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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4687

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr SNEDDEN -We have just heard a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), which is not the first but is probably the last he will make because of the declining level of performance of this Government. It finds that it has to go back to 1973 and to make a long recital about the actions of the Senate in 1973 and 1974 in order to pad out the statement. It was a disgusting statement for a Prime Minister to make because it does not in any way deal with inflation and unemployment; it does not deal in any way with the breakdown in the housing industry of Australia; it does not deal in any way with the lack of investment in Australia. It made no pretensions whatever to be a statement by a Prime Minister as to what his Government proposes to do to handle the problems that confront us. There was nothing in that statement by which the people of Australia could say: 'Now we can have confidence in this Government, because this Government is going to provide the way out of the problems we have got'. What the Prime Minister did not read in his long recitation is worth recording in Hansard. It comes from an article in the 'Australian Financial Review' of today's date. That publication does not have a very big circulation, but what the editorial had to say is very worth while hearing. It is headed: 'Paradise lost by bungling- not by external forces'. It states:

What is a nice little country like Australia doing in mess like this?

Yesterday's official statistics for the quarterly estimates of national income provide a glimpse of an economy in an utter mess.

Mr Cohen - Members of the Opposition are leaving the chamber.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Robertson is out of his place. He will cease interjecting.

Mr SNEDDEN -Everybody knows the honourable member to be light on for intelligence. He cannot even find his way to his own seat. We have often had interjections from him that are purposeless. He does not understand the problems and he never will. It is a great shame that he does not. When he came into this House there were high hopes for him but he is one of the great failures of the Labor Party. The 'Australian Financial Review' editorial goes on to say:

The general notion that public poverty is remedied by depriving the private sector of affluence has been shown to be utterly wrong in practical terms.

The Whitlam Government has redistributed income within Australia- from the private sector to the bureaucracy.

Little has dribbled back to the electorate at large.

The price Australia is paying for this restructuring of the nation 's economy is proving unconscionably high.

For reasons unconnected for once with the vagaries of nature, the economic growth of Australia has gone into reverse.

Any suggestion that this can be explained in terms of international trends is intelligence-insulting deception.

It is quite simply a matter of extremely poor domestic economic management.

That is the truth of the matter. Members of the Labor Party are so disinterested; they come in to the chamber like a lot of fauns to look at their great hero, their great charismatic leader who has converted this country into an economic mess, in the opinion of the independent observers in the Press gallery and the editor of the 'Australian Financial Review'. What do honourable members opposite do? They come into the chamber and lick their Leader's boots. Whatever he says must be until it gets into the silence of their Caucus. In the Caucus they roll him. The members of the Labor Party are running the Caucus. The cannot even sit in the chamber. They are the worst attenders

Mr Innes - I am here.

Mr SNEDDEN -The honourable member for Melbourne is here. He could not find his way into the Caucus room. They made him the Chairman of the Caucus Committee. He is the man who is standing by as President of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party seeing unemployment in almost every section of industry . What has he done about it? He thinks he has a safe seat and because he has a safe seat, he thinks he is safe for ever and he can just allow unemployment to mount up and mount up and mount up. Every honourable member opposite with a safe seat thinks that, because he has a blood red Labor seat, he need not worry about unemployment or inflation. Unemployment figures for November will be published next week. Nobody has any doubt that the figure will be over 200,000. There is not a member on the Labor side who has any regard for school leavers whose first association with employment will be to go on the unemployment register. What a shocking indictment. Opposite me sits the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Enderby). It is a very close photo finish between him and the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) as to who is the worst Minister in the Labor Government.

Mr McLeay - What about Charlie Jones?

Mr SNEDDEN -There is an even division in the Opposition as to which one is the worst. It is a dead-heat and what a dead heat it is. Two deadheaded Ministers arc now able to create this situation. I have received a letter from the managing director of a major business that is experiencing difficulty and has had to retrench people. I think it sums up the situation in the simplest way. His letter reads:

The borrowing powers of most companies are limited by debenture trust deeds. Inflation, coupled with falling profits- - due in some measure to the refusal of the Prices Justification Tribunal to permit an adequate return on investmenthas forced many companies into excessive borrowing simply to meet their working capital requirements. If it continues, these companies will soon reach their borrowing limits and will be unable to pay dividends. Under these circumstances they will find it impossible to raise additional equity capital and unless they can curtail their activities and sell some of their assets they will become insolvent. At that point there is no way in which the Government or anyone else can lend them money.

There will then be two alternatives open to the Government. They could abolish company tax or they could take up new equity investment. The former is probably impracticable, but the latter could easily be effected through AIDC, who would borrow overseas- possibly from the oil producing countries. Once this step has been taken- it is the beginning of the nationalisation of industry without the need for Parliamentary legislation.

That is what they have in mind: to bring the private sector to its knees; to cripple it. The private sector today is just trying to survive. Representatives from the private sector come to see the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. He gives them great words of wisdom such as 'All imports come from overseas'.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - That is true.

Mr SNEDDEN -The honourable member for Diamond Valley has heard that statement IS times and he has suddenly realised why it is funny.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - It is funny because you said it.

Mr SNEDDEN - It was not funny when the Minister for Manufacturing Industry said it. The honourable member thought that it was some great new pearl of wisdom. The private sector is being brought to its knees with the deliberate purpose of creating unemployment. The retrenchments and the unemployment are in the private sector. I ask the Minister for Manufacturing Industry: When did he last encounter a retrenched public servant. There is no such person. What has happened is that the public sector spending is going up at an enormous rate so that the private sector can be crippled. Unemployment is estimated to be well above 250,000 people within a couple of months. In the face of this, the Labor Party can give no policy and can muster only six or seven men in the chamber. It has no policy to tackle unemployment.

Mr Daly - Mr Speaker,I rise on a point of order. The right honourable member is reflecting on the attendance of the House. I point out that 25 per cent of the Opposition are away. Only 50 members of the Opposition voted in the last division.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Leader of the House is the man who is supposed to run this House. He cannot give anybody any idea as to when it will rise. Honourable members opposite who had planned to leave Canberra tonight, have now much to their disgust, been told that they have to stay because the Leader of the House cannot order the processes of the House. The Prime Minister says that unemployment in this country is imported. How the blazes can you import unemployment?

Mr McLeay - They have containers now.

Mr SNEDDEN - They must have big containers. The Prime Minister says that unemployment and inflation come from overseas. The 'Australian Financial Review' says that that is a piece of insanity that insults anybody's intelligence. But the Government keeps going on with the nonsense. The unemployment and the inflation were created in tins country. The unemployment is in the private sector and it is the private sector that is being affected. That is where unemployment is. That is where the dividends will not be paid. That is where there will be no investment in plant and equipment. That is where productivity will fail because we will be working with old-fashioned equipment and outmoded technology.

The suggestion was made that inflation comes from overseas. Are we to believe that a lot of busy people in Europe and Asia are parcelling it up and sending it out here? If it arrived here the wharfies would not unload it and if it reached the Post Office we would have to wait until after Christmas for it to be delivered. To say that inflation is imported from overseas is nonsense. Do honourable members remember the night- this was not included in the Prime Minister's statement- when the entire economic brains of the Australian Labor Party, the whole three of them, met out at the lodge. The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr. J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) were there. They said; 'We are going to slash tariffs by 25 per cent. ' Where was the honourable member for Melbourne then? Was he saying: 'This will create unemployment'?

Mr Innes - Yes. I was.

Mr SNEDDEN - The honourable member for Melbourne says that he was, saying it would create unemployment. Why has he not done something about it in the period while unemployment has been growing? There is a brand new glass factory that cannot exist. There is unemployment there. Another night when the great economic brains of the Labor Party met out at the Lodge they made a statement: 'We are going to increase interest rates'. They increase them all right. The interest on savings bank loans for houses went up from 7 per cent to 10 per cent. Building societies interest rates went up from 8 per cent to 12 per cent. How many times have we picked up a newspaper and seen a statement to the effect that there will be a reduction in interest rates? If the Government had reduced interest rates every time it said it was going to do it we would have negative interest rates today. The Government keeps talking but there is never any action, unless one could call rising inflation and rising unemployment action.

Mr Lusher - Tell them about Hawke.

Mr SNEDDEN -No. I cannot notice a stranger in the House. Perhaps that is why the honourable member for Melbourne is in the House. He is frightened that he might be converted into a stranger in the House. There is a demand for housing in Australia of about 170,000 houses a year. This year we will fall 50,000 short, and there is no way to catch up with that 50,000 in one year. That means that the young people of Australia will experience a shortage of houses for a number of years. Do honourable members remember the big advertisements such as: 'Only Whitlam can give you full employment. Only Whitlam can reduce interest rates by 3 per cent*?

Mr McLeay - Only Whitlam is so much worse.

Mr SNEDDEN -That should have been the advertisement- 'Whitlam is so much worse'. Never in the history of politics has a man delivered so many statements that he knew very well he could not fulfil. There has never been a leader of any political party who has failed so abysmally. In his statement the Prime Minister said that the Labor Government has been battling with the worst economic conditions for 40 years.

Mr Lusher - They created them.

Mr SNEDDEN - The Government created them. It created the worst economic conditions for 40 years. If honourable members cast their minds back 40 years they will recall that it was a Labor Government that did it then and it was a Labor government that was kicked out of office because the people were not prepared to put up with it any longer. The 3 great occasions on which there has been inflation and unemployment in Australia have been under a Labor government.

Mr Keogh -Tell us about the $23,000 you made the other day.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I will tell the honourable member about it if he is not quiet.

Mr SNEDDEN - I will be in the honourable member's electorate. Why is it that the honourable member for Bowman is so despondent about his chances of winning that he is walking around his electorate saying to everybody: 'Well, anyway I have earned my parliamentary pension. It does not matter if I go.' He is the most despondent man in Queensland. Last time he won by a finger snap.

Mr Keogh - I will be there.

Mr SNEDDEN -He will be there campaigning but he will not he here. The Prime Minister said that Australians everywhere today are better off than they have ever been before. Tell that to the age pensioner; tell it to the student; tell it to the superannuitant; tell it to the people who cannot save because of inflation; tell it to the young people who cannot obtain a house; tell it to the people who are unemployed. The most scurrilous statement was made by the person who is about to become Treasurer. He said that in Australia unemployment is trivial.

Mr Enderby - He did not.

Mr SNEDDEN -He said that nationally and internationally unemployment in Australia was trivial.

Mr Enderby - He did not.

Mr SNEDDEN -The Minister should have a look at Hansard.

Mr Enderby - No, he did not.

Mr SNEDDEN -The Minister tried to protect him the other day and he could not because Hansard shows the words.

Mr Enderby - You could not walk straight.

Mr SNEDDEN -Hansard speaks the truth. The honourable gentleman interjects and says that I could not walk straight. That is an echo of the time when the honourable members opposite viciously and without any cause, led by a man who cannot tell the truth- the Prime Ministerattacked my colleague, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes). They have done that persistently. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry has been in the forefront of it. I have nothing but contempt for him for throwing those personal insults at anybody in the House.

In his statement the Prime Minister said: 'Every financial weapon, every constitutional power at our disposal has been used in our fight against inflation and unemployment.' If the Government is so bad at using these weapons to achieve these results it does not deserve to be the government. As for a valedictory performance, has there ever been more shallow and hollow oratory? What are we supposed to do? Are we to sit down and assiduously read Hansard which incorporates a bundle of papers 6 inches thick purporting to be the achievements of the Government? The Prime Minister has blamed everybody for his troubles except himself. He has blamed Caucus, Cabinet, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He has blamed the unions. He has blamed the multi-nationals. He has blamed the Senate and he has blamed the Opposition. Like Mrs Smith watching her boy Billy march along and believing that he was the only one in step, the Prime Minister is alleging that he is the only one in step. But he is the one who has lost the confidence of the Australian people.

There is no point in the Prime Minister alleging that, because he speaks nicely of whatever he does, we can put up with 250,000 people unemployed or with inflation running at over 20 per cent. Now he blames the Senate. We on the Op- . position side believe that the Senate has acted in the best interests of the Australian people. On every occasion that the Senate has acted it has done so with the concurrence of the whole of the Opposition- both Parties, in this House and in the Senate. It is perfectly clear that if the Senate had not acted as it did, Australia would already be on the road to government ownership, centralism and bureaucracy. That is what the Labor Party wants. That is what the Opposition will fight. That is what the Senate will fight and the Senate will achieve its aim.

The Prime Minister talked about a number of what he claimed were great achievements. One of the things that was mentioned was the appointment of an expert committee representing industry and the trade unions to advise the Government on policies for manufacturing industry. It so happens that Mr Jackson is the chairman of that committee and there is not a single representative of small business on that committee even though small business is by far the biggest employer in Australia. There is not even a member of manufacturing industry on that committee. That is the achievement of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. What the Government should do is appoint the person whom the Associated Chamber of Manufacturers of Australia had recommended should be appointed- Mr Brack, who is the general manager of Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd. That representation had been made but an answer has not been received.

We are told that apart from that committee the Government has appointed 8 royal commissions, 25 commissions, committees of inquiry and task forces. What is the point of all of these commissions, inquiries and task forces if they achieve nothing, if they are just havens for persons in favour with the Government? The Government is providing jobs for the boys and jobs for the girls. There is no advantage in all those things. The shortest part of this statement by the Prime Minister concerns foreign affairs. He said:

We have continued our efforts to enhance Australia's reputation abroad . . .

All I can say is that the attitude of most people in Australia is that we would have our reputation more enhanced if the Prime Minister stayed here and did not go overseas with a giant caravanserai which pays tribute to him. It is rather like an old prelate with his serfdom around him.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Like a maharajah.

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, but the maharajah had a scimitar. All the Prime Minister had was a blunt knife which he kept stabbing into Mr Crean leaving Mr Crean bloody but still breathing. The Prime Minister said:

Australia has continued to play its part in enhancing global strategic, economic and social security. We have urged mutual restraint on the 2 superpowers in the Indian Ocean and given our support in principle to peace zone proposals . . .

The Labor Party is operating on the basis that if one wants something badly enough it will happen. Government supporters want unemployment and inflation to go away so they hope hard and think it will go away. The same attitude applies to foreign affairs. They want to have a neutral zone in the Indian Ocean. They want a nuclear-free zone. They think that if they hope hard enough, it will happen, but the truth is that it will not happen. India has already exploded a nuclear device. The Indonesian Foreign Minister has announced that Indonesia will be atomically armed in the 1 980s- I think 1 984 was the year he mentioned. In those circumstances, with neither of those countries having signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and Australia having done so, how can we hope that the Indian Ocean will be a nuclear-free zone? The Government is hoping that it will come about. The Prime Minister has made no effort to encourage Indonesia or India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

As for a zone of peace, it is perfectly obvious that if there are 2 superpowers, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, in competition with each other and if they both have naval forces in the Indian Ocean the threat to Australia can come from the ripples of competition between those 2 superpowers. It therefore follows that what we ought to do is to encourage in every way a balancing force, and that balancing force is the United States of America. The United Kingdom has just withdrawn from the region. It is extremely important for Australia to have the United States in the region as a balancing force to stop the competition between the 2 superpowers erupting into a threat to Australia and to other countries on the periphery of the Indian Ocean. However not a word was said about that in the Prime Minister's statement. It was just passed over.

The Prime Minister then returned to domestic issues and we were told that the Labor Party had discovered the magic key to wage justice- wage indexation. The Government will put its proposal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and presumably the Commission will do something about wage indexation. But does anybody honestly believe that the automatic adjustment of incomes to prices, which was abandoned in 1953 because it was inflation creating, will solve the problem? It was just another step in the escalation of wages; therefore costs and prices. It was a cycle that kept going round. Does anybody believe that that is the magical solution? Nobody could believe that but the Prime Minister seems to believe that therein lies the essential key to the problem. He said:

It is crucial to all our efforts to protect the Australian community from the buffets of economic chance and circumstance.

But not a single word was said about how the Government will do this. What the Prime Minister said was:

The fight against inflation and the implementation of our program will go on together.

The plain fact is that if the Government continues with its program of massive government spending it will not cure inflation. Government expenditure cannot increase as it did by 20 per cent last year and as it is proposed by 32% per cent this year without the private sector being crippled. The Prime Minister has put nothing positive. He has made only a recitation of empty facts. I want briefly to recapitulate the 10 positive economic proposals that the Opposition has been putting forward so strongly. First, we proposed a $ 1,000m cut in personal income tax. That was taken by the Government.

Mr Enderby - That will be anti-inflationary, will it not?

Mr SNEDDEN -Does the Minister think it would be inflationary?

Mr Enderby - What do you think?

Mr SNEDDEN -Just to ensure that it is reported in Hansard I repeat that I said that our first proposal was that there should be a $ 1 ,000m cut in personal income tax. The Minister for Manufacturing Industry said: 'That will be inflationary'. Our second proposal was that there should be cuts in some indirect taxes aimed at directly reducing some prices. I ask the Minister for Manufacturing Industry: Would that be inflationary?

Mr Enderby - You are making the speech.

Mr SNEDDEN -The Minister has now opted out of his comments. The third proposal was for a reduction in Government spending increase announced in the Budget from 33 per cent to 25 per cent. Fourth, there should be an instruction to the Reserve Bank to ease monetary policy to inject adequate liquidity into the economy and cash flow for business which would establish conditions for a fall in interest rates. Fifth, there should be a decision, publicly stated, setting out the future course of monetary policy. Sixth, there should be the abolition of the variable deposit requirements and an end to the prohibition on short term capital flows. Seventh, there should be a flexible exchange rate with the development of a foreign exchange market. Eighth, there should be investment incentives to restore business investment in new plant and equipment. Ninth, there should be a complete review of the activities of the various government bodies regulating business, including the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Industries Assistance Commission, the Trade Practices Commission, the Arbitration Commission, the Parliamentary Prices Committee and the Committee on Foreign Takeovers. Tenth, there should be a restoration of the authority of the Arbitration Commission and a more responsible approach to wage claims generally across the whole labour market.

Of these 10 policy proposals, the Government has adopted two. That is its mark- two out of ten. That is about where the Government stands. Until it adopts these positive economic proposals thai the Opposition has been putting forward, it will not succeed. All the Government has done has been to take the easy parts. Anybody can do the easy parts; it is doing the hard parts that counts. This country is second to none in the future that lies before it. It has the resources and the people. There is no country with better prospects than Australia. Unfortunately at present this Government is robbing the Australian people of the opportunities for the development it should have in achieving its future.

Mr Street - The Government has a negative approach.

Mr SNEDDEN - I am indebted to the honourable member for Corangamite. Instead of having an appreciation of the future of our natural resources and of the quality of our people, this Government has a negative growth rate. I remind the House of one other comment made by the Prime Minister when he campaigned. He was asked how he would pay for all die promises he was making. He very boldly said: 'We will increase the growth rate of Australia in real terms by 7 per cent a year'.

Mr Anthony - That was an election pledge.

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, it was an election pledge that he would increase the real growth of Australia by 7 per cent. But what has been his achievement? There has been a negative growth rate. In other words, we are going backwards. This has happened in less than 2 years. In its first year of office the Government did not do too badly because we left it with a good economy, but in 1974 it has gone bad. For the Prime Minister to say, as he did today at the commencement of his speech, that people of Australia have never been better off is the greatest bit of absurd hyperbole.

Mr Anthony - Claptrap.

Mr SNEDDEN -Yes, it was claptrap. It is an absurdity in itself and it is the sort of comment that can come only out of the mouth of the Prime Minister. It is the sort of thing that can be accepted only by such weak individuals as those who sit behind him in the Labor Party.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

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