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Tuesday, 23 October 1973
Page: 2482


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - I move:

That the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the House because of its mismanagement of the nation and, in particular:

(a)   its failure to exercise proper economic management,

(b)   its disastrous handling of the mining industry,

(c)   its neglect of national security and defence,

(d)   its failure to exercise influence in the maintenance of industrial stability,

(c)   its disregard for the proper role of the States, and

(f)   its mismanagement of the national Parliament.

This socialist Government has given the Australian people 11 months of hard labour. Its achievement has been to prove itself the most incompetent government Australia has had for over 40 years. Its bungling in so many major areas has been reckless beyond reason. It has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it simply does not have the capacity to govern this country. It is chained by ideology, laced with mediocrity and sustained only by demagoguery. The public is fearful of just where this socialist Government is taking Australia. Business and industry are unable to plan for the future. Nationalisation remains a constant threat until it is taken out of the Labor Party's platform. The economy is in a shambles. Inflation has soared with no prospect of early relief. Industrial lawlessness is the rule. Australia's defence system is threatened to be reduced to a mere token gesture. Our relations with many countries have been torn by dissension and mistrust.

Our stable and prosperous democracy has degenerated into a divided and bitterly disillusioned nation. Yet the Government merely continues along its bumbling and arrogant way, caring nothing for the welfare of the people who elected it. It consistently fails to reply to the questions being asked of it by every group in the community. Just yesterday I asked the Treasurer (Mr Crean) a question concerning the Government's monetary policy. He refused to answer it, even though his name is Frank - poor old Frank. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for a statement on the Government's future actions about inflation. All he did was to repeat the same old list of past measures which have been such an abysmal failure.

This Government has been rightly referred to recently as uninitiated, inexperienced twits, by a leading member of the business community. The Government simply does not care about the astonishing damage it has done and will continue to do to Australia. It is squeezing the economy and burdening every Australian taxpayer. Collections from income tax on individuals will increase by more than $ 1,000m this financial year. With 6 million taxpayers in Australia this represents an increased income tax payment of over $160 a year for each taxpayer. Average earnings are estimated in the Budget - estimated by the Government - to increase by 13 per cent. It takes little mathematical ability to realise that the average wage earner at the end of 1973-74 will have suffered a huge price and tax increase and that he will be worse off than at the commencement of the financial year.

This irresponsible approach is typified by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) who is strangling the mineral and oil industries. His actions sum up so well what the Whitlam Government is slowly doing to Australia. Secretive, incompetent, deaf to any views but his own, he has 'plans' - in inverted commas - which are alarming, unworkable and downright dangerous for the country. He is the symbol of the socialist Government's maladministration. It is he who has the gall to describe journalists, fulfilling their responsibilities, as the apes of the" Press. The Australian economy is in tatters. Inflation is running at a staggering 14 per cent. Strikes by unions have been allowed to get completely out of hand. The people who are suffering most from these results of the Government's policies are those who can least afford it or protect themselves from it - the pensioners, the superannuitants, people living on life savings, students on scholarships and others on fixed incomes. The housewife recoils at the prices on every visit she makes to the supermarket. But she is powerless to do anything about the situation. Her husband demands more pay to compensate for rising prices, and the whole cycle is repeated.

There is virtual industrial anarchy. Sydney has been plunged into chaos by the power strike in support of a 35-hour week, in which the Minister for Minerals and Energy played such a discreditable role. The recent airport stoppage, transport stoppages, garbage strikes and building bans have been imposed on the city. Honourable members opposite know all about the garbage strike. Sydney and other major centres have been hit with strikes covering everything from postal services to the meat industry. A colossal 860,000 working days were lost in the 3 months to 30 June this year, compared with 536,700 in the same period last year. The figures for the September quarter will certainly be worse. Many strikes attract little media attention simply because nowadays a strike has to be dramatic to be noticed, because it has to compete with so many others. This intolerable situation exists under a socialist Government which claims a special relationship with the trade union movement; which claims to be the friend of the workers. With friends like that this country could not afford to handle enemies. All its task forces are civilian. Its military exercises rely on phantom companies and make believe battalions.

To compound the almost daily disasters of this socialist Government, its Ministers cannot even work in harmony with their departments or with each other. There is constant bickering, contradictory statements coming from different Ministers and obvious basic divisions within the ministerial ranks. The Prime Minister has been rebuffed and overruled by his Caucus on the referendum proposals. First it forced upon the Prime Minister a prices referendum that he did not want. His public relations team said: Well, it is like the words of that Irish song "Kathleen Mavourneen" - it may be for years and it may be for ever'. Within a week he had brought legislation for a prices referendum into this House. The Caucus refused to include incomes with the prices proposal. Then, after the Prime Minister had delivered his plea, the Caucus decided that it may as well throw in an incomes referendum for good luck. Now the unions, led by the Australian Labor Party President, have decided to oppose the incomes referendum.

We have had the situation of the Prime Minister announcing revaluations without consulting or even informing the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). He has announced increases in interest rates. That was a much more powerful decision. That involved not only the Prime Minister and the Treasurer but it has the powerful economic influence of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) in consultation. The Prime Minister has 'been rebuffed again by Caucus on interest rates. The Minister for Minerals and Energy does not even bother to announce his policies, let alone consult his colleagues. The takeover of the North West Shelf, with its enormous implications for the taxpayers, was announced at the end of a company report and not by the Government or the Minister.

It is totally irresponsible for a government to allow these elephantine exercises of an obsessed man like the Minister for Minerals and Energy - this sweet prince who has visions, but he does not tell his Cabinet colleagues about the visions. He has visions of a national pipeline grid, visions of a uranium enrichment plant, visions of this and visions of something else which have an ideological framework and no practical bases. One might ask: 'What is the cost?' He cannot tell us. Where are the feasibility studies which are the basis of his decisions? He has not had any. He cannot even answer a question straight in the Parliament. I asked him the cost of a national pipeline grid and we had some extraordinary answer, quite irrelevant, about the extension of the pipeline from Gidgealpa to Palm Valley. He appropriates the products - oil and gas - of the north west shelf; no price is stated. Then he announces that he will control all movements downstream. There is no pipeline downstream. Not even feasibility studies have been carried out and there is certainly no design for ships to transfer the product. All Ministers are having trouble. The Prime Minister shuffled his pack of cards a little to paper over the difficulties in his Ministry. But nobody was impressed with that, least of all the Ministers who were concerned, and those winds are still blowing around that lean-to of the Ministry. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), the man who virtually guaranteed industrial peace and stability under a Labor Government, appointed the former member for Sturt - stormy Normie - to be his troubleshooter. He would be at the spot before a strike solidified and then he would advise the Minister how to solve it. We have not heard of stormy Normie and the Minister has not solved a single industrial dispute. The record speaks for itself and the honourable gentleman tries to laugh it off. On 3 October-







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