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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1983

Mr WHITTORN (Balaclava) - This debate concerns the estimates for the Department of the Treasury covered by Divisions 540, 546, 548 and 552 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1971-72. Frankly, I have a great deal of sympathy for Treasury officials because they take the brunt of what other departments think they need for the ensuing 12 months - .not only what the departments themselves think they need but also what the Ministers of those departments feel they need and what Prime Ministers want for this purpose and that purpose. But it is the attitude of the Treasury that is indicated to us when we receive the Budget papers. In fact, what I have in mind was illustrated by the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) a few days ago when he was asked a question about the $7m proposed for the establishment of a national film and television school to educate actors, television producers and the like which had been deferred. I was sympathetic with the answer given by the Minister because the Government has saved $7m in expenditure over the next 12 months and," of course, the Treasury did not have to obtain this additional $7m in the form of revenue.

The second reason for my supporting the decision of the Government is the fact that I have had representations from certain people in the television industry and in other, industries who have pointed out that there are many actors, producers, script writers and the like who are presently unemployed. I see no reason why we should set up a television school which would produce more actors, television writers and producers when there is obviously unemployment in the industry today. I believe that it is a good thing that the Government has accepted the advice which was given by the Treasury in relation to the Budget.

Of course, there are many matters . on which Treasury officials give advice to the Government. Sometimes this advice is accepted and, at other times, it is rejected. However, it is the Treasury's job to consider the demands from the various departments and from Ministers and to give a precise formulae to the Government, firstly on the way that the money should be expended and secondly, on how the money can be obtained from the taxpayers of Australia. It is then up to the Government to make a policy decision - whether to go ahead with this form of expenditure - and then to advise the Taxation Office, which is part of the Treasury, to find the money. In fact, it was the Treasury which warned the Government last year, in one of several papers that it issued, that the inflationary trend was besetting Australia. By implication, the Government should have accepted this view and done more than was done.

I believe that last year's Budget was an inflationary one. We should have accepted the serious consideration given by the Treasury to these matters and done moTe to curb the beginnings of inflation than was done last year. The Treasury advised the Government that if it proceeded with the 1970-71 Budget, the inflationary trend would continue and some people in Australia would be distressed because of the effects of the Budget and the action taken by the Government. Of course, now. this has happened and some people are unemployed. The unemployment figures are higher today than they were last year and I forecast that they will be still higher as the months roll by, because we are now in the throes of what the Treasurer in his Budget Speech called 'this pernicious inflation'.

Of course, other countries are also suffering from inflation. In my remarks on the Budget, I mentioned the problems that are besetting the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. Treasury officials, who see the results of government activities in other parts of the world and who can draw upon their own training and experience, can provide expert advice to the Government and I believe this advice should be accepted to a much greater extent than has been the case in recent years. Australia is dependent on exports to such a large extent that we should determine whether these, exports are to be competitive with those of other countries. If we continue to raise costs by raising wages then, of course, we will not be competitive with overseas countries. One has to look only at the once great rural industries to see what has happened in Australia. Of course, with the diluted economy which Australia now has, we can support the once great primary industries, which really established Australia, by providing subsidies and the like. However, this is adding water to milk and it is not a good thing for any country, particularly a country like Australia, to be given a bigger volume of diluted milk.

I believe that governments, particularly this Government, should be very prudent in their forms of expenditure. As I said, because of our high exports in relation to our population of 12 million or 13 million, Australia is more or less governed by decisions of other countries to a far greater extent than they are governed in their forms of expenditure. By this I mean that America, the United Kingdom and the members of the European Economic Community make decisions which have a greater impact on what happens in Australia than in their own countries. That is why I believe that the Government must in future, if it has not already seen the light, take more cognisance of what happens in our community and of what happens from Treasury advice and assess the future for Australia.

Mr Cope - Are you seeking controls?

Mr WHITTORN - I have often heard the honourable member say that costs are rising at a faster rate than wages. This is true and it is interesting to see in which areas this applies. It applies to government departments to a much greater extent than it does in private enterprise. I hope, by quoting from IPA Facts' of April-May 1971, to convince the honourable member that profits, which honourable members opposite seem to think are dirty! .are not the real cause of our problems . in Australia. This publication confirms that prices have risen more than wages, lt is interesting to see which prices have risen most since 1963 - in the last 8 years. At the top of the list are local government rates which have increased by 62 per cent since 1963. Local government shire councils do not make profits. They are not extortionate in their demands to keep the councils on the move and to look after their ratepayers. All they are doing is trying to cover the cost of increased wages. That is why rates have increased. The next item on the list is rail and tram fares. These instrumentalities of State governments do not make profits. Fare increases have taken place because of increased costs due to increased wages, nothing more and nothing less.

Another item refers to the 48 per cent increase in charges imposed by the PostmasterGeneral's Department. While the Postmaster-General's Department is a business undertaking and must pay a reasonable amount of interest on capital expenditure, it does not attempt to make profits in the normal sense of the word. I invite honourable members to examine this list because the last item mentioned concerns electrical appliances, etc. This is private enterprise in action. The increase in the price of these appliances has been minus 7 per cent since 1963. These are figures which honourable members opposite should examine before they criticise the Government.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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