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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2286

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I shall speak briefly on these Appropriation Bills. As has already been mentioned, in the past 12 months the rate of inflation has greatly increased. In that time there has been such a shortage of everyday goods in Australia as to be unprecedented in peace time. I am not sure what has caused this, but it would seem to be a shortage of labour. In the past few months cotton textiles have been in extremely short supply and there has been a shortage also of many items of wearing apparel and household goods. For some reason there has been a scarcity of paper products for various purposes, including printing. Paper products have been in such short supply that we could not get out application forms for postal votes for the referendum until 2 or 3 days after the writs had been issued. The forms were just not available, the excuse being that the electoral officer did not have the paper to print them. Building materials such as nails and roofing iron are also in short supply. We are told that the Government has sent substantial quantities of nails and roofing iron to Vietnam, with the result that there is not enough to go around for local use. This sort of thing tends to send prices up. I can mention shortages in various steel products such as motor car parts, tractor parts and agricultural machinery parts, and particularly fencing wire, which it would seem is no longer available. I know of one man in the rural sector who, wanting his farm machinery overhauled in preparation for the sowing of his crop, was told by the people who had been doing this work for him every year that it was of no use their overhauling his machinery as they could not get replacements for faulty parts.

Senator Mulvihill - Will you name the firm for the information of the Senate?

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I will find out afterwards. A couple of other things in that area are in short supply also. There is a scarcity of manpower in this country. The Government has cut back on our immigration program at a time when it should have been maintained. Australia is a fast developing country, but manpower is one of the things in short supply. During the past 12 months transport costs and many other costs have increased greatly. One of the things that is adversely affecting business is the record rates of interest, to which reference has been made in the Senate in recent weeks. The present rates of interest are probably the highest ever in peace time in this country.

Senator Wright - Not probably; without doubt.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -As my friend Senator Wright says, without doubt. When money is plentiful interest rates should come down, but the situation at present is the opposite. Apparently money is plentiful for many forms of investment, but instead of interest rates coming down in accordance with the law of supply and demand, they have gone up to record high levels. Despite assurances to the contrary, I believe that Australia is in for trouble with its oil and power supplies. I was told in answer to a question yesterday that Australia is nearly 70 per cent selfsufficient in oil but that supplies are not expected to last for more than 7 or 8 years. The previous Government, which introduced an oil search subsidy for a 15 -year period, was largely responsible for oil development in our continent, which was once thought to be devoid of oil deposits. After the discovery of oil at Barrow Island in Western Australia and Moonie in Queensland there was a great rush to find new oil deposits and a period of great development followed. The Australian oil industry has developed from that point, assisted by the oil search subsidy, but now that has ceased. The Labor Government, instead of attempting to maintain oil parity, is content saying that only a limited period is in sight for oil wells and oil production in Australia. This is a time when Australia should be extending its oil search program in an attempt to become selfsufficient in oil. These are just a few of the things that I wanted to bring before the Senate when speaking on these Appropriation Bills. I was not here to speak when the Budget was introduced but, as has been mentioned, we do not propose to refuse the passage of these Appropriation Bills. Although we are not very happy with many aspects of them. We will be able to discuss the question of taxation as it relates to the rural sector when the Taxation Bills come up for debate soon. I think that the record inflation rate, the high interest rate and the shortage of goods and supplies concern Australians much more than many members of this Parliament realise. I have tried to find out what the Government proposes to do about this situation but cannot get any answer. They are the only comments I would make on these Bills.

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