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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 531

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The previous speaker was heard in complete silence. The honourable member for Murray should extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Cook.

Mr THORBURN - I repeat, only the present Prime Minister stood out and said that he would not participate in a constitutional convention unless local government were represented as a full partner in its own right. No other political leader in the Federal sphere would make that statement at the time. Of course local government will be represented next week at the Constitutional Convention as a full partner with proper representation.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - What have Opposition members got against local government anyhow?

Mr THORBURN - I do not know what they have against it. The fifth point in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition states:

It jeopardises the future growth of living standards and economic development of the nation;

This needs little comment. In fact every thinking person would have a contrary view to that of the Leader of the Opposition. The sixth point of the Leader of the Opposition is: it unfairly discriminates against the rural community and discourages decentralisation;

Perhaps the supreme piece of hypocrisy in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition was the reference to discrimination against the rural community and his charge that this Government discourages decentralisation. The position revealed by the statistics gives the complete lie to this claim that is demonstrably false. In the 10 years between census takings the previous Government's policies resulted in 100,000 people leaving the country areas and going to the cities. In the 5 years of rural recession the last Government drove 30,000 farmers from their farms. It reduced the countryside to the worst circumstances since the great depression of the 1930s. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) came into the chamber last night to listen to the tirade of the Leader of the Opposition, splendidly bedecked in a coat of cross-bred merino dorset horn, which every honourable member would remember. The Minister told me last night that the price of wool in his electorate when the last Government reigned went as low as 29c a lb. Today the price of wool is at its highest for a generation.

Mr Giles - Have you organised it?

Mr THORBURN - We have achieved it, and that is more than you did. The Country Party, with 8 or 9 per cent of the votes, controlled for 24 years a quarter of the front bench of the previous Government and nearly all the Cabinet and all the sensitive rural portfolios, to the great detriment of the country as a whole. It is hypocritical of the previous Government, now it has been defeated, to talk about decentralisation. When it left the treasury bench 98 per cent of all Australians lived in urban areas. This was the position when we came into government. The previous Government was a complete failure. It failed the farmers; it failed the country people and today it is simply lying about the policies that we have introduced That is a strong word to use, but when we have Country Party members telling their constituents that trunk calls-

Mr Giles - Might I respectfully suggest that perhaps it is too strong a word to use.'

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I can cope with this situation. The honourable member for Cook did not refer to any member in particular. However, I would remind him that it was not a very nice parliamentary remark. 1 ask him not to use it again.

Mr THORBURN - Mr Speaker,I am well aware of that, but I think there is reason to use strong words. It has come back to me through a number of sources that members of the Country Party are telling their constituents that the cost of trunk calls has gone up 20c across the board. Of course, this is totally untrue. It is a fact that Country Party members, either through ignorance or by their own deliberate act, have been telling people this. Of course, the fact of the matter is that the cost of trunk calls has decreased. In areas where a service is provided by the Subscriber Trunk Dialling system at great cost to the Postmaster-General's Department, the position is that the Post Office, in order to encourage people to use this expensive equipment that has been installed, has imposed a charge of 20c on trunk calls because it has to employ a lady telephonist to deal with trunk calls that are not directed through the STD channels that are provided. It is a complete untruth to tell people that the cost of trunk calls has increased by 20c.

The seventh point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the Budget does not provide a framework of social equity. This remark needs little comment. Again, it seems that every thinking person would have a view contrary to that held by the Leader of the Opposition on this point. His eighth and closing point was that the Budget fails to honour election promises. The electors will be the judges of this. I notice that the gallup poll released this morning shows that the Prime Minister's rating has gone up and that the rating of the Leader of the Opposition is going down further and further. As I say, the electors will be the final judge of whether the Labor Party has provided them with the sort of election policies for which they were looking.

There are 2 matters on which I wish to conclude my remarks. The first is the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition to the Public Service. Certainly, the Public Service had to be expanded in order to cope with the tremendous activity of this new Government. So far in many departments it has not yet been able, through the Public Service

Board, to fulfil its obligations. It is a basic principle of management that every person wants to perform well. It is this Government's responsibility to restructure the Public Service to be an efficient tool of government in order to give every public servant the opportunity to perform to his utmost capability. This we will do. It may require revolution within the Service, but far better a revolution than to have the Service and its highly capable staff frustrated in their efforts to carry out their responsibilities in an efficient manner.

The second concluding point I want to make is that I endorse fully the actions of the Prime Minister in enlisting expert advice from the tremendous wealth of knowledge that is available in Australia today. However, there should be a word of warning. There can be a tendency for the advice of experts to supplant the wishes of members of the Government in the decision making processes. This is the worst kind of bureaucratic malignancy. Their advice is valuable and welcome. However, the ultimate decision making must rest with the whole of the Government.

This Budget is a great tribute to the Treasurer, a man who for 24 years with great dedication has devoted his talents to the fiscal policies of the Australian Government. The fruits of that knowledge are evidenced in the understanding, not always readily available with people who involve themselves in monetary matters, that he has shown in this Budget. I commend the Budget to the Parliament.

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