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
Wednesday, 25 September 1974
Page: 1403


Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - Mr Deputy President,we have just heard a rehash of statements which Senator Withers has been making in this chamber ever since I became a member of it. I can well recall the same threats about what the people would do to this Government that he threw out in April of this year when he brought about the double dissolution. But what did the people do? They returned us to office. Tonight Senator Withers levelled most of his criticism at this Government and he referred to 2 facets. I see that he is leaving the chamber because he does not want to hear the answer. Firstly, he referred to inflation and, secondly, he referred to education. What were the words he used just before he concluded his speech? He said: 'The crisis we are facing today is not education'. Of course it is not education -he admits it- because of the actions of this Government.

Since it came to power in 1972 we have done everything we can to rectify the anomalies which existed and which were compounded over 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government. I will deal with the problem concerning education, as Senator Withers sees it, later in my remarks. But it is worth recounting how Senator Withers contradicted himself. He began his remarks by saying that under this Government education was in trouble, and he referred to what we were doing to the people who had children going to school. Then he concluded his remarks by saying that education was not one of the crisis matters.

He conveniently forgets, as do those honourable senators who sit behind him, that this Government has sought to do something about controlling inflation. When we had a referendum on 8 December of last year and asked the Australian electors to give the Government some jurisdiction over inflation, what did the Opposition do? It mounted a very expensive campaign and influenced the Australian people to vote against the referendum which was designed to give us the power to control prices and wages. I remind the people who are listening to this debate tonight that the Australian Government has power to control prices only in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, but in both of those Territories we do not have any manufacturing industries. So there is no way in which we can control prices.

When we wanted the power to control prices in the States, what did the Opposition do? As I have said, it mounted a campaign to oppose the referendum. If we were to go to the people again now we might get a different result. But I daresay that if we were to seek the power by referendum again we would find that we were faced with the same situation: The Liberal and Country Parties would go out onto the hustings and advocate a no vote again. So what they are saying is pure hypocrisy. They do not mean it; it is just a political ploy.

There is another thing that I want to take Senator Withers up on. In his speech tonight he criticised the Government's attitude to the Public Service. But he is on record as saying in this chamber not so many months ago that the Canberra public servants were bludgers. That is what he and his Party think, because none of the honourable senators who sit beside him was prepared to stand up and repudiate his statement. That might have been one of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party secured the large vote that it did in the Australian Capital Territory on 1 8 May last. We won the 2 seats in the Australian Capital Territory. Human beings, particularly intelligent people like the public servants in Canberra on whom Senator Withers' Government had to rely for help for so many years, do not like being ridiculed like that. I think that Senator Withers is stooping pretty low to turn around and call the public servants bludgers.

Senator Witherssaid that the unemployment position now was the worst it had been in a decade. He has a very short memory because I can remember that in the early 1970s the unemployment numbers were much larger than they are at the present time. I come from a country area, and I can remember the rural recession when Senator Withers' Government made money available in order to employ farmers cutting weeds and gathering litter on the roads. They have not had to do that under this Government. Why did they have to do it under the previous Government? It was because the previous Government would not go out and seek world markets for our primary produce. We have been criticised because we went out and sought markets. What have we done while we have been in government? We have a good wheat market now. A farmer can grow as much wheat as he wishes. No restriction is placed upon him, requiring him to grow only so much wheat. Such a restriction was placed upon him in the past because the previous Government was not prepared to trade with the people who were in the market for wheat.

When we made the decision to recognise China and to open up that market, what did the members of the Liberal and Country Parties do? They came along and said: 'Yes, if we are returned to government we will continue to recognise China'. In this Parliament we have heard much criticism of this Government and of its policy of trading with China and Russia. As soon as we became the Government and some overseas trips were arranged, some members of the Liberal and Country Parties were the first in the queue to visit those countries, although they had been so critical of them in the past. If one is invited to functions at the embassies in Australia of both of those countries one sees members of the Liberal and Country Parties there. They are quite happy to go along and accept the hospitality, yet they get up in this chamber day after day and criticise those countries. Because of the number of people in those countries, they are our best potential market for primary products.

This is the second annual Budget of the Whitlam Government and, in keeping with its electoral promises of 1972 and again of May of this year, the Government can be clearly seen to be concerning itself with the problems that require urgent attention. I want to mention some of them with reference to Budget expenditure. Senator Withers has criticised this Government because of the expenditure that has been forecast for this financial year. I refer back to the Budget Speech of Mr Snedden in 1972-73. Under the heading 'Expenditure ' he said:

In total, expenditures are estimated to increase this year by $1,045m or 11.6 per cent to$10,078m.

If we look at the first Budget Speech made by Mr Crean last year we see that he said:

Total Budget outlays are estimated at $12, 168m in 1973-74. This is an increase of $l,938m or 18.9 per cent on actual outlays in 1972-73.

Where was most of that money expended? It was expended in the areas of great need in Australiaeducation, social services, hospitals, roads and so on. Those are areas that had been neglected for a long time. When we look at the Budget Speech for this year we find the following:

Total Budget outlays in 1974-75 are estimated at $ 1 6,274m, an increase over actual outlays in 1973-74 of $3,980m or 32.4 per cent.

We are being criticised by honourable senators opposite because of the massive increase in our Budget expenditure. But they have not been prepared to tell the Australian people where, if they were to become the government, they would cut down on expenditure. Of course, if one looks at their advertisements prior to the last elections one sees that they termed themselves the antisocialist Party. So it is quite natural where they would cut down on expenditure.

The first thing that they would cut down on would be pensions. This would affect the underprivileged in this country. They would bring expenditure on education back to where it was when they were in government. They would not make as much money as we are making available for roads and, goodness knows, that money is needed. This is apparent to anyone who drives around the countryside and sees the deterioration in the roads, particularly in the State of New South Wales which is under the administration of a Liberal Government. One has almost to leave one's motor car and drive along in a horse and dray in order to get from here to the New South Wales-Victoria border. This is where honourable senators opposite will cut down on expenditure. But they are not prepared to get up and tell the people where they will cut down on expenditure. All that they are prepared to do is to get up and say that we are an extravagant Government. I am happy to stand here tonight and say that I am prepared to go along with our being called an extravagant Government because I know that the money is being channelled into the areas where it is urgently needed. The previous Government grossly neglected these areas in previous years. As I have said, those areas were education, health, social security, housing, and urban and regional development.

I refer now to the amounts of money which were spent on education by the previous Government. In his 1972-73 Budget Speech, Mr Snedden as Treasurer said:

The education of all Australians continues to be a particular concern of the Commonwealth. Direct expenditure by the Commonwealth, including payments to the States for education, is expected to reach $426- up $72m.

That does not say much for what the previous Government was spending on education. If we look at the reference to education in the Budget Speech in 1973-74, which was the first year of the Australian Labor Government, we find that Mr Crean said:

For this Government, education is a top priority- it constitutes the fastest growing component of the Budget. We will provide $843m for education in 1973-74, an increase of $404m or 92 per cent on last year. There will be a further substantial rise in 1974-75 as the programs commencing in 1 974 come fully into effect.

It can be seen that in last year's Budget we increased expenditure by the exact amount that the previous Government had spent overall on education. Yet Senator Withers had the hide to stand in this place tonight and say that we are penalising the people. The only people he is concerned about are the sons and daughters of the silvertails. I have no compunction in saying that if they can afford to send their children to high class private schools they ought to be prepared to pay. What I am concerned about is to ensure that the children of the underprivileged and the working class in this country get an opportunity to obtain a decent education so that they can compete with the sons and daughters of the silvertails who could not give a damn about the working class.

Let us have a look at the proposed expenditure on education this year as announced last week in the Budget. The Treasurer said:

Education remains one of the Government's highest priorities.

And so it does. He said:

Last year, Australian Government expenditure on education almost doubled. For 1974-75, total outlays on education are estimated at $ 1,535m, an increase of 78 per cent on 1973-74.

This year there is an increase of over $ 1 , 1 00m on education. Yet we have the Leader of the Opposition standing in this place and criticising this Government because it is to spend this amount of money on education. Why do we have to spend this amount of money? We have to spend it to overcome the neglect in education over the previous 23 years before Labor came into office. The previous administrations allowed schools to run down. They overcrowded class rooms. The country was short of teachers. We have had to catch up this leeway. We have to spend this massive amount of money and we are prepared to do it despite the criticism. Of the amount of money which was allocated last year for education in Victoria, which is run by a Liberal government, a sum of $9m remained unexpended. Yet we are criticised because we are taking something away from the silvertails. As I said, money which we allocated to the Liberal Government in Victoria for expenditure on education could not be spent. But the Opposition has the hide to criticise our education program. I think I have illustrated quite clearly tonight that we are concerned about expenditure on education. The Opposition may quibble because we have cut down the taxation allowance in respect of education expenses from $400 to $ 1 50. It says that this will create hardship for some individuals- the doctors, the dentists and people who live on the North Shore in Sydney, in Toorak and in Burnside in Adelaide. But I have no regrets about this at all. It is something that previous administrations should have been prepared to do many years ago.


Senator Baume - What about hardship in Murray Bridge?


Senator McLAREN - Hardship in Murray Bridge? There will not be any hardship there because Murray Bridge is a farming community. There are not too many Murray Bridge children who go to private schools. The people there have not been able to send their children to those schools over the years because of the previous Government's policies affecting primary producers. The previous Government had primary producers down on their knees. I hear that Mr Anthony is going around the countryside today trying to whip up the primary producers to march in the streets in order to demonstrate that they are against the policies of this Government. But he has conveniently forgotten the past. I was an active primary producer when the farmers took to the streets a few years ago. Ten thousand farmers marched in Melbourne. There was a big march in Adelaide and a massive demonstration in front of this Parliament because of the policies of the previous Governments. But honourable senators opposite want to kick those things under the rug and forget about them. Farmers do not forget.

Another field in which we have made massive strides is social services. We have granted increases to pensioners- the forgotten people under the previous Government. The latest increase of $5 in the standard rate pension and $6 in the married rate pension represents a 55 per cent increase in social service payments since this Government came into office less than 2 years ago. I have with me a table which I obtained from the Planning and Research Section of the Department of Social Security. It is very interesting to see in that table the increases which previous governments over the years saw fit to grant to the under-privileged. In 1951 the then Government gave the pensioners an increase of 75c. These figures refer to the month of June each year. In 1952 there was an increase of $1. In 1953 the increase was 75c. In 1954 it was 25c. There was no increase in 1955. There could not have been an election in that year. In 1956 the increase was $1. There was nothing given in 1957. In 1958 the increase was 75c. There was no increase in 1959. In 1960 there was an increase of 75c. In 1961 it was 50c. In 1962 it was 50c. In 1963 there was no increase. In 1964 the increase was $1. In 1965 it was 50c. There was no increase given in 1966. In 1967 it was $1. There was no increase in 1968. In 1969 there was an increase of $1. And in 1970 it was $1 and in 1971 it was also $1. When the Labor Party came into office the first thing we did was to increase the pension by $2.25. The following year we gave pensioners another $3.25. In April this year we gave them $4.50. In July this year we gave them another $5 because we believe these are the pioneers of this country. They are the underprivileged people. They did not have the opportunity to go to private schools about which the Opposition is so concerned. These people, because of the low wage standard and the conditions under which they had to work in pioneering this country, never had the opportunity to salt anything away. These are the people we are concerned about.

I have read out the miserable pittance which the previous governments over the years have given to pensioners. I have already showed you, Mr Deputy President, this table and I now seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard because it contains so much more detail that I would not have time to read in this debate tonight.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

 


Senator McLAREN - I thank the Senate. There is another matter to which I want to refer. It also concerns something that Senator Withers had to say. He said there is no crisis in urban and regional development. As I said earlier, there is, of course, no crisis today because we have set about rectifying the problems. We are doing something about decentralisation which the Country Party has always been opposed to and for a very simple reason. It is a political reason. The Country Party does not want Labor voters to go out into the country areas because Country Party seats would then become very vulnerable. That is why when the Monarto complex was discussed at a Country Party conference in Murray

Bridge a couple of years ago a resolution was passed stating that it was opposed to the construction of the Monarto complex. The Democratic Labor Party also passed a similar motion at its State conference. The State Leader of the Opposition, Dr Eastick, is on record as having said in his policy speech at Murray Bridge in 1973 that money going into Monarto would be money down an economic sink.

I might be breaching the Standing Orders by mentioning this matter but I will try it. We aU know of the activities that are going on at the present time in South Australia to try to ridicule the State Labor Government over the establishment of the Monarto centre and so much so that some very strong accusations have been made. The State Premier now has a royal commission investigating the charges which have been made by the Assistant Secretary of the DLP in South Australia and backed up, of course, by the Leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia, Dr Eastick. They now have to bring forward and prove the accusations that have been made so that they will stand up before the royal commission. I am quite confident that they will not stand up.

In relation to the Monarto complex a document headed 'Urban and Regional Development 1974-75' was tabled with the Budget papers and it was circulated by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Tom Uren. In that document he said:

The Australian Government has agreed to assist the initiatives of the South Australian Government in the development of the Monarto growth centre which is located near the town of Murray Bridge, 80 kilometres east of Adelaide.

Some time ago the South Australian Government enacted legislation for the establishment of the Monarto Development Commission and for the acquisition of 15,400 hectares of land within the designated site of the growth centre.

The Australian Government gave a commitment of financial assistance to the South Australian Government for land in the growth centre amounting to $8.5m. Part of this assistance was made available in 1 973-74 together with funds for planning studies, tree planting and the establishment of the Development Commission.

In 1974-75 the Australian Government will provide financial assistance for the growth centre, for the balance of the land acquisition program, the first stage of the design program, and other works.

Clearly it can be seen that despite the criticism and some rumours that Monarto is not a goer the Budget papers prove that it is a goer and that before many years we will see the establishment of Monarto. I am happy to say that in the very near future we may see a similar expo take place in Kings Hall as was seen last week in respect of the Albury-Wodonga display. I have approached the Minister for Urban and Regional Development with a view to putting on a similar expo in respect of Monarto in Kings Hall. I am sure when people have a look at that display they will see that Monarto under the State Labor Government is far more advanced than some of the other growth centres in Australia. I hope that I live to see the day when other governments catch up to us. But we are a long way in front at the present time. I shall now mention something which is of very great concern to me. Over recent months- I mentioned this a little time ago- the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has been stomping about the country trying to whip up mass hysteria among primary producers. He has been backed up by certain journalists. I refer particularly to an article which appears in the 'Australian Wine, Brewing and Spirit Review' of 19 August. Some weeks ago I sent to the Loxton 'News' a copy of a speech which I made in Murray Bridge.


Senator Sim - The honourable senator has a cheek.


Senator McLAREN - Well, I might have a cheek, but at least I pointed out a few facts about what this Government has been doing to help primary producers. Some very proud person sent me anonymously through the mail a cutting from this journal, but he was not game to sign his name. If I make a statement or write a letter, at least I sign my name. But some person- he must come from Loxton- stated on this article:

See next page ( ref. your Loxton ' News ' statement).

I shall read from the article because it is not a truthful statement. It is headed:

Grapegrower President's Views.

In South Australia, the grapegrowers' president is Mr Allan Preece. He is also the federal president. The article from which I propose to quote is typical of the type of stuff which some journalists and some politicians are peddling about this country today. Mr Preece, when making his speech on some of the problems being faced in the brandy industry at the present time, is reported to have stated:

It reminds me of a remark made by a Government officer who said at a conference in Canberra several months ago: 'If the fruit and grapegrowers along the Murray can't make a living, let them go to Adelaide and get on unemployment relief '

That report disturbed me for 2 reasons. Firstly, I did not think that Mr Preece, whom I know reasonably well, would make a statement like that. If the report was true, I was very concerned that an officer of any department of any government should make the statement that if any primary producer, whether he be a grapegrower or any other producer, could not make a living he ought to go to Adelaide or to some other capital city and get unemployment relief. So I contacted Mr Preece. He denied that he had made this statement. He was most upset. I finally tracked down the author of the article. It was a Mr Jack Ludbrook of 12 Sprod Avenue, Toorak Gardens, Adelaide. I phoned Mr Ludbrook and asked him for verification of the article. He told me that Mr Preece had made that statement.

So I telephoned Mr Preece again, and told him that Mr Ludbrook had told me that Mr Preece had made this statement. Mr Preece was most upset. He said : 'Well, I did not make it. But I am very disturbed because this journo has been trying to get this article into some of the daily newspapers. ' Apparently the journalist gave it to them, but before they printed it they telephoned Mr Preece for verification of whether he had made the statement. He denied having said that. I believe Mr Preece because, as he said to me, if he has an axe to grind with the Government he will take it straight to the Government. He will not run around peddling something which was supposed to have been said. I was able to track down where this statement was supposed to have been made. It was supposed to have been made at a meeting in Canberra on 23 February this year. Certain officers of various departments were present with the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), the Deputy Prime Minister, the Premier of South Australia and one of his advisers, together with leading representatives of the wine and grape growing industry. I shall not mention their names, but I have spoken to some of them. None of them can recall having heard that statement. They have all said to me that it could not have been made as far as they were concerned because if it had been made at that meeting they would have heard it as they were there together. The reason I mention this matter tonight is because of the anonymity of the person who sent me the article. Perhaps if that person hears me tonight he may well write to me and we can have a discussion. I might be able to enlighten him on some matters.

Secondly, it disturbs me because a Government officer is now under the suspicion of having said these things. When the Minister for Agriculture reads what I have said and when he reads the article I would like him to make some inquiries to find out whether this statement is true. If it is not true I think that Mr Ludbrook, in all fairness both to the officer and to Mr Preece, ought to have the guts to get up and say that he was mistaken. But this is an example of one of the journalists who puts this stuff around the country. Of course, it is all done for a purpose- to try to discredit this Government.


Senator Missen - Is this about the Budget?


Senator McLAREN - Of course, Senator Missen, you are only new to this place. I think you would realise that during a Budget debate one can refer to anything at all. I have confined most of my remarks to the Budget. If I had to link this matter with the Budget I could do that because tonight we have been criticised in this chamber -


Senator Poyser - Mr Deputy President,I rise to take a point of order. I ask you to advise these new boys of the rules under which speeches in Budget debates are made. Obviously they know nothing about it and yet they interject and pretend to know all. So, Mr Deputy President, I ask you to give them your advice, gained over many years, and tell them that only fools walk in where angels fear to tread.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- My advice to the Senate is that there is no substance in the point of order.


Senator McLAREN -That little break did me good. If I had to do so, I could quite easily de in to the Budget debate the remarks I have made about this article by that journalist. We have been criticised in this chamber tonight and we were criticised in the other place last night because of the policies of this Government and because of what we are supposed to be doing to primary producers. People talk about some of the terrible things we are supposed to do. But none of them ever mention the good things. I will not mention them here tonight because other Bills associated with the Budget will be coming in. We will be able to speak to those Bills, elaborate on these things and point out to the public at large that this Government is not against primary industry. In my State of South Australia we have only to look at the situation of honourable senators from South Australia. Only 2 Federal members from South Australia have an office in the country and, in fact, reside in the country. The only other honourable senator who resides in the country is Senator Laucke. Mr Wallis, who is the honourable member for Grey, has an office in Grey and he lives there. I have an office in Murray Bridge and I live there. But, apart from Senator Laucke, where do all opposition members of this Parliament live? They live in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. They have their offices in King William Street. Yet they have the hide to get up and say that they represent country people. If they represent country people they ought to live with them as I do. I am proud to live in the country. As I have said, when other legislation to deal with the Budget is introduced I shall have more to say. I shall convince honourable senators opposite that in fact this Government is not against primary industry or the country but is very much for them.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! I call Senator Martin. I advise honourable senators that Senator Martin will be making her maiden speech.







Suggest corrections