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Thursday, 10 March 1977

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) - I should like to draw attention to one of the sentences in what is called Her Majesty's Speech, but which everybody knows is the expression of the Government of the day. It is: . . the progress of Australia as a nation depends on creating the conditions which foster the strength, independence and creativity of its people.

What the previous gentleman has just said would seem to me to negate a large part of the creativity of the Australian people because it is expressed in his hostility to the trade union movement.

Mr Sainsbury - Rubbish!

Mr CREAN - I did not interject on you, comrade, and you have been here a very short time. If I may suggest it, you are not going to be here a very long time. The remark on the next page of Her Majesty's Speech brings home the whole problem of the situation of the Australian economy. Her Majesty goes on to note- I say again that it is this Government that goes on to note:

The prosperity of the Australian people depends on the strength of its productive private sector, on its manufacturing, rnining and rural industries.

The previous speaker has the great grace to disappear after boring us for 20 minutes. I suppose he is going out to receive the adulation of the Press representatives, who are not here either.

I want to draw attention to a set of figures that were published on 1 March, headed 'Australian National Accounts 1975-76, Gross Domestic Product at Current and Constant Prices'. It gives a tabulation over a 12-year period. It shows that what is called final consumption expenditure divided between the private sector and government in 1964-65 was roughly $12 billion private to $2 billion government or, if you like, a factor of 6: 1. By 1975-76-the latest year available-the figures have risen to $41.5 billion private to $11 .5 billion government, or a factor of 4: 1 .

Mr Sainsbury - It is a worry.

Mr CREAN -Well, I think it shows the reality of the economy. With all respect to honourable members opposite, I do not think that they acknowledge the realities of the economy. In fact if one might typify this speech, it reminds me of what the great Lord Keynes said some 50 years ago about a then Tory Government. He said: They won't promise what they can't perform. Therefore they promise nothing.' Candidly, I think that what this Speech shows is a promise of nothing because they do not know what to do.

A lot of nonsense has been spoken this afternoon and the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) was one of the perpetrators. It is easy enough to say that everything happened between the beginning of 1973 and the end of 1975. 1 shall refer to a few statistics. The number of persons registered for unemployment at the end of June 1971, which was right in the middle of the great prosperity era of honourable members opposite, was 66 000. Twelve months later, at the end of June 1972, it had risen to 99 000- an increase of 50 per cent in 12 months. After the first impact of the terrible Labor Government it fell to 81 000 in June 1973, and fell again in June 1974 to 78 000. 1 do not discount the figures. It rose at the end of June 1975 to 245 000. Honourable members opposite say that it was all due to the terrible Labor Government. At the moment, not much more than a year after their Government was elected it is 350 000- an increase of 50 per cent in not much more than a year.

I suggest that the Government is not grappling with the realities of the situation. Honourable members opposite came into government in this country by painting themselves into a corner. They said that the Australian economy was bad, and it was bad for one reason only- that they were not the Government. The 2 things that they said they would correct were inflation and unemployment. The position in each area has deteriorated since they came to office. They gave glib assurances. I have heard the nonsense that it was this Government that took pensions out of politics. This Government was the first government which said it would make 2 annual increases in pensions, in the Budget Session and the Autumn Session. Now they quibble about the rise being related to the consumer price index or the average weekly earnings.

Mr Sainsbury - Who does?

Mr CREAN - You do, for one. This afternoon you talked that sort of nonsense about what the Government did for the first time. You said that the Government took pensions out of politics. I do not want to get diverted by that sort of issue. I ask honourable members opposite again to look at some figures published recently about total employment in Australia. Surely this is what they ought to be looking at. Fortunately, at the moment, total employment is beginning to increase. When one looks at how total employment is increasing, one sees that it is increasing by a decrease in male employment and an increase in female employment. Maybe this has a lot to do with Women's Lib and so on. I still believe that our society and its integrity depend on the male wage earner- basically the single wage earnernot the 2-income family. Honourable members opposite do not mention much about the fact that there has been quite a selective interpretation of statistics- the one that suits them best. The Australian economy was never as bad as they painted it to get us out of office. They painted it so bad that they destroyed the confidence of business institutions and what they have done so far has done little to restore that confidence. Honourable members on the Government side cannot live any longer- I said this in a speech a few weeks ago- half way through their first term of office by saying that everything that is bad is due to the situation that they inherited from the previous Government. I repeat that they will not promise what they cannot perform because they cannot perform. The sooner the Australian community acknowledges this, the better.

The 2 central problems in this economy are still inflation and unemployment. The two are related, but in a somewhat different form to the way in which honourable members opposite think they are related. The main contributors to consumer expenditure in Australia are still the wage earners. The only means of lining real consumer expenditure is to increase real wages, and surely that is the argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One of the realities of the Australian economy- I think it is part of the humanity of the tradition of the countryis that even if a person is out of work he will not be allowed to starve. It is about time that we began to acknowledge the difference between not allowing people to starve on the dole and the responsibility for placing them in creative employment in the Australian economy. The Government is not facing up to the situation. Some tribute was paid to my colleague the former Minister for Labour, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). He began systematically in Australia in 1973 what should have begun in Australia in 1953. He began a sensible manpower poliCY. Manpower and the training behind it are tied up with education and everything else. I am surprised now at some of the industrial tycoons who are beginning to say that people are being trained in schools for jobs which do not exist and that they are not being trained in the skills that a new society needs. I said that in speeches which I made in this House nearly 20 years ago.

I talked to members of my own economic committee recently. Everybody uses the words 'primary', 'secondary' and 'tertiary'. The other day I came across an article which contained a new word. I asked members of my committee whether they had heard it. 'Primary ' means first, secondary' means second and 'tertiary' means third. Somebody has now coined the word 'quaternary' which apparently means the fourth level. Just as the word 'tertiary' came into existence to acknowledge that the words 'primary' and 'secondary' were not competent to explain the needs of society, the word 'quaternary' has now come into existence to explain the fourth level- the knowledge providers, the technocrats and so on. Maybe the use of this word is a miserable attempt to indicate some of the changes that are upon us. We have to acknowledge that changes are upon us. Australia has to acknowledge this internally and externally.

We have to sell our products. Surely members of the National Country Party of all people ought to know this. They are great ones for telling us about the beef industry, the wheat industry, the sugar industry and so on. I do not wish to discuss those matters tonight. I do not have the time to do so. We cannot be free traders when it comes to selling and protectionists when it comes to buying. In many ways Australia with its geographical position, is one of the most vulnerable countries. In many respects it is in the unique position of still being one of the great food providers of the world. I shall not go into detail about that subject either tonight. I may cross some fences in my own Party about something called the Gregory thesis. The Gregory thesis is a simple expression of what in my student days was called an example of uneven economic development. If there is an excess in one part of an economy it must have repercussions upon the other parts. What Australia has to acknowledge is that we live in a world where there are great differences of economic development. In my view we are in a unique position to be an assister to the rest of the world. That objective may require some structural adjustment internally, but structural adjustment is never easy to attain. Sometimes, if one does not acknowledge it early, it is thrust upon one and one cannot do much about it.

During my years as Treasurer I had to attend- I enjoyed the experience- meetings of a group that was called the Committee of Twenty. This group was designed to deal with what was called international monetary reform. In the finish international monetary reform foundered on 2 propositions. One was national sovereignty. Each country thought it was best able to determine its own exchange position. It is a nice nonsense to think that one can do that. But Australia is less in a position than most countries to believe in that nonsense. A country might think that it can do so but in the finish changes are forced upon it. It is always easier for a country not to revalue more than it should, but in the main devaluation is largely forced upon a country, although I do not think this was the case recently.

Secondly, the Committee foundered upon special drawing rights- known as SDRs- which were concerned with transferring real resources from the wealthy to the poor. In the finish the Committee sensibly divided its activities to deal with monetary reform and the transfer of real resources as separate issues. The National Country Party in particular should be concerned about the transfer of real resources. We hear the great rigmarole- I had to utter it when I was Minister for Overseas Trade and so does the present occupant of the position- that we would like to have a circumstance where for the sale of commodities we could arrive at prices that were fair both to producers and to consumers. As I said to one of my colleagues today, this is about as easy as trying to achieve that other truism about wages, namely, that there should be a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Different sides of the House have a different concept of each side of the equation. I ask members of the National Country Party in particular to think how they could easily arrive at a price for a commodity which we think is fair to us and does not exploit the consumer. I think sometimes a lot of nonsense is talked at international tribunals that it is easy to do this. We in this country happen to be the fortunate possessors of the ability to expand our production of wheat. I am astonished sometimes when I hear people talking with great adulation now about the sale of wheat to China and beef to Russia. I am not quite sure what they would have said 10 years ago. But now these sales are the saviour of the rural industries in Australia. I think if anything this attitude shows that we are living in one world.

I do not think I have quoted in this House before an experience that I had when I was a young boy at school. One of my teachers once wrote on brown paper- we did not receive the sort of assistance that is now available educationally 'We are valued only as we make ourselves valuable'. That is the hard lesson for Australia in the future. The rest of the world will not be interested in us unless we have something to provide sensibly and equitably to the rest of the world.

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