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Wednesday, 16 February 1977


Mr JAMES (Hunter) -The House was treated yesterday to a long winded attempt by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to convince Australians that record levels of unemployment and uncontrolled inflation are indicators of a healthy economy and sound economic management. The Treasurer's statement was a repetitive monologue that could have been written or, more correctly, put together by his staff pasting up old Treasury Press statements. It said nothing about how the Government would reduce unemployment. It said nothing about how inflation could be reduced by a government that applies health taxes, proposes increases in oil prices and fuels inflation by a hasty and unnecessary devaluation of the Australian currency. What a record- and the Treasurer has the gall to refer to substantial progress. To add insult to injury, he suggests- in fact demands- that Australians suffer a dramatic reduction in their disposable incomes and in their standard of living. He said:

The Government intends, in the period ahead, to press very strongly indeed for a maximum measure of wage restraint.

Those are his words and his Government's policy. The Australian public is to be forced to finance this Government's second attempt to reduce inflation. But not aU Australians are to be requested to join this ill-conceived crusade. A fortunate few wil reap the benefits of this policy and continue to award themselves generous pay increases. I refer to those friends of the Government who quietly pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Liberal Party and National Country Party coffers at every election. I refer to the directors of large public companies. These men constantly brow beat unions and use all their influence to reduce the real wages of their employees, while awarding themselves handsome pay rises. I refer particularly to the directors of Australian Fertilizers Ltd. I have in my hand a letter given to me by one of the shareholders of that company. Shortly I will ask that the letter, which is on Australian Fertilizers Ltd letterhead, and in respect of which I have consulted the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, be incorporated in Hansard. At the annual general meeting of the shareholders which was held at 3 o'clock today at North Sydney, the directors sought substantial increases in their fees. The directors of this company will no doubt have received by now an increase of 67 per cent in the total amount of directors' fees paid to the 8 members of the board at a time when most Australians are being asked to accept no increase in their wages, despite raging inflation. This sordid story does not end there. This same company, Australian Fertilizers Ltd, increased the price of bagged superphosphate that it supplies to farmers by $3.40 a tonne on 1 January this year.


Mr Baillieu -Who said that?


Mr JAMES - I have the correspondence in my hand. If the honourable member for La Trobe wishes to read the letter I will allow him to do so. If the Government is really committed to wage restraint by all Australians, let it speak out against the unwarranted and blatant abuse of shareholders' funds. But what do we hear? We hear deafening silence. The Government cannot afford to offend the people who keep it on the treasury benches; the men who bankroll its attacks upon the Constitution; the men whom it must repay. They are handsomely rewarded. The Government reintroduced the superphosphate bounty in 1976. This bounty- this gift to companies such as Australian Fertilizers Ltd- will cost the Australian taxpayer $62m in 1976. The same taxpayer now is being asked to accept no increase in wages while the fat cats of industry fiddle while Rome burns. If honourable members opposite fail to raise their voices against this obnoxious and savage increase in the directors' salaries I claim that they are totally unfit and devoid of moral worth and unworthy of representing the Australian people in this national Parliament. I ask that the letter from

Australian Fertilizers Ltd be incorporated in Hansard.







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