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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1444


Mr CHIPP (Hotham) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - The Appropriation Bill is the main fiscal and economic policy statement of the year. It is the instrument which determines the guidelines of economic activity for at least the next 12 months. As the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and Treasurer (Mr Snedden) have stated this present instrument is a flexible one and one which can be used to adjust temporary movements. I shall now say the only political thing that I wish to say in my speech. I have been saddened by the gleeful way in which members of the Opposition are probing the Government day after day on rising unemployment figures. 1 remember the first year I was in this Parliament, the year of the credit squeeze, when Opposition members were joyful each day as unemployment figures rose. This seems incongruous for a party which champions - so called - the workers to gain some joy from the unemployment figures rising each day of the week. Might I remind them of a fundamental economic truth. If one makes a prophecy of doom in this most delicate area of employment and saps confidence then one has planted the first seed to create more unemployment.

Having said that might I say a truism. This Budget does affect all matters including employment levels, expenditure and social welfare. It impacts itself on exports, life in the cities and life in the country. In fact, there are very few areas which a Budget does not touch. Because of this it has become traditional it is even written into standing order 81 - that the Parliament becomes the forum upon which to debate any issue affecting the welfare and happiness of the Australian people. The Budget debate is, therefore, much more than a debate on the economy alone, it provides a unique opportunity for discussion on all matters concerning not only our standard of living but also our style of living.

With this in mind an outside observer might be forgiven for being critical that perhaps too many of the speeches given in the present debate have been those primarily directed to matters of material significance. Growth and development have become key words in today's society. A belief in the need for growth seems to be an integral part of modern living. Not only Australia, but the whole world is passing through an era where economic growth and development is manifested on all sides of a rapidly changing society. Whether he wants to or not, even the smallest businessman is caught up in this dogma of growth. He must keep on expanding his enterprise or be swallowed up. The operative word is growth; growth at any cost but always measured in material terms. It is almost becoming an obsession which I fear may dim our values.

We are at a point in our history where governments tend to stand or fall on the growth record of the country while they have been in office. Political parties constantly criticise each other for the supposed inadequacy of their policies in fostering ever faster growth rates. The catchcry for a twentieth century candidate for political office, whether at the municipal, state or national level surely is the promise of greater growth and development during his term of office. There is no doubt that economic growth has brought us enormous benefits. The goods and services we now take for granted would have been inconceivable for previous generations, benefits that certainly allow more people to live better and longer than in any previous age; and that is progress. But, in our search for advancement, one should stop and wonder sometimes whether we are making real progress in human terms as distinct from material terms. lt would be a sad reflection on this Parliament and on the Australian public it represents if in our constant pursuit of economic progress, we neglect to stimulate discussion on those other issues designed to improve the quality or style of living, as distinct from our standard of living. In this connection, it was not encouraging for me at least to learn from the Australian nation wide opinion poll that when asked Australians saw as the 3 main advantages of living in Australia, first, a good standard of living, second, the climate and, third, other qualities primarily connected with the physical comfort of the people.

I was impressed with the editorial in the Australian' of 23rd August 1971 which said:

The poll confirms a commonly held view of us. by some of our compatriots as well as by some foreigners, as fairly unambitious folk who are preoccupied with comfort, money and property, with concern mainly for economic stability and security.

The editorial concluded by saying:

In a way, the limits of our ambitions have served us well;, we cause no trouble in the world's councils and the only people to have felt the backs of our hands have been palpable villains - mostly Asians.

Still, there is room for another worry that got no mention in the poll at all: that, while we are contemplating our navels so assiduously, the whole world might pass us by.

I should like to briefly discuss some of those issues which I believe bedevil our society as distinct from our economy today, issues which present a significant challenge to our future progress and development. These issues are not only the responsibility of Government but surely the responsibilities of the people as well. 1 refer first to our apparent reluctance, even refusal, to consider those problems in the non-hip-pocket-nerve area. A distinguished Australian whom 1 admire tremendously, Sir James Darling, said very recently:

Mankind has a remarkable capacity to resist an idea which might disturb its peace of mind if it were accepted. At the first sign of the idea it withdraws into its established shell and condemns the proponents as cranks, crackpots, idealists, nohopers. radicals, or nothing more or less than a bloody commo. Society has a second line of defence if this one failed: This was to say 'Oh yes, that, we've heard all that before'. Finally, when the words of the prophet turned out to be true, mankind took to is reserve trench and sought a scapegoat.

Is he not right? We are constantly reminded in the Press, on radio and television of the horrors of war, pollution, racism, alcoholism, abortion, drug abuse, conservation, the road toll, and one could go on. How do we react not only as parliamentarians but as a people to those reports? Have we not learnt to live with the idea that we are capable of completely destroying ourselves through atomic warfare, although surely the threat is still there, as real, as terrifying, as hideous as it was in 1945? One only had to read the article by Mr Rohan Rivett in last weekend's 'Review' to get some sort of perspective of the state which the world is in today.

And are we not now learning very fast to live with the concept that the world is in the process of destroying itself at a terrifying rate by the physical pollution of the environment? Pretty soon this too will become a bore and the national conscience, wrapped in a cocoon of complacency, will go quietly to sleep again. And what of the growing disaffection of today's youth for our society? Do we treat this with the same indifference? Are we sufficiently concerned to ask why it should be so, or do we dismiss the problem as one which has been handed down for generalions? We have heard the smart remark: Oh, look, the generation gap was mentioned by Socrates 3,000 years ago'. We have heard the equally unsmart remark that the generation gap is nonsense because fathers have a habit of being older than their children. Worse still, do we simply not acknowledge any existence of communication gaps.

I believe that today's youth see with crystal clarity that they live in a world in which all major issues are global issues, not local issues. 1 suggest that they see 4 issues. They are vitally concerned with the problems of world hunger, world illiteracy, the horrors of war, and racism. To them there is no dilemma. They believe that the present social, economic and political structures are perpetuating and will continue to perpetuate these problems. Without fear or even without thought of consequences, the idealism of youth demands action on these fronts at any cost to us and without considering the cost. Their admirers - and they have some - say this is the magnificent manifestation of the charisma of youth. Their critics and the knockers contemptuously suggest that it is because they have no responsibilities. They say: 'They haven't got kids at school. They haven't got a job that could be taken by an Asian worker. They don't pay taxes. They don't contribute to foreign aid'.

But I wonder whether it is really so surprising that our young are seemingly so unimpressed by the ways in which modern technology has exploded - the spending of huge sums on space probes, for example, while massive human problems and physical deprivation still exist on our planet earth. Their own sense of frustration is compounded by the fact that, though educated to fulfil a useful role in combating these very problems, they remain remote from the decision making areas and are thus pre-empted from using their skills in the areas for which they were trained.

The young man's counter reaction may manifest itself in protest, and it is then that society groups itself as though for civil war - the establishment versus the youth - without either side understanding or trying to understand each other's position. The young may not be able to identify in detail the basis of their revolt and they may be widely astray in what they conceive to be the remedy. But I suspect that the mainspring of the attitude of the young people of goodwill is a realisation that the golden calf of material growth and the constant pursuit of material wealth is a false and unsatisfying god. I quote from Professor James E. Weaver, a distinguished American economist who said in Australia in May 1971:

The children of this affluence may well realise that with all of our vaunted growth this century has produced more wars, more mass murders, more systematic genocide, more ecological catastrophes, more alienation, more crime, more ugliness, more noise than any previous age.

The young are questioning many of the institutions which have created these results. One would have thought that all of our material possessions would have made us happy. But our system seems to be fatally flawed. The young today are asking the same question asked of old, 'For what doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul'.

This questioning of our institutions and the directions they are taking us may well be healthy. This brings me to another issue which recently has come to prominence amongst the Australian community at large. 1 refer to the right of dissent amongst members of the community but more particularly amongst students at the universities. I remember my own days at the University of Melbourne, which was not a hundred years ago but one generation ago, when our actions, our behaviour as students, our right vocally to disagree with the decisions of the ruling body of the university were virtually non-existent. An extremist in any form in those days ran the risk of forfeiting any chance of finishing his degree at that university if he fell foul of the ruling body - and that was not hard to do. In other words, he was sent down without any appeal to the authorities or to the Press and with no chance of gaining public sympathy.

But happily - I say that advisedly - this situation has changed through the years.

In one short generation by a gradual process students now have gained what 1 call the precious right of dissent. Their right has been won by action taken by students and reputable student organisations at campuses throughout the world. Students of universities nowadays have more freedom of speech, expression and action than at any other time in history. Yet unhappily some are resorting to that age-old loser in the form of political activity - the use of violence or non-productive means to attain their ends. I say to the student population: This is a precious right which you have won. Do not abuse it. It gave me no pleasure to attend the University of Queensland a couple of months ago as an invited guest and to be confronted with placards calling for students to 'strike now' and 'close the campus' and to witness a well attended meeting by students being addressed by a senator of this Parliament, a man who I understand does not possess a university degree, calling on these young idealistic, altruistic students to go on strike at a time when the majority of them should have been using that precious time to study for examinations at the end of the second term.


Dr Gun - You have just spoilt a good speech.


Mr CHIPP - Is the honourable member wanting to identify someone? I did not mention his name. The call by this senator could hope to harm only one section of the community - the students he was addressing. Who else could he possibly hope to influence by closing down a university for political means? The purpose, of course, was the purpose of men of bad will, that is, the purpose of causing a breakdown in the institutions and causing anarchy; and the poor idealistic, wellmeaning young people are the only ones who suffer. But 1 have a great faith in the majority of students. During the recess I spoke at every university in Australia - I spoke at some of them twice - and I have been pleased to find that I have a great deal in common with many of their ideals and feelings. 1 implore them not to abuse their special place in society and not to be influenced by the odd political demagogue who appears on their campus from time to time to espouse his own way-out dangerous philosophy, but to use their undoubted energy and ability to change and reform society by productive and not disruptive means.

One of the most tragic results of this conflict with the enlightened, liberated young is the creation of a world of 'us' and 'them', the assumption by youth that they have a monopoly of the quality of idealism, the assumption that the 'oldies' and the straight people of my generation all are reactionary, completely dehumanised, obstructive and obsessed with protecting their hideous sacred cows in their pristine pastures. In this context 1 believe that we as members of Parliament should take the lead and have the courage to look closely at some of the hitherto sacred cows in our own philosophies. This is a challenge surely facing all political parties today. I suggest that the Labor Party might well re-examine its obsessive fear of the bad old days of sweated labour, the misery of life in the coal mines and the intolerable working conditions. There is no question that a generation or two ago employers mercilessly exploited the worker and it is therefore not so surprising that members of the work force should harbour this hangover, holding employers in subconscious resentment. This manifests itself in a wish - again, sometimes subconscious - to get even with the boss for his past sins by not giving a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. It is an attitude ably exploited by some ruthless and irresponsible union leaders. But let the work force not fool itself. Logic demands acceptance of the view that a greater slice of the cake can come only from a bigger cake.

Serious doubt is now being cast on the age old maxim that the only way to get the worker to do his fair share was by not too gently caressing, his back with the whip of an unemployment pool. Modern day industrialists, often motivoted, I would concede, as much by pragmatism as by humanitarian instincts, have found that incentive payments for work done produce palpable and exciting results. There is another sacred cow, I would suggest, that honourable members opposite might look at. Incentive payments are not necessarily the ruse of wicked employers to sweat labour more, but when geared to the proper basis can be helpful to everyone. To honourable members on my own side of the House I would suggest that we face the same challenge. The word 'planning' need not cause psychotic palpitations in the Libera) breast every time it is mentioned. The fierce devotion to the hard and fast plan may still remain in the dogma of the socialist bible, but surely the concept of looking at national goals for this country in 1980 and working towards them is worth contemplating. Indeed, if we are to fulfil the promise of our national development in all its aspects the vision of achievements in the 1970s will be essential. The image of the 'vision splendid' presents a challenge to all of us - the Australian people, the individual, and the Parliament.

We need to take stock of our aims and reassess our life style and our life values. We need to reinterpret the vision of progress in a way that will make it attainable and a source of human happiness and fulfilment. This is both a community and a personal responsibility as well as a responsibility of the Government. It is not enough to pressurise the Government and look to Big Brother all the time, however necessary that is. Citizens, individually, in all areas of human endeavour must be involved. Without this involvement that noble definition of democracy as government of, for and by the people is debased to a meaningless cliche as it has been now. Would that another phrase should catch the imagination of the man in the street so that he might involve himself in the problems of the nation. Or is it that man is, after all, an island unto himself? Surely the poets, philosophers, statesmen and thinkers of the past tell us loudly from their resting places that that is not so.







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