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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 44

Mr CONNOLLY (Bradfield) -As a member of this House I am delighted to have the opportunity to be associated with the passage of the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty's Speech. While the economy remains a major matter of national importance, it is by no means the only subject which should involve this Parliament. We have reached an emotional watershed in Australia's history. I am concerned that there appears to be a growing national malaise. Perhaps our very affluence has robbed our people of ambition and in its place we hear with monotonous regularity the litany of what is the Government going to do about every problem whether it be large or small? It is a fundamental contradiction for people to speak of a society based on free enterprise and individual initiative while at every opportunity seeking the involvement of the Government and then complaining that taxes are too high and that the creeping hand of government interference pervades all. The alternative is for people to be prepared to do more for themselves. There is an obvious equationless or more efficient services equal less taxes. The people must make this decision for themselves.

I believe national and personal goals tend to lack perspective, for too long governments of all colours have tried to encourage people to believe that the objective of their existence is to obtain greater quantities of physical possessions. In fact, our affluence has made today's luxuries tomorrow's standard goods. But the tragedy of all this is the disappointment of achieving goals based entirely on possessions. Workers and management alike have been encouraged to think that provided their profit is greater this year than last, and provided the income per worker is higher than previously, that with the effluxion of time all must be well. But the experience of 3 years of Labor above all else demonstrated the fallacy of that case. With the expenditure of over $3,000m on education alone, with the acceptance of the right of all people to have a high standard of education- one must question education for itself or education for specific jobs- we have still failed to find many so called educated people work commensurate with their conception of their abilities. Therefore we have allowed frustration to become a dangerous element in society.

Despite its desire to attain high educational standards society has failed to decide who is going to be around to do the menial jobs. We cannot all go to universities, nor should we. We cannot all achieve a status in society. But we still want our community services and there is a certain level at which a machine cannot do this type of work. It has become quite clear that we need a manpower planning policy which can be applied in Australia. That is one of the objectives of the present Government through its inquiry into education, one of the objectives of which is to examine whether people are going to be available and trained for the jobs which hopefully will be present in the economy in future. The real problem is that we are running the risk of allowing people to be super educated yet at the same time unemployed. President Lincoln once said:

If we first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.

We know that geography and history have placed Australia in a clearly defined relationship with the rest of the world. We also know that we have clear comparative cost advantages, especially in primary and mineral production. Because of our excessive fear born in our isolation from the other Western countries of Europe and North America and from the impact of 2 world wars we have allowed ourselves to believe, almost as a matter of holy writ, that somehow or other we must become a virtually totally self-sufficient people. This tendency is all too simplistic to be allowed to continue. We expect the world to buy from us but apparently we do not have to buy from the world, and we believe that behind our high tariff barriers we can continue with the fallacy that it we give enough protection to enough industries jobs can be found for all regardless of the cost and regardless of the limited size of the Australian market and of the high cost structure which makes it difficult in many areas of production to sell abroad.

It is perhaps a peculiarity of our Westminster system that governments and oppositions rarely agree about major national policy objectives, yet there has been a consensus for many years, among the Australian people at least, that they expect from their governments near full employment. To achieve this it is quite obvious that jobs must be generated, and employees given a sense of confidence in the future, and here of course we have a division of philosophy. Successive Liberal-National Country Party governments have believed, and rightly so, that the private sector which generates most of the goods and services used by the Australian people must be the source of major employment opportunities. The Opposition, on the other hand, being more tied to a dogmatic socialist approach, has tried to have a foot in both camps. It wishes to build up a strong government sector as it attempted to do between 1972 and 1975. By its pace-setting policies it was largely responsible for pricing many Australian workers out of their jobs. Yet the absurdity of this whole exercise rests on the fact that governments alone cannot create jobs which are uneconomic and expect the Australian taxpayer to pay the difference indefinitely.

I believe there is evidence to sustain my belief that at this time in our nation's history there is a great opportunity for the major political parties, ibr management and for unions in particular to reach a consensus that the future welfare of our citizens will depend to a large extent on giving them the opportunity to work and thereby to live productive and useful lives. Agreed guidelines must be achieved to make this possible. I am not one of those who take the view that everybody in a pluralistic society has to work, but I certainly believe that those who do not wish to work have no right to expect their fellow Australians to support them in their life style indefinitely. Much has been said here tonight about the need to make people work in return for unemployment benefits. In this regard may I suggest that consideration be given to establishing in Australia an unemployment insurance scheme on the German model which requires the worker as well as management and the state to make a contribution to the fund. In return the voluntarily unemployed are expected to take whatever jobs are offered to them or risk losing their benefits. The Germans also have a form of national service in a civilian capacity for those who cannot find work within the normal structure of the economy.

The Government might do well to consider the re-establishment of a somewhat improved Regional Employment Development scheme under which it could offer to local government bodies the equivalent of the unemployment benefit in return for jobs being given to the unemployed. From the soundings I have made with local government I believe that there is some prospect that some thousands of young people in particular could be employed, if only on a part time basis, in activities of general use to the community. Perhaps consideration could also be given to trading off the 40 per cent depreciation allowances against a cut by the States in their pay-roll tax thus picking up the marginally unemployed. The Government is to be applauded for the scheme which it has introduced to overcome this most pressing problem, but regrettably we are facing the probability that unless we are prepared to accept fairly radical changes in the industrial profile of Australia, full employment could well be a dream of the past. As has been clearly pointed out by previous speakers, the unskilled workers in particular were priced out of employment through the policies of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the previous Labor Government. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) realised this when he said in January 1975:

As long as wage demands continue to cut profits, then there is going to be unemployment in Australia. Every excessive increase in income for one man takes the job of another man.

Those words have proved to be so true. The average employer is well aware of the fact that the unskilled unit of labour is more expensive than investing in plant and machinery, which does not go on strike, which does not require holidays nor 17½ per cent loadings. Who can blame him? The clear lesson of the Industrial Revolution has been that where men are naive enough to believe that they can pit themselves against machines they have always lost.

I have no doubt that we shall see a continuing trend towards greater technological innovation in Australia in the decades ahead. Australian industry associated with a greater reduction in employment opportunities, especially for the unskilled, showed quite clearly in the census of 1954 where 38.9 per cent of all labour employed was in the manufacturing industry. In the last census of 1975 this had fallen to a mere 32.6 per cent. It is significant that the rural sector's requirements for labour fell from 15.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent over the same period, but unlike secondary industry there was a far greater increase in productivity. On the other hand, employment in the tertiary sector increased substantially. In 1954 it was 45.9 per cent and in 1975 it had grown to 59.4 per cent, an increase of over 14 per cent in that period. Quite obviously what we are going to require is a more technologically trained population- people who can compete in a highly computerised world and take their place in the many and varied service industries which will continue to grow as the demands of a more complex society expand.

The problems that I have outlined must also be seen as challenges to our nation's future. If the estimates in the Borrie report prove to be correct, Australia has not only a seriously declining birth rate approaching zero population growth but with it a progressively older population. This must require more capital intensive industries in the future, and the only prospect of changing the trend would appear to be the reintroduction of a much more positive immigration policy combined with family development policies to encourage more, young people to have larger families. Even this will not change the fact that with an ageing population we will require new policies and new opportunities to enable that section of our people to live a meaningful life. While the current trend is towards early retirement, it may well be necessary to reverse this trend in the future.

Our technological revolution which has taken man to the moon and into space has brought with .it fundamental changes in our lifestyle. Regrettably, in this country at least, there does not appear to have been any substantial development of our vision, or a consensus among our national leaders. I refer to not only political leaders but to commercial leaders and leaders from virtually every other section of our community. We must seek to develop our national resources for the benefit of Australians and ultimately for the world. This does not mean that we should simply sell raw materials for others to manufacture and sell back to us at higher prices. Surely in the areas of processing of minerals and agricultural products there is potential for both capital investment and job opportunities. I am firmly of the view that in the past we have failed to use our comparative cost advantages to the maximum extent possible. Within this context every effort must be made to encourage management to be more imaginative. As I said earlier, free enterprise should not mean protection from the Government at every turn any more than freedom means licence. Similarly, management today, together with labour, have a responsibility to encourage job interest and to build up self respect and dignity in the work place.

Employees at all levels, not just the executive, should be encouraged to identify themselves with the company that employs them. Surely Fletcher Jones is an outstanding example of what can be done in this regard.

Despite the enormous achievements of our nation in the last 25 years and despite our extremely high standard of living compared with many countries, the Henderson report identified areas of major concern and deficiencies in the social welfare structure, This was despite the universal philosophy of spending money on welfare. In 1976-77 all levels of government spending reached $2,339 for every man woman and child in this country, out of which social welfare alone accounted for over 30 per cent. This should have taught us the same lesson as we found in the field of education, which I noted earlier, that often massive financial expenditure does not equate with efficiency of service or with equality of opportunity. Today there are still some one million people in this land who are living below the poverty line. The introduction by the Government of family allowances and the new experimental housing allowance voucher program for housing are major initiatives to give money to those people in need with a minimum of bureaucratic interference in the hope that by helping those in need directly we are giving them dignity, self respect and the opportunity to decide for themselves how this assistance should be spent.

Among the many benefits which we have as Australian citizens is the fact that this whole continent belongs to one nation alone. In that respect we are unique but time is not on our side. Unless all Australians are prepared to start thinking of themselves as pieces in the mosaic of the nation, we run the very real risk of wasting our precious human assets in futile internal strife in a world in which the gaps between rich and poor are growing day by day and in which a nation's right to exist will not depend on the rule of law so much as on the might of its right arm.

Much has been said in the past about Australia 's low productivity and that Australians are lazy and will not work. This is a judgment which I for one do not accept. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the average Australian worker today is supposed to work 40 hours a week. How many could truthfully say that they do that while being perfectly happy to take their 4 weeks annual leave, plus 17½ per cent holiday bonus, plus one week long service leave per year and probably 2 weeks sick leave per year. In addition there are some 24 public holidays per annum. Thus the average employer has to pay for some 12 weeks during the year when, in fact, there is zero productivity. As a nation we have an obvious choice. We can expect a higher standard of living with low productivity, higher deficits and higher inflation and the ultimate collapse of our nation, or we can equate our sense of achievement with higher living standards and higher productivity. At this time, lower wage demands are essential more in keeping with the capacity of the economy to absorb them.

I now turn to the question of defence and foreign policy. The Government must be congratulated on its publication of the White Paper on a defence policy for Australia. Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that there is an appropriate match between policy and the availability of forces to put it into effect. At the present time, because of financial restraints, there are some difficulties in this area. For example, there is a real danger of the replacement syndrome becoming too evident in our repurchasing policies. The mere need to maintain or upgrade the state of the art should not be taken as the raison d'etre for buying equipment simply because our major allies also have it. The size and physical characteristics of our continent require a unique defence capacity which cannot be achieved simply by grafting onto accepted doctrines ad hoc concepts which may or may not meet our requirements. It must not be forgotten that in our purchase program, due to the Labor Government's deliberate decision to cancel arrangements made by the McMahon Government in 1972, we are now some 4 years behind in the purchase and resupply of desperately needed equipment for our armed forces. Although the Government has announced that $ 12,000m will be spent towards this objective, the continuing unsatisfactory level of inflation both here and abroad could well mean that additional funds will be required if we are to meet even our most basic requirements for new equipment. Vital decisions for all 3 Services have yet to be made, and foremost among these of course is the question of a fighter replacement for the air force.

There is nothing more certain than that in the ultimate analysis the Australian people alone will be responsible for the safety and security of our land. The perspective in which Australia's defence needs to be examined cannot ignore the relationship between the great powers or the likely impact of changing circumstances in South East Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean areas in particular. As Australians we must continue to be vitally concerned about the welfare of our neighbours. With the virtual removal of the United States defence umbrella from South East Asia, the continuing incursions being made into Thailand from both Laos and Cambodia, the reemergence of a clandestine communist movement in Malaysia and the potential problems which could emerge in Indonesia, it is abundantly clear that Australia cannot cut itself off from the region in which we must form a part. The Government's aid programs are but one manifestation of our continuing interest in the welfare of these peoples. But the trend announced by President Carter in his decision that in future United States aid will be predicated by the requirement that recipients maintain acceptable standards of human rights could well prove to be an initiative of the greatest significance which Australia will have to watch with considerable interest. It is far too simplistic to divide the world into communist and non-communist powers and to take the view that was taken during the Dulles era that the Free World included such outstanding despots as Papa Doc of Haiti and the military dictatorships of Latin America. Today, of course, we have similarities with General Amin in Uganda. While countries like ours espouse the view that states should not interfere in the domestic affairs of others, there is obviously a point where, if the crocodiles are allowed to run amok, it will not be long before their appetites seek for prey on the other side of the river. Surely the world learnt this lesson from the rise of Adolf Hitler. Undoubtedly there will be others. We have reached a watershed in our history. It will be for future generations to judge how best we handled it.

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