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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - I listened with interest to the honorable member for Moreton, but I listened in vain for some facts about the state of Australia to-day. After eleven years of anti-Labour government we have again reached the cross-roads. The Australian people, shocked and bewildered by the way in which things are going on, especially as a result of the restrictions that were imposed on 15th November, 1960, by this pathetic crew which calls itself a cabinet, are still more bewildered than ever by the actions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) since last November. They are bewildered by the tactics employed by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) - the Prime Minister in particular - in cancelling the sales tax increase on motor cars. The increase of the sales tax on motor cars, followed by its cancellation shortly afterwards, is one of the actions that have bewildered the people. The Prime Minister announced this cancellation despite the fact that the Treasurer had given an assurance that everything was O.K. It is clear that as a result of the Government's policy the position is becoming worse than ever. Is there a bigger muddler than the Prime Minister has always shown himself to be? Back in 1940, when this country was in danger, he walked out on it. Now he is muddling again and worsening the position still further. He announced the cancellation of the increased sales tax on motor cars within 24 hours of the Treasurer's endorsement of the policy under which the tax was increased. Did not the Treasurer tell members of an Australian Council of Trade Unions delegation that the position could possibly worsen before it improved? Is it any wonder that the people of Australia are really upset? The people could never have thought that a so-called business-like government would make such a muddle of the management of the country and its affairs.

Could the Prime Minister's sudden decision to remove the increased sales tax on motor cars have been prompted by the deputation of international money lenders who arrived in Australia, came direct to Canberra, summoned the Prime Minister into conference - and you have to be somebody to summon the Prime Minister - and told him at that secret conference what he was to do? All the involved arrangements that had been made for the Prime Minister to go to London for the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers were thrown overboard. Why did the Prime Minister suddenly go to America instead, upsetting all the arrangements that had previously been made? Let me remind the House of a slip of the tongue that the Prime Minister made at a television interview at Mascot airport. Perhaps the Prime Minister was looking down the neck of a bottle of John Haig whisky, and got himself into such a state that he made this slip.

Mr Howson - Which way are you looking?

Mr CURTIN - I am looking down the neck of the whisky bottle with the Prime Minister. 1 make no apologies for saying that he often looks down the neck of a bottle of whisky.

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