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Wednesday, 13 May 1987
Page: 3073

Mr MILTON(12.17) —The Supply Bill (No. 1) 1987-88, the Supply Bill (No. 2) 1987-88 and the Supply (Parliamentary Departments) Bill 1987-88, which are presently being debated, provide the necessary funds to all government departments to enable them to continue to provide essential support services to the general public and to carry out the programs and policies of the Hawke Labor Government.

In speaking in support of these Bills, I want to take the opportunity to make some comments about the philosophy of the so-called New Right and the relationship of the New Right with many members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia who sit on the Opposition benches. I have previously referred to the New Right in an adjournment speech in the House on 11 November last year. At that time I pointed out that the New Right philosophy is as old as democracy itself, but is the complete antithesis of democracy. It is a philosophy which was greatly espoused by the middle nineteenth century British philosopher, Herbert Spencer, and which came to be known as Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer was not happy with the rejection of his ideas by many of the leading European philosophers of the time, but he found an enthusiastic acceptance of his philosophy in the United States of America.

Social Darwinism was a theory of sociocultural evolution which derived its name from its rather tenuous connections with the biological theories of Charles Darwin. I doubt whether Charles Darwin would have ever supported such views. Indeed, the idea that the life of human beings in society was a struggle for existence based on the survival of the fittest was propounded by Herbert Spencer, not Charles Darwin, and it was Herbert Spencer's work which gave it some credibility as a force of natural law. The Social Darwinists believe that the process of natural selection acting on variations in the natural population would result in the survival of the best competitors and in a continuing improvement in the population. In this way the theory of evolution was advanced in a convoluted analogy that societies, like individuals, evolved in a similar fashion.

It is worth quoting from the description of Social Darwinism in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, because these are the views of the New Right and its supporters in the Liberal and National parties. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states:

The theory was used to support political conservatism. Class stratification was justified on the basis of `natural' inequalities among individuals, for the control of property was said to be a correlate of superior and inherent moral attributes such as industriousness, temperance, and frugality. Attempts to reform society would, therefore interfere with natural processes; unrestricted competition and defense of the status quo were in accord with biological selection. The poor were the `unfit' and should not be aided; in the struggle for existence, wealth was a sign of success. At the societal level, Social Darwinism was used as a philosophical rationalisation for imperialist and racist policies, sustaining belief in Anglo-Saxon or Aryan cultural and biological superiority.

As numerous twentieth century philosophers have made clear, although not apparently for the elucidation of some modern day academics, evidence shows that natural selection does not necessarily favour the most competitive or aggressive individual and that a distinction must be made between learned and inherited characteristics.

Social Darwinism has now been given some new semblance of academic respectability as a result of the work of the Centre of Policy Studies based at Monash University. Initially, the Centre of Policy Studies was financed by the Commonwealth Government as a research centre of excellence, the aims of which were to generate meritorious research work at the frontiers of knowledge. Let me quote from the 1981 report of the Commonwealth Research Centres of Excellence Committee which states:

The centre will undertake analysis of aspects of economic and social policy relevant to Australian conditions. A number of studies on key issues of policy have already been undertaken by Professor Porter and his colleagues but with additional funding it should be possible to maintain a core research group of international standing able to explore wider problems of national interest.

Mr Reith —Quite right.

Mr MILTON —The honourable member says: `Quite right'. Perhaps he would like to listen to some of the points I am about to make. He will find that, disappointingly, that has not been quite right. It is interesting to note that the Centre of Policy Studies failed to continue to meet the necessary standards of academic objectivity required by a research centre of excellence and, I am pleased to note, it is no longer funded by the Commonwealth Government.

It is the Monash University Centre of Policy Studies that has now produced a publication entitled Spending and Taxing, Australian Reform Options. This book is based on the findings of the national priorities project which was commissioned by a whole range of employer organisations, many of which have proclaimed themselves in support of reducing government expenditure on public service, reducing the influence and strength of trade unions and increasing the wealth of business enterprises. The academics who have produced the book have claimed that there was no political motivation or bias in their work. Such claims are laughable but, unfortunately, the professors concerned, and the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith) who is at the table, are deadly serious and therefore their claims and their work must be treated seriously despite their obvious lack of compassion or understanding of how even the present unequal distribution of resources adversely affects average Australians, let alone those two million Australians who live in poverty.

I would like to spend a few moments examining the reform proposals made by the worthy professors to see whether they can be described as politically neutral. They have proposed $12,100m of aggregate savings in 1986-87, involving cuts in education, health, labour market programs and social security and welfare. The major cut is in the health budget, involving $7,000m of cuts which is achieved by the abolition of Medicare. In this way the average Australian family will be forced to pay for private insurance, with public hospitals charging full cost recovery fees as a transition to full privatisation, and the addition of national health scheme drug listing and government control over drug prices. If these proposals are accepted by the Opposition-indeed the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), is supporting cuts in government expenditure of $12,000m-how will pensioners and other low income earners manage to meet the high cost of ill health?

The next major cut proposed is in education, involving $2,500m. Spending on government schools would be reduced by $1,000m; on higher education by $1,200m; and on specific assistance for students by $300m. If such cuts are made, how will we ensure that the general education level of the school leavers who are new entrants to the work force is sufficient to provide the necessary skills for the work force which Australia needs for our vital new export industries? Do the professors of the Centre of Policy Studies or Opposition members really believe that we are likely to obtain the appropriate level of skills in our work force by cutting the funding for our government schools?

Finally, there is a proposed $2,200m cut in social security and welfare funding. These proposals by the Centre of Policy Studies are Social Darwinism of the most calculating and callous kind. Reducing minimum award wages and cutting benefits to the long term unemployed, thus forcing them into below poverty wage levels, would save some $600m. Cuts in the family allowance, the supporting parent's benefit and superannuation deductibility would provide the remaining $1,700m. What these cuts really mean is that those people who are already in poverty, including those for whom no work is available, will fall even further below the poverty line. I am only sorry that in the short time available in a speech supporting the Government's Supply Bills I do not have time to analyse in more detail the Centre for Policy Studies' publication which will be the basis of the Opposition's policies at the next election, as the honourable member for Flinders, who is at the table, has indicated.

Finally, let me point out that the $12,100m worth of health, education and social welfare cuts are to be distributed to those who are already comparatively well off. There are proposed tax cuts of $5,000m which would predominantly help the more wealthy income earners of our society. Another $2,400m of company tax cuts would result in lower company tax at a reduced rate of 30 per cent. The balance of moneys would be used for balancing the Budget and softening the general impact of the cuts. Kenneth Davidson, an economic commentator for the Age, commented in last Thursday's edition of the Age:

The Porter centre offers nothing, apart from their ideology of unrestricted freedom, to support their view that massive cuts in the provision of public services would result in a more equitable and efficient private provision of these services, or that the rich would use their windfall gains in socially productive ways that would provide a net benefit to the economy.

It is also interesting to note how divided the Liberal Party is on these matters. In an Australian Broadcasting Corporation Four Corners television interview on 4 May, Senators Puplick, Hill and Peter Baume and the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) expressed their concern about the influence which the New Right is exerting on the Howard-led front bench. On that program Senator Puplick stated:

I mean, it's no doubt that trade figures and balance of payment figures, overseas debt and all the rest of them are enormously significant issues, and they're enormously significant figures. But simply changing the figures around is not good enough for people who want to know what is the outcome of policy decisions in terms of how they impact upon individual people. And that's the real characteristic.

What is even more telling is that Senator Peter Baume went on to say:

Particularly if the outcome is misery, is worse living conditions, less opportunity, exactly what Chris Puplick is saying. Now, can I go further and say processes are not social goals in themselves. Privatisation, I think, can often do some good. But it's not a social goal. It is only a way of getting you to a social goal. We can't allow people to sell deregulation or privatisation or smaller government as social ends in themselves.

The Supply Bills are an integral step in the process of democratic government. I point out that Opposition-the National and Liberal parties-members are at odds with each other.

Mr Hollis —And their factions.

Mr MILTON —And the factions within those parties are at odds with each other. In fact, there is a second XI on the back bench. Those people are constantly disagreeing with each other, as the interview on the Four Corners program from which I quoted shows. Let us not forget that it was the ability of the Senate to refuse to grant Supply which enabled the Opposition parties, aided by the then Governor-General, to mount the coup which toppled the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975.

Mr Hollis —Backed by the CIA.

Mr MILTON —As the honourable member for Throsby has pointed out, at the back of it all was the Central Intelligence Agency. Unfortunately, the Senate still has that power. We on this side of the House will never forget the infamy of that coup; nor will we trust the Liberal and National parties which, when occasion presents itself, as with Premier Robin Gray and the present crisis over the Tasmanian Senate vacancy, are prepared to sabotage our democratic system in order to satisfy their born to rule syndrome. I reject the amendment put before the House by the Opposition and support the Supply Bills.