoon, a Budget introduced in midAugust does not really start to show effects until early April-May of the following year. Therefore Australians can expect conditions now prevailing to continue the trend in which they have been going in recent months. For the public the reception by the media either raises their hopes or deepens their despair. Unfortunately these media commentators from the Press gallery are instant opinion-makers. Frankly, without being at all provocative or insulting, I do not believe that they know what the people are thinking and what effect the Budget will have in the market place. That is where it is important so far as the prosperity or otherwise of the nation is concerned. Labor’s 1974-75 Budget was followed by reckless spending and wrong policy decisions. The great harm to Australia that has been the basis of our great problems was Labor’s policy in respect of tariffs and its high interest rate policy when all along it said it was the low interest rate Party.
– It was three or four per cent, was it not?
– That is right. Labor in office, in my mind, has continued to show a complete lack of teamwork. The Government has had 27 Ministers running around spending money in their own spheres each trying to make himself the Cassius Clay in his particular sphere of activities. They have lacked leadership. I shall come to that aspect afterwards. There cannot be a team unless there is leadership. The Government has lacked economic common sense. This has been proved time and again in the last 3 years.
Ruins around the world and being rude to people and organisations in public have occupied the eyes and the mind of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I was at the Opera House in Sydney recently when there was, by invitation of the Returned Services League, a gathering of world veterans from all over the world. They included old enemies, now friends, trying to see how they, as veterans of war, could do something about helping to achieve peace in our time. The Press reports were indicative of one of the rudest speeches that I was ashamed to hear. I heard a hoot in a partially Australian audience of an international flavour. The Sydney Daily Mirror said:
The Badge of Rudeness
For the Prime Minister to abuse RSL hospitality yesterday with a lecture on old slogans, intolerance and fanaticism was both rude and unfair.
– Is he not a member of the RSL himself?
– Yes. He has a been a member for 30 years.
– He is a veteran.
– He is a veteran in being rude also. The Australian, the donor of $74,000 to Labor Party funds and concerned with a $69,000 kick-back for electioneering advertising said in a sub-leader.
An unstable world
MR WHITLAM yesterday chose a singularly inappropriate forum for firing off another round in his verbal battle with the cold warriors of the Returned Services League. The very gathering he was addressing- an RSL-sponsored world assembly of war veterans, aimed at promoting peace and international goodwill- belied the main thrust of his criticisms.
Despite the occasion of his speech, Mr Whitlam once against displayed the lack of timing and sense of good taste which we have unhappily become accustomed to.
The Daily Telegraph, in a full page article, said:
RSL blast will cost one million votes
Whitlam does it again
So I say the eyes and the mind of the Prime Minister have been focused on looking at ruins and travelling with his jet set and being rude to people and organisations. He has also been handicapped as a leader because various personal staff appointments have formed a protective curtain around him, keeping him safely away, when he is in Australia, from trained senior, loyal and able public servants- the experts. Then there came the awakening. Whitlam awakes. Someone should write a book about it. He either read Woman’s Day or something else and he realised that Australia’s growing problems were not a mishmash of hooha.
– Who said that?
– I am saying it. He realised that there were over 200 000 unemployed, 60 000 employed under the Regional Employment Development Scheme and that there were the highest interest rates ever operating in Australia. I believe that perhaps he thought that some media writers and Opposition spokesmen who had drawn this to his attention were correct. Perhaps he thought those criticised nervous Nellies in Caucus who are reported to have told him that thing were going wrong might have something on their side and that we were not living, as we were up to 2 December 1972, in Australia Unlimited with verylittle unemployment and 4 per cent inflation. So Treasury was blamed publicly, and all honourable senators will recall the attack on Treasury officials. Then Mr Crean- quiet, calm, honest, sincere- was axed. The new Treasurer, Dr Jim Cairnsfamous only as a Treasurer- came in. It will be for all sorts of things that Jim Cairns will be written about in the history of Australian politics. But the main reason he will be written about as far as my research takes me, will be because he was the only Treasurer of a parliament in the Westminster system who was not able to bring down a budget. He got the axe. Australia’s ruins were being studied; the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) decided to stop over in this country and have a look at things. He then called upon Mr Hayden, whose great fame, regardless of this Budget, will be that he was the father of the Medibank system, which I prophesy here and now in great sincerity will bankrupt this country in 10 years.
– Don’t be so gloomy.
– The Government likes to pull the wool over its own eyes; I like to speak the truth. So Australia has become the unlucky country. It is no longer Australia Unlimited. I have to admit that the Budget presented on 19 August has some aspects of economic good sense- if Caucus, the unions, private enterprise and world conditions start running for Mr Hayden in the field of economics. But our internal problems cannot be glossed over. Mr Hawke- whether speaking for the Reserve Bank or the Australian Council of Trade Unions or Bourke’s or the Australian Labor Party, I never know which, or just having a crack at the person he wants to succeed- has prophesied that up to 500 000 people will be unemployed early next year because of worsened conditions and because of school leavers. The Regional Employment Development scheme is closing down, we are told, and I believe that there will be great worries for local government if the scheme ceases. It is extraordinary that the Government has to spend $1 10m, as it did last year, employing people who are out of work because of its policies. Some good things have come from this scheme, this unfortunate necessity, but when it finishes where is local government going to find the money to keep up the parks and gardens and foreshores that have been created by the employment of people under the RED scheme. I believe that if we had a really honest government, when it issued unemployment figures each month it would state the precise number of unemployed and add: ‘But there are 60 000 to 70 000 people who are precariously, temporarily employed on a very costly venture for the Australian taxpayer. ‘
Another problem that is glossed over by the Treasurer and by Government spokesmen relates to small businesses. I refer to an article by Graham Williams entitled ‘Small business, big bust’, which appeared recently in the Australian. In the Sydney Sun on 26 August an article appeared entitled ‘878 Firms Go Broke’, and it was stated that 1975 was a record year for such a catastrophe. Graham Williams worked out that if a small business goes broke, because it closes down and causes unemployment ultimately it will cost the Australian taxpayers $55,000 a year. So it is not only the fellow who loses the job who is being hit; it is also the fellow who loses his life savings in that private enterprise, savings that we have encouraged him to invest.
The early days after the presentation of the Budget do not reveal what is behind the cloudy atmosphere that the Budget Speech puts over the facts of financial life in Australia today. A lot of the fine print in the supporting documents- and they are worth $18 if one has to buy them- must be examined. In relation to pay as you earn tax, young married couples who are both working and who earn $7,000 a year will each pay $256 extra per year in taxation. Do single people on $5,000 a year-which is about $3,000 below the average national wage, so they cannot be overpaidrealise that they will be paying an extra $120 a year in income tax under this Budget? No wonder Dr Cairns is asking publicly for a miniBudget. I do not know what he says in Caucus; we have not yet had a leak from this week’s Caucus meeting. Added to the increased taxation, there are the savage imposts to which Senator McAuliffe referred on potable- may I say, not pottable- spirits, beer, cigarettes, postal charges and petrol. This Government will be known as the Government that not only killed Father Christmas and Christmas cards but practically wiped out private correspondence between friends and relatives. It is going to be cheaper to ring up than to write a letter. The postal charges are the most inane, badly thought out, savage taxes that I have seen imposed by any government in 23 years. I know what Government senators are going to say. They are going to say -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. The honourable senator is misleading the Senate. He is claiming that the Government has imposed the increased postal charges in the Budget. The increased postal charges have been levied by the Australian Postal Commission, a statutory body, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Budget.
– May I speak to the point of order? I was going to add that I know the Government will run for cover and say that that is not us, it is the Australian Postal Commission. I cannot think of any greater political cowardice than that. The Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop), the man without a job, agreed to the increases. He admits that he agreed to them, but the unions are fighting them and the Government senators have not got the moral fibre to join with the unions and fight. So do not stand up and take points of order against me when you are cowards. Surely the young married people are the ones who need encouragement, yet the Government has taxed them more heavily than they were taxed before. We in this country over the years have fought an economy which requires two pay packets in a family, and because people are willing to go out and work to try to create a financial base for the upbringing of their families the Government is hitting them with a heavy tax. The increased petrol tax, when the Government has the nerve to announce the precise amount, will increase the cost of all goods and services in this country. It will dampen the tourist trade, as will the Government’s policy on civil aviation. The Government is trying to make the airlines and their passengers pay for the upkeep of all airports. I ask the Government and the Treasurer this question: Does the Hume Highway make a profit? Does Northbourne Avenue? Does the Sydney Harbour Bridge? The Government wants the airlines and the shipping services which use Bass Strait to make a profit, and it could not care less what it loses on other lines of communication such as the Australian National Railways and other instrumentalities which it runs.
The finance editor of the Melbourne Herald, Mr Barrie Dunstan, says that a close look at the fine print of the taxation schedules in the Budget shows that the ‘tax cut(?) ‘ is really an increase of 41 per cent. I ask quite seriously: Is the Australian Government, the Treasury, on the brink of being unable to meet its commitments? I ask this question because some months ago an instruction signed by the Commissioner of Taxation went out, instructing all taxation officers not to allow time for payment of taxation assessments which are due, as has been done for many people over the years. Those asking for time to pay would have to be told: ‘You must pay up or we will take you over. You must obtain bridging finance’. They were not his exact words. On page 29 of the Melbourne Sun of Friday, 22 August, there was an article which stated:
Get in those returns: Tax Chief.
Lodge a return within 9 days or face tough penalities- that is a Tax Department message.
I believe that this statement shows that the Government is actually short of ready cash. I have on the notice paper a question based on information given to me that some public servants have not been paid overtime for the period ended 31 March. I will be asking, probably tomorrow if I get the call, a question about travelling allowances which have not been paid to public servants and to people who work for government instrumentalities. I believe that future shocks will come to this country unless the tax gatherer is successful.
A Supply Bill- a phoney Bill, it seems to met-1 will be debated with interest. The Senate Estimates committees will be sitting soon. I will be very interested to see the type of information which we will draw. I have had research done. It is under 3 headings- Oddities, Perks and Commissions. For instance, the Department of the Media in the financial year 1973-74 spent $600 on garden maintenance, which is just a small thing, and $12,000 on assistance to overseas film making. Is it taking over Hollywood? It spent $50,000 on envelopes. The Department of Foreign Affairs spent $129,400 sending exSenator Murphy and others on a stupid exercise about nuclear tests by the French. The Department of Defence, with our defences run right down, spent $2.5m on advertising for recruits. Free legal aid, in a country with a population of approximately 13 million, last financial year cost $10,329,000. Publicising the Department ofthe Media cost $130,000. The Government Printing Office, which comes within the Department of the Media, spent $85 1 ,000 on new equipment. Salaries for the Government Publishing Service, which comes within the Department of the Media also, were $ 1 ,500,000. 1 could go on.
I turn now to the Department of Labor and Immigration. I see that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) is present now. He is quite welcome. He was not the Minister then, but in 1973-74 the Department spent $2,965,000 on advertising and publicity.
– Thank you-
– I will listen to the Minister’s speech later. The Department of Housing and Construction spent $5,910 on furniture for Mr Grassby ‘s office. The Sunday Observer, a newspaper which I do not often read- there must have been a free one on the aircraft- of 10 August said:
Dynamic Al Grassby knows everything about the new job he took over this week- except his salary! . . . This week he was upgraded to become Australia’s first Commissioner for Community Relations.
In his $5,900 furnished office he hopes to draw $700 a week. That is the type of money that is being spent. That is the type of thing that is brought to light by Senate Estimates committees. This is the fun we will have in the weeks that lie ahead.
I ask this question: How will the Budget affect Tasmania? Shipping freights are a serious problem. Already the Estimates show that more than $300,000 has been spent on an inquiry into shipping costs to and from Tasmania. Not one printed word has been made public, despite an expenditure of $300,000. Air fares will rise again. There is no doubt about that. I point out that already Tasmanian industries are in very serious difficulty. The tariff policy of the Government, high costs of freight and all this pace-setting by the Commonwealth Government have meant that the industries are in a serious state. Industrial unrest has been one of the causes. I refer to the unfortunate situation in relation to the Tasman Bridge. The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union is on strike; so real work on repairing the bridge cannot be carried out. I understand that it involves an inter-union wrangle. All these things are killing the island State.
What have we had from the Federal Government? When it wanted to win Denison it promised to establish the headquarters of the Antarctic Research division on the Derwent. Nothing has been heard or done since it won Denison. When it pushed Mr Barnard out and said: ‘Stockholm or nothing’- do not think Mr Barnard resigned of his own free will; it was Stockholm or nothing- it promised a maritime college to try to retain Bass. All I can say to the Government is that if it put the Taj Mahal in Braddon and the Snowy Mountains scheme in Wilmot it would not win either of those 2 seats, because the people of Tasmania will not be hoodwinked for the third time. We might be islanders, but we are perceptive. We have been fooled around too much by this Government in its short term of office. It would not win Denison even though it bought the Trades Hall for $425,000 when it was not worth $300,000 on the open market. More should be coming out about that. The unfortunate truth has come out, and that is that because the Labor Party lost Bass the arrogant Mr Whitlam said: ‘Bother Tasmania. Cancel all we were to do. Forget it. Let us look for votes elsewhere ‘. I say once more to honourable senators on the Government side who want to remain in Government, which they will not, that the day the Labor Party breaks up within itself, which will not be too far ahead, will be the day when the Tasmanian electorate, whatever the other States do, will swing the numbers and lead to the formation of a Liberal Government. I say in conclusion: Poor Labor Party! In the condition in which Australia is and in the haste in which Mr Hayden had to prepare his Budget, I think that he did his reasonable best. But the
Labor Party lacks leadership. It lacks cohesion. It lacks sincerity. It lacks ability. It lacks the wish to make Australia great as Australia was up to 2 December 1972. 1 support the amendment.
– It is with very great pleasure that I rise to give my full support to this third Budget brought down by the Whitlam Labor Government. It is a good Budget. That assertion is borne out by the comments of the Press throughout the country and of the people to whom one talks in the street. It is a good Budget because it helps those people who really need assistance and who have been denied that assistance over the years by the previous Government.
Senator Marriott devoted a great deal of time to talking about the perks which certain people are getting under this Government. I intend to divulge in my speech tonight some of the perks which ex-members of his former government are getting. I will talk about them later. Senator Marriott also made mention, towards the end of his speech, of the cost of furnishings for certain offices of certain personnel. In my time in this Senate, I have never heard Senator Marriott complain about the very high cost of the plush furnishings of that place in the corner of this building, the President’s suite. It was constructed and furnished during the period when Senator Marriott was a member of the then Government. He has never complained about that. We would like to know what that cost at a time when senators and staff were housed in dog boxes. The honourable senator should be consistent.
We listened today to a speech which was read by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Withers. Listening to it -
– I rise to take a point of order. I think that that remark was most uncalled for. Ministers in this place and Leaders of the Opposition here have always by practice read their speeches. I think that that remark was most uncalled for.
– But typical, though.
– I see nothing wrong with it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! No point of order arises. Proceed, Senator McLaren.
– I am telling the truth. I realise that they are allowed to do that, but it still means that he read his speech. There is nothing wrong with that. The point I was coming to is that it was a most uninspiring speech. We could see from the Leader that he had very little interest in it because of his mistakes and the way he stumbled in the reading of it. He did not have his heart in it. As my colleague Senator Keeffe remarked, when the Leader of the Opposition is to deliver speeches of that type here in future, he ought to read them over two or three times so that he may know what some other person has written for him.
That brings me to what was said by the Leader of the House in the other place, Mr Daly, in answer to a question today when he made some remarks about who had assisted the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Malcolm Fraser, to compile his speech. I will quote part of the answer from Mr Daly in response to a question posed by the honourable member for EdenMonaro, Mr Whan, which referred to the qualifications of candidates for House of Representatives elections. Mr Daly said:
For instance, I understand that Mr Michael Baume, a company director, and the endorsed Liberal Party candidate for the next election joined Patrick Partners in 1969. Under the Act as it stands, he is the candidate for Macarthur at the coming election. He has been closely allied in recent weeks with Mr Fraser, writing his economic policy. I understand that on Budget night this candidate worked in Mr Fraser’s Parliament House office drafting statements for the Opposition Leader’s attack on the Government’s Budget proposals. He also helped to write the speech on the Budget which the Leader of the Opposition delivered in Parliament on Tuesday.
Of course what was said here today by Senator Withers in part was taken out of that speech. Concluding his answer, Mr Daly said:
I conclude after mentioning those facts by stating that Patrick Partners now owe about $2. 5m. I hope that this gentleman’s economic policy works better for the Opposition that it did for Patrick Partners.
Honourable senators can see that this is the type of person on whom the Opposition calls to draw up its economic policies in opposition to the Budget brought down by Mr Hayden.
Further, in answer to a question today in the other place, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was able to reveal- everybody will be able to read this in the Hansard report when it is published tomorrow- that the proposals put forward by Mr Malcolm Fraser as to what he would have done in the Budget show, when they are analysed carefully, that the result would be a deficit of over $4,000m. So who is fooling the people? Senator Marriott tries to say that this Government is fooling the people. When we look at the facts and analyse them, we find that it is the Opposition which is trying to fool the people.
In his speech, Senator Withers complained bitterly that the Government did not understand people and that the Government was a great betrayer of the people. Of course, Senator Withers was speaking on behalf of the silvertail and blue rinse section of the community when he made those remarks. He was speaking on behalf of the people who live in Toorak in Melbourne, the North Shore of Sydney and places like Burnside in Adelaide. This is borne out by reference to the transcript of the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program Four Corners presented last Saturday night. That program contained some most revealing interviews. We know, as I said, that Senator Withers was speaking for those people and, when I quote some extracts from the transcript of this program, those listening to these proceedings tonight will fully realise why the Opposition has been so critical of this Budget. The Budget is doing something to help the people who need help and it is doing something really to restrict the people who do not need that assistance. I have no sympathy for those people. When I made my maiden speech here, 1 drew the ire of members of the then Government because of remarks that I made about these very same people.
In introducing the Four Corners program, Caroline Jones said:
Good news for some, bad news for others. If this Budget is going to make some of the poor a little richer, is it also likely to make the rich any poorer? Who are Australia’s rich and how well cushioned are they in these times of economic hardship? Brian Davies and Jeffrey Watson report.
Jeffrey Watson then said:
More of Australia’s upper crust families live in Melbourne than in any other city. Toorak has long been the richest square mile in Australia and no other city preserves as well as Melbourne the old style concept of high society, where the Rolls and Bentleys whisper to discreet halts alongside ‘no standing’ signs. It was here in Budget week that Maxims, Australia’s most exclusive restaurant, held a gala luncheon. Among the guests, members of Melbourne’s and Australia’s richest families. Between courses of avocados, smoked salmon and champagne they talked about how the rich are coming to grips with economic hardships as they see it.
Toorak is famous for this. But Toorak is famous also for a major happening which took place there some months ago. Toorak is where the plot was hatched to bring about the political assassination of Mr Snedden. So Toorak is always in the public eye.
The transcript of the Four Corners program then goes on to set out interviews with unidentified party guests. In response to questions that were posed, these were the answers given in the interview:
Well, I haven’t got as much house help as I had before.
Have honourable senators ever heard of a man on the minimum wage having house help, unless it is his own children? The interview continues:
I keep on saying I ‘m economising but then I go out and have a big spending splurge. Well you don’t go out as often.
You don’t willingly and openly spend as much money as you might on things that previously you might have felt inclined to do. A lot of people have economies; there aren’t as many parties as there used to be; the expense account is cut down. We think about what we are buying now, whereas before, you know, to go out and go shopping and buy a fillet of beef would be just normal every day living, it’s not any more.
This is how the rich people live, those in the silvertail and blue rinse set.
The interview continues:
They are very clearly concerned, because they are finding that their costs are escalating at a much greater rate than their ability to maintain a standard that they have been on for some time. Spending power has gone, whereas, except for an exclusive group, the aristocracy of today, the blue collar worker -
That is what the rich say about the persons who deserve something in this world and who at last have it under this Government. They are now referring to the blue collar workers as the aristocracy. If it were not for the blue collar worker and the man who does the hard work, the aristocracy could not exist. Most of them could not work in an iron lung. The interview continued: . . whose spending power’s increased enormouslymany families like this would perhaps spend more on beer in a week than I ever might do at a restaurant.
That is the comment of one of the blue-rinse set, that the blue collar worker would spend more on beer in a week than that person would spend at a restaurant. Honourable senators should have seen the film of the fare that was on the table that night. It is a pity that we cannot show the film in this chamber. The interview continued:
All of us work a great deal for charities -
What a laugh- that sounds all very sort of condescending, but we do more of that now than we used to do.
Well I feel very sorry for the poor too, but I also feel very sorry for the rich, so its a half and half thing.
In this interview they went on to talk about some of the people who make up the aristocracy.
– Are you talking about the Budget?
– I am talking about the Budget because Senator Marriott has criticised the Budget. He, along with Senator Withers, said that it is a terrible Budget and that it has not helped anybody. I am pointing out the people whom it has helped and the people whom it has hurt. I have explained that I have no sympathy for the people whom the Budget has hurt, and these are the people to whom I am referring now. The interview continued:
Like other aristocracies, Australia’s top families and landed gentry are dynastic; some like the Baillieus have their own family Coat of Arms, the power and status of these families have been nurtured over generations and reinforced by an intricate web of relationships forged by business links, and marriage.
The only thing they left out there is that in days gone by they were helped along by Liberal governments. The interview continued:
The Baillieus, the Myers, the Knoxes, Darlings, Clarkes, these and other such families have all been connected at some stage by marriage.
If one looks through the names one sees that there are many descendants of the families who have made up the Liberal governments in this country over the years and who have persecuted the workers. I am very proud of the fact that the Government of which I am a supporter is at least doing something to curb their expenditure and to give something to the people who are so deserving of it. We have the Liberal Party flying the flag now. We see the old slogan on flags everywhere. It says: ‘SOS- Sweep Out Socialism’. That is the way in which the Liberals conducted their campaign in South Australia. They used the slogan ‘Sweep Out Socialism’. What do we find? If they sweep out socialism, what does it mean? It means that people who are receiving a pension will suffer what they experienced under previous governments. Every election year they received an increase in their pension- sometimes 50c a week and sometimes 75c a week. But also they would lose such things as I am about to cite now from a booklet entitled Australian Government assistance to local projects. These are some of the things that come under socialism:
Australian Assistance Plan
Of course we know that the Australian Assistance Plan might come to grief if Mr Hamer is successful in his challenge to the High Court. I was very interested to hear Senator Marriott complaining tonight that if the Regional Employment Development scheme were abolished people would suffer. But he did not tell us that Mr Hamer already has made an application to the High Court to sweep the scheme away. So it is the Liberals, not the Labor Government, who will be to blame if the RED scheme ceases to exist. The booklet to which I have referred goes on to list the things that come under socialism as follows:
Community development offices
Community welfare projects
Community information centres
Handicapped persons assistance
Home care services for the aged
Homeless persons assistance
That was severely criticised by Senator Marriott-
Meals on wheels
Nursing homes assistance
Personal care subsidy for aged or disabled persons
Senior citizens centres
Welfare officers for senior citizens centres
They are among a few of the things from which people benefit under a government which believes in socialism. Of course, the slogan of the Liberal Party is ‘SOS-Sweep Out Socialism’. I should like to remind those people who are listening to the broadcast of proceedings tonight and who are beneficiaries under our socialist policy that if there is a change of government brought about either by the refusal of Supply or by some other means- perhaps rejection of the Loans Bill- these things which they enjoy under this Government will be swept away by a Liberal government because the Liberals are on record as saying that they will take away those benefits.
If one looks back over the record one will see how meagre the Liberals were in years gone by. Let us look at the pension increases that pensioners have received under this Government. In October 1972 the pension for a married couple was $34.50. With the proposed increase for which this Budget provides, which is to operate from 1 November this year, the pension for a married couple will be $64.50. There has been an increase of $30 in that pension rate in the 3 short years in which we have been in government. Since we came into government the pension rate for a married couple has increased by 87 per cent, yet the increase in the consumer price index to June 1975, was only 44.7 per cent. The single pension rate will have increased from $20 in October 1972 to $38.75 when this Budget is passed. The widows’ pension rate has increased on the same scale.
The rate of unemployment and sickness benefits has increased from $25 to $64.50. There may be some people who are unemployed in the country today, and I do not hold any flag for people who will not work. During my life I have always had to work, and I believe that everybody, if he can get a job, should be prepared to work; he should not bludge on social services. But there are many people who, because they are victims of circumstances, have to apply for social services, and we are prepared to give social services to them. But at least those people who cannot find a job today are given an amount of money on which they can exist and pay their way. They did not get that when we had the rural recession of the early 1960s under the previous Government. We do not want to see the unemployment figure remain at its present level, but we are not being helped along by the prophets of gloom who make up the Opposition parties and who are always trying to impose upon private business people the thought that there is a recession about and that it will get worse. The members of the Opposition parties should be going out and encouraging these people to have some confidence in this great country in which they live.
The long term sickness benefit rate for a married person was $28 in 1972, and it will be $64.50 when the Budget is passed, which is an increase of 130.4 per cent. These are the benefits which people receive and which, if by some misfortune our opponents are re-elected to office, they are in great danger of losing, and I am not telling an untruth when I say that. If we look at the political advertisements of the Liberal Party in South Australia during the last State election there we see that they blatantly stated, ‘Sweep out Socialism ‘. Of course socialism covers a lot of other things. It covers subsidies to primary industry. Yet we hear the Country Party, and Senator Webster in particular, always complaining that we have taken off certain subsidies. Senator Webster’s party believes in that philosophy which has long been with the Country Parrythat you socialise your losses and you capitalise your profits. Senator Webster is not too proud to accept socialism when his party wants a handout. When his party is looking for a handout from the general taxpayer socialism is good, but if we take away anything from his party socialism is no good.
The benefits for ex-servicemen that have been introduced by this Government are mammoth. We will debate the particular Bill when Senator Wheeldon will outline in detail the great benefits that we have given to this class of people. I think it was Senator Wheeldon who, when he was answering a question today, stated that the Liberal Party and its coalition partner, the Country Party, were quite prepared to send boys to Vietnam to fight in the war but they were not prepared to give those boys anything when they returned. We were opposed to those boys going to Vietnam, but we were not opposed to giving them all the benefits that it was possible for the nation to afford when they returned, and I am very proud of what we have done in that regard.
Senator Withers said that people wanted to end inflation. Of course, this Government wanted to end inflation too- so much so that we held a referendum in December 1973. What did our opponents do? They went out and campaigned against us when we wanted the people to give us the power to enforce price control and wage control. Yet our opponents have the audacity to go out now and blame this Government for inflation, knowing full well that the Australian Government has no power to introduce price control on most commodities. The States have that power, but no State can use the power unless all the other States are prepared to use it. That is why the Australian Government wanted an overall power to bring in price control. So it is no good our opponents blaming this Government for the rapid rate of inflation. They are just as much to blame because they went out and campaigned against us when we wanted that power so that we could introduce some measures of control.
Senator Withers also complained about the railway transfer Bill. He complained about the fact that the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia had to subsidise the South Australian and Tasmanian governments because they had been prepared to sell their railways to the Australian Government. But Senator Withers did not go on to tell us that the first people to advocate the handing over of the railways to the Commonwealth Government, as it then was, were Sir Henry Bolte and Sir Robert Askin- both Liberal Premiers- who said that the Australian Government could have them. What happened when the Australian Government wanted them? They would not give them to it. So it is no good honourable senators opposite crying crocodile tears to me. The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the Minister for Transport, Mr Charles Jones, are quite prepared to take over those railways as soon as those States are prepared to negotiate with them, but they will not do so. It is no good Senator Withers coming into this chamber and complaining about that. He has to lay the blame at the feet of Mr Bjelke-Petersen, Mr Lewis and Mr Hamer. They are the people who have failed to bring about a transfer of the railways. If the electors of those States are paying subsidies to South Australia and Tasmania they will have their opportunity- I believe that it will arise very early in the piece in the case of New South Wales- to voice their objections.
In his speech today Senator Withers also criticised the Government for spending too much money on the housing of diplomats overseas. It was very interesting to me to read an article in the Australian of today’s date headed: ‘Don’t blame us for $53m embassies ‘. Of course, whoever wrote Senator Withers’ speech, which is the subject to which there was some objection to my mentioning, could not have read the Press reports or heard about what happened at Mr Whitlam ‘s news conference yesterday because Mr Whitlam said:
It happens that all the expensive ones, all the big ones, were approved by our predecessors.
Those approved by the Liberal Government were the Bangkok chancery and residence, $5. 8m; renovations and electrical works at Australia House, London, $477,000; chancery and accommodation in Paris, $18. 5 m; chancery in Port Moresby, $2m; chancery in Singapore, $4.4m; extensions to chancery in Washington, $4.6m; chancery in Kuala Lumpur, $4.2 m.
All the expenses incurred in that respect were in relation to projects approved by the McMahon Government; yet Senator Withers has had the hide to get up in this chamber today and criticise us for them. His colleague, Mr Peacock, did the same in the other place last week. Mr Whitlam went on to say:
This year, as anybody can see from the Budget, we will be spending $3m on overseas construction for chanceries and residences for our high commissioners and our ambassadors.
Senator Withers has talked about the Government being dishonest and fooling the people, but when one examines the actual situation in order to rebut his argument one finds that the people responsible for these things being done in the first place are Senator Withers and those who sit behind him.
Senator Withers also complained about what happened during the consideration of the Estimates last year when he and no doubt some of his colleagues posed a series of questions about the cost of the use of Commonwealth cars. Some very interesting things were revealed in the Press last year about the misuse of Commonwealth cars, not by the members of the Government Party but by members of the National Country Party of Australia. That is the Party of which Senator Webster is a member; yet he is forever accusing honourable senators on this side of the chamber- he did so yesterday of Senator Cavanagh- of having their fingers in the till. Who are the ones who have their fingers in the till- members of the Country Party, when it comes to the use of Commonwealth cars. Senator Marriott talked about the perks that are available about the place. Tomorrow I intend to place a question on the notice paper about what it is costing to provide cars for Sir Robert Menzies and Sir John McEwen, who are former Prime Ministers, and all the perks that go with the position they held. As a matter of fact I intend to ask what all the perks provided to former officials of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government are costing the taxpayer. That will be very interesting information when it is divulged to the public.
Senator Withers has said that he is going to be very hard on the Estimates this year and that if he does not get certain answers to questions on the use of Commonwealth cars he will delay the consideration of the Estimates. He complained about not getting answers on the previous occasion. Perhaps the reason for that might have been that the person who is responsible for giving him the answers was trying to protect some of the members of the Opposition, namely, the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia, Mr Sinclair, and his Leader, Mr Anthony, in relation to the money that they mis-spent on the use of cars last year. I refer to an article that appeared in the Daily Mirror of 8 August last year under the heading ‘Wife defends MP- Hire cars used for business’. It reads:
Mrs Rosemary Sinclair said today she had used hire car services only on electoral business.
This was for her husband, the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, and the Party Leader, Mr Anthony.
I did not use the cars for private business, not even to go to the hairdressers.’
I can hardly afford to go to the hairdressers- let alone use a car.’
What a statement to come from the wife of a former Minister and the Deputy Leader of a Party. Fancy saying that she can hardly afford to go to a hairdresser. If that is not hypocrisy, what is? The article continues:
Mr Sinclair is under fire because he has asked the Government to pay more than $3,000 incurred in using hire cars.
My information is that as yet he has not paid it and that quite a large amount of that money was spent on the hiring of cars to drive his wife around Canberra or for his wife to use. Let us look also at a leading article in the Daily Mirror of 8 August. In the section entitled ‘Mirrorview’ there is an article under the heading ‘Tell everyone all the details, Mr Sinclair’. Of course he has not done so. If Senator Withers wants all the facts divulged in the consideration of the Estimates I am sure he will find that there are supporters of the Government who will pursue to the very end the amount of money that has been mis-spent by supporters of the previous LiberalCountry Party Government when they were in office. Chickens always come home to roost. They will come home with a vengeance this time.
An examination of the situation will also reveal that the expenditure of an amount of money- $900-odd- was booked up to the Commonwealth by Mr Anthony but he eventually paid it when he found that the Government was not going to fall for that. He paid for it, but Mr Sinclair is still disputing the issue.
– Is he still in default?
– He is still in default and the matter has not been straightened out yet. It is all very well for Senator Webster to get up in this House and complain about members of the Government Party, particularly Ministers, having their fingers in the till, but who have their fingers in the till in this instance? Honourable senators opposite could not care less. Of course, as Mrs Sinclair pointed out in a statement to the Press, the money was spent by those concerned campaigning for the Country Party in the electorate. So who is paying for the campaigning? Senator Marriott chided the Government tonight for the amount of money that has been spent by the Department of the Media on getting the message across to the people. He had no words to say about what the members of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government spent on running around the country in hire cars and that sort of thing. There was also the incident that was reported on by Andrew Kruger in the Melbourne Sun on 27 September of last year in which the Liberal and Country Parties were involved in the expenditure of $80,000 on the charter of aircraft. By whom was that bill run up? By Country Party and Liberal Party Ministers. The article states:
Country Party and Liberal Party Ministers used charter flights in Australia costing $80,000 in their last 17 months in office, a Government Minister said yesterday.
Labor Ministers in their first 18 months in office took charters costing $7,235, he said.
There one can see the difference. A little over $7,000 was spent by one side as against $80,444 by the other. Some people have been going around campaigning at the taxpayers’ expense. Despite that we have had Senator Withers and Senator Marriott coming into this chamber today and making statements in this respect.
Referring back to the policy of the Liberal Party on socialism, I want to bring in the Country Party, which is also opposed to it. In this respect I refer to an article in the Northern Territory News of 19 August 1975 headed ‘After Timor it’s us, Calder warns’. Mr Calder, of course, is flogging the old communist bogey, as many members of the Liberal Party like to do. They look under their beds every night to see whether there is a communist there. When the Government sells to communist countries the commodities grown by the people in country areas who support the Liberal and Country Parties one never hears them complain. I refer to such commodities as wheat, wool and beef. That is quite all right then. They are quite prepared to let the people in the communist countries buy their commodities, but they criticise them in every other way. It is no way in which to find markets for the things that we produce to go out and criticise one’s best customer. It was said to me at one time by a businessman in
Murray Bridge, a supporter of my Party: ‘If I were to go out in front of my jeweller’s shop every day and abuse and accuse my best customers, would you expect them to come into my shop and purchase my goods?’ I said: ‘No’: He said: ‘That is the very thing that the Liberal and Country Parties do. They accuse our best customers of all sorts of atrocities and misdoings and accuse the Labor Party of being associated with them and then expect those countries to buy the very things that are the bread and butter of the primary producers. ‘
In the article to which I have referred in the Northern Territory News Mr Calder is reported as having said that the Labor Party should come to its senses and not hand Australia on a plate to Russia or China. There is no intention of doing that. Russia and China have never been opponents of the Allies in any war that has been fought. As a matter of fact they have been our allies. If it had not been for Russia, Hitler might not have been stopped in the last war and we might not have been enjoying the freedom we are enjoying today. Honourable senators opposite ought not to forget those things. They are trying to fool the people with the statements they make. Mr Calder then went on to question whether Australia could afford to spend billions of dollars on health, education, Government insurance and- this is the crunch point- compensation. Mr Calder represents an electorate in which Darwin is the centre with the greatest population. This Government came willingly to the aid of the people who live in Darwin with compensation, yet Mr Calder, the member for the Northern Territory, had a statement published in the Northern Territory News on Tuesday of last week criticising this Government for what it handed out in the way of compensation. These are the things which he said should be curtailed. He criticsed this Government for keeping defence spending down to 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. No doubt he said that with the full authority of the leaders of the coalition of which he is a member.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Senator McLaren made quite some play during his speech in alleging that the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was written for him by somebody else. Certainly nobody could accuse anybody of writing Senator McLaren’s speeches for him. What we have just heard could have come only from Senator McLaren. I had the dubious privilege last year of speaking immediately after Senator McLaren in the Budget debate, so I have a fair recollection of what he said then. It was not necessary to listen quite so carefully this year because there was not a great deal of difference. Again this year we heard the great diatribe against the silvertails, the blue rinse set and the aristocracy. Senator McLaren this year was kind enough to tell us that he gets his information from television. If he thinks that they are the only people who are dissatisfied with the Government at present it is quite obvious that he does not watch Four Corners very often.
– His brain might have been damaged by television.
– It certainly is distorted. It is quite obvious that he does not know what the situation is in Australia today; that he does not know who is persecuting the workers and who is affected by this Government. Nobody would deny that quite a large proportion of higher income workers have been affected by the Government but only Senator McLaren could deny that the lower income earners have also been affected by this Government. Are they the people who are worried about house help or are they the ones who are worried about owning homes? Are they the ones who are worried about not going out so often or are they the ones who are worried about not having a job to go to? That is the reality of the Australian situation today. That is the reality that Senator McLaren refuses to face and that is the reality that this Government appears to refuse to face. One can only say that Senator McLaren will never learn.
We can be thankful that the Government learns some things. This time last year Senator McLaren and the Government were vigorously defending the new tax on unearned income. The Government was denying that it was going to have any sort of effect on the availability of housing in the form of rental properties for Australian citizens. But just a week or so before this Budget came out the new Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Riordan) found it necessary to say at a conference in Sydney that there was a desperate shortage of rental accommodation for Australian citizens today, a shortage exacerbated by the fact that there is an even more disparate drop in the rate of home ownership in Australia today.
Last year the Opposition emphasised that this sort of bigoted policy could lead only to harm for those who could not afford the effects of the policy. We can be thankful that the Government at least has decided to do away with this policy after only 12 months of its disastrous effect on Australian citizens. I am sure that if Senator McLaren had had his way the Government would still be pursuing that policy because on his admission tonight, on his own words tonight, as compared with what he said just 12 months ago, he at least has learnt nothing.
The credibility of the Government is very much at stake. The blame lies, or attempts are made to put it, in various areas for lack of public and business confidence. Much emphasis is given to the need for public and business confidence. How can the public and how can business people have confidence in this Government? It does not take the Opposition, it does not take any enemies of the Government, to induce a lack of confidence. These people come and tell us that they lack confidence and they tell us why. The reasons are good and proper.
There should be no greater lack of credibility for this Government than in the housing area. In years to come I believe that housing will be the thing for which this Government will have to answer. It is the thing that Australian citizens in years to come, and governments and oppositions in years to come, will look back on. Not so long ago, just a few months ago, an Australian Labor Party senator from my own State, Queensland, referred to the former Minister for Housing and Construction, Mr Les Johnson, as probably one of the greatest Housing Ministers this country has known. I suggest to the Senate that probably he is one of the worst. His record, on his own words and performance last year, was abysmal. Last September when the Housing Industry Association was saying that it had very real fears for the future of the housing industry in Australia Mr Johnson said that the fears were exaggerated. He said that estimates of current dwelling commencements appeared to be much lower than the estimates available to the Housing Industry Association and the evidence available to him would suggest. The Housing Industry Association persisted and prevailed upon Mr Johnson and the Government to meet it for discussions. Those discussions took place at the beginning of October last year. At the beginning of October last year figures were released by the Commonwealth Statistician which showed that current dwelling commencements were at a disastrous all-time low in the postwar contest. In that week Mr Johnson was still saying, on several occasions -
– What about -
– He was still saying, Senator Georges, on several occasions, that the Housing Industry Association was exaggerating the situation, that there was no real problem and that the Government had matters in hand. But after the figures came out at the weekend after the conference was over Mr Johnson admitted that it was necessary to stimulate the home building industry. Less than a week after having been told this for many weeks he denied his former statements and did an about turn. The results were not quite good enough. There are more buildings being built now, I accept that, but there is still the problem of buyer resistance.
The problem is easily seen when we see the sort of policies and the sort of costs that have been brought home to home buyers by this Government. We have a government which has brought us all time record levels of interest. In no area has the overall effect on the economy been more marked than in the building industry with the apparent flow on effects that it has on so many other industries. These days a young couple need to take a mortgage over 30 years. That is the normal period of a mortgage these days. A couple of years ago the normal mortgage was 20 years and that was long enough. But a comparison of what is involved in paying mortgages off is incredible. If we take a $20,000 mortgage, which is a modest mortgage these days considering the effects that inflation has had on the costs of home building, we see that in March 1974 the normal repayments that somebody being financed through a building society could be expected to pay was $167 a month. Only 6 months later, by September, because of the effects of this Government’s last Budget, those repayments had risen to $202 a month for nothing extra except paying the penalty of this Government’s disastrous economic foolishness. Young people have had to face the prospect of having to find an extra $37 a month for no extra goods.
The credibility of this Government is very much at stake. We would like to draw heart from some of the things that the present Treasurer (Mr Hayden) says. We would like to draw heart from his statement that there is a recovery now in train for private housing. The Government’s record of predictions and its record of actions are notoriously inadequate. We only have to wait and see on that. There is still no indication that interest rates are going to come down. There is no indication that buyers are going to be better able to Pay-
Overall we need to look at some of the concepts that have been presented to the Australian public over the last couple of weeks. We have had the concept put to us in relation to post office increases that the user pays. Before Senator McAuliffe leaps to his feet and suggests that this matter is not in the Budget I remind him that references to increased costs in this area were contained in the Budget Speech and some information was given about them. Nevertheless it is interesting to look at the concept. It is interesting to look at the integrity of the Government if it is going to pursue this type of argument. Is the user going to pay? What is the logical consequence of this concept applied to a few other areas? We come up with some rather interesting comparisons. Of course, Senator McAuliffe, the Labor senator from Queensland, had quite a bit to say on this subject last year when we were debating postal increases, and I will refer to that in just a minute. Mr Hayden, the Treasurer, said in his speech on 1 9 August that if the increased charges were not applied the costs they were to cover would have to be covered in some other way. The Government either would have to increase direct or indirect taxes or add to the deficit by printing money. According to Mr Hayden, that is something that the Government could not tolerate in the area of postal and telecommunication charges. Senator McAuliffe made some comments last year on the subject of user pays. I think it is interesting to note those comments. They are fully in line with all that the Government has said in the last couple of weeks and we should analyse their worth. I wish to quote from the Senate Hansard of 30 July last year at page 560. Senator McAuliffe said:
I do not have to remind honourable senators that the principle that applies in any business is that those who require a service or use a service must be prepared to pay for it. For example -
It is an interesting example-
The chap who purchases and runs a luxury limousine knows that he has to pay for the extra petrol it uses. The same principle applies to the chap who enjoys the pleasure of travelling long distances in a motor car.
I interpolate there that I do not think that Senator McAuliffe can travel a very long distance around Queensland; he would not find much pleasure in that. Senator McAuliffe continued:
He knows that he has to foot the bill for the extra petrol that the car uses. The situation is no different with a government business. The simple truth- and Opposition senators have to face up to it- is that the people who use the service must pay for it. If they do not pay for a government service because they are not required to pay for it or they pay a tariff which is inadequate, the taxpayer must pay for that service. The service cannot be provided in any other way.
Senator McAuliffe repeated:
A government business is no different from any other business.
That is a fair sort of expansion of the statement that Mr Hayden made last week at a little less length. Further on in the same speech Senator McAuliffe said:
I will show Senator Durack that his claim that these increases are inflationary is ridiculous. At present there are more than 100 000 deferred applications for telephones. One may well ask: Why so many? The answer is: Under-pricing for the service, ft has long been accepted in business as an historical fact that a heavy demand results from an underpricing for a service. If the price for the service was increased the number of applicants would be reduced; many applicants would feel that connection of the telephone was not completely necessary- perhaps desirable but not necessary. The only applicants remaining would be those who lodged applications as a result of need. Any applicant that has need as his basis will not reconsider when there is a movement one way or the other in the tariff charges.
Those were the words of Senator McAuliffe last year. The mind boggles at the logic behind them. For a start, if we look at the analogy that he gave of the person who drives a luxury limousineSenator McAuliffe is fond of such emotive words, of suggesting that privilege and big business are the only ones involved in postal and telecommunications price increases- he puts a clear alternative.
The fact is that in that area the consumer has an alternative. In the area of postage and telecommunications most users have no reasonable alternative so they have to cop what the Government gives them. They have to put up with it; they cannot take their business elsewhere. Have honourable senators ever tried complaining to the Post Office about its increased charges? What good does it do? Has any honourable senator ever managed to post a letter for less because he complained about the charges? Has anyone ever tried complaining about the Post Office service? I am not suggesting that it should be done all the time, but has anyone tried it? I have. It is a heartbreaking and soul-destroying exercise. One cannot take one’s business elsewhere. Big business can take its business elsewhere in certain circumstances. Certain occupants of large cities can do so, but the needy cannot. The people who really need those services have no alternative and they cop it.
It is not a question of whether one buys a piece of fillet steak, as Senator McLaren said, or a pound of pork sausages because the price of fillet steak has gone up to the point when it is beyond our reach. Only one service, one commodity, is available for purchase and one can either afford it or one cannot. I wonder whether Senator McAuliffe in his speech last year, when he said that the only applicants remaining would be those who lodged applications as a result of need and that any applicant that has need as his basis will not reconsider, was thinking about people who have a desperate need for that type of service and have no alternative. I am thinking of the disadvantaged, the needy, the invalided, the aged and the isolated. Those are the people who have no alternative and they are the very people who cannot stretch their budgets that little bit extra. I will say a little more about the actual effects of that in a moment.
It is interesting to see how consistent the Government is on this concept. Let us look at the concept of user pays. Let us look at 2 items further on in Mr Hayden ‘s Budget Speech. Air transport was the next item; I will come back to that. The item after that was rail transport. I wish to quote from pages 58 and 59 of the House of Representatives Hansard for 19 August. Mr Hayden said:
A further $40m is being provided to the Commission as a subsidy to cover its estimated losses in 1975-76; the Tasmanian and non-metropolitan South Australian railways are expected to account for about 80 per cent of this loss.
For the benefit of those who are not terribly quick on the uptake, 80 per cent of $40 m is $32m. Who is paying? That money is going to the users in South Australia and Tasmania, but who is paying? All Australians are paying. What are the alternatives that Mr Hayden gave to increased costs. Mr Hayden said: ….. the Government would either have to increase direct or indirect taxes, or add to the deficit by printing money.
But he does not bring that point across. He gives 2 paragraphs in his speech to explaining how that $32m will be accounted for. The fact is that the general public will pay for the sake of consumers in 2 special areas and no justification is given in his speech for that. A person who wants to use the Post Office is slugged because those who need to use it do not have any alternative and have to pay a higher price. That is what the Treasurer knew in his cynicism. So much for the great principle of user pays.
Do we hear any suggestions from the Government that the user should pay in the area of education? It would be interesting to take that concept through the Government’s policies. Nobody suggests that the user pays in the area of education. Yet a very special and fairly small percentage of the community is catered to by the most expensive forms of education. The Government does not suggest the concept there and it would not need to do so. What about roads? We have an increase in the petrol excise apparently because the user should pay. What is the record of the Labor Government on the subject of expenditure on roads and the petrol tax? One assumes that the reasoning behind the petrol tax is that those who use the roads should pay for their building and their maintenance. What is the record of the Australian Labor Party? In 1970 and 1971 under a Liberal-Country Party Government 63 per cent of funds collected in petrol excise was spent on roads.
– You have your parties mixed up now.
– In 1970-71 it was a Liberal-Country Party Government under which 63 per cent was spent on roads. In 1972 when he was the Leader of the Opposition Mr Whitlam undertook to return a greater proportion of that revenue to the States for expenditure on roads. What is the record? In 1974-75 he returned 53 per cent, which is the lowest figure on record that I can find. In 1975-76, on estimates, if the price of petrol rises by only 6c a gallon- nobody is quite sure but that is certainly the lowest figurethe return will drop to 52 per cent. So much for the user paying.
The users are paying for the roads and they are paying subsidies to the Government in other areas. We could argue whether that is justified, but this Government has put up the principle of user paying as some sort of justification for its exorbitant increases in what should be a service area. In the 2 years 1974-75 and 1976-77 it is estimated that $2, 132m will be collected in fuel tax. On the Government’s own estimate $1,1 59m will be spent on roads. That means that the user of the roads will be subsidising the Government to the extent of $973m.
On its own record the Government has no credibility in this much vaunted concept. Of course it acts very selectively. It does not attempt to put the concept into any socially desirable context. It does not attempt to put it into the context of areas of need. It does so with other policies. It does so in the areas of welfare housing, pensions and so on. But it is not consistent. So let the Government at least be honest and say: ‘This is a tax through which we wish to collect more money. We do not choose to say why there should be no subsidy in this essential area in which the Government has a monopoly. ‘
It really would be very interesting if the Labor Party achieved its objective of socialising industry, distribution, transport and exchange in Australia. The Government has a monopoly in certain parts of the communications area through the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission. We see how much regard it has for the consumer. There is no explanation other than the spurious catch-phrase ‘the user pays’. There is no reasonable justification. No attempt is made to answer to those people who have made so many protests on such good grounds. Many protests have come in to the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop). He can admit that himself. The protests have come in to such an extent that it has been necessary for him to put out quite a few notes and public relations documents.
The Government apparently does not care about the social consequences of the measures. It does not care about the financial burden which will be placed on voluntary organisations. Senator McLaren sought to slur people who work in voluntary organisations on the ground that some wealthy people are involved in this capacity. Of course, he does not think about things such as tuckshop committees, local senior citizen clubs and the local groups which work for people in their own areas. He does not refer in that breath to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. He just uses the tactic which has become all too typical of the methods of this Government in selling its policies. He does not answer to the elderly, the migrants, the isolated and the sick to whom telecommunications and postage are so vital as a source of contact with the outside world. To isolate those people through their main source of contact when they seek to be independent is despicable.
In the area of voluntary organisations, surely there is an obvious point. The point has been made to the Government many times. I refer to the effect the increased charges will have on the major revenue raising area for many charitiesChristmas cards. Members of the Government Party may react with a greater or lesser degree of sentiment on this subject, but they cannot deny some facts in relation to these Christmas cards. The Government cannot deny that large numbers of Christmas cards are sold every year, that most of them are posted and that an increasing proportion of the Christmas cards that have been purchased in Australia in recent years have been from charity groups. Of course, the group that comes immediately to mind is that known as Rehander, a group which is trying to assist disabled people- people who have lost the use of their limbs, usually because they are missingand whose whole income is from the sale of Christmas cards. The Government makes no attempt to answer. It can dismiss the matter. Instead we have notes on increased postal charges prepared by the Australian Postal Commission at the request of the Postmaster-General which contain this fascinating information: Typical charges will rise from 3c to 6c for the monthly newsletter of a small charitable organisation. This is a 100 per cent increase.
– What would you do in government?
– Allow me to finish, please. The honourable senator has had his turn and undoubtedly he will have it again. He can say what he wishes to say here. There has been an increase from 4.5c to lc in the charge for the postage of a country newspaper which is invaluable in community terms to isolated people. That is an increase of 5 5 per cent. The cost of posting a medium weight magazine- whatever that is- has risen from 1 lc to 14c, an increase of 27 per cent. An increase of 27 per cent these days looks pretty rosy when one compares it with the 100 per cent and 50 per cent increases. The Government makes no attempt to justify the increases in this area.
The Governmen t does not attempt to justify its Budget as a true social document. What of the people in the country? What of the effect that the charges will have on them? Senator McAuliffe and Senator Keeffe are fairly lucky. If they incur a debt they can be fairly sure that a proportion of their debtors are reasonably close to them and that if they choose they can walk to the place where payment has to be made and write a cheque or pay cash.
– If they are able.
– They are becoming less and less able. It may be that we will see changes in policy as time goes on. The fact is that many country people have no choice. This is a major means of communication which they cannot avoid. One area must be mentioned in passing because my speaking time is running out. I refer to the matter which was passed over so glibly by the Government- air transport. The Government has an announced policy of trying to recover increasing proportions of the cost of operating air transport throughout Australia. At page 58 of Hansard Mr Hayden is reported as saying:
The Government does not believe that the general tax-, payer should continue to subsidise air services.
He went on to say that there would be increases in air navigation charges as a result of the Government’s policy. The Government could argue the merits of that. It may be argued whether the general taxpayer should in fact continue to subsidise some areas. I do not think Senator Keeffe and Senator McAuliffe are aware of the effect that the Government’s policy in this area has had on certain vital areas of life in their own State of Queensland. Air charter costs have risen steeply. The Government has increased or has taken action which has led to an increase in the cost of people in the outback having their mail delivered. People who live 300 miles from the nearest post office- who have to travel in a small car over those delightful roads over which Senator McAuliffe is so fond of travelling- have reached the stage where they cannot afford to have their mail delivered. That is just hard luck, according to the Government.
Look at some of the consequences. The fact is that most of those people- certainly an increasing proportion of them- no longer can afford to send their children to boarding school. There is no local school which the children can attend; so they have to use correspondence courses. A large proportion of people in Queensland and certainly, I am sure, in other States who depend on correspondence courses to educate their children cannot afford to have the courses delivered any more. Did the Government think about that? Is the Government prepared to take that into account? Of course it is not. The situation has been pointed out, but the Government chooses to turn a blind eye. The reason, presumably, is that proportionately there are few people involved and anyway the Government does not think it can get their votes.
Never mind about social desirability; never mind about that great social experiment upon which the Labor Party was going to embark after December 1972; never mind about policies which will really lead to the improvement of the Australian community. ‘Let us look at the areas where the swinging voter is’, says the Government, ‘and let us spend lots of money there. Let us look to our own classes and our own privilege and spend lots of money there. Let us not look at thorny issues such as whether we should have people living in other than large cities, even only a few cities other than the capital cities. Let us not look at whether it is desirable to encourage people to live out of large urban communities. Let us look at only a few. Let us not take a balanced view. When we use phrases like ‘the user pays’ do not expect us to be consistent, much less to explain’. For those reasons I have pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by my Leader, Senator Withers, this afternoon. This Budget is one for which the Government will yet be called to account. This Budget is one which the Government cannot expect to sell just through spending money on public relations. The facts lie within the Budget, and the effect of it will be felt. Sooner or later this Government will not be able to dodge and weave any longer.
Sooner or later it will be called to account for its words and its policies.
- Senator Martin has displayed some interest in the authorship of speeches that have been delivered here this evening. I must confess that I was wondering who had written the speech that she just read. By its virulent anti-Labor and anti-Canberra tone, I thought it may have been written by the Premier of Queensland, but of course it was much too literate and grammatical to have been written by him. Perhaps it was written by one of his 46 professional public relations men. Senator Martin has dealt at great length with what she sees as the iniquity of the application to the Post Office of the principle that the user should pay. Whilst it is acknowledged that it is ultimately a value judgment as to whether this principle should be applied, I should like to remind Senator Martin that in repudiating the principle that the user should pay she is also repudiating the fundamental beliefs of her Leader’s guru, Ayn Rand, who asserts quite dogmatically that governments should never interfere in the market place in that way. I also remind her- she is not the only one who can do arithmetic- that if she is very concerned about the plight of the poor pensioners who have to pay an extra 8c for a postage stamp, by way of comparison, that the difference expressed as a percentage of average weekly earnings in the pensions paid by this Government and the pensions paid by the last Liberal-Country Party Government would be enough to pay the increased postage charge on 17 letters a day or about 6000 letters a year.
I am grateful to Senator Martin for answering a question that had earlier been raised by Senator Marriott. Senator Marriott asked the rhetorical question: ‘Does Northbourne Avenue pay its way?’ Senator Martin went on to tell us that the revenue collected by way of taxes on fuels used on roads exceeds the total expenditure on roads in Australia. Whether that should or should not be is once again a value judgment; it is a fact that it happens. So in answer to Senator Marriott’s question, the fact is that Northbourne Avenue does more than pay its way. It is one of the urban arterial roads- I am not sure whether it is officially classified as an urban arterial road, but its traffic density puts it into that categorywhich carry one half of the vehicle miles travelled in Australia and account for only onethird of the total expenditure on roads and of course pay their way for more than roads do overall. So Senator Martin has apparently put a view which is in contradiction at least with the belief of Senator Marriott, as well as repudiating the philosophy for which her Leader has expressed such an enormous admiration. So I suggest that members of the Liberal Party should liaise better before they participate in the Budget debate.
Perhaps they should think out their own programs more logically before their Leader delivers his speech; I shall say a little more about that later. I commend the Government on this Budget, and in particular I commend the Treasurer (Mr Hayden). I believe that it bears his personal stamp perhaps more than any other Budget which has been delivered in Australia for a very long time has borne the stamp of the man who introduced it. The Treasurer has always been a man who is deeply concerned with the distribution of income and the concept of equality. Regardless of all the arguments about the aggregate level of government expenditure, the composition of government expenditure, the aggregate level of government revenue or the way in which it is raised, this Budget does represent a major social reform insofar as it has restructured the taxation system and personal allowances. Regardless of all the other arguments, this major social reform, I trust, even under a different government will remain a permanent feature of Australian life. The logic underlying the granting of personal allowances for dependants and for other reasons, as the Treasury taxation paper released last year pointed out, is desirable in order to maintain horizontal equity between taxpayers. That means that it is highly desirable that the taxation system should recognise the fact that people on the same aggregate level of income do have different needs and that some compensation should be made through the taxation system for this reason. That was the rationale behind the system of personal deductions. But then the personal deductions, as they operated in practice, contradicted their own reason for existence insofar as the greatest assistance was provided to the people with the highest incomes and the least assistance was provided to the people with the lowest incomes. Under the new taxation rebate provisions announced by the Treasurer last week the same net monetary gain is provided to all taxpayers regardless of their level of income. Although this appears to be, and is, a major social reform, the concept or the principle is not entirely new. It has been practised before in Australia. It was introduced by the wartime Labor Governments. It was retained right up to 1951 when the Menzies Government, as part of its program to promote inequality in Australian society- a belief which I notice the current Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) shares- abolished this just and equitable system. I applaud its return. Without going into a mass of details, what the taxation reforms really mean is that for the typical family- the single income family consisting of a man with a spouse and 2 dependants- there will be a reduction in tax paid of the order of $8 a week plus, it should be noted, the saving of contributions to medical insurance funds of an additional $3 to $4 a week, these contributions of course having been rendered unnecessary and obsolete by the introduction of Medibank.
The Budget should be considered in conjunction with Medibank in respect of its impact on the typical family. So it provides effective assistance of around $ 10 to $ 1 1 a week for the typical family. The broader and more difficult question of the magnitude of government expenditure, government revenue and government deficit, if any, is an area in which no sensible person should be dogmatic. It is freely recognised by the Government, and I think by Australian society generally, that grave economic problems confront the nation. Our present crisis, if ‘crisis’ is not too dramatic a word, arises from a number of causes. Firstly, there is the simple fact that the Whitlam Government, on assuming office, inherited an explosive economy. It inherited an economy in which the money supply had increased at an annual rate of 34 per cent in the last quarter of 1 972 as a direct result of the misconceived policies of the McMahon LiberalCountry Party Government. It is ironic, to say the least, that the Parties which presided over this 34 per cent increase in the money supply in the last quarter of 1 972 should have the audacity in their national economic program published in February of this year, to make this statement:
Immediate policy actions are necessary to restrain the excessive and dangerously inflationary growth of the money supply.
In the next paragraph the Liberal and Country Parties made this statement:
The present growth rate of more than 20 per cent is highly irresponsible.
The Liberal and Country Parties said that a growth rate of more than 20 per cent was highly irresponsible. These are the Parties which presided over a growth rate of 34 per cent before the electorate removed them from office. Surely only a Party which waffles about personal freedom and protecting the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the State at the same time as it passes conscription Acts and at two of its
State conferences within the last month passes motions again demanding the reintroduction of conscription- surely only a Party that is capable of producing that sort of fundamental contradiction and a Leader who sent conscripts into the war in Indo China and waffles about personal freedom- only a Party and a Leader such as that could describe a growth rate of more than 20 per cent in the money supply as highly irresponsible when they presided over a growth rate of 34 per cent -
– What personal freedom does Mr Harradine get from the Labor Party?
- Mr Harradine is not given the alternative of 1 8 months in gaol or going to fight in a war in Indo China which was based on a tissue of lies concocted and promoted, Senator Marriott, by the Government of which you were a member. The other major cause of the present economic problems was the booming export prices which occurred early in 1973. Wool and meat prices in particular, and wheat and the booming price for minerals, contributed substantially to the already excessive demand by further increasing the money supply. Notwithstanding the courageous action which was taken by the Whitlam Government immediately it took office, meat prices alone were responsible for 25 per cent of the total increase in the consumer price index for the year ended March 1974. So on top of the already explosive situation which the Government inherited, it had this accidental factor of booming export prices which both inflated the domestic consumer price index and added to an already excessive domestic demand. Finally, and I acknowledge this quite objectively, the implementation of the expenditure program on which the Labor Government was elected in 1 972 was a final contributing factor.
So in that sort of difficulty the framing of a budget is not an easy task. Whether the Treasurer’s judgment and the Government’s judgment is correct only time will tell, but the Budget is a bold attempt to rescue the economy from the difficulties into which it has drifted and simultaneously to protect the welfare of the weaker members of society. To succeed it requires the co-operation of the Labor movement as a whole and of the industrial wing of the Labor movement. It requires the co-operation of businessmen and it also requires political stability. It requires time to work in a politically stable environment; it probably does not have that. We all remember that the political pirates who sit opposite in this chamber- 22 of them are still here- took the unprecedented step in May 1974 of rejecting the Supply Bills and forcing the
Government to a premature election. As a result of that active political vandalism, and ultimately economic vandalism, no government in Australia, probably within my lifetime, will ever be assured that it has more than 6 months in office if it faces a hostile Senate.
Is the Liberal Party contrite as a result of the reprehensible action which it took in 1974? Obviously it was not at all contrite while Mr Snedden was Leader because he continually threatened to do the same thing again. The present Leader of the Liberal Party is also far from contrite. I quote from the West Australian of 22 August under the Canberra dateline which states:
The Opposition will not force a general election by rejecting the Budget in the Senate.
The article continues:
The Opposition Leader, Mr Fraser, announced this last night- but made it clear that the decision was based on technicalities rather than principle.
So Mr Fraser frankly acknowledges that he has no more principles than the man he replaced. The report continues:
On the possibility of the Opposition rejecting the supply Bills next April he said -
That is Mr Fraser-
Next year? That is much too far off. ‘
So the Liberal Party is not at all contrite and obviously it intends to continue to promote the speculation about another premature election and hopes thereby to sabotage the Budget.
– That depends on whether his pants are down, doesn’t it?
-I understand that the squire of Wannon was caught with his pants down the other day. By contrast with the Treasurer’s equitable and responsible approach, we look at the reaction of the Leader of the Opposition in particular and of the Opposition generally. After a whole week of what the Melbourne Age succinctly described as waffle, irresponsibility and trivia, finally last night the Leader of the Opposition delivered his and the Opposition’s reply to the Hayden Budget. It could be described, I think not too unfairly, as a perverted mish mash of Calvinist authoritarianism, Ayn Rand’s so-called objectivism and traditional Liberal Party double speech.
– Would you translate that please?
– Ayn Rand ‘s objectivism is much too complicated. The Calvinist authoritarianism is reflected in statements such as: There should be the minimum of interference with alternative lifestyles which are themselves compatible with human dignity’. That statement does not come from Mr Fraser ‘s reply to the Budget; it comes from one of his earlier speeches. Presumably Mr Fraser will define what lifestyles are compatible with human dignity and what lifestyles are not. Presumably those lifestyles which Mr Fraser judges to be incompatible with human dignity will be ruthlessly stamped out. That is what I regard as Calvinist authoritarianism, coupled with his and his Party’s penchant for conscription. The Fraser reply, so called, was irreconcilable with the claims made and the promises and assurances given by many of his colleagues in statements that there should be more money for the States, that there must be more money for defence. I notice that he did not cover even the additional $10m that would be required to continue the cadet corps, even though his own shadow Defence Minister had given an undertaking that very day that a future Liberal-National Country Party government would continue the cadet corps. That $10m was not costed or accounted in Mr Fraser ‘s hypothetical alternative budget.
In addition, Opposition spokesmen had been running around promising the New Guineans that they would have more money if the Liberal Party were in power. Then there are the Richmond and north coast bushrangers who have to pay off their debts to the rural community, and there has been irresponsible talk about providing hundreds of millions of dollars for the beef industry and so on. None of these things were accounted for in the speech in reply delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. Although he indulged in a great deal of carping criticism in the hypothetical alternative budget which he presented of things like excise increases on tobacco and alcohol and the postal increases, which Senator Martin dealt with at such great length, no provision was made for any change whatsoever in the Government’s decisions in these areas. So notwithstanding the very significant errors of omission and the conflict between the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition and the assorated statements of his lieutenants and coalition colleagues, he asserted, and I quote from Hansard.
Our program is based on no increase in the deficit, and this will be made possible by a reduced rate of government expenditure.
Even though he asserted that there would be no increase in the deficit, in fact when the figures which he presented are added up it is found that there is a discrepancy of $ 1,800m- a $ 1,800m increase in the deficit, given the things that Mr Fraser had stated in his speech and without counting all the things which he did not state but which his colleagues had referred to. It is sometimes said by cynics that members of the Liberal Party cannot count very well because they do not vote at Liberal Party meetings. I do not know how much that has to do with Mr Fraser’s gross error in accountancy or how much it has to do with the fact that his current No. 1 economic adviser- I understand he is the Liberal Party candidate for Macarthur- came to that position from Patrick Partners, a firm which was out by about $2.5m in its accounting. The person who was counting the money in Patrick Partners made an error of $2. 5m, and if that same person is doing the accounting for Mr Fraser, because he is dealing with larger aggregates his error has increased to $ 1,800m. Whether the error could be ascribed to the affiliation with Mr Fraser of Mr Michael Baume, who is the Liberal Party candidate for Macarthur whose association with Patrick Partners has demonstrated a certain weakness in matters mathematical, I do not know, but nevertheless that is the error he made-$ 1,800m.
When attempting to explain the expenditure cuts that the hypothetical Liberal government would have achieved had it been bringing in a budget, Mr Fraser placed a great deal of importance on the size of the Commonwealth Public Service. In his speech last evening he said:
We would have stopped -
That is, if the Liberal Party had been introducing the Budget- the build-up of public servants in Canberra by imposing a zero growth limit on the Public Service.
I am riot entirely certain what Mr Fraser meant by that because of course there are public servants employed by the national government who live in places other than Canberra- I think a quite significant number. There are probably more public servants living in Melbourne and Sydney than in Canberra. So I do not know why Mr Fraser specially mentioned Canberra, unless it was to stir up the League of Rights in north Queensland to stimulate the anti-Canberra paranoia which has been cultivated by people like the Premier of Queensland. Since Mr Fraser named the Public Service, presumably he is postulating no growth in the Federal Public Service either in Canberra or anywhere else in Australia. His statement begs the question: What about the States? What would Mr Fraser do, if he were Prime Minister, about the 10.5 per cent growth rate in the State Public Service of the Liberal governed State of Victoria in the last financial year and the 7.96 per cent growth rate in Queensland, compared with the 3.3 per cent growth rate of the Federal Public Service under the Whitlam Government?
If Mr Fraser sees the growth rate of the Public Service as one of the direct causes or a significant cause of the nation’s economic problems, he seems to have picked the wrong area to attack. Instead of attacking the Whitlam Government he would be well advised to spend his time attacking the Liberal Government of Victoria and the National-Liberal Party Government of Queensland. There is little indication that the latter Government has any intention of reducing its rate of Public Service expansion, since I noticed in the Press recently that the Premier of Queensland has now acquired an air force. The ostensible reason was to find marihuana plantations. I do not know whether he would recommend subsidising the growers of any plantations which were found. I do not know whether that was the reasoning behind the acquisition of the aircraft. I do not know whether he intends to use the Queensland air force to bomb Canberra or whether he intends to ask Senator Martin to throw a grenade in the Senate. Speaking of Senator Martin, I am reminded of something which I should have said previously. I am reminded of the errors of omission in the accounting of the Leader of the Opposition. If, as Senator Martin seemed to be demanding, the postal and telephone charges were left as they are, Mr Fraser somehow or other would have to account for an extra $348m because that is the estimated difference between the revenue from the old charges and the revenue from the new charges. So, by the time all the errors which are within Mr Fraser’s speech and the errors of omission which are not in it are added up, the consequence of the Budget he has advocated would be a deficit in the vicinity of $6 billion- certainly $5 billion. The inflationary consequences of that sort of deficit are mind boggling.
It is quite clear that one section which has been treated extremely generously by the present national Government, not only this year but each year since it was elected, is the States. For example, this year the grants to the States, including the grants which ultimately will go to local authorities, have been increased by 32 per cent, which is very much higher than the increase in the consumer price index. In fact, it is double last year’s increase in the consumer price index and is very much higher than the aggregate increase in Federal Government expenditure. In spite of this very generous treatment this year and last year, the Whitlam Government is constantly vilified and abused by anti-Labor State Premiers, particularly the Premier of Queensland and the
Premier of my home State of Western Australia. I find rather interesting the maiden speech of the Premier of my home State, Sir Charles Court, in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia on 20 August 1953. Just to refresh the minds of honourable senators of the history of the era I point out that in 1953 Western Australia had a State Labor Government and there was a Federal Liberal-Country Party Government. When Sir Charles was making his maiden speech under these political circumstances he said:
I will now touch briefly on the question of CommonwealthState financial relationship. It is apparent that a drastic change in the Commonwealth-State financial relationship is necessary and, in my view, the approach must come primarily from the States. It is unreal to expect any Commonwealth Government, no matter what its political colour, continually to accept public criticisms and unpopularity for raising funds through taxation while the States, whose Governments in some cases have no compunction in criticising the incidence of taxation by the Commonwealth Government, want more and more money made available for their needs. In any organisation, it is axiomatic that there should be no responsibility without the requisite authority. It therefore follows that there should not be authority without the requisite responsibility. In all sincerity, I submit that we have largely brought about that undesirable state of affairs in the overall fiancial operations in Australia, namely, that one person is responsible for raising all the funds whereas other people do a large degree of the spending.
Sir Charles wound up that section of his speech by saying:
The attitude adopted by some State governments has been a rather sorry and unstatesmanlike spectacle, because rather extravagant language has been used in condemning the Commonwealth Government for the stand it has taken. They have gone to the extent of saying that unemployment and depression will result from the action that has been taken over the last year or two. I submit that this is dangerous talk and bad psychologically.
I agree particularly with that last statement. It is dangerous talk and bad psychologically. I hope that during the next year Sir Charles will heed his own words. I notice that Sir Charles is a great believer in economies. It is reported in today’s West Australian that the Western Australian Government is studying the implications of the national Government’s decision to effect an economy with respect to air travel. Sir Charles said that the position in Western Australia was different because it was so far away from the rest of the country and so on. I think it should be pointed out that the initial move to make this economy at the national level was made by 2 Western Australian Ministers, Senator Wheeldon and Mr Berinson. Obviously the responsible members of the Labor national Government are far more willing to make personal sacrifices than is Sir Charles Court, for all his irresponsible rhetoric.
My time has almost expired. I wished to say something about life assurance and Mr Fraser ‘s equivocal attitude to the question of taxation rebates vis-a-vis tax deductions. I hope some other speaker will take up the matter as I do not have the time. Mr Fraser produced 2 sacred cows for the pork barrel. The first was the meat export levy, which is pretty trivial in the overall national context. He gave an unequivocal undertaking that a Liberal-Country Party Government would remove this levy. In a submission to the Industries Assistance Commission on the beef industry inquiry last month the Bureau of Agricultural Economics commented on this issue. The BAE said:
Measures such as the remission of marketing charges would be largely ineffective in achieving the objective of improving the liquidity position of beef producers. In the current situation of excess supply, the remission of levies associated with exports would enable a reduction to be made in export quotes - that is export prices, and it is significant- and so increase the volume of shipment if such markets were available. The availability of such markets is questionable.
The BAE was saying that if this levy were removed the price offered by the foreign buyer would decline. Whereas in a normal competitive market that would enable producers to sell a greater volume, because of the nature of the market at the moment not another tonne of meat would be sold; the price offered by the foreign buyer would be reduced. In other words, what Mr Fraser is proposing off the top of his head is that the taxpayers of Australia in this difficult and stringent financial situation should make a donation of the magnitude of $20m to the foreign buyers who are already getting meat from Australia at extremely low prices. That, I think, sums up the superficial and erroneous approach which the Opposition has taken to the Budget. I oppose the amendment and support the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The background to this Budget is a social and economic morass which is, regrettably, of the Government’s making. It is not something that has been imported into this country. Indeed, I believe that we find the problems of economic and social areas as they are because the policies of this Government since coming to office appear to me to have been directed more particularly towards the establishment of an ideological position or a circumstance with reference to the state than to the economic and social needs of the Australian community. I think that there is a great danger in what has been the occurrences of the past 2 lA years to 3 years. There is the great danger that the Australian community may be in some way being conditioned into a state of mind in which it has to accept unemployment and inflation at high levels as being the norm. In that circumstance, the Australian public would tend to be brainwashed into believing that the mother state can see it through.
Mr Deputy Speaker, it was, I think, Tolstoy who said of history that it is the story of the inevitable. If indeed it is the story of the inevitableand that may be somewhat simplistic- it is the province of government in a free democracy to ensure that that inevitability comes about not in weeks, months or years, but in the process of decades- indeed, of centuries. In the Australian circumstances, that inevitability must be brought about surely by the process of evolution, not revolution. I believe that the extreme circumstances in which this country finds itself today are in a very real sense related to the extraordinary eagerness of the socialist government, when in power after some 23 years, to implement a circumstance that, if it becomes a fact at all, may well become a fact after decades or centuries and not in the process of a mere 2Vi years.
– So you reckon it is a socialist plot.
-No, I believe that it is unfortunate that the Government should have attempted in its extraordinary eagerness to establish by such dramatic methods in the short term a circumstance that cannot in fact be achieved even in a generation or perhaps in a century. I think that that is the reason why we find in large degree the social and economic problems that confront us and which confronted this Government as it approached the preparation of this Budget. It is in the context of this Budget, along with the other Budgets, that I believe the Government has attempted to do the dramatic rather than to evolve a set of circumstances which would create a proper measure of development in the Australian situation.
When I say that the Government has tended to be dramatic in its changes, I think of a number of actions. I have not the time to go over the vast range of them in my speech tonight. I think of some of its actions. I think of the immediate 25 per cent cut in tariffs across the board, a totally illogical action which was almost the first move in the first Budget of this Government. That action was a dramatic and unnecessary attack. Indeed, it was one of the foundations of the unemployment and inflation that beset the community today.
Further, there has been a consistent drive towards the nationalisation of health in this country, regardless of the unknown and spiralling cost to the taxpayer. The cost is already estimated at $ 1,445m. It has every possibility of climbing to perhaps $2,000m. That is a radical change, and it is the radical nature of change with which I am concerned. That change is a tremendous impost on every Australian taxpayer. Indeed, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) told us earlier today it is an imposition already of some $289 per taxpayer. Not only is that an imposition on the taxpayer but also it is an imposition on the freedom of choice of the community in the area of health care and health provision.
Again, in the dramatic actions of this Government which have spelt out the circumstances which are the prelude to what we find today, we must recall the immediate and strong rubbing away of all the incentives and compensation which had been built up over a generation. Rubbed away in one foul swoop were incentives and compensations which were of immense value to the total Australian economy and, in particular, to those areas of traditional primary production, that is, meat, fibre, grain, and dairy produce as well as the areas of mineral and oil exploration and development. I mention also education and decentralisation. The removal of these incentives and compensations has meant a steady movement of disaster across the major area of that part of the Australian community.
The Budget has also made an attack, I believe, on the insurance industry in the area of rebates. I shall refer to that aspect briefly later. Indeed, in making that sort of attack on that part of the economy the Government is in fact attacking an area of significant investment to the Australian people, an area of significant employment and an area concerned with a large measure of economic and social development in this country. There has been by the socialist government over the years of its office a constant movement of emphasis from the private sector to the public sector. It started with Mr Crean ‘s Treasurership in 1973 with a 20 per cent movement into the public sector. It has continued in 1 974 with a 32.4 per cent movement which became a 46 per cent increase in public expenditure. Finally, this year the Government has recognised the problem. But we are still confronted with an estimated 23 per cent increase in public expenditure which will, on the evidence of previous years, end up being closer to 40 per cent. I think it is pertinent that I should remind the Senate of several of the statements of Mr Hayden in the prelude to his
Budget. These were sensible statements. Amongst other things, he said:
Three out of four employees are in the private sector and, consequently, there are firm limits on how far the public sector should be stimulated.
Further, he said:
Inflation is the nation ‘s most menacing enemy.
Yet, 15 months ago, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would not recognise it. Further, Mr Hayden said:
The present level of unemployment is too high. If inflation is not controlled, unemployment will get worse.
Of course it will. But he fails to observe as Australians are now observing that the circumstance has been nurtured by the policies of the Government. But Mr Hayden has said:
To make 1975-76 a better year, steady and responsible economic policies are needed, and to reduce unemployment lastingly recovery in the private sector is essential.
Of course these are truisms, they are obvious facts. But the question which concerns me is: Why has it taken 3 Treasurers and 3 years to admit that this is the circumstance? If that is the circumstance, what hope is there of a real measure of confidence returning to the economy of this country while it remains in the hands of the present Government? The Budget is a wideranging document, and tonight I intend to make just a few general observations and perhaps refer more particularly to the rural and export sector of the economy, for it is in that sector that we find the greatest number of small business operativesthe family farmer, the corner storekeeper, the garage proprietor, the electrician and the plumber. All these people have borne, and are bearing, the brunt- indeed a measure of liquidation of the policies of the past 2 2 1/2 years.
I believe it is depressing that there should be in the reduction in income tax, small though it is- I understand that it runs to some $20 5m- an extreme measure of patchiness. The figure of $20 5m has to be looked at in the light of an increased revenue of some $2,700m. It is not really a sizable reduction in taxation in terms of that increased revenue. The revenue is relative to the assumption that there will be a 22 per cent increase in wages in the current year, which is hardly conducive to controlling inflation which the Treasurer says is the prime object of this Budget. I believe that this income tax reduction has to be considered in relation to the savage increases in indirect taxation. The figure of $205m has to be measured, for instance, against the figure of $234m referable to the added excise on beer alone- to say nothing of the increased postage and telegraphic charges, the increased telephonic charges and the increased excise on spirits, tobacco and so on. So the indirect charges are tremendously in excess of the reduction in income tax.
I pause at this point to exemplify an earlier reference that I made to the danger of conditioning a society to assume that unemployment and inflation are the norms and that the mother state can look after whatever circumstance may arise. The phasing out of the Regional Employment Development scheme which, I understand, is to occur in the next few months will result in increased unemployment, but I think it is fair that we should remark something of the scheme’s performance. Surely it has provided employment It has meant relief for significant numbers of the unemployed, and it is a proper province of a government to provide such relief. But it has done it at the expense of instead of on behalf of the ratepayers. It has not done it with reference to the priorities of local government. More than that, I suggest that the rate of pay under this scheme is often in excess of the pay that has been, and is being, earned by people employed in their normal areas of employment. Consequently, the scheme has tended to develop a measure of discontent which is certainly not conducive to a satisfied community.
I refer now to the $540 rebate on income tax which is to be claimable whether the money has been spent or not. Surely this circumstance must lead to a measure of irresponsibility. It must encourage indolence and irresponsibility. I suggest that it is providing a disincentive to enterprise at a time when enterprise is essential in this whole economy. The $540 rebate is payable unless it be a lesser amount than 40 per cent of the total amount of insurance premiums, medical expenses and so on. Of course, this means that there will be a disincentive on the part of people to avail themselves of a measure of independence; in other words, to look after themselves. People are being told that they might as well let the state do it because they get the $540 rebate regardless of whether they spend the money or not. Consequently, it will tend to destroy the capacity of people to look after themselves and to provide for themselves. It will lessen the capacity of insurance companies in the life insurance field in particular to provide a source of investment, an area of economic and social development and a significant area of employment.
Insofar as the proposal does this, that is, lessens the ability and desire of people to provide life assurance for themselves, it will make more unbearable than ever the impost of estate duties which bear heavily on many of the relatively small enterprises in this community. This Budget, in common with the last Budget, has failed even to relate the rates of estate duty to inflation, let alone to attack the problem of the abolition of estate duty, because surely there has never been a time when the case for abolition of this duty is stronger than it is today. If ever we needed to provide incentive to the family, to the individual, to private enterprise, we need to do it now, and this is one simple area in which we could make a start. It is an area which would involve a loss to the revenue to this country of but 0.4 of 1 per cent or 0.8 of 1 per cent of the net income tax return. I suggest that it would be expenditure which would be more than returned by added productivity and the relief that would follow the waiving of this destructive form of taxation.
I turn briefly to look at the rural sector. It is a very widespread part of our Australian community. It concerns a vast area of producers. It concerns directly all the people who live in the towns and provincial cities, as well as on the farmlands of Australia. It is concerned with the decentralisation of industry and commerce. It provides in excess of 80 per cent of our export or overseas credit. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that in the 12 months ended March 1975, the increase in cost in the rural sector amounted to 33 per cent, or approximately twice the rate of inflation in that year. Of course, actual costs increased by only about 12 per cent. Regrettably that was so purely because of the total inability of the rural sector to find more than that sort of money for the maintenance and development of its asset.
That figure has to be viewed against the 13 per cent drop in the average price of the product of primary industry. This figure itself is deceptive, for it must be related to the highest prices for wheat ever seen on world markets, and to the fact that there was a drop of 34 per cent in prices in the wool industry and a drop of 73 per cent in prices in the beef industry.
Mr Deputy President, let me draw your attention to one or two of the areas in the rural sector which could have been and should have been treated with great consideration in this Budget. They are areas which are among those that were radically distorted, destroyed and swept away at the beginning of this socialist Government’s assumption of power. I refer to but a few. I refer to the reimposition which has not occurred to this point, of the superphosphate bounty. Its abolition represented a saving of a mere $56m which, in terms of revenue from tax of nearly $9,000m, does not seem to be an extortionate figure. That $56m has to be placed against the sort of added production and added revenue to the Treasury that it represents. In fact, I should point out that it has been estimated that a base price of $25 per tonne for superphosphate ex-works in Australia would cost approximately $ 140m and that from its use the Treasury would gain in added income tax alone an estimated $200m, thereby making $60m credit on the deal. I believe that this is an obvious area in which the Government could and should have acted. Instead, after waiting for so long, it has apparently to this point totally ignored the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in this area.
– The Government hates the making of profits- one cannot make a profit.
– Unless profits are madereasonable profits in the proper context- this community, this country, has little if any hope of survival. It is in that context- I thank Senator Sheil for that comment- that this sort of bounty and this sort of action that should have taken place is so important. In the area of soil, water and fodder conservation, in the area of income equalisation and in many other areas that have been rubbed away by the policies of this Government, there has been a total failure to admit that the reimposition of these incentives- the adoption of these attitudes- will be one significant way in which the private sector can start moving again and in which a real measure of employment and a real measure of productivity will return to our sorely tested economy. Indeed in the wool industry itself the reimposition of a bounty on superposphate, thereby enabling a greater amount of phosphate to be used, would increase the carrying capacity and would improve the cut and the fibre of each sheep.
The beef industry is in a situation which certainly is not of this Government’s making, but there are measures that could and should have been taken in the beef industry. They are obvious measures and, indeed, not extremely expensive measures- not extremely expensive in the terms of an industry which quite clearly has a prominent, useful and important future in the total context of the Australian economy. It is an industry which is probably in a trough of a duration of perhaps one year or two years. Moneys spent in enabling the survival and maintenance of that industry must be moneys well spent. In that circumstance the Government has yet again failed to waive even the 1.6c per lb export levy on beef. It has also failed to speed up the program for the eradication of disease in the Australian herd. As time goes by and the herd once again becomes valuable it will become obvious how much more important it is that it should be a healthy herd. The eradication of disease could be earned out now at a far lesser figure on a compensation basis than at any other time.
There has been no attempt, for instance, to rub out the costly dual inspection at abattoirs, and the money that is available in this industry seems to be available only at high rates of interest and only on the production of a virtually insolvent position by a farmer. Indeed I wonder why, in the promotion of the Regional Employment Development scheme, the Government has not seen fit to make the moneys allocated to it available to the beef farmer himself and to those he employs to keep them on the properties and enable them to maintain and develop those particularly important areas of the Australian asset.
I wish to refer just briefly now to another area of the Australian economy that has run down at an alarming pace in the past 2Vi years. It is an area of extreme importance and an area from which something was whipped away in the savagery to which I referred earlier- a savagery that was related to the haste that the Government felt that it must use in establishing its own ideology in the Australian scene. I refer to the mining and petroleum industries. Once again no form of incentive and no form of compensation has been introduced. Indeed, what do we see? We see a levy being imposed on coal of $6 per tonne for coking coal and $2 per tonne for steaming coal. We also see an increase in the excise on petrol, which will increase the price of that product to Australian industry and to the Australian user, whether he be a motorist or a man of commerce or industry, by anything from 6c to 10c a gallon. That is the Government’s contribution to the mining and petroleum industries.
I believe that it is pertinent to remind Australians of what has been happening in those industries in the past 2Vi years. Since December 1972 only one mining project has been established. That has been established at the cost of $40m. I refer to the phosphate operation at Duchess. In the period from 1960 to 1972 there were 34 major projects established in this country at a cost of some $6,000m. Since December 1 972, 1 7 major projects involving uranium, coal, bauxite, alumina, nickel and so on have been cancelled or deferred. Since December 1972 only one new mining town has been established, compared with the establishment of 22 such towns in the period from 1960 to 1972. In that period 22 new towns were established in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania. I think it is important to recognise that in 1 969 there were 322 wells drilled and that the number likely to be drilled in 1 975 is 3 1 . As a result of what happened in the period prior to 1972 the mining and petroleum industries have meant to Australians generally an average annual earning of some $ 1,300m and a saving annually in the cost of fuel to Australian consumers of some $ 1,000m; yet the significance of those great industries has once again been ignored in this Budget. Only an impost remains to be seen.
Finally, I refer again to the statement by Mr Hayden in his preface to the Budget when he said that ‘the Budget is a choice between more or less difficult alternatives’. Of course it is, and the choice is a poor one. It would be a poor one to whoever may be confronted with it. But let us make no mistake about it- the choice is the choice of the Government’s own establishment. The choice is the choice between the circumstances that the Government has in fact promoted and nurtured. I refer in closing to Senator McAuliffe ‘s remark that members ofthe Opposition were prophets of doom. Let me say that I believe that there has been established in this Budget debate on behalf of the Opposition a very clear and constructive program for this country. But if we are prophets of doom, and of course we are not, it is better to be prophets than the perpetrators of doom, as has been the habit and manner of the members of the present socialist Government . I endorse the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Senator James McClelland) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Devonport-4 March 1973.
Launceston- 1 8 March 1 973.
Scottsdale- 17 November 1973.
Hobart- 1 8 November 1973.
Hobart-22 February 1974.
Launceston- 23 February 1974.
Burnie-5 April 1974.
Launceston- 1 May 1974.
Hobart- 1 and 2 May 1974.
Hobart- 15 and 16 February 1975.
Launceston- 23 February 1975.
Launceston- 17 and 18 June 1975.
Bass Division-23-25 June 1975.
Hobart-26 June 1975.
(a) None.(b) Those in May 1974. (c) ThoseinJune
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750827_senate_29_s65/>.