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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 151


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) -The responsible people in this Parliament who are taking part in this debate are very much aware of the unique privilege that is ours. After all, Her Majesty presented an address to us. That address has been described, in not very kind terms, as abortive and so on by speakers on the Australian Labor Party side of the House. However, we on this side have a sense of privilege and I am particularly aware of it. In my opening remarks I would like to add a tribute to our armed forces for their splendid and unforgettable display and the fly past. That demonstration had a tremendous effect- an effect that they always generate when permitted to do so.

Normally I am a gentle soul and I get not a great deal of pleasure out of being unkind, particularly to members of the Opposition. If my remarks appear to be not of a gentle nature, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to understand that they have been stimulated by an address by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) which must go down as the emptiest, most aggressive and mose unconstructive and character destroying addresses that I have heard in this House. He singled out one or two honourable members and took advantage of what he has created as a coward's castle to attack them here this afternoon. Maybe I will add one or two remarks that will not reflect too kindly on him.

Let the people of Australia never forget the shattering disaster of the 3-year Whitlam regime. The nightmare began with an immediate and indecent grasp of power. The then Prime Minister virtually ran the country for some days with single dictatorial power, with arrogance and contempt for the most elementary form of democracy. As he began his rampage, his rape of this country, so he ended it, defying every accepted constitutional device which was being used to persuade him, not to force him, to make a simple move- to go to the people, to submit himself and his Government to our masters, the electors of Australia, for a verdict. Finally, the GovernorGeneral, virtually after pleading again and again with this man who was allegedly his friend, was forced to take the only course open to him, to dissolve the Parliament and hand the matter over to the Australian people. And what a decision the people gave. I never cease to wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, at the irony of the situation in which the ragged and mouldy remnants of this Party childishly and gibberishly cried 'havoc', 'get rid of Kerr', 'Kerr has destroyed democracy' and so on. If all this is true then hundreds of thousands of workers and others who could not get to the ballot box quick enough to flush out these people who had riddled our great democracy must have been involved in that conspiracy.

I say to my fellow Australians: Remember that our present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made it perfectly clear that the road back to financial stability and the restoration of our reputation in the market places of the world would require hard work, tenacity of purpose and above all time- at least one term. It was interesting to note that quite recently a number of responsible financial and other institutions in this country recognised and publicly commended the Government's financial policies. This has been particularly so over the last few weeks. I ask my fellow Australians to compare the FraserAnthony administration with the WhitlamCrean administration, the Whitlam-Cairns administration, the Whitlam-Barnard administration, etc. How could one make any sort of comparison? The defence of this country is now secure. The rag pickers and the weirdos who were filling the coridors around this House have been flushed out and eradicated. No more are there jobs for the boys and girls and some who are a little bit of each. There are no more Blue Poles and regrettably there is no more Blue Hills. The family is again recognised as the most important element in our society? in our social structure. No more do we have people in government ridiculing moral standards and encouraging contempt for law and order. No more do we have the Coombs' philosophy hammering rural dwellers into the ground. No more do we have the enormous and scandalous squandering of public funds; for example, overseas trips for numerous people travelling in luxurious circumstances. No more do we have Cabinet instability. Our reputation as a reliable nation has been restored. Our dignity is again recognised overseas with our powerful allies. It is once more good to be an Australian.

If a few of the matters that I propose to place before the House appear to be a little parochial may I respectfully submit that if honourable members examine them they will see they are not parochial but are of extreme importance to the whole of this nation. The first subject I deal with- I spoke at some length on this only a week or so ago in this House- is the situation in the cattle industry. I refer specifically to the cattle producer. It was said here tonight by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), a man for whom I have a great deal of respect, that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) displayed some sort of lack of concern for the consumer. The insinuation was that if producers adopted the Deputy Prime Minister's suggestion- that is, that there should be a dribbling of stock into the saleyards rather than a great flood of stock- that would necessarily mean a higher price for the producer. It certainly would but it would not mean a higher price to the consumer. The Deputy Prime Minister made clear what is obvious to those of us who are involved in matters such as these that there would be a little less for the in-between man. If there is consideration for the workers then the huge and unreasonable costs that are involved, not so much through decisions which affect industrial awards and arbitration matters but because of the actions of certain groups of people in the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union who are intent on bringing the industry to a standstill from time to time, could be reduced. I include among those people a few who are not members of that union -meat inspectors. Some of these- and let me be quite explicit- it is alleged cause much more industrial unrest and stoppages than the actual knockabout worker involved in the industry. I will not enlarge on this subject except to say that I am sure the Government is now acutely aware of the necessity to have not dollars but legislation for the industry. The industry is not asking for money. It is asking for legislation which at least will take some of the cream which is now going to exporters and to others and bring it back to the producers because almost everyone who is a part of our rural scene in the non-metropolitan areas of this nation is dependent on them. Our small towns and our workers in local authorities depend for their survival on the prosperity of this industry.

Maybe this does sound parochial because I propose to talk about one particular project in this nation but it is a project that supports an industry which is one of the largest industrial complexes of its kind in the world and it is in my own city of Mount Isa. There is a dam there. I am talking of a single dam but it is a dam that provides water to stimulate an industry which provides millions of dollars each year to the whole nation. The situation is simple. If this dam is not funded by a federal contribution it will mean that the people in this area will be faced with annual rates of somewhere near $500. If this charge is added to the cost of living in this remote area 600 miles from the coast with all the penalties that are involved in living in such a locality, the situation will become intolerable. I firmly believe that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to providing some assistance for these people. I make this earnest appeal in what is an important speech for any member, namely his speech in the Address-in-Reply debate, when a member can bring home matters which are of huge importance to his people. It is our duty to do this. I shall press that matter further. I have had the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) come out to my electorate. He is now familiar with the situation as is the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony), who is my Leader, and my senior Leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We hope that there will be a smile from Cabinet. Even the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) may assist us in this matter.

I point out to the House that we have the great privilege of having in the gallery tonight one of the greatest figures, if not the greatest figure, in local government in Australia. I refer to Sir Harold Behan- a man who has devoted his entire life to local government. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I recognise that he is in the gallery tonight. I am not speaking for my own benefit; he is not in a position to further my prospects. I also refer to other people such as Andy Walls, who is now the liaison officer between the whole of local government in Australia and our various committees in Canberra. This is the crux of what I am about to say. This Government has created 5 specific committees which have as a very important part of their responsibilities the task of looking after the local government movement throughout Australia. I say to all the local government people of Australia that we have a most sympathetic Prime

Minister. There is an open door whenever one wants to discuss matters of local government. We have a sympathetic Ministry. I would say that we are on the verge of a great era for local government. I feel that local government will be given powers which will enhance its responsibilities and, much more importantly, it will be given sufficient finance to carry out those responsibilities.

There is a great demand at the moment throughout the nation for some form of work- if I may put it that way- or something which will occupy the people who are unemployed and which will produce some benefit to the country. Not for a moment am I attempting to play lightly with the industrial requirements for which the unions would ask. We had the Regional Employment Development scheme, under which there was an irresponsible spending of money. If we had something of a similar nature and if the responsibility for the works involved was placed in the hands of local government, I think that would have 2 effects. Once more we would see the hope of development in local authority areas. At the moment we never think in terms of development; we think of sustaining the present situation- of maintaining roads and existing facilities. Good heavens, are we going to look to an absolutely futile future where there is no talk of development? I think that such a scheme as I have proposed would open the door to a consideration of the development of our shire works and so on.

I am sure that no one would argue against the merits of the case which I shall put now for the restoration of the petroleum prices subsidy. I realise that this Government is doing an almost unbelievable job in trying to tighten the purse strings and to bring responsibility back to this nation; but I do not regard, for one moment, the restoration of the petroleum prices subsidy as a handout. It is an investment in 4 industries which alone produce $4 billion a year for this nation and which stimulate the growth of our urban and metropolitan areas. It is easy for an economy to sag and to become limp when the great backblocks begin to fold up. People are quickly losing hope. In my part of the world and in the electorate of Kalgoorlie we pay something like 22c a litre for petrol whereas our city brethren pay 14.5c if they go to the right place. This situation should not exist. I do not think that a government subsidy is absolutely necessary. Surely the Government has the authority to confer with the fuel distributors- I do not want to confine my remarks to petroleum- of this nation and to get them to come to some sort of arrangement whereby a fraction of a cent more is paid by people living in the coastal areas and the benefit is given to the many hundreds of thousands of country people, most of whom play an important role in contributing $4 billion a year for this nation's economy. I appeal strongly to the Government to consider restoring the benefit at the earliest possible moment or alternatively introducing a scheme under which fuel prices can be levelled out throughout the nation.

The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) drew attention to the fact that many people in his electorate are without the benefit of any sort of television or radio reception. It is a sad thing. It can be said that 96 per cent of the people of this nation receive television. That is a tremendous achievement by this Government. But the 4 per cent of people who do not receive it are vital to the economy of this nation. It is extraordinary irony that those 4 per cent are involved in industries that are earning the money that keeps the wheels of industry and everything else turning. Recently I travelled with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I anticipate- I hope that I am not being over-optimistic- that a further scheme will evolve to bring television to some of these remote areas. I could cite such places and I am sure that there is not an honourable member here representing rural areas who does not have those pockets in his electorate. It is rather frustrating, as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie said, that there is a microwave link within cooee of a town and for an outlay of perhaps $20,000 or $30,000 this reception could be provided. I feel that there is some hope that this will be done. The Address-In-Reply debate provides me with the opportunity to mention problems in my own area as well as national problems.

I want to conclude on a subject that I suppose is so important that by comparison anything else I have mentioned appears of little consequence. I intend to dwell at least for a minute or two on the matter of the defence and security of this country. This morning the President of the United States of America made an announcement that must worry all of us here in Australia. His Press Secretary said that he would enlarge on his announcement. He indicated that the American forces would be withdrawn from the Indian Ocean to some extent. I do not know whether they are to be completely withdrawn or to what extent. The point is that this announcement opens up a completely new situation for us here in Australia. Whether we subscribe to the point of view that there is a threat in the Indian Ocean or not this decision means that the ocean is wide open to any sort of intrusion. Let us not think for a moment that the possibility of an emergency is not around the corner. It always is. Unless we accept that proposition the defence of this country will become of no consequence. So we must condition ourselves to this thinking.

Perhaps the key to the whole situation is our association with the Indonesian people. Only today I found in the corridor a paper which must have been produced by a communist organisation setting out the terrible way in which the Fretilin people had been treated. Let us remember one thing. If we should cease to have the present friendly association which we have with the Indonesian people we will indeed be in grave danger. I think that the presence of Her Majesty the Queen has brought a most wonderful impetus to this nation. I feel highly privileged to be able to make a contribution to this debate.







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