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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3819

Dr FORBES (Barker) - I enter this debate briefly to add my condemnation to that so well expressed by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and many other honourable members on this side of the House in relation to this legislation. I completely support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. I do this principally because virtually every measure which is contained in this Bill strikes at the very heart of productivity in Australia in the industries that are involved. If the Government had deliberately said: 'We are going to pursue a policy in this country of reducing to a minimum the rate of productivity increase of the economy and we will therefore go through legislation brought in by the previous Government and select those measures which will most achieve that particular objective, that is to strike at productivity' the Government could not have done better because this is precisely what it has done in discontinuing the investment allowance to secondary industry and to primary industry and the accelerated depreciation allowance for primary industry.

How does this Government believe that the primary industries of this country have survived the frightful vicissitudes they have been through in the last 3 or 4 years? How does the Government believe that the primary industries of this country have kept their heads above water without wholesale liquidation in a situation in which costs have been constantly rising and, except for the last .12 or 18 months, prices have been low on world markets? How does the Government believe that has been achieved? It has been achieved in one way only. It has been achieved because a prudent and sensible government introduced measures which enabled the primary industries of this country to increase their productivity, to cut costs and to offset the disadvantage of the cost price squeeze. Many of the primary industries were not able to keep completely ahead even then. But there were enormous additions to the infrastructure of the primary industries in Australia in the way of buildings, machinery, plant, fencing and everything else that was produced on the farms of Australia as a result of the incentives on inputs provided by the previous Government. This is what has enabled primary industries to survive. This is what has enabled them to withstand droughts which have occurred periodically throughout Australia and will always occur throughout Australia.

I remember well the expression used by Sir John McEwen when he introduced the drought bonds scheme. He said, in effect: 'We are going to provide certain sections of farmers - the people in the pastoral zone - with a stack of money to equal the stack of grain, fodder or feed which we have provided by way of our incentives in the higher rainfall areas in the south of Australia'. It is these incentives which have enabled the farmers to survive these droughts and to survive the vicissitudes which will always be a problem for the man on the land. It is self-defeating and short-sighted of this Government to take away incentives which produce that situation because inevitably next time a drought occurs the farmers will not have provided the reserves of fodder, dams and so on which they provided when these incentives existed. The Government will find itself up for millions of dollars in drought relief which otherwise would not have been necessary. 1 condemn the Government for that.

I principally want to use the few minutes remaining to me to add to the remarks of many members on this side of the House who have criticised the Government for its breach o: faith to the wine industry. This goes far beyond the damage that has been done to a particular industry. As Mr Dunstan put it, it goes to the very heart of the honour of the Government itself. Have we reached a situation in this country where governments regard it as the normal pattern of conduct to dishonour election promises specifically given? That is the issue which this matter brings up, quite apart from the effect which it will have on the wine industry without a shadow of a doubt; but other honourable members have traversed that ground. In particular it was covered magnificently the other night by my friend, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), who knows the wine industry better than any other member in this House. But when I talk about honour, when I talk about Government promises, I am not speaking as a party political antagonist of the Government. The Opposition is not relying on that particular assertion.

I asked the Prime Minister a question in the House today about statements made by Mr Dunstan last Friday. He avoided giving an answer to that question by referring to answers to questions which were given in the Senate a couple of months ago. This was meant to imply that in some way the honourable member for Angas and I were out of date, that the senators have been ahead of us. This was his way of sliding and getting round the question and not directly answering it. But there was a new factor in the situation; the damage done to the wine industry had not gone away, so the question of our bringing it up now in relation to this legislation is still valid from that point of view. But there was another factor which the Prime Minister chose to avoid, a new one, one that did not exist when the senators he referred to raised the matter in questions on notice in the Senate. The new factor was that it was only last Friday that Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, chose to speak out in the manner he did. I want to place on the record what Mr Dunstan said because, as I say, this is not a party political attack by us; it is an attack by the Premier of South Australia on his own Prime Minister. Everything I have to say is reported in the Adelaide 'Advertiser' in inverted commas. The report states:

At the request of the Prime Minister and on behalf of the Labor Party I gave an assurance at the last Federal election that the SOc a gallon excise duty on wine would be repealed and not replaced with another impost', he said.

It has been replaced with 2 imposts which are worse than the excise itself.'

He then goes on to deal with what they are. The report then continues:

When the Prime Minister's rejection of them became public yesterday representatives of the industry had gone to see him with copies of the letter in hand.

That is the letter that has been referred to that he wrote to many people in the industry to obtain funds during the election. The report goes on:

I have been placed in a position no politician should be placed in by his colleagues', Mr Dunstan said. I resent that position.

A political promise made by a party going into office should be kept.'

I agree with him. A political promise made by a political party going into office should be kept. The report goes on:

It was Mr Whitlam who authorised the statement I made to the wine industry.

I would have thought that in any regard for me personally, apart from anyone else, he would have honoured the promise I made on his behalf and at his behest.

It is not a thing I- that is Mr Dunstan, as a leader and an honourable man - would have done to anyone else in any circumstances.'

I have been placed in a position of acute embarrassment and dishonour,' he said.

I don't believe a politician should ever go to the public and cynically make a promise he knows cannot be kept.'

It is this Government, the Whitlam Government, that Mr Dunstan is saying those things about. He said:

I don't believe a politician should ever go to the public and cynically make a promise he knows cannot be kept.

The report goes on:

When he had reminded the Prime Minister of his promise to S.A. at the election, Mr Whitlam had replied: 'Frank Crean has had a difficult time'.

Mr Dunstansaid Mr Whitlam had not told him all the details of this weeks announcement.

I will not take this any further. I have agreed to sit down after 12 minutes. I will just say again that I cannot imagine a worse charge levelled at any government than the charge that Mr Dunstan makes in such trenchant and specific terms in the statement that he made on Friday.

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