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Wednesday, 12 September 1973
Page: 879


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury (RYAN, QUEENSLAND)

Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh should resume his seat.


Mr COHEN - Let us seriously have a look as some of the comments in some of the Australian metropolitan newspapers. The 'Canberra Times' said:

A WORKING BUDGET

Australians, somewhat breathless after 9 months of Labor rule, were looking forward with some trepidation to the first Budget presented by an ALP Treasurer in 24 years. The package unveiled last night, however, was something of an anti-climax in that it is neither catastrophic in its impositions nor over-generous in its largesse.

I am not suggesting for one moment that I would agree with that, but that was said in the Canberra Times'. The 'Sydney Morning Herald' said:

LABOR'S FIRST BUDGET

Faced with a difficult set of budgetary problems, the Government has managed to give effect to its reformist social ambitions while exercising a reasonable degree of economic responsibility.

The 'Australian Financial Review' stated:

A MODERATE BEGINNING

Within the context of Labor's stated philosophy and aspirations - and contrary to the often irrational fears of business doomsayers - Mr Crean's first Budget is fair, moderately innovative and responsible.

Of course, as the Treasurer repeatedly emphasised last night, it is merely the first instalment of the Whitlam Government's plan to change the economic and social face of Australia.

It hardly sounds as though the revolution is around the corner in the way that our friends on the other side of the chamber have carried on. Anyone who claims to even a modicum of impartiality or objectivity would, I believe, venture to suggest that the Press of Australia had suddenly been converted to the Labor cause or had had a bad attack of socialism. But those were the comments of the Australian Press on our Budget. Only political parties such as the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party could reach such previously unmatched heights in absurdity and in their capacity for self-delusion if they continue to view this Budget and to think that the people of Australia view it in such a light.

Should anyone care to analyse the arguments put forward by Opposition speakers in this Budget debate I am sure they would be surprised to find how consistently inconsistent they have been. On the one hand the Government is attacked for too much public spending and on the other for spending too little. On the one hand we are attacked for a very nominal increase in taxes and on the other for having budgeted for a deficit which the Opposition claims will stimulate inflation. Of course the obvious alternative is to budget for a surplus by increasing taxation. The Opposition could have indicated where we could have restricted our expenditure but it has clearly not been prepared to do this.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) claims that it is not his responsibility to prepare an alternative Budget or to indicate what sort of approach he would take. I should like to direct him to previous speeches by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he was the Leader of the Opposition, both in Budget debates and in campaign speeches, where he indicated clearly what steps the Australian Labor Party would take. Incidentally, I should like to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the speed with which he read his reply to the Budget. He must have set a new fast talking record even if it was not of every high quality. Let' us imagine what the 1973 Budget by the Liberal Party-Country Party might have been if that coalition had been in government.

The old warlords - my friend from North Sydney would come into that category - who got us involved in the monstrosity that was Vietnam, still seem convinced that we are about to be attacked by that wonderful enemy they always managed to produce near an election. Even though we are now out of Vietnam, even though the Republican President of the United States has forged a new detente with China and with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and even though there is not a country within 1,000 miles of Australia that appears to be remotely aggressive or expansionist - unless of course one thinks that New Zealand, since it went socialist, is a threat to Australia - clearly the Liberals would have spent some hundreds of millions of dollars more on defence.

They leave no doubt that they would have made substantial grants to the A category schools to which they show such a strong affinity. This would entail, 1 understand, approximately S36m, unless the amount given to other schools were reduced. In view of the Opposition's past record this is probably what would have happened. It does not have the courage to say that but this is clear from its past record. The poor Catholic schools and the State school system would not have received anything near what they have received under this Government.


Mr MacKellar - What nonsense.


Mr COHEN - The previous Government never gave anything of any substance to them before so why should the Opposition suddenly get generous if it had a chance to bring this Budget down? We have been informed by Opposition spokesmen that the plan to restructure Australia's urban life by building new cities and towns and by properly planning the strategic growth centres near the major cities is only a drop in the ocean. It is either deliberate myopia or complete stupidity on their part that they canont see that such an all-embracing initiative as an attack upon the over-crowding problems of the metropolitan areas of Australia involving urban transport, sewerage and the setting up of a land commission. The building and planning of new growth centres requires a considerable amount of detailed planning, including the setting up of appropriate development authorities, working out broad strategies and acquiring large areas of land, not to mention the enormous detailed planning to provide the infrastructure such as roads, water, sewerage, telephone services, schools, etc, that are absolutely essential in such large-scale development required for new cities with planned populations of from 250,000 to 500,000. It ought to be obvious to even the densest among the members of the Opposition that in the early stages primary planning is required and that the real expenditure will occur in later years as the plans start to be implemented.

For a Party that for 23 years completely ignored the problems of the over-populated cities and talked glibly about decentralisation while the people left the rural areas in droves to come to the cities, it is the ultimate in absurdity to criticise a Labor Government which has put down its first instalment of SI 36m to improve the quality of life for a most neglected segment of the community - the urban Australian. The sum or S36m has been provided for growth centres, including Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst-Orange. LiverpoolMenaiCampbelltown, Gosford-Wyong, Townsville. Geelong, Monarto and

In the few moments left to me 1 want to look at the field of social welfare. I have already mentioned the question of Budget increases. Like everybody else one would like to have seen even larger increases. I say that as one who represents the electorate with the largest number of pensioners. On the latest figures there are 21,000 people in my electorate in receipt of a pension; the nearest to this is the electorate of Mr Speaker with 14,000.

This Budget provides assistance in a number of other ways. If honourable members take the time and trouble to listen to the second reading speeches to see what the Bills being introduced contain, as I have done, they will be able to indicate these new provisions to all those groups who are interested in seeing a real quality of life emerge in our comunity. I am talking now about sporting and related groups, people concerned about recreation and the use of our leisure time, people who are interested in the problems of the aged and in senior citizens' centres, creativity centres and arts centres. All these are mentioned in this Budget. I advise all honourable members on both sides of the House, particularly those on my side, to read the legislation very carefully because it is in their interests to do so. Sometimes honourable members have groups come to them. They might be very fortunate and the groups may have the plans drawn up. All that the groups will want the member to do is present those plans to the appropriate department. But many times there are groups without the capacity to initiate such moves and it is then up to the member in association with councillors and State members to initiate those proceedings. I have about 5 senior citizens' centres and 2 recreation centre projects going at the moment.

It will be up to members of Parliament to explain to local groups the details of this legislation which provides $3. 2m for the development of community recreation complexes. There has been a doubling of the amount provided for senior citizens' and social welfare centres. This is a most progressive move. Funds are available under the social welfare assistance plan and it is possible to get a grant of $20,000 for a regional director and planning staff to draw together the myriad social welfare and health activities which are now run by so many different government agencies without any over all planning. The provisions are there and it is up to the community, with the initiative being taken by Federal members and their colleagues, to see that each community gets the advantages provided in this Budget. 1 am coming to the end of my time and I am sorry that I have not had the opportunity to enlarge upon a lot of the matters I have mentioned. I have a few regrets about the Budget. I do not think the Budget has yet been introduced that does not leave room for regrets. However the action I regret most is the 5 per cent impost on petrol. From a personal point of view and on behalf of my electorate I regret not the actual phasing out of sales tax on nonalcoholic carbonated beverages but the way it was done. I think a plan should have been worked out before the sales tax exemption was removed. However, by and large I believe that this Budget will be seen to be one of the very great Budgets in Australia's history as the impact and implications of it are felt and as people start to read the fine print in it and see that it contains things for the whole of the people of Australia.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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