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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 492

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - 1 rise to support this Budget. Before going on with the main part of my speech 1 shall mention just a few matters. Senator Gietzelt made a plea in relation to 2 important issues, namely, unemployment and Commonwealth support for the States. In support of this he quoted from numerous papers and carried on for nearly an hour. I point out that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. We have a well known English television interviewer out here, David Frost. When he was asked what he thought of the 2 per cent unemployment rate he said that in Great Britain it would be considered a luxury. Let us face it: At the present time we have unemployment. Honourable senators opposite always talk about unemployment but they will not do anything to stop the reasons for unemployment. One of the main reasons is the extravagant wage demands which have been made. Let us face the fact that many industries cannot pass on their costs. If there is a 25 per cent wage increase overnight what are those industries which cannot pass on their costs going to do about it? They have to do something about the employment part of their cost structure. What they have done in many cases is to put men off. This is something the Opposition has never been able to accept as a fact. If wages are too high one cannot expect employers to employ people and still maintain a price structure which is acceptable to the public.

The honourable senator also went on about local government and payments to the States. As a member of a Party which believes in federalism and the States I find it quite extraordinary to have an ally on the opposite side of the chamber. Over the years the Australian Labor Party has been in favour of centralised collecting of money by the Commonwealth and even dispensing with the States. Here today we have an honourable senator advocating that all the funds in the world should be given to the States to spend. What is the situation? Today 52 per cent of all revenue collected is spent by either the States or local government. I presume that our friend on the Opposition side would like to see that amount increased to 60 per cent or 70 per cent. I do not know what figure he would like. If it is to be 60 per cent, that will do me. As a federalist and one who is against centralism I say: By all means give the States 60 per cent of all taxes collected to be spent in the State sphere. What is wrong now is that the Federal Government is responsible for collecting the money and the States which do not have the responsibility spend as it suits them, lt is up to the States to distribute in a wise fashion the funds which they collect and receive, lt is of no use to come along and blame the Commonwealth because an avenue such as public transport is in a parlous state.

But it is not to discuss what Senator Gietzelt had to say that I am here. I am very pleased with the Budget. I describe it as a people's Budget. Everybody has gained something from it. Other honourable senators have particular matters on which they would like to speak. The medical care centres which have been set up in this Budget will help the pensioners. I believe that this has been a great advance. In education we have seen important advances in nearly every direction. There is an important omission as far as education is concerned and that is in relation to children in isolated areas.

Senator Byrne - Hear, hear!

Senator MAUNSELL - I accept the hear, hear' from all around the chamber. The children in remote areas of Australia are due for better treatment than they are receiving now. It is only in recent times that people have pushed this aspect. I know that the States, too, have a responsibility in this sphere because they control the education system. I know that the Commonwealth Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is sympathetic to the cause, lt is only a matter of the State Departments of Education and the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science getting together. I am sure that when they do we will see this anomaly in our education system rectified. I am pleased that expenditure on defence has not been cut back in this Budget. Even though we do not have the commitment in Vietnam which we previously had we are still prepared to spend money in this direction. This means that the Government is prepared to maintain a well trained and efficient defence force. I think this is most important. Also, a committee consisting of members from both sides of the House of Representatives recently brought in recommendations relating to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and I understand that the Government intends to do something about them. That is another thing which will attract competent servicemen to our forces and help to hold them. I am pleased that the Government is facing up to its defence responsibilities. 1 think that the main point in this Budget is the recognition given to the private sector. This is an important departure from the principle adopted in other budgets since the war, or perhaps from the accepted pattern of budgets. 1 certainly hope it continues because I believe that the private sector has a very important part to play in the development of this nation. We hear a lot of talk these days about foreign ownership of our resources. We know that it is very difficult to achieve Australian investment in our resources. Australians are fairly limited in the amount of funds that they have to invest in our resources but I believe that this Budget will set the pattern for the future development of Australian resources by Australians.

The Government has decided to reduce income tas. The 10 per cent reduction will mean that more money will be available to everyone in the community. They will be able to spend it on goods or services that they require or they will be able to invest it. The Government's decision to abolish the means test over a period of 3 years will provide another incentive to the public. People now will be able to invest their surplus money in shares of companies which are destined to develop this nation rather than to adopt the attitude taken in the past: 1 do not have sufficient money to tide me over in my old age but the money I have will preclude my getting the pension, so I will divest myself of my money or shares and retain only sufficient to make me eligible for the pension. The abolition of the means test will mean that these people, particularly those in middle age who do not have the responsibility of building a home or educating children, will now have money available and will want to know what to do with it. What, will they do with it? Abolition of the means test will mean they will be able to invest their money in long term return industries.

Senator O'Byrne - Such as Tasminex

Senator MAUNSELL - Never mind the particular industries that Senator O'Byrne supports. I am talking about the development of Australia's resources. Probably the honourable senator would not know anything about that subject. These people now will feel that they can invest their money in companies or enterprises which will be to the advantage of this nation without jeopardising their chances of getting the pension later. The return from investments in such enterprises will help subsidise their pensions. I understand that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) has a statement to make to the Senate and I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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