Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 941

Mr WELLS(8.50) —One of the great privileges and pleasures of a politician's life is the ability to give away other people's money. We in this House spend a good deal of time doing that-allocating Federal funds to one or another worthy cause. On this side of the House we get great pleasure and satisfaction when we are able to allocate Federal funds to improving housing or social security or to generating jobs. Unfortunately, we live in a middle-heavy three-tiered system of government where the middle tier is not always committed to the same ideals as that of the top tier, the Federal Parliament. Some of these other tiers of government are staffed by people whose low horizons and administrative incompetence make the former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, look like a visionary, and the former Treasurer, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), look like an economist.

One of the organisations to which I refer is the Government of Johannes Bjelke- Petersen. I wish tonight to inform the House and the Australian people of a number of allocations of Federal funds-funds which would have been of great value to the people who live in the area that I represent-which were lost or dissipated through the inaction, the incompetence, the ineptitude or the sheer inability of the Bjelke-Petersen Government. Let us start with the small sums because the former Treasurer, who is sitting opposite, will understand them better.

In 1982 an offer of $45,000 for Aboriginal welfare was made by the then Fraser Government. That sum was offered for a second time by the Hawke Government. The funding was to be for a linking-back project to assist Aboriginals to trace their cultural heritage and also for a Cairns-based Aboriginal liaison officer to help Aboriginals who were having trouble with the law. The then Queensland Minister for Welfare Services, Mr Terry White, my most famous constituent, refused to establish the advisory board which the Federal Government regarded as a condition of the grant. In consequence, this $45,000 project, which would have been of very great value to the Aboriginal people living in Queensland, was lost .

In the period 1981-83 the Fraser Government made another offer of $6.77m under the Commonwealth-State hospital cost-sharing agreement which expired in June 1981. The same offer was made later by the Hawke Government. The Queensland Government refused to accept this sum because it said that it wanted more. This has been going on for some time. The offer is still available. The sum of $6.77m would employ many nurses or produce a good deal of life-saving hospital machinery. The lives of Australians are being afflicted while the Bjelke- Petersen Government fiddles, trying to decide whether it will accept $6.77m. That offer is still open. The Queensland Government could have that sum today but it is resting on its rights.

Again in 1982 the Fraser Government offered $3.1m for emergency mortgage relief as part of a program for rental housing construction for low income earners. This sum was knocked back by the Queensland Government on the grounds that it did not need it. The Queensland Government could still have the second sum to which I have referred. The third one, in my judgment, would still be negotiable. But because of the inaction of the Bjelke-Petersen Government that money is not available to the people that I represent.

Let us go back into history a little. In 1975, $7m was lost because of Queensland's late participation in the Medibank scheme. Queensland was the second last State to participate in that scheme. While the Queensland Government was messing around trying to work out what it was supposed to be doing and whether it could come to grips with its ideological commitment to providing inferior medical treatment to the people it was supposed to represent, that $7m was lost. In 1976-77-this is another topic which is very dear to the heart of the present Leader of the Queensland Liberal Party who now has the image of an angry young man but who a few years ago had the image of a passive servant of the Bjelke-Petersen Government -the sum of $12,692 for womens' refuges was lost because the Queensland Government was not prepared to make a dollar for dollar grant for that cause. In 1977-78, $33,534 was lost for the same reason and from the same cause. In 1973-74, $4.2m was lost from the decentralisation and growth centre program because the Queensland Government was late in participating.

Mr Howard —You really think he is going to win, don't you?

Mr WELLS —The honourable member for Bennelong asks: 'Do you really think that Mr Wright will win?' I certainly do think he will win. Therein lies the only hope for the Queensland people and for efficient co-operation between the State and the Federal governments. Even the honourable member for Bennelong would have had his projects implemented more successfully if we had had a Wright government instead of the Bjelke-Petersen Government to receive the first three grants which the honourable member's Government offered to Queensland.

Mr Howard —You are going to get done like a dinner in Queensland.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mildren) —Order! The honourable member for Bennelong will cease interjecting.

Mr WELLS —Mr Deputy Speaker, the only thing that can be said in favour of the honourable member for Bennelong is that he is better at interjecting than he is at making budgets. The areas which were most affected by the $4.2m lost from the project to which I have just referred, the decentralisation and growth centre program, were the Townsville and Fitzroy-Moreton areas. I now come to some really large sums of money. The former Treasurer might understand these too because he is used to working out Budget deficits. In the period 1973-75 a land commission was established by the then Whitlam Government. Queensland, under a possible scenario, could have got $78m. That was the sum which was offered to the South Australian Government.

Mr Spender —Which possible scenario was it?

Mr WELLS —The honourable member for North Sydney wishes to know which possible scenario it was. It was the one in which the Bjelke-Petersen Government could have been a little more competent than it in fact was. The $78m which was offered to South Australia was offered to a State slightly smaller in population than Queensland. The South Australian Government was a good deal more effective and moved a good deal more quickly than did the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government missed out altogether. The program involved grants to States for purchases of land on the outskirts of cities, which land would be serviced by the State Government and sold cheaply to families establishing their first home. That could have meant the purchasing of homes or home land on the Redcliffe Peninsula, in Aspley, Carseldine, Bracken Ridge or Albany Creek. Constituents of mine who have since moved into these areas at very great expense could have moved into them at considerably less expense had this grant been taken up by the Bjelke-Petersen Government.

From 1975 to 1978, $3m in Federal grants for Aboriginal welfare was not spent. This amounted to 10 per cent of all Aboriginal aid to Queensland. It included $ 450,000 to replace Aboriginal housing which was destroyed by a cyclone and $175, 000 for Aboriginal health problems. The official reason given by the Bjelke- Petersen Government for not spending this money for cyclone relief was that it was not necessary. That sum did not include the cost of the trachoma program which the Queensland Government also diverted in 1977. In addition, the Queensland Government has refused to take up Federal loans and instead has got the money from other sources at a higher rate of interest. The Bjelke-Petersen Government put the allocation of $115m for the wages pause program in the bank, where it earned interest instead of creating jobs for young Australians.

Mr Hollis —It put it on the short term money market.

Mr WELLS —As my honourable friend has pointed out, it put it on the short term money market where it earned interest for the Queensland Government. It was not subsequently re-invested into generating jobs for Australians who live in my electorate and nearby electorates. To add insult to injury, the community employment program-an excellent program established by this Government and a program which holds out the hope of employment and, indeed, of a career, for thousands of young Australians-has been shelved by the Bjelke-Petersen Government simply because of its inactivity and its inability to establish the relevant committee of six people to advise on the program. In all, these sums come to over $100m. There is much more. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. I placed on notice a question seeking the exact figures in these cases and in all other cases.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mildren) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Mr WELLS —I thank the House.