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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1780

Mr MCVEIGH (Darling Downs) - I would like to make a few comments on the Estimates. The estimates for the Department of the Special Minister of State show a disconcerting trend of increased expenditure. I hoped that at least in this new Department it would have been possible to sort the essential from the transitory, to get to the bottom of conflicting claims, to pierce the propaganda and the puffery of the present Labor Government, to try to get the facts straight and to make the conclusions sound. The Department should attempt to deal with the foreseeable as well as the unexpected. One is surprised at the great amount of finance, $228,300, which is appropriated for the Commission of Inquiry into the Australian Post Office as detailed in division 540, subdivision 3, item 07. We on this side of the Committee have no objection whatsoever to an in depth analysis of the Post Office. But we submit that the Budget indicated the familiar dilemma of the Australian Labor Party. Caught as it is in the intricacies of socialism and endeavouring to nationalise all power in Canberra post haste and in an endeavour to smash free enterprise, rural industries and people who live in rural areas and rural towns, the Caucus could not even wait for the Commission to come up with its findings and recommendations. It acted to implement its own policies, aims and objectives.

This is a national concern. Why have a Commission at all? Why use national funds if the Government intends to act independently of that Commission and to reach conclusions before the recommendations of that Commission are received? We on this side of the Committee submit that it would have been greater national value to be patient and to stop drifting into an eventual chaotic state which seems to be penalising efficiency and rewarding inertia. It would appear to me that, even if this modest gesture of waiting until the findings were received by the Government, the observance of this formality would have become an act of history.

Talking about history, I point out that Australian history is something of which we are all proud - at least, we on this side of the Parliament are. It fills us with great pride to think of the deeds of heroism and the pioneering spirit of the pathfinders and trail blazers of yesteryear. We are concerned that, unless positive moves are made to retain what is now available of our history and if efforts are not made to protect and, in some instances, to restore the crumbling ruins that are our early historic buildings, future generations will be penalised by the passage of time from seeing these buildings. They will be unable to relive the cultures of past generations and to absorb the history and culture of our country. As the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) commented, the situation in which vast sums of money are spent to purchase paintings when we appear to have no money to give to out historical societies to encourage them to preserve the buildings of the past is a great paradox.

Mr Corbett - Hear, hear!

Mr McVEIGH - I am concerned as other members of the Country Party are concerned with this aspect. The honourable member for Maranoa, a man whose people pioneered and tamed the western areas of Queensland, has expressed his concern. It is good to observe that he is concerned about this matter. Division 540, subdivision 4 of the estimates for the Department of the Special Minister of State reveals that the small sum of $4,400 has been allocated to historical societies in this Budget.

Mr Lucock - Shame.

Mr McVEIGH - As the honourable member for Lyne says: 'Shame'. It is great shame on Ministers that this paltry amount of money is allocated for this purpose when we find them hobnobbing in the 4 corners of the globe every day that they can get away from this national forum. Yet the Government has allocated a sum of only $4,400 to preserve the history of this country. The Country Party is proud of the history of Australia. I submit that history is culture and that it should be preserved. Even at this belated hour I make a very special plea to the Minister, as a tribute to the pioneers of the past, to reconsider this rather parsimonious allocation.

The honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) spoke about the Grants Commission. We recall that earlier in the life of the present Parliament legislation was enacted to spread the work of the Grants Commission to reduce inequalities between regions, in the same way as previously inequalities between the States were considered to be the prime purpose of the Commission. I have been informed that later this month the Commission will hold special meetings to define guidelines as to how it shall operate. I do not share the views of the previous speaker in this debate. I share the views of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) who interrupted earlier and said that it is about time that local government was granted a fair share of the national revenue. I applaud the action of the honourable member for Mallee in bringing to the notice of this Parliament the great financial burden that has been placed on the ratepayers in the various local authorities of this Commonwealth. I share his concern that it is about time that the national government gave to the local authorities some reimbursement from the common taxation pool. I wish now to refer to the area of Darling Downs where recently 5 Shires - Allora, Clifton, Cambooya, Pittsworth and Jondaryen - were declared soil erosion hazard areas. This was put down in a statutory declaration under an Act of the Queensland Parliament. The people of Darling Downs are concerned because they are alive to their responsibilities and aware of the sacred trust that has been placed in them to preserve and hold in trust for the use of future generations the land on which they have had the great honour to work and from which, through their toil and labour, they have earned a living. Plans for soil erosion prevention measures will be designed by the Queensland Department of Primary Industry and will include plans for land usage, reafforestation and pasture establishment.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Mir HAMER (Isaacs) (8.29)- In many ways the Department of the Prime Minister and

Cabinet is the most important Department of State. It has the task of co-ordinating the activities of the other 36 departments for the present Government has ten more departments than the previous Government had, fully complemented with the fat cats described by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). No wonder the numbers and the cost of the Public Service go up. This Committee must examine very critically how well the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is performing its vital co-ordinating role. How well is it doing? The answer clearly is very badly. It probably is not really the responsibility of the Department. It all stems from the administrative methods or lack of method of the Prime Minister

Mr Cooke - Decide in haste, repent at leisure.

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