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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1782

Mr HAMER (ISAACS, VICTORIA) - Very true. The Prime Minister reminds me very strongly of a similarly inept administrator I used to know who, when asked what he thought about a particular situation, snapped back: 'How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?' For the Prime Minister has a deplorable habit of blurting out half thought through ideas. He sometimes talks brilliantly, particularly on television, until he suddenly says something which reveals he has not the faintest or foggiest idea of what he is talking about. Like the thirteenth chime of a crazy clock, it casts doubt on all that has gone before.

A good example of this, perhaps, is his performance in the field of interest rates. He did have the grace, if that is the word, to say that there were gaps in his knowledge on interest rates. I think that all who heard him on the subject would have said rather that there were gaps in his ignorance and even those gaps are hard to perceive.

Mr Cooke - Caucus helped to fill them in, though.

Mr HAMER - Yes. Of course the Prime Minister's administrative performance is not helped by having a 27-man Cabinet and a 93-man supervisory Cabinet - his Caucus. It would take an administrator of much greater capacity than the Prime Minister to cope with such handicaps.

The Prime Minister seems to be dancing to music which he alone can hear. I am able to reveal what the dance is. It is called the Whitlam waltz. Watch his footwork. He takes as many steps to the left as he dares, then a few paces back to get onside with the right wing, and then waltzes round in circles until totally confused. When the Prime Minister confessed to the House the other day that he tossed and turned in bed at night, it was obvious that he was training for the Whitlam waltz.

Why are the Prime Minister and his departments failing so deplorably in their coordination? One reason is that there are now more than 50 committees and inquiries advising 27 Ministers. There are so many interdepartmental committees that the Prime Minister is not even prepared to find out how many there are or what they are doing. Twentyseven Press secretaries are daily promising instant Utopia. If we are to have so many committees and their activities are not to overlap and their findings are to be considered and, where appropriate, converted into policy - if all these objectives are to be achieved - it will need a far higher level of administrative control than this Government and in particular the Prime Minister have yet shown.

The second and far more sinister development has been the vast increase in the personal staffs and advisers of Ministers. These individuals, unlike the public servants whom they supersede, owe their allegiance solely to their Ministers.

Mr Cooke - They are all political has-beens.

Mr HAMER - Yes. It was this trend which in America led directly to Watergate. It is an indication of the trend of thought in the present Government which led to the Prime Minister publicly to describe one of his staff as his Kissinger. It was one of these advisers - being paid, I am told, nearly $1,000 a week - who led the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) into his blundering raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. But here too it is difficult to establish the facts. There is in the Budget some incomplete information on Ministerial personal staffs but nothing about the number of paid advisers. The trend is dangerous and quite foreign to the Australian system of government.

The administrative record of the present Government is a mass of contradiction. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) have visions of desirable changes in our society, which the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) immediately frustrate by destroying the future growth in productivity which alone could make these social objectives possible. Then there is the distribution of wealth. The Minister for Labour and the Prime Minister have disagreed publicly on this subject, but the Minister for Labour has campaigned for the 35-hour week, with attacks on firms which, as he describes them, can afford it. His first target is the oil industry. The irony is that the oil industry has been under price control for its principal products for many years. If its profits are excessive, surely the best answer is to reduce the price of the products so that the whole community can share, rather than giving all the benefits to a small group of trade unionists. The Government's policy seems to be that all Australians are equal, but militant trade unionists are more equal than others.

One could go on endlessly with these contradictions. Another is to be found in education. Here the Government claims to intend to raise the quality of sub-standard independent schools and then adopts a recurrent grant system that is a positive disincentive to the improvement of standards. What school will improve its pupil-teacher ratio if the effect is that it will be put in a higher category and lose part of its grant. And so it goes on.

Conservation is a joke under this Government. Do honourable members remember how enthusiastic the Labor Party was to save Lake Pedder before the election? And what about Galston? What about industrial relations? The man hours lost through industrial action in the first 5 months this year as compared with the first 5 months of last year have gone up by 54 per cent. So much for the special ability of a Labor Government to reduce industrial disturbance. This Government is bringing this country to industrial chaos. Then there is the basic contradiction between our new foreign policy and our new defence policy. But we cannot debate the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) because the Government is not prepared to bring it on, when all its faults and absurdities would be revealed for all to see. And so it goes on. Shuffling Ministers around will not cure the problem. The administration of this Government is a shambles and for this the Prime Minister, and through him his Department, must take the principal blame.

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