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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 555


Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - It gives me great pleasure to support the very necessary amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The Budget that we have seen is only the tip of the socialist iceberg. If anyone wants to know what is under the water look first at the rest of the Coombs report which is due, of course, for implementation as soon as the Government dares to do it. Look also at the nature of the controls - the socialist and indeed communist control - which are being exercised over this Government through the trade movement and the structure of the Government's own party. But I would say that this is not so much a bad Budget as it is an evasive one. It dodges the problem and it misses the opportunity. It is an evasive Budget.

First let me say something about inflation, since it is obviously the topic which is in everybody's mind and most people have referred to it. The previous Government was faced with inflationary pressures. It slowed inflation to a walk. It did so in the face of a great deal of criticism from what is now the Government and was previously the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party was against all the measures which enabled the past Government to bring inflation under control. Then this Government came into office. The walk changed to a trot, to a canter, and now perhaps even to a hand gallop, and unless something constructive is done the animal may bolt. In the interests of all Australians this must be avoided. I think it is in this context that the Leader of the Opposition last night made his constructive suggestions regarding a temporary prices and incomes freeze. This has to be all-embracing if it is to be successful but we think of this surely only as a temporary measure. A prices and incomes policy may be necessary now because of the mismanagement of the Government during the past 8 months. The Government has reactivated the forces of inflation and what was well under control when the present Government took over the treasury bench is now almost out of control. The price of that mismanagement may well be that temporarily we will have to accept something which is unpleasant and which is, I think, uneconomic in many ways - a prices and incomes policy of an arbitrary kind. I dislike this prospect. I know that it cannot be implemented effectively without some kind of co-operation from the States but I would not regard it as anything more than a temporary measure.

These kinds of unpleasant curbs may be necessary in the climate which the Government, through its mismanagement, has created; but we do not want to keep them on for longer than is necessary because they inhibit sound growth, they inhibit the progress of the economy and they represent an incursion into people's freedom of action and the quality of life. The fact that we may have to accept these curbs as a temporary measure is an indication of the way in which this Government's financial policy has failed and is bringing us to the point where unpleasant alternatives seem to be inevitable.

The Government has raised, through its policy speeches and in other ways, expectations which cannot be satisfied without further inflation. The Government has sponsored industrial disorder. I do not refer just to strikes. I am referring to the organised attempt to cut down productivity through strikes and their effects. Rolling strikes, so dear to the Government, would not occur, whether it be in the Post Office, the building industry, the power industry or anywhere else, if the people who, very often for the worst purposes, were organising them were not confident that they had a great friend in the Federal Government. The fact that the Federal Government is sponsoring industrial disorder is largely responsible for the reduction in productivity.

I referred earlier to missed opportunities. These come about as a result of the policy of the past Government and as a result of events external to Australia. I refer to Budget figures which relate to our balance of payments on current account. In 1970-71 we had a deficit of $601m; in 1971-72 that amount was reduced to $140m; and in 1972-73 the deficit was replaced by a surplus of $955m. This situation came about partly through bad seasons in the Northern hemisphere raising the prices of our exports, partly through the energy and materials crisis which is occurring in the United States and elsewhere - these are events external to Australia - and partly because of the sound policy of the Liberal-Country Party government in the past. These factors have reversed the deficit and turned it into a surplus.

The receipts for 1972-73 have nothing to do with the policy of the Labor administration because the receipts flow from contracts which were entered into before the Labor

Government came to office. Those receipts therefore stand to the credit not of the Labor Government but of the previous Government. This situation formed an opportunity for the Labor Government which this Budget has missed. Because of this change we should have had better living conditions for all Australian people. This Budget should have been one which gave advantage to people throughout Australia. I ask: Who is better off because of this Budget? Who can say that because of this Budget his living conditions have improved? Perhaps a few sections of the community and the odd person could say this but, in general, the impact of this Budget has been unfavourable. It is a Budget of missed opportunities. I repeat that the previous Government's policy, together with chance events external to Australia, created conditions in which there was a tremendous opportunity which has not been taken by the present Gov-

I refer now to one specific item in the Budget which apparently has escaped attention. I refer to the amount of taxation revenue which has been put into capital works and capital advances. I take my figures from 2 sources - the national income and expenditure figures and the figures showing payments to the States, both of which were tabled when the Budget was presented. I think it would be fair to say that if one adds together the capital items as shown in these tables, grants to the States for specific capital purposes, advances to the States and the Post Office, and things of that character, one gets the amount of capital expenditure which in this Budget is charged against taxation. In this Budget the total of those amounts is $2,749m, which is $ 1,000m more than the expenditure contained in the last Budget. I think it is only fair to deduct from that figure the shown deficit. This results in a net figure of $2,062m of revenue taken from taxation and used for capital works. If the market had been handled properly - heaven knows there was enough inflow of capital to make proper handling possible - it would have been possible, for example, to have personal income tax or to remove entirely most the excise taxes. It would have been possible to do so without disturbing the major fabric of the Australian economy. The Treasurer has missed his opportunity and the people are paying too much in taxes because of that. He has mishandled the loan market. He could not raise money now if he wanted to because of his past policy, his past eminent. inefficiency and his own mishandling of the position. This is a' direct accusation of inefficiency on the part of the Treasurer in this regard. The figures I have were taken from the papers that he presented to the Parliament with the Budget.

I come now to a matter which obviously concerns me as a past Minister for Social Services and one which I hope to speak on at greater length when the Social Services Bills are before the House. I say just in brief that the pensioners have been short changed in this Budget. The rate of pension has been raised, I think, by some 7 per cent with a possibility of a further similar or nearly similar rise in the latter part of the year. But this is only the same rate of rise as the Treasurer's forecast of the increase in prices and it is probably a great deal less than the real increase in the prices that the pensioner will have to pay for his bread and butter. It is only just about the same as the rise in the average rate of male earnings. We were told at election time that the present Government was going to increase the pensions rapidly until they came to 25 per cent of average male weekly earnings. It does not look as though' they will ever catch up at this rate. The pensioners have been short changed on their rate. What about the pensioners getting supplementary assistance, the most deserving or certainly the most in need of all the classes of pensioners? They will not receive anything extra at all from this Budget. Their standard will fall, and they have not yet had to meet the impact of the rising prices which will occur through the Government's increases in indirect taxation in this Budget.

I come to the matter of the means test. Here I am afraid I have to make an accusation of bad faith against the Government. I read from the present Prime Minister's policy speech. It states:

The means test will be abolished within the life of the next Parliament.

There are no qualifications, just the one sentence. I turn now to the Treasurer's Budget Speech. He said this:

We have promised to abolish the means test on age pensions payable to residentially qualified persons 65 years of age and over within the life of the Parliament.

That is the small print which was not in the Prime Minister's policy speech. I do not cavil at the statement of the Treasurer. His phrasing is exactly the same as the phrasing I used when I was the Minister for Social Services. I think that what the Treasurer said is probably fair enough. But it is not what the Prime Minister said. It is not the pledge the Government was elected on. It was elected on a lie, and here it is in black and white in the Prime Minister's speech. The Prime Minister said nothing about the small print. The Prime Minister's speech is a lie and the Treasurer-


Mr James - I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Those words of the honourable member for Mackellar are offensive to me as they relate to the Prime Minister and I ask that they be withdrawn.


Mr WENTWORTH - Let me withdraw them. Just let me put on record-


Mr James - I ask that they be withdrawn.


Mr WENTWORTH - I have withdrawn them and I put on record what the Prime Minister said, and it is in print in his policy speech, and what the Treasurer said and it is in print in his Budget Speech. The two cannot be reconciled. Either one of them is a lie. I do not know which one it is but the 2 statements simply cannot be reconciled one with the other and that stands as a fact. There is a socialist framework behind this Budget. It is a framework of bureaucracy. Again I remind the House of the words of the Treasurer, spoken in this House only last Thursday. When talking about the taxation program of the Government which is in the Budget he said this:

If the brandy industry at some later point of time can show me that it has been battered to the ground as a result of this action, which would greatly surprise me, I will be prepared to hear representations.

Later he said:

Some of the Government's proposals will not begin to have impact until later this financial year. If people find that they have suffered detriment to the point where they are likely to be exterminated, I will be willing to listen to them.

The quote is exact. He said, '. . . to the point where they are likely to be exterminated'. This is the kind of criterion which the Government uses. This is its standard of conduct. When the impact of these proposals starts to bite later in the year it will listen if someone is likely to be exterminated. One has to be battered down to the ground before one will be heard. This is bureaucracy in action. This is socialism in action. There are many other things that I should like to say, but I just summarise by saying that this is a counter productivity Budget. The Government proposes to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs but it does not propose to ask the pensioners to dinner.







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