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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1412

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - by leave- I did not know until this morning at question time that the Prime Minister proposed to make an announcement on this matter and therefore I have not had the opportunity to prepare the kind of considered speech which I would like to make. I have been able to jot down only a few headings during the course of question time. Nevertheless, I believe that some preliminary observations should be made by me at this time.

I am deeply concerned about the rate of inflation that we have witnessed in the economy in recent times. I have expressed that concern in the House and I would be less than honest if I then accepted in full what I believe to be the intentions of the Government and the Opposition in this matter. I must say, therefore, one or two words on this matter because it is perfectly obvious that the example that is given by this Parliament must have enormous repercussions on the whole of the community in regard to claims for increased pay of one kind or another, or increased prices that people may wish to levy.

Firstly I want to make 2 points. The first point is the injustice of the rate of inflation that we have witnessed and are still witnessing to people who are in retirement, people who are living on the proceeds of small savings and people who are living on superannuation, whether from governments, public instrumentalities or private companies. On the whole superannuation has not kept in step with rises in the cost of living. 1 draw attention also to the injustice of inflation to poor people, particularly those with large families. I do not want to enlarge upon this. I simply say that this is a matter of gross injustice because inflation comes, as it has been said, like a thief in the night, stealing the savings of people and reducing their living standards quietly and effectively so that their incomes melt away like a lump of ice in the noonday sun. I cannot see this kind of injustice with equanimity.

The second point I want to make is the effect of this rapid inflation on the economy - not just the creep of inflation in recent years but the rapid inflation that we have seen recently, which we are still seeing and which is still in sight. I want to draw attention to the effects of inflation on our export industries and on the economy. Inflation distorts the economy. For example, inflation boosts the price of land because this is something that cannot lose value. Also, there is the gambling on the slock exchange because people have sought to make up by way of capital gains what they cannot get from the normal return on investments. There are other distortions. But this is not a speech on inflation. I merely make the point that what Parliament does is an example to the community as a whole and that inflation is, firstly, a grave injustice to many people in this community and, secondly, it has enormous distorting effects and influences on our export industries and the economy.

Another matter which I wish to mention is this: The Prime Minister has referred to the terms of reference of the inquiry. I want to say a few words about this matter. I hope that the Judge will make an analysis of the movement of comparable salaries, that is to say salaries in the bracket of professional people whose salaries have been traditionally of the same order as the salaries of members of Parliament. 1 hope that he will examine the movement of comparable salaries since the last adjustment in 1968. It has been less than 3 years since this adjustment was made. This should not be a work value inquiry. It should be related purely to the increase of other comparable salaries. However, there are no comparable salaries really because other people do not have the same responsibilities of a member of Parliament. If the salary of an employee of the Public Service or some person in the office of the Prime Minister, maybe, has gone up, that has nothing whatever to do with the responsibilities of members of Parliament. The official or other person is entitled to whatever he may get. But members of Parliament have a responsibility to set an example to the people at large. I have a responsibility to my constituents and there are thousands of them who are in the categories that I have mentioned and who are suffering injustices. It is not that I do not have regard or sympathy for members of this House, especially those with young families and who perhaps may be paying off mortgages on homes. But I also have sympathy with the thousands of others whom I represent and those in this country who suffer from the results of inflation and who, if this Parliament sets a certain example, will suffer even more. So much then for the nature of the inquiry.

The next matter I want to mention - and I will conclude on this important point - concerns what action will be taken on the report. I assume that the report will be tabled, and that it will not merely be presented to the Government as has been the case with too many reports. I expect the report to be tabled and when it is tabled this Parliament may take such action as it pleases upon it. The Government could let the report lie and take no action at all, or it could take no action for 12 months or until the next Parliament or it could accept the report in part. It could say: 'We will accept the increase but not the whole of the increase', and cut off a certain percentage of it. It could take this kind of action. As I have said, Parliament has a special responsibility in this matter. In due course we will have the report; in due course no doubt legislation will be introduced. I reserve what I have to say at greater length and in more detail till that time. At the moment I merely put into the mind of the Prime Minister that action on the report is a different thing from getting the report or from what the report may recommend. This is not a pleasant task that I have had to say these things today. I know that I shall not be a popular member in this Parliament and I am also aware that so far as the people are concerned neither shall I be popular with them. They are all seeking increases in wages or salaries or whatever it may be and if Parliament does what is proposed they will cheer. They will say: 'Ah! That gives us a greater opportunity of pressing our claims too.' Indeed, this is the hub of the matter. So I expect popularity neither in this Parliament nor among the people. But when one sees something very clearly as one's duty - and 1 hope I will not be regarded as priggish in this; I dislike this task intensely - I feel I must say what I believe to be the truth of the matter.

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