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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 148

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I was rather surprised that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) did not think that any matters relating to his area were worth bringing before this Parliament. He made it clear to this House that he did not believe that the Queen's Speech was worth discussing. However, I suggest that while he is running a book on the leadership stakes he should look at the leadership of his Party. I have been a member of this House for almost 10 years now. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is the second Leader that this Party has had during that period. There are no ex-leaders of the Australian Labor Party in this chamber or alive, such is the longevity of leaders of our Party and the loyalty of members of our Party to our leaders. I do not think the honourable member can say that about his Party. In one seat rests a former Prime Minister who was undermined and eventually dismissed. The present Speaker is a further casualty of party in-fighting. He was informed that he was no longer required as the Leader of the Party. The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the successful applicant for the job. I will be nice and put it that way.

A person by the name of Mr John Gorton was Prime Minister for a while. When I was first elected to the Parliament Mr Harold Holt was the Leader. The leadership of the Party was left vacant when he met with an unfortunate accident. I think it is fair to say that the record of gentlemen opposite in leadership ballots is not good. I think it is also fair to say that some of the talk that has been floated around about an early election is most likely designed to protect the back of a person who would feel insecure and who would not mind getting rid of a few back benchers who are likely to cause him problems. I want to be serious because I think this is a serious matter.

Mr Neil - That will be hard for you.

Mr SCHOLES - It is very hard when there are members in the House such as the honourable member for St George. The speech which he made last night was a disgrace to the Parliament. He supported quite openly the murder of students in Thailand, without one word of protest, but he protested in other circumstances and picked his marks on political grounds, not humanitarian grounds.

The Queen's Speech was the second most disappointing speech from the throne during the period I have been a member of this Parliament. The Queen read a Speech which was prepared for her by her advisers. I think the House and the public should be quite clear that the Speech was the speech of her advisers, not of the Crown. Therefore it is open to criticism, without it being a criticism of the Crown. I want to make that quite clear at the start because it is important. The Speech contained nothing new, no hope for persons who are concerned about the manner in which this country is drifting. Its only significant commentary was that the Government intends to press ahead with its industrial relations bureau which can serve only one purpose- to undermine the conciliation and arbitration system and to create disunity in the Australian community at a time when the most important thing that any government could seek to achieve in this community is unity of purpose among the Australian people. I think it will be the most unfortunate development created by this Government which is led by a man who has said that he does not believe in an equal society, that people are different and that the different classes should be treated as such.

The most disastrous thing about this Government is the divisive manner in which it operates. It seeks to divide the Australian community. Each failure of a scheme or proposal by the Government is accompanied by an abuse of those people who have suffered under that scheme. There has been recurring abuse of the unemployed. They have been called dole bludgers. There has been substantial evidence of people being denied unemployment benefit, on pretexts. I can give the House an instance. I refer to the case of a man with a physical disability, a back injury- unfortunately such injuries are prevalent in our society- who has very little chance of obtaining a labouring job, which is the only job he can do. He was out of work from 1 974 until recently. The only benefit for which he is eligible is the unemployment benefit. During that period the Commonwealth Employment Service did not once refer him to a position for which he could apply. Yet, 2 weeks before

Christmas- the man has a family- the unemployment benefit was summarily taken from him on the grounds that he was not trying to seek work.

In 2Vi years the Commonwealth Employment Service had not even been able to find a suitable position to which it could refer the man. Yet, 2 weeks before Christmas unemployment benefits were taken from him because he was not trying to seek work and he was left without funds. I do not know how many times a man is expected to line up in front of the same employer and ask him whether he has a job. It must be the most humiliating and demoralising experience a man can have. The only reason he is doing this is that the regulations insist upon it. The Commonwealth Employment Service knows that he will not get a job. The Department of Social Security knows that he will not get a job. I am certain that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) knows of men like this who will not get jobs but in order to keep the statistics right this man was denied unemployment benefits and was left without funds for 6 or 8 weeks.

Obviously, in any system some people will abuse it. There are smart cookies in every walk of life. If there is an easy way to make a buck they will make it. This practice is not confined to people who depend on government funds. Everyday there are published many instances of persons who are seeking to defraud the public through company transactions or fraudulent financial transactions or even by selling tickets to Abba concerts at many times their proper value. They are all sharp practices. Such people are taking down someone else in the community in order to make a living. The people whose livelihoods depend on other people in society are easy targets. Unfortunately, most people look upon their own rights as being divine and on the rights of other people as being unnecessary or wasteful. That is the stage which our society has reached.

The wage earner has been attacked because he seeks to recoup the increased cost in the community which he must bear. The Prime Minister last year made a statement on local government funds. After the announcement of the allocations of funds for local government which were to be made available by this Government he said that there would be no need for local governments to increase rates. I do not know of any local government body which has been able to balance its books even with the funds which were said to be sufficient. The facts are that rates are rising.

Mr Cotter - I shall tell you of a couple who have $300,000 in fixed deposits.

Mr SCHOLES -The honourable member may know a couple of local governments which have $300,000 in fixed deposits. I guarantee that their ratepayers are not getting good service. I can name a few which are bankrupt.

Mr Cotter - In your electorate probably.

Mr SCHOLES -No, they are in Queensland. The farmers have not been receiving sufficient income to be able to pay their rates. It is a serious problem. I am not laughing.

Mr Cotter -They are still recovering from the Labor Government.

Mr SCHOLES -I think that the Labor Government could have done almost anything but I am certain that it could not have created a drought. Matters which should come before this House and be treated seriously are being used as vehicles for making abuse or bringing out the selfishness in people. That is being done for political purposes. Regrettably, this divisive practice is becoming more prevalent every day.

Mr Hodgman - On your side of the House.

Mr SCHOLES -The Government which the honourable member supports is currently before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking to deny those on the lowest incomes the opportunity to recoup the costs which they must bear in the form of increased prices. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) made the statement that cattle producers should withhold their cattle from the market in order to force up the prices. However, I consider that the unions have the same function as the cattlemen's associations- that is to get the best price for their members' labour that they can. The argument I have with the statements of the Deputy Prime Minister is that he will then support a proposition that will deny to those people who are required to pay the increased prices the increased income that they would need in order to maintain their standard of living. The Deputy Prime Minister would go into court and seek to have passed on to them only part of the cost increase involved in buying food. Cumulatively this will result in less purchases being made and reduced opportunities for Australian industry and manufacturers to sell their goods.

I want to deal with one specific case. A few weeks ago the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) announced quotas on garments and textile imports. As a result of this announcement Zora Fashions (Geelong) Pty Ltd, a firm in my electorate, this week has had to retrench one-third of its work force. It has had to retrench one hundred out of 300 women who work in an area where alternative employment does not exist.

Mr Cotter - What happened when the Labor Government reduced tariffs by 25 per cent across the board?

Mr SCHOLES -It did not retrench any then.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!There has been a continual flow of interjections since 8 o'clock when this debate was resumed. I warn members of the House that if interjections continue I shall take action against them. This is the last time I shall speak to honourable members.

Mr SCHOLES -Zora Fashions is a firm which is extremely competitive in the manufacture of garments. This firm, as do other firms in this area, competes with imported goods. The announcement concerning quotas relating to imported goods was delayed for some 6 months because either the Government could not make up its mind or the Minister was not prepared to release details of the quotas. As a result this firm has not been able to plan ahead on the basis of changed quotas. It is now in the situation where the imported raw materials for the woven cloth which it requires to manufacture goods for which it can obtain orders are being denied to it. The materials mainly in question are lining materials and stretch courtelles. The quotas on garment imports allow retailers to import garments, including the cloth which the manufacturer about which I am speaking is denied access in order to compete. Suitable alternatives, either competitive or otherwise, are obviously not available in Australia. Hence a firm which has been supplying major retailers with these goods for some considerable time has been forced to retrench its staff because it is not able to import the basic requirements.

The Australian textile industry gains nothing from the Government's decision on quotas because they allow fully made up garments, which include exactly the same materials that the Australian manufacturer is not allowed to bring into Australia, to be used in competition with or as a replacement for what would be manufactured by this garment manufacturer. Last Friday I sent telegrams to all the relevant Ministers. I have had an acknowledgement from two of them, but I have not received a reply. One hundred people will walk out of the door tomorrow without jobs and without any prospects whatsoever of obtaining employment in the area in which they are working. I am sure that some honourable members opposite have exactly the same situation in their areas. If one lives in a provincial area there is no alternative employment to that of the major employers in that area. One cannot go to another suburb to look for a job.

The matter I have raised is a serious one. It shows the complications which exist in any areas affected by quotas or tariff restrictions. The firm to which I have referred is in fact denied access to imported materials. As a result it has lost orders. The Australian textile industry will not gain anything because the supplies which are required by this manufacturer will come in in made up garment form and as a result both industries will be the losers. I have drawn attention to that because it is important.

Finally, I want to draw attention to one other matter. There has been much debate this week and last week about the wage indexation case. Tears of blood almost have been wept about the manner in which indexation decisions are passed on in a percentage form. I think the House ought to take into consideration and ought to remember the reason why the total wage concept now exists and who brought it about. The present problem of indexation, and a great deal of the problem which has arisen since the gap between the lowest and highest areas of wages has been widening, rests on a particular step which was taken for expediency in 1967 when the employers, in order to end the 2-hearing situation that then existed, were successful in their application to the court to eliminate the basic wage margins concept.

An application to pass on the cost of living increases on a fixed basis to a basic wage which was a component of everyone's wage was defeated in the courts. It was defeated in the courts purely because the employers thought that it was a manner in which they could prevent the then Australian Council of Trade Unions advocate from taking all of the test cases and spreading those cases over such a broad field that it would be impossible for any one person to prepare or consider the cases. The then Government supported the application for the elimination of the basic wage. I am certain that it would seek to reinstate « if the opportunity to do so occurred now.

The fact of the matter is that the complaints that are now being made about the manner in which wage determinations are applied are the result of the physical impossibility of the total wage concept that was adopted in 1967. It was a physical impossibility. There are thousands of awards. Those who sought this provision forgot or ignored the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission cannot hear separate cases on every award determination. The Commission adopted what was the only way out, that is, the awarding of percentage rises across the board to cope with what was the basic wage and the margins concept. The employers are now lumbered with the fruits of their success and they have not stopped screaming since they obtained what they sought. Strangely enough, the ones who have gained the most from the decision to bring in a total wage concept are the unions. They are the ones who opposed the change at that time. If honourable members opposite treat the matter seriously rather than on a political basis I think they will find that the wages situation in Australia would have been much different now if the basic wage and margins concept had been retained whereby the cost of living factor was dealt with in a separate case from margins for skill.

I repeat my earlier statement that the Speech delivered by the Queen on behalf of the Government was a speech which did not offer this Par.liament or the Australian people much more hope than the speech that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I and some other honourable members in the chamber remember being delivered on an earlier occasion and which I think took -

Mr Hodgman - In 1974.

Mr SCHOLES -No, in 1969. It took 90 seconds and was only one sentence in length.

Mr Peacock - Was it 1969?

Mr SCHOLES -The Minister was a Minister in the government at that time. It was in 1969. There was a one sentence oration from the throne.

Mr Peacock - This one was much better.

Mr SCHOLES -I think it was worse. At least the other one was honest. It said nothing and it meant nothing.

Mr Peacock - Would you like to develop that?

Mr SCHOLES -That one said nothing and meant nothing. This one said nothing and purported to mean something. That is a great difference. The Opposition is disappointed with the program that the Government has put forward. It believes that there are problems in our society and that they are problems that can be solved only by support and advocacy of national unity. Unfortunately the Government has chosen the path of division, which has been its political tactic on so many occasions. It will not succeed in helping the nation, even if it helps the Government politically.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr LucockOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.

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