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Monday, 17 September 1973
Page: 1047

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - Firstly, I want briefly to reply to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on one point which might seem irrelevant. He made the comment that there was only one member of the Australian Country Party in the chamber. There were four present. I will not name them but on behalf of our Whip I want to put the record straight.

On 2 December the Whitlam Government inherited an economy that was generally sound. The McMahon Government had steadied the rate of inflation from 2.3 per cent in the December quarter of 1971 to 1.2 per cent in the December quarter of 1972. The unemployment problem - largely due to a rural recession caused by low prices for many products, especially wool, in the overseas market place, a run of adverse seasons, a cost-price squeeze and other factors - was diminishing rapidly. The numbers of unemployed were beginning to fall significantly and more' job vacancies were being registered. This, in spite of the very dishonest prediction that was made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). I well remember his saying that by February of this year there would be 200,000 people unemployed. He had no justification for making such a prediction. Nevertheless, he made it do doubt from other motives.

This Government deserves the strongest condemnation from the Australian people for its deplorable handling of the Australian economy. A whole range of measures, including 2 unilateral revaluations of the Australian dollar and a stay-put revaluation against the United States dollar have damaged the terms of trade of exporters, including farmers, by at least 25 per cent against competitors in the United States and Canada. When the world demand-supply situation comes closer together; when there is no longer a shortage of foodstuffs and fibres on the world market, the exporters, particularly in the rural sector and in the mining sector, will feel the great pinch of this decision.

Mr Whittorn - They already are.

Mr HUNT - Yes indeed they are, particularly in the mining industries.The recent further revaluation of the Australian dollar now means that we have revalued against the yen by 10 per cent - against the Japanese yen, one of the strongest currencies in the world. The full impact of the arbitrary 25 per cent across the board cut in tariffs, slugging principally the industries in decentralised locations and the industries that are highly labour intensive, has not yet been felt But undoubtedly as time goes by that decision which was taken without reference to the Treasury, without reference to Caucus, will have a very serious effect upon people and their jobs.

It is all very well to say that we can shift people from one city to another or from one job to another, but do people want to be shifted about simply because a government decides to take an arbitrary decision such as this? No wonder there was a revolt in Caucus. No wonder the Caucus is starting to overthrow some of the decisions that have been taken by the 3 power men of Cabinet. Then we had the most inflationary Budget on record, followed by the biggest credit squeeze since the 1890s. Now we have interest rates reaching the highest level on record. In spite of the willingness of the Premiers to cooperate with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in combating inflation, the Prime Minister is ready to go to the people by referendum in order to snatch complete control over prices and aim central to the total socialist objective of this Government.

The Government, through its own actions - its increased public expenditure, its increase in the Public Service, its extravagant measures and its complete economic irresponsibility - has led the Australian economy into a raging inflation rate of possibly 20 per cent per annum. It would not surprise me, and I do not think it would surprise the Treasurer, if the consumer price index or cost of living index figures for the quarter to the end of September show an increase in excess of 5 per cent. The Government has fed the fires of inflation. Has it fed the fires of inflation in a calculated attempt to create chaos and then to seize absolute power over the economy and the lives of the "people so that it can shift them from A to B and take control of their day to day activities, or is it just an inept, crazy government without any sense of economic responsibility? I leave that question to be answered by honourable members opposite and the Australian people generally.

Since the Government was elected to office all its economic decisions have been directed to shifting men, women and resources from private industry and employment to the official government sector. This has not yet occurred, but the stage is being set for the takeover of the private sector. The erosion of the economic base of many industries, the collapse on the stock exchange, the uncertainties in the business sector and the brutal attack on the farmers in the Budget are all clear evidence of the Government's intention to strangle the private sector. Now the interest rate will rise, and this will hasten its demise. We will have the fiercest credit squeeze ever, with the highest interest rate in 100 years. This action will hit hardest the smaller businessmen, the comer storekeepers, the farmers and the little people in our community. It -will hurt them more than it will hurt the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. It will hurt them more than it will hurt the big industries which can absorb it. It is the little people who will be hurt most by this decision. This is the saddest part of this Government's performance. The people it purports to represent are those who will suffer the most,

Having created the worst inflationary spiral in years, the Government has now been forced to use monetary controls belatedly and with harsh application. The interest rate on loans and overdrafts is to rise by 1.75 per cent to 9.5 per cent per annum. The concessional differential to rural borrowers is to be abandoned so that rural producers, with a record debt load of more than $2,000m, will now be called upon to pay another price for the Labor Government's economic failure. This is in spite of the promise made by the Australian Labor Party before the last election. I refer to this magnificent little book 'It's Time'. We all got this in our letter boxes and we all remember it. It says.

There is ample proof to show that high interest rates are imposing severe burdens on export rural industries, just as they are on other sections of the community such as young house owners.

Mr Kelly - Who said that?

Mr HUNT - The Labor Party in 'It's Time'. It's time for the Labor Party and this Government to live up to the promise and to what it said to the people before 2 December because, quite frankly, the people in my area feel that they were led up the garden path. It's 'time for the Government to face up to its responsibilities. We saw introduced into this House a Budget that absolutely took from the country people more than $140m. I have not time to enumerate all the ways and means that were used to try to rape the pockets of the people in the country areas of Australia. Now we have the worst credit squeeze in memory. It is discriminating against the people in rural areas. This has happened when conditions in the country areas were beginning to improve after a disastrous rural recession due to low world markets and adverse seasons. When world markets improved the rural sector saw some hope of recovery. That was until the taking of these irresponsible measures that have been taken, with the credit squeeze on top of them. We undoubtedly will see the Government introduce a supplementary Budget.

Sound economic management does require fiscal responsibility and a wide range of responsible actions. Unfortunately, all the actions to date have been directed at the private sector and the wealth producing industries. Growth in the economy depends largely on the extent of the economy's secular growth. This in turn depends upon the maintenance of substantial private investment. If private investment is restricted economic growth will be lower. This in turn will reduce the resources available to the Government to carry out its policy objectives. One of the great paradoxes of governments of the Left in capitalist societies is that more than any other type of government they need taxation funds from the private sector to implement their ambitious policies-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable gentleman's time has expired.

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