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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4013

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -(Mr Corbel)- Order! The House will come to order. I warn the honourable member for Riverina that when the Deputy Speaker is on his feet there shall be no interjections. I want io inform the House that all interjections are out of order. This is not a matter of whether or not honourable members are in their seats. The only difference is that when a member interjects from a seat other than his own he aggravates the offence and is doubly out of order. I take the point that exchanges across the House are not helping this debate at all. I ask the House to come to order.

Dr PATTERSON - I point out that I have lost 21 minutes of my speaking time as a result of what has just taken place. I ask that I be granted 2i minutes extra time in which lo speak. I believe that when interjections of this type start the clock should be slopped. lt is important that the Government make a study of this distribution of Federal money in country areas because this is part and parcel of the argument put forward by the Prime Minister, lt is all right to say that 'masses' of money are being poured into rural areas through the wool funds but what we want lo know is how much money is actually staying in country areas. As I have pointed out a lot of this money is in fact going back to the head offices of big rural organisations in the cities. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, know full well as a primary producer that what I say is correct.

The Prime Minister also talked about the current reconstruction and retraining scheme that is operating in country areas. What he forgot to tell us is this: The scheme is so blatantly biased against the work force in the country that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) refuses to allow a statement on it to be debated in the House. The retraining programme applies only to farmers and those directly working on farms. In other words, my honourable friend from Moreton (Mr Killen), who is an ex wool classer, would not have received this assistance if he followed that occupation today. Also, people such as shearers, fencers, dam sinkers, men who work for the councils and so on are completely excluded from the Gov ernment's retraining scheme. The scheme is blatantly biased against the work force in country areas.

The other point 1 want to make relates to the distribution of money. This is the most airy fairy sort of proposal that I have heard for many a day. One would think that plenty of experience has been gained of distributing funds via the States - provided, 1 assume, by way of section 96 of the Constitution - to local authorities and semi-government authorities. One would think that there would be at least some Federal guidelines with respect to this operation. But the Government has brought forward an airy fairy sort of proposition. The Opposition supports the proposition to the hilt provided the money went to the right people and authorities that have the utmost need of it. Anybody who has any experience in this type of Commonwealth-State relationship knows full well that a State always plays politics in order to give an impetus to councils, particularly those councils in areas in which members of the same party predominate. It is no good saying that a State does not, because anyone with any practical knowledge of this knows this to be the case. Firm guidelines completely free of politics should be laid down for the distribution of this money. In other words, the money should go to those areas which need it most. That is the basic principle of the Labor Party's approach to this matter. We believe that the money should go to those wool producers, for example, who need it most.

What has the Government clone in regard to the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill? It provides money for those who do not necessarily need it most. I could quote organisations such as Dalgety and Elder Smith as being companies which will receive some of this money. There are members on the other side of the Parliament who are reputed to be millionaires and who will share in this financial payment.

Mr Foster - That is right, and ex members, too.

Dr PATTERSON - Yes. Mr Cope- Is that right, Rex?

Dr PATTERSON - Well, I think the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) has told me so. Regional priorities in States arc most important with respect to this problem because if those priorities are not determined in a rat. ona I and non-political way this money will not go to the people who deserve it most. 1 want to emphasise that the good part about the proposal is this: 1 have always maintained that it is most unproductive to be paying unemployment benefits to people whether they be in the country or in the metropolitan areas when there is productive work to be done. All the Government is doing is simply paying out or transferring taxpayers' funds to people who are not working. The money paid by way of unemployment benefit may bc productive in the second round but in the first round it is not productive. It is far better to make up the difference so that people can get at least the minimum wage. In this way we would ensure that the additional money can be profitably employed on productive works. This is a principle which I believe should be followed not only in times of crisis as there is now but at all times.

We have a problem, for example, in parts of Queensland in the meat and sugar industries where there is a high rate of seasonal unemployment year in and year out. Unless families move out of the areas and go fruit picking or whatever it may be, they remain on the dole for 6 or 7 months of the year and simply receive the unemployment benefit. This is a waste of resources. The great majority of men and women who receive the unemployment benefit want to work. One of the best ways of giving them work is to provide funds to local authorities or semi-government authorities which can supply employment for them. Most of these people are unskilled and they could be employed on road development, drainage, sewerage, bridging or maintenance, whatever it might be. If this were done these people would be doing something productive not only for the area in which they were working but for the nation.

I hope that the Government will take notice of this precedent and every year make money available to supplement the funds of local authorities because this is, as far as the net gain is concerned, beneficial to Australia. Such action would put unemployed resources to work and this is a basic economic principle which is good. 1 would like to refer to the distribution of unemployment in Australia. At present approximately 29,000 males and females are unemployed in non-metropolitan areas. Of that figure, 17,700 are males and 11,000 are females. This is a figure about which the Government should be greatly concerned because it is growing seriously. The thing I want to stress is that it will grow greatly in the next 2 months because that is when the school leavers will be looking for jobs. There is nothing more humiliating and degrading than for mothers and fathers to have to admit that after years of paying for the schooling of their children they cannot find a job for them.

This Government talks about education. Surely one of the most important priorities in this nation is the provision of sufficient jobs for boys and girls when they leave school after they have finished their formal schooling. I mentioned yesterday a case I struck in western Queensland of a girl who had just sat for and passed the senior public examination and could not get a job as a waitress in what used to be a viable and important town, Longreach. This situation is repeated in dozens, if not hundreds, of towns throughout Australia, and that is the sort of problem about which the Government should be doing something.

I do not think that any of this money will be made available to give these girls and boys the opportunities they so richly deserve to get jobs in these areas. It seems to me that this kind of proposition could be abused if it was not handled with some respect for priorities. Too frequently we have seen in the past in the States money going to areas for political reasons only and councils deserving of funds being excluded because they are not of the right political colour or because under the particular criteria which the responsible Minister in the State lays down it does not suit him to make money available to certain local authorities. One thing I hope the Commonwealth Government will do is to set down firm guidelines to which the States will have to adhere in the distribution of this money. The Commonwealth did that with the money it made available for drought relief and it has worked reasonably well. I hope it will do so with respect to this measure also. The Opposition supports the proposal. We believe it is a good and a sound proposal, lt will stimulate employment in rural areas. But we repeat again that this must not be abused and some guidelines must be laid down by the Government.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - 1 want to speak. I made an arrangement with the Leader of the House.

Mr Foster - 1 take a point of order.

Mr Giles - I wish to move that ' the debate be now adjourned.

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