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Thursday, 23 March 1961

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.

Mr HAMILTON - It is obvious to me that members of the Opposition are somewhat opposed to the Government's action in removing the added sales tax and that they have conjured up arguments in an endeavour to cover up their true feelings in relation to it. On 15th November last the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -

The Government would not now be proposing this increase were it not convinced that some lowering of activity in this field is necessary in the general interest.

The Treasurer was speaking of the motor industry. Everybody knows that at that time the motor industry was attracting all types of labour and all types of material and was upsetting the balance of industry generally throughout the Commonwealth. I think it will be admitted by the Opposition that tradesmen were being offered sums of money far in excess of award rates, which in themselves were most attractive. I know of tradesmen - fitters and turners - who moved from Western Australia to South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, where they could earn £4 and £6 a week above the award rates by working in the motor industry in those States. The situation was becoming lopsided. In addition, the motor industry needed large amounts of steel and other materials. That is why the Treasurer made the statement that I have just quoted. He also said, referring to the Government -

It holds itself ready to review the sales tax rate when it feels the situation of the industry and the state of the economy, looked at together, appear to warrant some adjustment.

The honorable member for Yarra said that the Treasurer suddenly came to various decisions. Anybody who reads " Hansard " will know that on 15th November last the Treasurer said that the Government would watch the position and would be prepared to review it and take whatever steps were necessary, having regard to trends in the motor industry. Of course the motor industry was affected by the Government's measures. Nobody will deny that. The Government set out to affect the motor industry. The honorable member for Yarra claimed that the Government was forced to abandon the increased sales tax because the General Motors-Holden's organization and the Ford company held a gun at the Government's head. I think anybody who has watched the progress of the motor industry in this country will have realized that quite some time ago the two major motor companies had decided on certain projects. Those projects were nearing completion. They would have been completed by the end of February or March of this year. The Government's action saved the motor industry from a very awkward situation. But for the Government's action, the motor industry would have been forced to accept the blame for dispensing with the services of a few thousand men but, happily, rt was able to lay the blame for those dismissals at the door of the Government.

Mr Anthony - That sort of thing is being done every day.

Mr HAMILTON - Yes, the same thing is happening daily in countries with flexible economies. But the Labour Party wants to put our economy in a straitjacket. If the economy were in a straitjacket, so to speak, there would be no development or progress, which should be our main aim. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is smiling and nodding. He must recall what he said one Friday evening in, I think, Ballarat about a planned economy. He must remember that his leader at that time - a Labour Prime Minister - did not come out into the open and support his statement.

I am concerned, as must be the majority of Australians, to hear the wild remarks uttered by members of the Opposition. Let me f ke honorable members back to about 1952, when certain aspects of the economy had to bs reviewed by the Government. At that time certain restrictions were imposed. 1 can recall that one member of the Opposition then claimed that 10,000 people were unemployed. The next speaker from the Opposition side said that the number was 40.000. but his estimate was capped by th(Mr. Ward) who s-id that 100,000 people were out of work. Each of those estimates was given on the one night. To-day we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) claim that 8.000 people had been laid off from the motor industry. That claim was repeated by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I tried, by way of interjection, to get a breakdown of that figure, but the issue was conveniently dodged I challenge any member of the Opposition to give this House a breakdown of the unemployment figures that have been quoted by the Leader of the Opposition and one of his supporters, who is not a new member by any means.

I claim that any member of this Parliament or any public man who makes wild statements of the kind made to-night by the Opposition is doing a disservice, not only to those unfortunate people who are unemployed, but to the future of this country. We see from the newspaper article quoted by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) to-day that people overseas are commending what this country is doing. I believe that that newspaper article was brought to light here as a result of the researches of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). People overseas are saying that Australia is a young country with the courage and intestinal fortitude to get things done and is a country that is still progressing. Men who rise in this place and decry the progress that is being made here are doing a disservice to future generations of Australians.

During this debate many matters other tuan the sales tax have been mentioned.

When I commenced my remarks I said that the Opposition was using this forum in an attempt to win the Liverpool Plains byelection next Saturday, and I am prepared to stand by that allegation. We heard the Leader of the Opposition taunt the Government with having refunded sales tax payments to an airline company. If my memory serves me correctly, the Government did not refund the sales tax paid by the company; it waived the sales tax. But that is only half the story. The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Yarra are laughing. People who may be listening to this debate must not be led astray by remarks made by the Opposition. The true position is that the Labour Party, in its desire to nationalize the airlines, refused to allow to a private enterprise company dollars with which to buy spare parts for its aircraft. It placed every encumbrance possible in the way of that private airline, but it left the national airline completely free. I have often stated that I do not believe in monopolies of any kind. I believe that we should have two airlines. Australia is still in its infancy. She will continue to grow and there is plenty of room for two airlines to operate here.

Mr Cairns - Why not have three?

Mr HAMILTON - By all means let us have three airlines, but I do not think that is what the honorable member for Yarra wants. He wants one airline. During that unfortunate period when the people who are now sitting opposite us occupied the Treasury bench, they so starved the private airlines of money to buy spare parts with which to keep aircraft properly maintained that the members of the flying public of this country were flying at their own risk.

Mr Pollard - Don't talk rubbish!

Mr HAMILTON - That is what you did, when it is all boiled down. When this Government came to power and showed a bit of organization and a proper appreciation of the requirements of the two airlines, the members of the Labour Party opposed it right, left and centre in every move that it made.

Members of the Opposition are now trying to justify their case, but they have not got a case. I say that they are really opposed to this reduction of sales tax. They would have liked to see the higher rate continue for quite some time in the hope that public opposition to the Government would be built up.

The Leader of the Opposition said that when the Labour Government was in office it never increased sales tax, and that it preferred the method of direct taxation. Well, my comment on that is that the Labour Government had no option. There were few commodities to be obtained during its regime, and if it had increased the sales tax on the limited range of goods that was available it would still not have obtained the required revenue. What the Labour Government set about doing was really to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, and before much time had passed that Government found itself out on its ear. That was in 1949.

Mr Turnbull - - And it is still out!

Mr HAMILTON - Yes, the Labour Party is still out, as the honorable member for Mallee says, and it will remain out. I can remember the Leader of the Opposition talking about a Labour government being in power for the next twenty years. Well, it seems that the position which he forecast will be reversed, and the Leader of the Opposition and his followers will be in the wilderness for twenty years while the present Government will remain in power.

Opposition speakers in this debate have spoken on the subject of petrol. The honorable member for Yarra tried to tell us some story about the reason why we had petrol rationing. I think everybody will realize why we had it, if they will think back to the time when rationing was in operation. The Labour Party, in its keen desire to hold the Treasury bench, had advertisements inserted in the newspapers, which declared, " Menzies and Fadden will give you free petrol if you vote for them. Pull up at the bowser and get a gallon for nothing." They were falling into a trap laid for them by somebody in the United Kingdom. That person is not on this earth to-day, so I will not repeat old stories. However, our friends opposite fell into a trap. They can talk as much as they like about petrol rationing, but the proof positive of the wisdom of our policy is quite apparent. We have had no petrol rationing since 1949, and despite the increased quantities of petrol coming here we have never faced any difficulties. No one has been short of petrol.

The honorable member for Grayndler spoke during this debate, not about sales tax, but merely to make an attack on the Government. Of course, we all know what politics are, and we know that a by-election for the New South Wales Parliament is to be held next Saturday. The honorable member suggested that this Government had been elected on a tax-reduction policy. He held up, for honorable members to see, a copy of the policy speech made by the Prime Minister during the campaign which resulted in the election of the Government.

Mr Uren - He gave the figures.

Mr HAMILTON - I do not deny that. If you like to work with figures, that is all right. I am not so much concerned with figures. I am more concerned with the people of this country, and I am concerned about statements made by members of the Opposition concerning unemployment and other matters. When taxation is being considered I, and many others like me, go to the end result and ask ourselves, " How much have I got left in my pocket or in my purse? "

Mr Curtin - Nothing!

Mr HAMILTON - The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith says " Nothing ". There are more refrigerators and washing machines in use to-day than ever before. Even the Leader of the Opposition said to-day that people on small incomes have motor cars. There are more lawn mowers, and more of all kinds of amenities available to the people of this country than there ever have been previously. But that is not all. Consider the amounts deposited in savings banks. See how they have increased year after year. Yet we have these woolly minded people opposite, led by their doctors of economics or whatever they like to call themselves, saying that people are badly off these days, and that this is not a taxreduction government. It may not appear to be a tax-reduction government from a study of the figures produced by the honorable member for Grayndler, but when we get down to tin tacks the important matter is the livelihood and the happiness of the people. If they have all these amenities and still have money in the savings banks in ever-increasing amounts they cannot be too badly off. That is the kind of situation that meets with the approval of the people, certainly not the one that the honorable member for Grayndler would like to create.

The' honorable member also spoke about 8,000 unemployed in the motor vehicle industry, but as soon as he was asked to give a breakdown of that figure he conveniently went on to another subject. I thought I should do a little research into the statements of the honorable member. I have known him for a considerable time. I think at one stage he was associated with the Gladys Moncrieff show, and with the musical comedy " Viktoria and Her Hussar ". He was the funny man. But that is just an aside in the way of a private joke beween him and me. I am told that the honorable member was born at a place in New South Walues called Currabubula, and he talked with his tongue in his cheek about primary producers. What do I find? Lo and behold, before he came here he was a motor car salesman, selling spare parts and accessories! One can appreciate his disgust and annoyance at the fact that this Government has honoured the promise contained in. the speech of the Treasurer on 15th November, when he said, speaking of the Government, " It holds itself ready to review the sales tax when it feels the situation of the industry and the state of the economy, looked at together, appear to warrant some adjustment ".

The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) to-night spoke about the stopandgo government and so on. We have heard the phrase so often that it is becoming a little nauseating. However, we put up with the reiteration quite willingly. I say, however, that the people of this country would rather have a flexible economy, so long as the end result is satisfactory, than the one that the Labour Government desired to force on them in the years from 1946 to 1949. At that time the gentleman who is now Chief Justice of New South Wales, speaking at a summer school in Canberra, is reported to have said that no man has the right to choose his employment, but should go where he is told. A little research in " Hansard " will disclose that the Prime Minister of that day said in this place that in a planned economy workers must be prepared to be moved from here to there to fit into the plan of things. The honorable member for Lalor, who is now trying to interject, said very much the same thing. He said, " We have a great socialistic plan ".

I contend that, despite the charges that have been levelled against the Government, over the last twelve years it has done more for the average man and woman in Australia than any previous government did. The people themselves, who have returned this Government at election after election, have more of the amenities of life and have far happier lives than they ever had before.

Mr Reynolds - The Government has been returned to power with the help of the Democratic Labour Party, which is opposed to its economic policies.

Mr HAMILTON - Do not talk to me about the D.L.P., because I have certain opinions of the members of that party, and I would hate to be forced to express them in this place. In any case, we can do without them. When a vote was taken in this chamber yesterday, I think the result was in favour of the Government by 67 to 34. That shows that we have a good majority. In any case, apart from what the D.L.P. or what anybody has to say, although the policies of this Government may at times have appeared to be of the stop-and-go variety to those who do only short-range thinking, it is the final analysis that counts, and the fact is that the people are in a better position than they have been for many years.

To-night we have heard members of the Opposition having a go at the Government. Although the Opposition intends to move an amendment, we have not been told what are to be its terms. Honorable members opposite think they will trap the Country Party. They have been talking about that ail the time. We do not mind engaging in a boxon with these people at any time they like. While I think of it, let me say that no one on the other side of the chamber had better accuse me personally of being a traitor to the primary industries. Certain remarks have been uttered during this debate, but let me repeat that Opposition members had better not accuse me of being a traitor. I can assure them through you, Mr. Speaker, that they will get it back in their face pretty quickly and lively.

Mr Cairns - You are a bold man.

Mr HAMILTON - I ask the honorable member whether he intends to be bold - this gentleman who tries to lull the listening public into believing that he is an educated man. I do not decry education, of course. Since you, Mr. Speaker, became the occupant of your present high office, a certain gentleman, a prominent member of the Labour Party, has stated repeatedly the institutions in this country that should be nationalized. He comes from the same State as you, Mr. Speaker. I refer to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). To-night members of the Labour Party are shedding crocodile tears because of what has happened to the motor industry; but, much to their disgrace, we have never seen any members of the Labour Party rise and deny what the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said about the Australian motor industry - that is, that at the first opportunity Labour gets the industry will be nationalized. I believe a statement to that effect can be read in " Hansard ". Do not honorable members opposite as well as their listeners and their supposed supporters, know that when the Labour Party gets an opportunity to nationalize any of these great industries the tragedy will be that the underdog, the fellow whom they are here to represent, will be the unfortunate sufferer? Therefore, I ask the people of Australia, despite what is happening on Saturday in the Liverpool Plains electorate, to think long about this matter. This Government has done the right thing by them over the last twelve years and I am certain it will continue to do so for the next eight or ten years at least.

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