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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1518

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - It seems that whenever the Opposition is in trouble it brings the old word-smith into the House. The only thing that I would like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to do some day is to change his cassette. We are becoming a little tired of listening to the same old stuff coming from him every time he is put into the breach. The whole fact of the matter under debate at the moment is that we are seeking an extension of the Commonwealth's power. That is the issue. The issue concerns not prices and incomes but whether this Parliament should have power to exercise with respect to incomes.

Some mention has been made of constitutional inadequacies. Australia is a federation similar to West Germany, the United States of America and other countries where the governments of those countries have complete power over the national economy. The Government of a country like Australia should have had these powers many years ago. Instead of that, we have been fooled around by the tomfoolery of the Opposition which is caught in a political cleft stick. Honourable members opposite talk about a prices-incomes policy but, when it comes to the jump, they baulk at it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) asked only last week: 'Has there ever been such a vacuum in responsibility?' He said that the Government was seeking power over prices when really it knew that the problem would be resolved only by combined action on prices and incomes. Here is the great opportunity for the Opposition to support action in this direction; but it is prepared to squib it.

It is no news to the Opposition that this matter was to arise. The Opposition knew about it yesterday. I remind the Opposition that yesterday the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill passed its second reading stage in the Senate and at the moment is in its Committee stage in the other place. I would say that good sense on the part of any government would be to try to have prices and incomes referenda put to the people at the one time. If this legislation now proposed is to be deferred, the result would be that the referendum on each matter would need to be held on 2 separate occasions before Christmas. What we seek to do is to synchronise the referenda on the 2 matters. The Senate must go through certain constitutional requirements with respect to legislation proposing referenda. With those factors in view, we felt the urgency to bring this legislation before the House.

This legislation is designed to give the people a choice. What the Liberals and the Australian Country Party are proposing to do is to deny the people the right to a choice. We are not offering the people legislation. We are offering them legislation for a choice. Yet, we have heard all of the claims about the Parramatta by-election result and what the Liberals would do about inflation and about rising prices. Here is their opportunity. What have they done? The only thing that the Liberals have done about inflation is to give Australia a 13 per cent level of inflation. 1 take the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to task on that very point. He mentioned that the level of inflation that Australia is currently experiencing is the responsibility of our Government which took office on 2 December last. He does not mention the scare Budget of last year when the pool of unemployed in Australia stood at 120,000 persons. The former Government needed to eradicate that unemployment. It spent money as if it was going out of business. That money was allocated and appropriated in August of last year, was spent in January and February of this year and generated its way through the economy in about March and April with the result of a level of 13 per cent-

Mr Turner - I rise to take a point of order. What we are debating is the question of urgency to suspend Standing Orders and not the merits or otherwise of the referendum proposal put before the House. Now, I am anxious that there should be a proper debate on the merit of the referendum proposed to be put before the people. If we fritter away our time now by talking about the urgency or otherwise of this motion to suspend Standing Orders so that a few people manage to get in some remarks that they ought not to get in on the merits of the case, we shall be wasting the time in this debate and denying ourselves additional time for the debate which is to come.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The point of order is made. I ask the honourable member for Blaxland to confine his remarks to the reasons why the Standing Orders should be suspended.

Mr KEATING - I am prepared to do that. I was just answering some of the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The fact of the matter is that we see an opportunity io bring to the Austraiian people a right to make the choice whether this Parliament should be given power over prices and incomes and to extend our constitutional power to govern the national economy. Who can argue that in a country like Australia with its enormous development the Australian Parliament should not have adequate constitutional power over the national economy? That means power over incomes, over prices and over other economic factors. I believe the Standing Orders ought to be suspended and the Opposition's arguments just cast aside.

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