Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 141

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Mr Deputy Speaker,I will take up the point last made by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) who has just resumed his seat. I should like to quote again the passage from the address to the Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen which he mentioned. Her Majesty said:

Today the qualities of the Australian people, the character of Australian society and the resources of the Australian continent hold out a great promise and a great challenge.

Mr Fisher -Hear, Hear!

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I agree that it is a very fine statement. But surely that is the nub of the whole statement. It is what our whole society is all about. It is what our nation is all about and it is what we should be really discussing. It is on this point that the ideologies and socialist policies of the Australian Labor Party and the lack of policy of the other political parties are at great divergence. I shall elaborate on that later on. When I first came to this Parliament the 2 chambers sat together for the opening of the Parliament on 25 November 1969. Mr Gorton was then the Prime Minister and both Houses met in the Senate chamber. They started to fire the cannons out by the lake to give a 2 1-gun salute. In the same time that it took the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, to read the address only 3 shots could be fired, leaving 18 shots yet to be heard. It took about 59 seconds to deliver that address which set out the program for the Parliament which I had joined. That gave an indication of the bankruptcy of ideas of the Gorton LiberalCountry Party Government, which was subsequently proven over the next 3 years. The people of Australia showed loud and long in 1 972 that they realised this.

Again on 8 March of this year I had to sit in the Parliament and listen to a woman, who I am sure is looked up to by all in this land and in other lands, so embarrassed that she got her words confused and spoke about this being the silver jubilee reign of her year. Hansard does not show that but I heard her clearly say that, because she was so embarrassed by the bankrupt document that she had placed before her- a document not prepared by her but prepared by the staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- as the manifesto of this Government for its remaining life. So destitute and bankrupt was this document that the gracious lady who sat there reading it to us was so embarrassed that she fluffed her lines.

If honourable members care to read this document through they will find that it speaks only in generalities. It does not touch on the multitude of problems that beset the people of Australia in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It does not give specific solutions of the numerous problems that we know exist in our community. The document states:

My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.

Mr Corbett - Hear, hear!

Mr Fisher - Hear, hear!

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Country Party supporters say: 'Hear, hear! ' I would like to know what those words mean. Clearly the people who sit on my geographical left- never shall they sit on my political left- apparently do not have in their electorates children whose parents were born in Australia. They should represent an area such as that which I represent, which is the most populous electorate in Victoria and which shares with other metropolitan areas a very high percentage of children who were not born in Australia and, of course, whose parents were not born in Australia. The situation at the Dallas Primary School is very fresh in my mind. That school has an enrolment of 390 children. Of those 390 children, 1 10 have parents who were born overseas. The parents of one-third of the population of the school were born overseas. Of that one-third of school children the parents of one-half do not speak English in the home. Take it from there and what you have really is 110 children at that school who need special attention. That school used to have a teacher who had an understanding of languages and who was able to communicate with these children and pass on knowledge to them. I thought that was what education was all about.

Mr Corbett - It is a State school, is it?

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -It is a primary school, yes.

Mr McVeigh - Run by the Australian Parliament?

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Run by the Victorian Education Department. It is a government school. That teacher was withdrawn. That school now has no special teacher. Those 1 10 children have to do the best they can to muddle their way through the education system.

Mr McVeigh - Joh Bjelke Petersen

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I am not joking. The honourable member says that I am joking. I am not joking. What I am saying is the absolute, God 's honest truth, and the honourable member can speak with the principal of the school if he so desires. That is the sort of levity with which these people treat this important problem. The special teacher was withdrawn. When I made inquiries as to the reason I was told that it was because the

Australian Government does not make funds available now for special teachers in primary schools in Victoria. Let one of the Government supporters stand up and prove that to be wrong. That indicates the emphasis that this Government places on education, and particularly in an area where it is badly and sorely needed. The children in that area have a real difficulty in understanding what their teacher is saying to them because the language is strange. Yet we hear in the Speech made by Her Majesty this hypocritical expression:

My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.

No matter where their parents were born those children are Australian students. Country Party supporters should point out to me where the equality exists, because it was a government of their political persuasion which withdrew the equality of opportunity from them. The people of Australia should be told that more often and loudly until they finally understand the way in which the Government is endeavouring to destroy all the things that were created for the betterment of the Australian people during the fortunate 3 years of Labor Government in Australia.

I turn to another passage in this very brief document. I repeat that I am quite sure that Her Majesty, as a gracious lady, must have shuddered while reading it. The passage reads:

At the heart of my Government's policies lie a commitment and a concern; commitment to increasing the freedom, opportunity and equality of the Australian people; and concern with enhancing people's ability to make their own choices and live their own lives in their own way.

How the Prime Minister's speech writer must have had a field day putting together that paragraph. But if one cares to strip it of its pretty phraseology one might understand what it is really saying. This is where the Liberal Party philosophy, such as it is, falls down. What is that passage saying to us and to the people of Australia? It prostitutes and misuses the word freedom'. It should have used the word 'licence' in place of the word 'freedom' and then it would really say what it means. If you are going to give freedom in that sense to the people in an organised society- and the Australian community is an organised society, whether the Liberal Party likes it or not- all you are doing is saying to the people who cannot fight back, such as the people traditionally beaten down by the Liberal and Country parties, those who are incapable of fighting because they are young, because they are old, because they were not born here, because they have a language problem, because they were born poor, because they were born with a disability or because they incurred a disability, that everybody will have the freedom to live his own life in the way that he chooses.

We were taught 2000 years ago that people should care for others without this being imposed by regulation or by law. People on the other side of the chamber find it jocular. I do not find the words spoken 2000 years ago jocular. I think that they were spot on. It is a pity the people opposite do not read them more often and understand them better. Unless governments intervene in this area the rich will get richer, the strong will get stronger and they will tread over the weak and the disadvantaged. Yet that is what honourable members opposite are saying in that passage. They are saying: 'Bully. That is what should happen in Australia. Everybody should have the freedom to live their own lives in the way they want to live them. ' I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker- I know you to be a reasonable man- what rights have people who have no advantage because of disability, station in life or a variety of other reasons, to live their lives in the way they want to live them? They have no rights at all.

Those sitting opposite know that but they are not game to stand and say that in our organised community in the twentieth century, heading rapidly towards the twenty-first century, there is a need for government intervention to protect those who are not able to protect themselves. Yet we get this balderdash served up to us in a speech by a gracious lady. Those opposite obviously believe it. Of course they believe it. And why do they believe it? Because they are of the strong; they are not of the weak. They are not of the disadvantaged. Therefore they believe it. I am not of the disadvantaged either, but I have a strong compassion for those who are disadvantaged. Those who sit on this side of the chamber with me share that compassion and so the philosophy of the Party to which I am proud to belong, the Australian Labor Party, is geared differently from that of the Liberal Party. Our philosophy says that those who cannot care for themselves will be cared for by those who can. But does the Liberal Party say that? Does its manifesto read to us on 8 March say that? I shall refresh the minds of honourable members and read those words again. After that dissertation- I hope honourable members opposite will learn something from it- they will see the words in a different light. They are -

Mr Corbett - What about pensions?

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I shall come back to pension increases. The words are:

At the heart of my Government's policies lie a commitment and a concern;

A commitment and a concern to the mining companies and to the oil producing companies- commitment to increasing the freedom,

Freedom? What freedom exists now for those who are disadvantaged? opportunity and equality of the Australian people-

Equality exists only among those who already have privilege- and concern with enhancing people's ability to made their own choices and live their own lives in their own way.

Have honourable members opposite not yet realised that people's choices in Australia are limited by the depth of their pocket or their economic capacity to pay? That is where their choice is. But honourable members opposite glibly talk about equal choices. I heard the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) mention pensions. I remind the honourable member that in this chamber I crawled down under the desk in front of which I now sit when the Prime Minister of this country, the Right Honourable William McMahon, came in after he had been elected as Leader of the Liberal Party and magnanimously gave 50c a week increase to the pensioners. So do not talk to me about the Government's history on this matter because it is a very bad one. Even the present position is no better.

Mr McVeigh - You taxed them.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -It was the Labor Party that moved pensions-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member for Darling Downs will cease interjecting.

Mr McVeigh - He is exciting me.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I should think it would take much more than me to excite the honourable member for Darling Downs, Mr Deputy Speaker. The whole question of pensions moved out of the political arena in 1973- not in 1977 but in 1973- when pensioners were told of the goal set by the Labor Government. The goal was for pensions to be 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We achieved that in the time that was available to us, despite interruptions mid term with elections which were called for political gain. We maintained that rate of pension. All that the Government has ever done has been to apply a different formula. I have not had time to do the homework necessary, but even if the Government has changed the formula for pensions, we created a formula initially. We moved pensions out of the area of being a political football every time the Liberal Party decided to get itself a new leader.

Dr Jenkins - They wanted to flog off the funeral benefit.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Of course, as the honourable member for Scullin reminds me, the Government wanted to flog off the funeral benefit. How much was it? $40? I do not think anybody could be buried for $40.

Mr James - It costs $600 to bury a person.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I am told it costs $600, but we are not running an auction. The funeral benefit was not a very large amount of money but it was of great help and comfort to those who were in penurious circumstances. The present Prime Minister- the meanest, mingiest, most reprehensible Prime Minister this country has ever had- came into this chamber and was prepared to take those few pennies away from the widow's mite. What happened? Five honourable members from Tasmania held their seats by very small margins and one of them told us that he sat up all night worrying about funeral benefits. He cried himself to sleep in the end. These members from Tasmania came into the chamber and found some sympathisers, such as the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem), who suddenly remembered he was holding his seat by a terribly slim margin. He counted heads and found he had a lot of pensioners in his electorate after all. This went on with members representing electorates all around the country. Every member who held a seat by a very narrow margin obtained figures from the Department of Social Security. I know this because someone in the Department rang me and told me so. All those honourable members checked how many pensioners they had in their electorates. The funeral benefit worried them so much that they went into their party room and told the Prime Minister that unless the funeral benefit was retained there would be a revolution.

Mr Fisher -That is democracy.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -They used their colleagues in the Senate and back came the funeral benefit. It was not a display of democracy. I am not one who likes to make small political points at the expense of a person such as the Prime Minister of this country. But honourable members should read the newspapers. I was delighted to read them this morning. I saw in one a cartoon of the Prime Minister. I am angry about the way the cartoonists portray our Prime Minister. I do not think he is a great, close-eyed, pipesmoking log, yet the cartoonists keep portraying him in this way. He was shown in the cartoon with his sleeves rolled up and poor old pensioners were shown worrying whether they were going to get an increase m their pensions. In the cartoon the Prime Minister is shown to be saying to somebody else: 'Honestly, I was going to mug em-but I found I just couldn't do it! r That is almost what happened. A Party meeting was held yesterday, was it not?

Dr Jenkins - Yes.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Precisely. Again the Liberal caucus has stood over the Prime Minister and put him back on the rails. But I have been distracted, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rose to make a great contribution to this debate on the future economic condition of this country. But I have been sidetracked by Government supporters.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!I suggest to the honourable member for Burke that he continue to make his speech without any assistance either from his side of the House or from the Government benches. I think the honourable member has been here long enough to be able to make a speech without everybody else helping. I should hate to interrupt the honourable member for Burke by saying that his time has expired.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Do not say that yet, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I still have 2 minutes to go.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I should hate to do that before the honourable member had finished his speech, but he has been answering interjections by honourable members on both sides of the House.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I am pleased you said that, Mr Deputy Speaker. When the light comes on and I have not finished I am sure you will allow me an extra 5 minutes to say the things I want to say. Another part of this great speech by Her Majesty- I timed it and I believe it took about Vh minutes- told the people of Australia what the Government is going to do over the next 18 months. It said:

Historic reforms are being made to the nation's federal financial relations which will return power and responsibility to the State and local levels of government.

Government members- Hear, hear!

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -My word! 'Hear, hear', they say. Do they know what the Government is up to? As sure as God made little apples, what it is up to is double taxation. What it is up to is giving back to the States the right to tax people left, right and centre. It is abdicating its responsibilities as a national government It is abdicating its responsibilities as the only government in Australia which can take this Federation and make it into a nation. It is going to turn it over to the 6 States, and possibly the Territories, and turn it back into a continent of 7 separate nations.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

Suggest corrections