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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 747


Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) - I do not want to go over the ground covered by my colleagues the honourable members for Kennedy (Mr Katter), Curtin (Mr Garland) and Boothby (Mr McLeay). But I want to make one comment in regard to Australia's participation in international affairs. I remember not so very long ago hearing in this House the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) make comments about Sir Robert Menzies, who was the Prime Minister of that day, in regard to what the present Prime Minister called Sir Robert's intrusion into the Suez crisis. Of course, the implication was that the then Prime Minister did not have a full appreciation of the situation in the international field. I think that the present Prime Minister will realise and appreciate that international affairs are not perhaps as easy as he might have thought when he was on the Opposition side of this House. The Prime Minister's adventure in the field of international relations did not succeed to a very marked degree during his recent visit to Indonesia and in the comments he made in regard to the position of Thailand. I hope that these events might be a lesson to him and that in further comments that he makes about Australia's position in the international field he might give a great deal more deep and full consideration to some of the problems that exist.

The comments of my colleagues the honourable members for Kennedy and Curtin in regard to the direction of our foreign policy should be noted by all Australians. In recent months the Government has leant very considerably towards the Left. As has been said, comments that have been made by responsible Ministers - and I use the term 'responsible' advisedly - in regard to our relationship with the United States and in regard to actions of the United States are certainly not comments that should be made by responsible Ministers. I recall that it has been stated by at least one of the members of the present Government that we should break the Australian-American alliance.

At this stage I do not want to say a great deal about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation but I must confess that, having listened to some of the comments from the Government side and from the Senate, I feel that many questions were left unanswered by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). I mention also that ASIO has been a target for those with left wing sympathies. It has been part of a policy of the left wing within the Australian Labor Party to destroy ASIO and to discredit it both in Australia and overseas. While I do not want to make any dogmatic comment, I believe that many questions have been left unanswered by the Attorney-General.

Let me refer now to the PostmasterGeneral's Department. Some of the comments made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) have caused a degree of concern to people in my electorate and also to people in other country areas. I want to be fair to the Postmaster-General. I appreciate that he has only recently taken over this portfolio and therefore it will take some time for him to gain a full appreciation of the situation within his Department. As I have said before, more money should be made available from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the PostmasterGeneral's Department. I emphasise that point. But at the moment there appears to be a reluctance in the Postmaster-General's Department to appreciate the need for telephonic communications in country areas. In one reply I received from the Postmaster-General he said:

The more liberal conditions of the policy governing the provision of country telephone services introduced in August 1970 has attracted increasing demand for new services, and this work must be integrated with area development programs as resources become available.

I believe that resources must be made available. There is not much point in bringing in a policy unless the Government is able to put it into effect. Because of this policy, people in country areas are, in some circumstances, not receiving as effective a service as they were receiving before the policy was brought into being.

Let me give an illustration. Certain private lines are providing people with telephone services. As the PMG's Department moves into the area to take over those lines, no work is done on the lines except by the PMG's Department. Therefore I believe that money will have to be made available so that the work in these areas can be done expeditiously. Let me refer also to the hours of operation of country telephone services. In country areas, because people have to go away from their homes to perform their work, in many instances if a telephone service closes at 6 o'clock as much as li or 2 hours of a farmer's time are wasted while he goes inside to make a telephone call. I believe that, wherever possible, the service should be extended to 8 o'clock. I point out that a call to Sydney made after 6 p.m. costs 57 cents as against 86 cents if it is made before 6 o'clock. This proposal should be of considerable advantage to the primary producer, to people living in country areas. I hope that work in country areas will not be delayed because of the inquiry that is being instigated. I hope that such work will be expedited.

To my mind, the answer given this afternoon by the Postmaster-General to a question relating to official post offices was not satisfactory. Reports that many official post offices - one of the figures given was 300 - are to be declassified are causing a degree of concern. In his reply to a question the PostmasterGeneral said that the previous Government had a policy of closing down some non-official post offices. In this House and in other places I have opposed the closing down of these country post offices. I was successful in keeping many of them in my electorate open. I know that representations made by other honourable members were also successful in keeping other post offices open. I am sure that the Postmaster-General will find that honourable members now have exactly the same attitude as they had to earlier suggestions of closing down non-official post offices.

I want to turn to the matter of export incentives. I hope that consideration will be given to retaining export incentives and that no steps will be taken either to reduce or to remove them. It has been said that there is no need to give concentrated attention to maintaining our exports. I think that the export incentive payments should be maintained. A report I have reads as follows:

The incentives were a major element in the vehicle building companies' decisions to procure vehicles from one or another source. To remove the incentives would be to alter the economics and thus the options available to the vehicle building companies.

There was no certainty that the vehicle builders would continue to use Australia as a source of supply of CKD packs for assembly in other countries if the incentives were removed.

I think that if this matter were to be investigated it would be seen that as many as 4,000 or 5,000 jobs of Australian workers would be in jeopardy. So I feel that the Government must give attention to retaining the export incentives. In my humble opinion, the arguments against doing so have been amazing. The report to which I have referred said that the opposition to the system was based on the following:

The budget position involved a substantial and growing deficit and this could be partly cured by removing the export incentive system. There were arguments in favour of the money involved being diverted to the achievement of the Labor Party's social objectives. Australia's current favourable balance of trade made it no longer desirable to encourage exports of manufactured products.

In my opinion, none of those 3 arguments against maintaining our export incentives has any validity.

I want to make some comment about devaluation. The other night the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) referred to an increase in prices since the alteration of the value of the Australian dollar. What he did not say was that if there had not been a change in the value of the Australian dollar the primary producer would have been receiving an even greater amount. I should like to emphasise something that I mentioned in this House only a short while ago, the fact that many people now talk about the primary producer receiving a great return for his product, that he has now literally overcome the problems and difficulties and, to use an expression that has been used many times in this country, he is now again home on the pig's back or the sheep's back. I pointed out on that particular occasion, and I emphasise it again, that what the primary producer is now receiving does not make up for the lean and difficult times that he went through a short while ago.

I should like to refer to a comment made by the Bank of New South Wales concerning the up-valuation of the Australian dollar. In its March 'Review' the Bank of New South Wales argued that the currency move could have been an over-kill method of bringing the balance of payments back into equilibrium. But in the same article the Bank said the Government's action was fortuitously justified after the event by further substantial price rises for wool and stronger demand for other exports. That was certainly not a factor related to the attitude of the Government. I emphasise the point I made earlier by reading a further extract from that report. The report said:

Australia's export earnings were subject to violent fluctuations - and it was a rare year when there was all round strength among rural exports as in 1972. A turnabout in rural prices could bring the current account back into deficit as rapidly as it went into surplus. The subsequent 10 per cent revaluation of the United States dollar presented Australia with another policy challenge.

Anybody who has any association with the primary producer knows that there are many factors concerning the primary producer's product and work over which he has absolutely no control. Fluctuations in his earnings in many instances are caused by things outside his control.

I should like to mention one other matter. I refer to the advertising of drugs on radio and television. I note that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) has been reported as saying that he would like to see the banning of all advertising of aspirin on radio and television. This appears to me to be an amazing contradiction. Although some members of the present Government say we should ban the advertising of aspirin because it is harmful, other members of the Government say that people should be allowed to smoke marihuana. I think the smoking of marihuana is completely and absolutely, beyond any shadow of doubt, a far greater danger to the community than any aspirin would be. Suggestions have been made that drug manufacturers lack a sense of responsibility and are interested only in selling their product so that they may make money out of it, that they do not have any regard to the benefit to the community. I should like to read a letter which was circulated by a drug company concerning this matter. I think this reflects a lack of responsibility which sometimes is shown by the news media. This letter from the drug firm states:

Following lay Press reports on Saturday 24.2.73, we, the manufacturers of-

The name of the drug is then stated - are concerned with the possible abuse and misuse of ... by young persons deliberately seeking hallucinatory effect. The reporting of full details of the trade name, availability through pharmacy, price and even the number of tablets required for a trip may encourage experimentation by teenagers who would not normally even consider die use of known hallucinogenic drugs. Although this drug and derivatives have been dispensed and recommended for allergies and sickness by pharmacies for 20 years, the author suggests that it must now be considered whether these should be restricted . . .

The letter goes on to state:

The company believes that such decision is very important to the community and cannot be rushed. We therefore take the unusual action of requesting you, the pharmacist, to remove . . . from open shelves to the security of the dispensary to be handled only by qualified staff. This, we believe, will minimise the possibility of misuse of our product following the unfortunate Press release identifying generic and trade names.

I think that letter shows 2 things, firstly, a sense of responsibility by the drug companies and, secondly, a reminder to the media that they should have some consideration of the full effects of certain matters before they report them. I have made no bones in this House before about being associated with both a radio station and a television station, but I believe that this matter shows that in many instances we can rush into things without giving full consideration to the effects of what we are doing. In regard to the banning of the advertising on television, radio or even the Press of aspirin and various beneficial medicines such as that, I believe that very careful consideration should be given before action is taken.







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