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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 61


Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - May I take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to congratulate you on your election to the Speakership. I should like to congratulate the mover, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews), and the seconder, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and the other new members who have come into this place, although I hope some of them will have short lives here, even though they might have a happy time for that short time. The honourable member for EdenMonaro spoke of the need to preserve the human resources of this country. In doing this he was falling very close to the area that is traditional with the Australian Labor Party in which it is not really concerned with the creation of wealth by individuals for individuals but is concerned with the distribution of that wealth. Unless there is a government that has a concern for the creation of wealth, this country will not have the resources to meet the welfare, the compassionate and the developmental requirements which we all would want to see met.

I hope the honourable member's repeated criticism of the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation is not designed to put the Australian Labor Party into a position of dis missing the recommendations of the Corporation. I think it should be noted that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has been reported on earlier occasions as having criticised the membership of the Australian Wool Corporation and having named the members. Perhaps the reports were false, but they were attributed to the honourable member and I saw no correction. I agree with him when he says that the divisions between town and country should be removed and I hope that he will be successful in persuading his Party to do something in regard to long term credit arrangements for primary industries, building upon the policies and objectives that the previous Government pursued.

There are now 3 honourable members - the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) - who have some concern for primary industries. However, I think it must be noted that the Governor-General's Speech virtually ignored the rural exporting sector of Australian industry; it made no mention of it in any real sense. The Governor-General's Speech concentrated on what the Government proposes to do for welfare, the great cities and one decentralised city area, namely, Albury-Wodonga, lt mentioned nothing of what the Government proposes to do for general decentralisation throughout Australia in a sense that will achieve a real decentralisation of effort and initiative throughout Australia.

Since this Government came to power, many Australians have expressed concern about the complete lack of Cabinet government in the management of the nation's affairs. The Government started as a 2-man junta. There could not be Cabinet rule because there was not a Cabinet. But since there has been a Cabinet that Cabinet has not operated as a Cabinet, as the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) has made very plain. The first revaluation of the Australian currency was carried out after discussions between 3 Ministers - the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The advice of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) or of the Minister for Overseas Trade was not sought or was ignored. In the case of the second revaluation, the decision was taken by 2 people - the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. This provoked the Minister for

Overseas Trade into sending a telegram to the Prime Minister urging a proper Cabinet discussion on a matter of quite vital concern to Australia. The Minister for Overseas Trade for once was right. If a Prime Minister gets into a position, as this one has already put himself into, of taking decisions on his own initiative without advice and without proper consultation with Ministers who have other responsibilities which will be seriously affected by the decision, he will find himself making decisions that will act very much to the detriment of Australia.

This lack of Cabinet government has been continued in other areas, such as the criticisms of the United States by 3 most senior Ministers in areas for which they had no responsibility at all. It is notable that, although there were reports that those 3 Ministers were carpeted by the Prime Minister - the Minister for Overseas Trade virtually repudiated that - the only person who has been silenced has been one who. used to speak for primary industries, namely, the Minister for Northern Development. Perhaps that is because he is a rightwing Minister with affinities outside his own Party and a Minister whom the Prime Minister could discipline with impunity whereas, of course, he could not discipline the Minister for Overseas Trade.

I believe that the Government, in the presentation of its policies and programme through the Governor-General's Speech, has been guilty of deception in a number of areas. The Speech seeks to cloak that deception with respectability. There has been deception in regard to labour relationships, rural policy, relationships with the States and foreign affairs. In regard to labour relations, we saw the embarrassment of the Prime Minister and other Ministers today when they were questioned on the matter of 4 weeks annual leave for Commonwealth public servants. This was a firm and categoric commitment, but it now is to be limited to union members only. This is plain deception of Commonwealth public servants.

There are other areas relating to the industrial scene where the Government intends to use the power of government for an improper purpose. The Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) has made it plain that government contracts will go to firms that are acceptable to unions. This is a situation that could quickly lead to graft and corruption, with unions putting pressure upon companies for political donations before those companies can be awarded any government contracts. It is a deplorable principle and one which will lead to bad government. The other aspect of the matter of labour relations is the intention to make union officials immune from certain aspects of the law and to place them above the average citizen throughout Australia. Of course, much of this comes back to a view that the Government has a responsibility to legislate and govern for some sections of the Australian community but not for the total Australian community. This is class legislation. It is divisive legislation. It is undemocratic and un-Australian in its approach.

There has been deception in respect of rural policy. Before the election we found in rural newspapers and journals that the rural community had been promised $500m at 3 per cent with a repayment period of up to 40 years. If that were to be accomplished it would be a significant objective and surely one worth mentioning in the 3-year programme set out in the Governor-General's Speech. But there is no mention of it at all. Perhaps this is because the Prime Minister believes that in relation to rural matters, primary industry leaders and the Ministers for Immigration and Northern Development are always wrong. So, that proposal has gone out the window. Then there is the question of rural reconstruction. The programme that the last Government entertained, which provided more than $100m over 2 years, runs out in June of this year. The States are wanting to know what will happen after June because they need to be able to make forward commitments, but there has been no word of any rural reconstruction proposals to assist the small family farmers who are in need of assistance from this Government. The Victorian Government has been trying to get from this Government decisions on support for drought relief, but there has been no proper answer from this Government.

There has been further deception on the question of revaluation compensation. The policy of the previous Government was to provide revaluation compensation for export industries significantly and clearly damaged by a revaluation decision. Now such compensation will apply only to industries that were plainly in difficulties before the decision to revalue was made. Compensation will go to the apple and pear industry and some other sections of the fruit industry, but I believe that there will be no assistance to any other industries in Australia, no matter what problems might arise. Indeed, we find the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) appealing to the Japanese to get the Australia Government out of a difficulty of its own making. The Government knew that mineral contracts were written in certain terms. It knew that there were requirements on mining companies in Australia to write those contracts in those terms, otherwise the contracts would not have been achieved. The decision is made, without advice, for a revaluation and then we have the situation of the Australian Government appealing to the Japanese Government to get this Government out of a mistake of its own making simply because it would not accept advice and would not examine the matter properly before the decision was made.

In a number of these areas, of course, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) knows the vulnerability of his Party and has sought to remove that vulnerability from the public scene by making a senator the Minister for Primary Industry. I believe that this decision was deliberate and designed to reduce debate on these matters in this particular chamber. We have already seen this Senator, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), acting on proper advice from industry organisations and being over-ridden by the doctrinaire view of the Cabinet some of whose members the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has publicly said on the television programme 'This Day Tonight' have no conception or understanding of primary industry problems. This I believe will set the pattern for the future. It contrasts markedly with the approaches adopted by the previous government.

In relationships with the States there is deception. The Governor-General's Speech talks of a spirit of true co-operative federalism. It is bad luck that that Speech happened to be written before the Victorian Government made plain the dictatorial view of this Government in the housing policy that the Commonwealth is now trying to force upon the States - a policy that the Victorian Government is determined to reject because Victoria best knows its own priorities, best knows what is good for Victoria in this particular area and believes it Wrong that this power should be centralised in Canberra. The Victorian Government also knows, as do the other

State governments, that the States will be fighting for their lives for any existence at all under a government that will be prepared to use the power of its own finances to take any authority or responsibility out of the hands of State governments.

This situation applies not only in this area. The Prime Minister is willing to give away 6,000 Australians to another country without consultation and without asking the views of those Australians. I venture to say that this Prime Minister, who makes a claim to have no view of colour, would not have been game to do that if those 6,000 Australians had had white skins, as he himself has a white skin. The position that the Prime Minister has adopted with respect to the Torres Strait Islanders is shameful indeed. He has bartered people without asking their views. He has been asked by the Premier of Queensland to visit Queensland to examine the situation for himself but he has not done so.

On the question of Commonwealth and State power there are great differences between the Government and the Opposition. We will be opposing the complete centralisation of all political authority in Canberra and we will be trying to support the States in their achieving responsibility in matters that can be best looked after by them to prevent this Government from destroying the States.

There has been a deception in foreign affairs. Last year the Victorian socialist Left, the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) were silent and people began to think that the Labor Party was safe and responsible in these areas.

It is true that the Labor Party has a mandate for a number of its actions but it is not true that it has a mandate for the total change in policy direction that has been accomplished in the last 2 to 3 months and which no Australian, outside the socialist Left - the Carmichaels, the Crawfords and the Hartleys - expected. The overall effect of that change is important. Let us look at the particular actions. One would not quibble with the recognition of China. There was a mandate for that, but no mandate for the method and manner in which it was done - no mandate for doing it, without consultation with allies and friends to our north, in a way that was going to upset countries to our north. The Government had no mandate for doing it in a way which put Australia in a position of giving away more than any other country. When the Prime Minister said that the Australian terms were the same as the Canadian terms, he was not speaking the truth.

We must be reminded of the words of the Chinese Premier, Chou En Lai, when he was farewelling the Prime Minister over a year ago. He said:

We are looking forward to the day when you are Prime Minister and can put into effect your promises.

The Prime Minister was asked on earlier occasions to explain what those promises were. He has never done so. There has been silence from the Government on the offer by the Chinese, revealed by supporters of the present Government, to cancel a $$60m wheat deal if it would help the Labor Party to gain power. How far are the Chinese prepared to involve themselves in Australian politics or to make Australia's great industries a pawn in international politics? Imagine what the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) might have said if the President of the United States of America had made some similar kind of offer. There would have been cries of horror and it would have been in the newspapers for days, weeks and months; but when the offer comes from another side there, is no particular complaint.

The Government has ended military aid to South Vietnam and the Khmer Republic even though the present Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) are on record as having recognised the aggression against both countries. The Government would claim to be neutral in that particular context but in fact it favours NorA Vietnam, as the Minister for Overseas Trade has made quite clear. He has spoken in communist terminology about the liberated areas - areas liberated by the North Vietnamese army and by their aggression. On no occasion has the Prime Minister contradicted him. indeed I think he is on record as having said the Minister's recent remarks of criticism of the United States were reasonable.

Mr Crawfordhas spoken of Australia's crimes against North Vietnam in a way that might have been reserved for criticisms of Nazi Germany. The Prime Minister protested to the United States against the bombing in North Vietnam even though that was the last strategical weapon available to the United States. It has, in fact, been successful in achieving a peace treaty acceptable to the

United States. The Prime Minister did not repudiate the words of his 3 senior Ministers and gave the implication that he had agreed with most of what they had said.

Australia's voting in the United Nations has moved away from general support of the United Kingdom or the United States on many issues, because we have beliefs and ideals in common, to support for African sponsored non-aligned resolutions, aligning Australia with the third world. For the same reason the Prime Minister is pushing independence on Papua New Guinea before the Territory wants independence. The Prime Minister does not want Australia to be criticised in the United Nations by the third world. He would prefer to have a situation in which independence was forced upon Papua New Guinea before the people wanted it rather than to stand up to a little criticism from some who might still try to level a false colonial charge against Australia. He is therefore bartering the future of Papua New Guinea in a way which is utterly irresponsible and against the wishes of that territory and against Australia's long term interests. We have been told by Mr Hartley of all people - not by the Government - that the objective of the Government was to make Australia nonaligned. He probably really wanted to go further and say the Government wanted Australia to be aligned with China.

The Minister for Defence has confirmed that what the Labor Party conference dictates in July the Prime Minister will pursue and follow. These are all the positive acts of change. The negative acts are the hostility that has been shown to the United States on a number of issues and the double-dealing with the United Kingdom over Singapore. However, debate on these matters can wait for another occasion.

Australians were not really told of the class type divisive legislation and approaches that the Labor Party would introduce. Farmers were certainly misled before the election and they are now being ignored. There will be a vast takeover of federal power and the States will be fighting for their lives. In foreign affairs we are being moved in favour of the non-aligned or the communist world against the United Kingdom and the United States of America, democracies that with which I should have thought most Australians believe we have ideals, beliefs and institutions very much in common. We should pursue and try to achieve new friendships but in achieving them there is no need to alienate the old friendships.







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