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Address to Australian Country Party Federal Council



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before NOON, 15,11.74

AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY PARTY

FEDERAL COUNCIL

1974

' Address by the Leader of the Australian

Country Party, Rt. H on. J.D. AnthonyLI WKIIII I· I I I» «I —■■■ 'T -'■■■ — ,—Γ -— | — "— -“ T~I ■

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1974 .

■ Address by the Leader of the Australian

Country Party, Rt. H on. J.D. AnthonyLI WKIIII I· I I I» «I —■■■ 'T -·â– â– â–  — ,—Γ -— | — "— -“ T~I ■

15th November, 1974.

Opposition to lose nine seats in boundary changes .......... Page 2

Economic crisis should not have been allowed to h a p p e n .... Page 3

Inflation will bring breakdown of democracy ................ Page 5

Pressure for breakdown from second source .................. Page 7

Labor losing support of electoral b a s e ...... ..... ......... Page 9

. We meet at a time of tremendous significance for

Australia, for our party. The nation is lurching without leadership through an economic crisis which threatens to become a social jrisis. Economic instability is producing instability within the Government, and the Minister who should be to the forefront at such a time - the Federal Treasurer -

is under attack by his own party, and his own Prime Minister.

Before I say more about the political and economic situation, could I quickly review a number of matters which are of special.interest to our party. In the May election, we received magnificent support. Record majorities for our

candidates were the order of the day in many electorates, and even in seats we didn't w in, our candidates were strongly backed by the people. We were most unfortunate to lose our two West Australian members of the House of Representatives - Jack Hallett

and Don Maisey. Don Maisey was beaten by changes in boundaries which took his seat into the suburbs of Perth, and Jack Hallett was the victim of the loss of Labor preferences. His primary vote was up on the previous election.

· . In Queensland, the adoption of our party of the name

"National Party of Australia" was a bold step, but a step that was completely vindicated by the May election results. In every electorate the party contested, it won a bigger share of the vote than previously.

In Vies tern Australia, the Country Party and the Democratic Labour Party formed an electoral alliance to fight the State and Federal elections under the name "National Alliance" - a transitional title intended to be used until a new party name was

formally adopted. The results in the State election were in total disappointing, although they were reasonably satisfactory for the Country Party in view of the trend in the party's fortunes in that State. It's no secret, and I make no apology f · . · it, that I

supported the West Australian party in the decisions it made. As I've said over and over again, it's for the party in each State to make its own decisions in the light of its own experience and its own assessments of what needs to be done. Whatever decision a State

organisation m akes, I will do my best to see that the decision turns out to be the right one. If the decision eventually is judged to be wrong, I won't try to hide the support I gave it earlier. I know

there has been intensive analysis of the party's situation in Western Australia and we all look forwarc to hearing the report from that State.

The Federal election in Queensland showed not only that the party's decisions in that State were correct,. but that the people of Queensland know exactly where they stand on the opposing political philosophies we see in Australia today. The Premier of Queensland, with that style that's made him such a national figure, spelt out very clearly and forcefully what was happening under the Whitlam

administration, and the people of Queensland made it clear beyond question that they will not go along with the kinds of policies being followed by the Labor Government in Canberra. They will do exactly the same thing on 7th December.

The other thing we ought to remember about the May election is this: The Whitlam Government won office with fewer than half the votes cast. It won with a smaller share of the votes than in 1972. It majority, which on paper could have been, prior to the

election, as high as 11 (9 seats plus 2 new ones), was cut to five. The people refused to give Labor control of the Senate. And they rejected each of the four referendum questions put to them by the ' Prime Minister. .

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I d on’t think we need to be in any way hesitant about attacking this Government when it deserves attacking, or in demanding that it do a much better job than it is. The people strongly rebuked i t , and they expect us to keep the Government on its toes. It can only be described at the moment, however, as flat-footed, shuffling, stumbling administration. And I think the Government would do well to remember that the people

left in the hands of the Senate, in May, the power to bring about another election. .

Opposition to lose nine seats in boundary changes

And of course w e ’re involved in a redistribution of boundaries. This redistribution is the outcome of the Labor Party's commitment to a reduction in the country political voice and a further strengthening of the city voice. I've already pointed out - as have others in the party - that a redistribution of boundaries now is improper, unnecessary, unjustified - and in fact plain stupid. The boundaries that are drawn now - if they

survive the rigours of their passage through Parliament - will have to be substantially redrawn immediately after the census the following year.

The only pretext for a redistribution now - there is no justification for one - is to give effect to the Labor Party's desire to attack country people and the Country Party by reducing the rural political voice and abolishing Country Party seats. The changes in the electoral law which Labor forced through the

Parliament in a joint sitting are in no way based on justice, equity or fairness. They are founded entirely in political expediency, and in Labor's need to find a way to survive. This is confirmed beyond doubt when it is seen that Labor's recommendations for N.S.W. call for the country electorates to have far bigger enrolments than city electorates - a principle which completely ignores the unquestionable extra difficulties of representing people who live in very large, scattered and remote regions.

It is confirmed even more strongly when you look at the results of the last election, and then at the likely results of an election held on the new boundaries proposed by the Labor Party. The last election, and the 1972 election, produced results as fair as any system could produce. It is hard to

imagine fairer results being achieved. In May this year, Labor won 49.3% of the primary votes, and 52% of the seats. The Liberal and Country Parties won 46.7% of the votes and 48% of the seats. If you look at what the result would have been if all preferences

had been allocated, you find that Labor would have polled 51.7% of the votes and won 52% of the seats. The Liberal and Country Parties would have won 48.3% of the votes and 48% of the seats.

So whichever way you look at it, a fairer result could not have been achieved. Yet we now find that the Labor Party is proposing to change the electoral boundaries which produced these fair results, and change them in a way that will mean the Opposition parties will lose nine seats they now hold, and Labor will win them. The Country Party will strongly oppose boundaries drawn in this way. We will vote against such boundaries if they

come before the Parliament. And I express the hope that our Liberal colleagues, who have opposed the electoral law changes with the same vigour as ourselves, will adopt a consistent stance and express their strong opposition to the new boundaries - and

vote against them - when they are presented to the Parliament for approval.

Economic crisis should not have been allowed to happen

I come back to the economic situation. The economic crisis facing this country - a crisis with its roots in inflation, and its effects being seen in almost the worst unemployment we have ever experienced - has exposed the Whitlam Government’s inability and incapacity. The tragedy of the Prime Minister's statement to Parliament on Tuesday night was its complete failure to recognise that the biggest problem facing us is inflation.

And the continuing tragedy is that wa should never have got into the trouble we're in today. The Government's repeated defence, that the inflation problem is world-wide, and that we are virtually the helpless victims of this international affliction,

simply cannot be accepted. The inflation problem in other countries is to a large degree the product of the energy crisis. Other nations, unlike us, are heavily dependent on imported fuels, the cost of which has risen to very high levels. But Australia has the cheapest oil in the world. We've got enormous coal reserves, and hydro-generating capacity. Other basic commodities are cheap by world standards. Wheat sells to the Australian consumer for half the world price. The sugar industry has been selling its . sugar at the same price for -even or eight years, while in some other places the price of sugar has risen to ridiculous levels. Dairy products have risen in price in Australia relatively little over recent years. Australian steel is amongst the cheapest in the world.

The truth is that we have been very much insulated against international inflation. Yet because of the bungling of the 'Whitlam Government, w e 7ve suffered very severely, and will continue to suffer, from inflation generated within Australia.

The Prime Minister's statement failed to come to grips with inflation. To the contrary, the measures announced will be * strongly inflationary. The Government has cut taxes, as it should have done much sooner - but it is not prepared to restr *.n the level of Government spending. And because it lacks the courage to restrain Government spending, the Australian people will suffer worsening inflation, and all the evils that spring from inflation,

including worsening unemployment.

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The Government has, at long last, and after so much damage has been done to the nation and to thousands of individuals, reversed some of its attitudes and accepted the good sense and logic of the policies we have been putting

forward. We put these policies forward before the Hay election, but a majority of the people apparently were prepared to go along with the Prime Minister in his ridicule of those policies. Now the Prime Mini iter has been forced by a rapidly-worsening crisis to turn to those Opposition policies in desperation. Policies that were branded as economic vandalism a few months ago are today presented by the Prime Minister as the means of

saving the nation from disaster. .

Look at some of the things we proposed, and he rejected and ridiculed:

Tax cuts - ridiculed by the Government, now accepted.

Opposition to excessive wage rises - ridiculed by . the Government, now accepted.

The Public Service not to be used as a pacesetter in wages and conditions - ridiculed by the Government, now.accepted. .

Abolition of the deposit requirement on overseas funds -ridiculed by the Government, now accepted ..... and accepted in a way that sees the Government abjectly running around the world imploring once- despised foreign investors to put money into Australia.

Easing of the credit squeeze - ridiculed by the Government, . now accepted.

Freeing of the currency, and achieving a more realistic value for the Australian dollar - ridiculed by the • Government, now accepted.

For nearly two years we've been criticised by the Government and the commentators for allegedly not having a credible economic policy. We have been putting forward a sound and credible economic policy for the whole of that period. We haven't got an economic policy now - the Government has hijacked it !

But there's one major part of our policy which the Government still lacks, the courage to steal - and that's our commitment to restraint in the growth of Government spending. Anyone can do the easy things like cutting taxes and the other .

things the Government has at last done - but those things will be of little if any use if the Government continues to run away from the need to restrain its own spending. That would be unpopular, and this Government has shown that it simply hasn't got what it takes to do it.

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Inflation wil-l bring breakdown of democracy

I want to enlarge a little on this point, because failure to control inflation - and that's what our whole problem boils down to - will have the most serious consequences not'only for our economic wellbeing, but for cur whole way of life. I say that, because the inevitable result of failure to control inflation is a breakdown of the democratic processes, or at the very least a serious deterioration in them. Uncontrolled

inflation must lead ultimately to ungovernability.

And what should be clear from past experience, and what's becoming very clear today, is that it is a waste of time to expect the people of a nation to voluntarily or spontane- ' ~ly adopt courses of action that will restrain the rise of inflation. Everyone knows - because it's so obvious - that there's only one way you can have full employment without inflation. And that is by having employers and employees exercise wage restraint; by having

increases in wages related to increases in productivity; by having increased productivity flowing from increased efficiency and increased effort. This is such a simple and obvious proposition that one would think it would be accepted by the community, and observed by the community. But people simply do not practise it. They know it does hot make sense to. expect higher pay without higher productivity - but they go on asking for and getting higher pay, while productivity rises lag. They know that full employment cannot be maintained if they do this - but still they keep on doing i t .

Ard the result - the inevitable result - is inflation. Money loses its value. It buys less this week than it did last week. And the further inevitable consequence■ is that everyone tries harder to keep the purchasing power of his wages higher than the value of what he's producing. He does this by pushing his pay up faster than his pay pushes up prices.

And that's when, as I said earlier, the breakdown of the democratic processes begins. Why do they break down ? They break down because people will not tolerate prices rising with excessive speed - so they turn the Government out of office. They break down because people will not tolerate high unemployment - so they turn the Government out of office. They break down because wages policies become unacceptable to the people - so they turn the Government out of office.

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The Government reaches a point at which it can no longer manage the economy in a way that ensures there is full employment, stable prices and restraint in wage demands. So the Government is turned out of office. And what we have today - in Australia and no doubt elsewhere - is a situation in which people will not limit their demands on government. They know that policies that will not restrain inflation - and which

are in fact stimulating inflation - are being followed, so they 1 get in for their chop'. They will not listen to warnings that if this continues - if these policies continue, and if people continue to make demands on their government which are beyond the capacity of the national economy to meet - then there will be economic and social disaster.

The only way in which that disaster can be avoided is for governments themselves resolutely to pursue anti-inflationary policies. There is no other way. In Parliament yesterday the Prime Minister himself put his finger right on the thing that's at the heart of our problem, and the thing I'm talking about. He said the Government's spending was the kind of spending . the Australian people have come to expect. He went on to take the credit for encouraging the people to expect this kind of

government spending. . ,

That's precisely the point - what we need is political leaders who are prepared to encourage the people not to expect rapidly-increasing government spending. The people have to be told that excessive government spending, however worthy it might

seem, is only damaging the people it is supposed to be helping. The Prime Minister says the people expect big spending, so there must be big spending. I say the people expect big spending, true - but they've simply got to be told there can't be such big spending,

and w h y .

The Prime Minister says the Government will not abandon or truncate its programmes. No one is suggesting it should abandon all of its new programmes. What I do suggest is that some programme; will have to be postponed, or introduced at a slower rate. And

where possible the private sector should provide the funds for what should be commercial undertakings - not the Government.

The trend which sees the Government making more and more of the provisions and providing more and more of the services which traditionally have been largely the responsibility of the individual should be slowed down. Self-reliance and independence

should be encouraged, not discouraged. Government help should be directed to those who cannot make proper" provision for themselves.

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Governments must have the political courage to tell the people they must restrain their demands - that they simply cannot have all they want, as soon as they want it. Governments must have the will to deny the people things they seek.

Governments must understand that it is part of their task to shoulder the unpopularity that comes from such denials of the people’s demands. .

If Governments do not understand this, and if they do not show the will and the courage I ’ve spoken of, then they will be driven from office by the very people whose demands they have failed to resist. And as that process continues, there will develop increasing political and social instability which, if not

arrested, will lead in the end to the breakdown of the democratic processes as we know them, to be replaced by other processes in which government control, government direction and government ownership are the basic premises.

Pressure for breakdown from second source

And the movement towards this kind of government is coming not only from growing political instability. It is coming also from a deliberate and cleverly-engineered campaign ' by the Labor Party to make people more dependent on government, to undermine their capacity to save and provide for themselves, to penalise them if they do try to provide for themselves, to discourage their incentive through punitive taxation. The campaign

is designed to denigrate and weaken free enterprise, and to create in the minds of the Australian people a feeling, indeed a belief, that our economic ills are the fault of the free-enterprise system. The ultimate result of this campaign, if it succeeds, will be the

destruction of the motivating force on which all our advances in living standards and wellbeing must be built - the only foundation on which they can be built.

Let there be no equivocation or lack of understanding in our own minds about this: .

We support, and strongly support, the free enterprise system. We support it because all the things we want to see done in Australia, and all the advances we want the Australian people to enjoy, can come, in the end, from only one source - and that source

is productive effort. And because no government can do the things for the people that need to be done other than by obtaining revenue by taxing the fruits of productive effort, we strongly support, without any equivocation or apology, the making of adequate,

reasonable profit. '

I believe the threat to free enterprise, and therefore, to the wellbeing and advancement of the Australian people, is so strong as to make it imperative that the Australian Country Party see it as its responsibility and duty to fight for the preservation and

strengthening of free enterprise, and to fight to prevent the philosophies of socialism from being imposed upon the life of this nation. If this breakdown of democracy of which I speak is to be

prevented, and if the replacement of productive and vital free enterprise by destructive and debilitating socialism is to be prevented, there must now be a new display of determination by the nation’s political leadership to undertake the tasks which the people on their own will not undertake. .

For our part, our course is clear: we must tell the Australian people what the Labor Government is unwilling or unable to tell them - that they cannot go on asking for, and getting immediately, all the things they would like to have, without having to pay a very heavy price for those, things, and without causing real damage to the economic and social structure of the nation. We must tell them that if they want to safeguard their political libert;

and their right to use their own skills and drive and initiative in the way they want to, they've got to make certain that the political and economic system which will allow them to do so is safeguarded. We must warn the people that by allowing themselves to become more and more dependent on government, they are conspiring amongst themselves to invite the Labor Party to bring into the life of this country attitudes and philosophies which are damaging to the nation and, even worse, destructive of individual freedom, incentive and purpose. We must be quite unequivocal in our opposition to such repressive, destructive forms of taxation as capital gains

tax, and taxes on so-called unearned incomes - taxes which crush initiative, penalise thrift and discourage self-reliance. We must continue our opposition to excessive probate tax and death duties, and pursue our policy of eventual abolition of these burdens.

Because we see productive effort as the key to better living standarc and human advancement, we must be strong in our support for measures that give added incentive to production and' productivity, which encourage investment in productive enterprise, and which counter the forces that work againsr successful productive enterprise. And above all we must work to establish in the community, and in

individual attitudes, that spirit of self-reliance, self-respect and personal motivation which is most likely to help people to live satisfying and fulfilling lives.

Mr Chairman, the instability and breakdown of which I speak is already beginning in Australia. There is serious instability within the Government. It is displaying loss of control internal dissention, and inability to cope with the job the people have asked it to do.

Labor losing support of electoral base

The Labor Party already, I believe - and the polls seem to confirm it - has lost the support of the middle-ground voters who put it in power in 1972. Now it is rapidly losing the support of

the solid Labor movement. No political party that betrays its own basic supporters can survive. Labor has betrayed its supporters - the people who put their faith in a Labor Government to look after their interests. Rampant inflation and worsening unemployment, high interest rates, the assault by new taxation on people's earning; and savings - these and all the things that go with them are a betrayal by the Labor Party of its own people. And the process I described a moment ago - the inevitable breaking down of political stability as governments become unacceptable to the people - seems to me to be beginning in this country. .

I come back to my central pointf until we have governments with the political courage to do what has to be ' done - as hard and as unpopular as that will be - we will see this destructive attack on our democratic processes continue and accelerate. We have to be prepared to step in when the time comes for a new Government to take control. But before that time comes, I believe we have to be strong enough and courageous

enough to tell the Australian people that they will have to taste some not very pleasant medicine before the disease that is gripping this country can be cured. If we're not prepared to tell them that, then we will no more deserve to be allowed to govern than the

Labor. Party deserves to govern now.. ' ' . .

Labor has lost its right to govern through its betrayal of the nation. We must earn our right to govern by telling the nation, frankly and without any political veneer, what has to be done to repair the damage - and then we mus t , when we're asked, get on with the job and do it. . ,