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Wednesday, 12 September 1973

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Mr FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) - Before the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) interrupted the Budget debate the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), in the first Budget speech he has made in this House, said some things with which I find myself in agreement. Firstly, he said that it would do the Opposition no harm if it gave some praise to the Government occasionally. I agree with this. The only difficulty I have is finding the occasions on which I can give praise. But I do not doubt that there will be some. I will certainly do as he suggests if I come across some measures that one can praise. Secondly, the honourable member said that the Opposition has a entirely different philosophy to that of honourable members on the Government side of the House. I could not agree more there. Thank godness that we have and thank goodness that the public realises that we have. He said: 'We said that we would do certain things and we are doing them'. He can say that again. Of course, it is the public's fault that at the last election it did not realise the full extent of what the Labor Party would do. We told the public. But I must admit that even I, after 23 years in politics, did not believe that a Labor Government would do what it has done as quickly as it has done. This is why the Government is losing so much support throughout the country.

But I now start to find myself in disagreement with some of the things which were said by the honourable member. He said: He rejected entirely paragraph 8 of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) which states that the Budget fails to honour election promises. I do not want to go through the full list of the promises that have not yet been honoured. But let me just start off with the promise that a Labor Government would spend 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. I ask about the promise that I questioned the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on this morning, that is, to give phone connections between Albury-Wodonga and Townsville and the capital cities at local call rates. This promise has been dishonoured. What do we find about the promise to retain for private schools the amounts they are now getting, while saying that the Government would give additional amounts and that no one would be worse off as a result of the Budget? That has been dishonoured. What about the interest rates, which are to go up? So one could go on.

I disagree too with the honourable member when he says that people may be forgiven for thinking that the contents of the Budget related only to increases in tax on cigarettes and petrol which unfortunately were a necessary means of raising more revenue but nevertheless were justifiable on social grounds. It is an extraordinary thing how circumstances alter cases because only this time last year when Labor got out its magnificent publication 'It's Time' its policy in regard to prices, as set out in this publication, was as follows:

All this would be bad enough, excepting the Government compounds the problem by increasing postal charges, telephone rates, radio and television licences and by increasing indirect taxes . . .petrol and cigarettes, for example.

Where does the Labor Party stand now? It is ludicrous for the Labor Party to say one thing when it is in opposition and to do something completely different when it is in government.

The Budget traditionally gives honourable members an opportunity to talk about a wide range of things. It is one of the few occasions on which this can happen. I know that you, Mr Speaker, would keep us close to the subject if we were discussing any other Bill. But in a Budget debate one can discuss almost anything one likes. I believe it is recorded that on one occasion an honourable member advocated that instead of burying people horizontally they ought to be buried vertically. The honourable member who followed him in the debate is reported to have said that this was an excellent idea because it would give the person being buried a quicker start to the next world but that the only trouble was that one would not know whether to bury a person upwards or downwards. I think it is recorded that this member was later certified. But I make the point that the Budget debate does give us the opportunity to discuss a broad range of subjects, not only those contained in the Budget itself. A great number of members who have spoken in this debate have concentrated on the Budget. They have analysed at great length the economics of it and the effects that it will have on the nation.

I intend to look not only at the Budget, because it is a portion of what the Government has done, but at everything the Government has done since it has had its period in office. We have served 9 months of hard labour. The Government when it was in opposition tried most unfairly to label the previous Government as a 'do nothing' Government. This was completely inaccurate but, unfortunately, because of the great lack of cooperation and the attacks of the mass media it was extremely difficult for us to get over to the public everything that was being done. Nevertheless, a great deal was done. I think that if one can find a fault with the present Government it is that it seeks to do everything. The present Government seems to believe that the public should not do anything for themselves and that it should do everything. Its greatest problem as I see it is that all it has aimed at doing is to cut up the cake and not to make the cake larger. The result is that the Government has withdrawn many incentives and encouragements to people, particularly private individuals and private citizens in industry.

I want to look at all of the Government's achievements' - I use inverted commas - during the 9 months which it has been in office. There was a tendency a while ago for people to say: "Poor Gough, he has a pretty weak team but he is not doing a bad job himself. I will come back to this afterwards. But I would say that if the team is no good one looks at the leader to begin with. Australia's standing in the eyes of the world has dropped disastrously and the only person who can be responsible for the way in which we appear to people overseas is the leader of the Government, the Prime Minister. I say this because he is not only the Prime Minister of this country but the Foreign Minister. On his rather disastrous overseas trips he went as the Foreign Minister and he spoke as such.

Before we look in detail at the Prime Minister let us take a quick look at this team and consider its 'achievements' during the period the Government has been in office. Let us start off with the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard). What was contained in the publication 'It's Time' was authorised by the present Prime Minister and agreed to by him. On the subject of defence that publication stated that an Australian Labor Party Government's defence concept would be to allocate not less than 3.5 per cent of Australia's gross national product for defence in each annual Budget. Suddenly, of course, we find that we are down to a figure about which people seem to be uncertain - whether it is 2.6 per cent or 2.9 per cent. But the figure is certainly in that area. We have lost 15,000 troops and we are told that many more are to be sacked. I think that another 6,000 are to be sacked in the not too distant future. The Cockburn Sound project has been cancelled at least temporarily. The DDL project has been cancelled; so has the proposal for the purchase of a new tank to replace the 'Centurion' tank. The Government is not to proceed with the replacement for the 'Mirage' aircraft. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, what an extraordinary situation it was that we had a Minister gallivanting around the world in a VIP aircraft with many hangers-on to look at a plane which the Government had decided that it would not buy. Of course, the most urgent requirement - a replacement for the Neptune - has been cancelled for the present. Even flying time has been reduced. I do not know how one is meant to learn these things because a person cannot just sit in a Link trainer and obtain all the experience he needs there. We can have proper Services only if we have plenty of time taken for the exercises that are necessary. One could go on with the disastrous situation relating to defence.

I come now to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). Even the Prime Minister himself said that the Attorney-General made the greatest mistake which the Australian Labor Party had made since it came into office. The head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation said that the remarks of the Attorney-General were gravely damaging to ASIO. When I asked the Prime Minister what action he had taken to ensure that this does not happen again, he said: 'Oh, it is secret'. Of course, we have been told that there is no Cabinet solidarity here. The Prime Minister has gone out of his way to denigrate his Attorney-General in taking an action which the Prime Minister believed was the greatest mistake made by the Labor Party since it came into office.

I come to the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I must say of the Minister that when he keeps to his portfolio he does not seem to do a bad job. But the trouble is that he does not keep to it very often. We see welcomes being given to our erstwhile enemy the Vietcong, and to the Chinese and yet if anyone is the least bit centre of the road or right wing, such as the Taiwanese, the Rhodesians, the South Africans and the Portuguese, they are unacceptable. But the left wing is acceptable. One can go on through this list of what must be one of the most disastrous governments this country unfortunately has had.

We come to the Treasurer (Mr Crean). Again, one can look at what was said in this great document headed 'It's Time'. There was no doubt that the Labor Party had magnificent publicity; the only trouble was that the publicity had nothing to do with the sort of government it was going to put into operation once it came into office. I suppose members of the Labor Party said: 'That does not matter. All we want to do is get into government'. Everyone knows that inflation is rising at a tremendous rate. It is estimated to be at 13 per cent at the moment but could well reach anything up to 20 per cent before the end of the year. Late last year in its publication 'It's Time' the Labor Party said:

Inflation cannot be ignored in the hope that it will go away, as the Government seems to believe. The Australian Labor Party sees inflation control as the Government's responsibility. Not yours.

Those comments were very nice in Opposition, but Labor now is in government and it has done nothing at all about inflation.

Mr Cohen - That is nonsense; we have done plenty about it.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - What, 3 revaluations of the dollar in 9 months? I cannot see that that will have any effect on inflation but it will have a quite vital effect on a number of people who export, such as primary producers or industrial producers. We know that mining companies alone have lost $75m on contracts which had been entered into and that was due only to the last revaluation.

Let us take the next Minister, the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham» ). I believe that we had one of the best health schemes in the world. This is generally acknowledged. I am glad to see that the Minister for Health - I think he spells it «Helth - is at the table today. To my way of thinking, only 2 problems existed in the health scheme under the previous Government and they were 2 fairly minor problems which could have been overcome and, undoubtedly, this would have created an extremely good scheme. The problems were that some people were not covered and there was a difficulty in covering doctors' fees, as some doctors would not abide by the agreed fees. In order to get over this we find that the present Government is having a head-on fight with the doctors. It is all very well to say that honourable members opposite have a mandate. They brought out 140 promises before the last election and were elected by a small majority and then honourable members opposite say that they have a mandate to do everything that was contained in their policy speech. I do not accept this point of view. In fact, it has been shown by polls that the proposal of the Labor Party in respect of health is not acceptable to the majority of people in Australia.

So, one comes to that rather poor character, the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson). I wanted to ask the Minister a question yesterday but when I got in here I suddenly found that he had disappeared. We were told by the Prime Minister that the Minister for Northern Development is expected to return some time in October. I also read today that the Minister is going to be in China, so it is a case of 'Where is our wandering boy tonight?' Never has there been a man more completely denigrated or whose reputation has been more completely blackened than the honourable member for Dawson. He was a man who, I think, came in ninth in the Cabinet and yet he has been given absolutely nothing to do except look after sugar. He said the other day that this was a magnificent Budget. He was asked what was in the Budget for northern development and he said: 'Oh, I have $200,000 with which to carry out an assessment in the Burdekin River area'. He neglected to say that the previous Government, in water conservation alone, had had a program which originally provided $50m and, when that program was completed, another program providing $10Om was established. But of course, the mere fact that the Government is trying to stop the construction of the Dartmouth Dam shows that there is absolutely no possibility of the Minister for Northern Development getting any further allocations.

I see that my time is running out. It is impossible to go through all the ills of this disastrous Ministry in such a short time. One could come to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who has established a record. We have been told that Australian workers could lose as much as $50m in wages in 1973 and this undoubtedly is a record. We were told before the election: 'All you have to do is put the Labor Party in government. We understand the workers and the Liberal-Country Party Government does not. Once you put us back there will be no strikes at all.' Strikes have gone up by 64 per cent so far. I do not have time to deal with the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who, I think, undoubtedly is the most disastrous of all.

Mr Bryant - You would not be game to.

Mr FAIRBAIRN - I will use another time to deal with the Minister for Minerals and Energy. But all I can say is that in the book of Labor disasters the Minister would not only get a full chapter to himself but would also have the preface. Seriously, it is quite tragic to see the extraordinary extent to which confidence has gone out of the mining industry. This is the job of the Minister - to see that the mining industry is prosperous. Yet shares have dropped and people are pulling out. We are told in London: 'Do not buy Australian shares'. The Japanese have withdrawn from a $150m project in which they were to have been involved. This has been brought about by constant denigration of the miners. They have been called hill-billies and mugs. However, 1 will devote more time to that on another occasion.

Let me conclude this rather tragic recitation of what the Government has been able to do to undermine this country in 9 months by saying that I believe the Prime Minister has been the most tragic of all. First of all, he allowed Ministers to attack the United States. My recollection is not very good but I think the Minister who is now sitting opposite me, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), is one of those who jumped in boots and all to say everything he could about these thugs who had been our friends for a great many years. They were told that they were not to say it again but this did not have the slightest effect - certainly not on the Minister for Overseas Trade. Immediately after that there was a selected Press briefing on the signals intelligence unit in Singapore at which certain people were brought in and told everything that was necessary for them to know. There has been the decision to withdraw troops from the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the undermining of SEATO by not supporting the naval exercises conducted by that group. There has been the abuse of the French and the wel coming of the Chinese and the Vietcong and the abuse of Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Heath. The idea of the mineral cartel certainly did not float but I suppose it was a good idea. Connor said: 'It is right. You have to float this.' But it did not work. In a short period this Government has really been quite disastrous in the actions it has taken. An enormous build-up has occurred in the Public Service. Open government is a joke. Leaks are worse than ever known before. I disagree with the Budget and I agree with the amendment.

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