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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2289

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -Not having had an opportunity to speak in the debate on the Budget, which has not yet been finalised, I though I should take the opportunity to speak on a few aspects of these Appropriation Bills. As I said at the time the Budget was delivered, I think it is a very colourless production. It is something which did not stir the nation as the new Government thought it would. I think that as we are drawing away from it more people are realising that it is a colourless Budget. The very difficult and serious problem which we have before us is inflation. The Government has failed to face up to it and to tackle it. I know that all sorts of ideas are put forward for tackling inflation, but as far as this Government is concerned the 3 simple things which should be kept in mind are: Cutting down on spending in areas where it is not necessary, not encouraging overspending in certain areas and, more particularly, encouraging production. Unless there is sufficient production there will be more forces working towards inflation. It is only commonsense to realise that if goods are short there is bidding for them. As a consequence the price goes up. Honourable senators will find that it does not matter what the article is, the price will go up. Today we are finding, as has been mentioned by other speakers, a serious shortage of goods in various areas. Even over the counter people cannot get ordinary commodities. I think it was Senator Webster who mentioned serious shortages in the building industry. I ask honourable senators to think how this filters through to the community.

Senator Mulvihill - Would not the employer be better with more apprentices?

Senator WOOD - No. It is a matter of shortage of materials. My own state of Queensland is an example. I noticed where people were paying $6 when bidding for a bag of cement. Therefore encouragment should be given for greater production. I have not heard one appeal from this Government for greater production. There has been no encouragement. The Government has taken away the taxation incentive on industrial equipment. That was granted as an encouragement for production. We find the situation is developing in more serious ways as each week goes by. I feel that as long as this situation remains inflation will tend to increase. This is a problem which the Government has failed to tackle in its Budget. In my opinion this should have been foremost in its thinking and in its action. The Budget presented to us completely failed to cope with that situation. As a matter of fact many of the Budget items caused an increase in the cost of goods. That is quite apparent to many honourable members and honourable senators. Many honourable senators know the particular aspects to which I am referring where a specific tax was imposed, causing an increase in the cost of goods.

Senator Lillico - Cigarettes and beer.

Senator WOOD - Yes. They are outside my line because I am a teetotaller and a non-smoker, but the honourable senator knows as well as I do that those things and other things went up in price.

Senator Cavanagh - If the honourable senator drank and smoked we would not have bad -it the tax up.

Senator WOOD - Well, the Government nas affected even the teetotal line. I remember that just after the Budget came on a storekeeper told me that a man walked in and he was furious. He said: 'I have always voted Labor, but never again. It has even put on a tax increasing the cost of the kids ' lolly water. ' That is what he called it.

Senator McAULIFFE (QUEENSLAND) - The honourable senator is a good Queenslander and he does not take any sugar in his tea.

Senator WOOD - I take a lot of sugar. I take a lot of sugar in different ways because, belonging to a sweet State like the honourable senator, I like sweet things. But I think it is very important to tackle inflation. In this regard the Government has failed to face up to the situation. I know that sometimes it can be unpopular to do the right thing, but it is the Government's job to do the right thing and to do what is best for the country. As an indication of some of the things the

Government has done I instance the air navigation charges. I tackled my own Government on this subject. I have been consistent. I think it is ludicrous the way governments- not only this Government but also previous governmentshave continually piled on air navigation charges. Of course, the story is: We are spending so much money, we have to get so much back. But by increasing these charges they in turn filter through again. It means higher costs of travel and higher air freight charges. Today a lot of goods go by air freight. But the thing which strikes me about the shortsightedness of the Government in regard to this aspect of transport is that a great deal of the civil aviation expenditure is in the major capital cities. In Victoria at Tullamarine is an overseas airport which cost a terrific lot of money. In Sydney, at the international terminal, in addition to the domestic terminal, a terrific lot of money has been spent.

Senator Gair - There is no over-extravagance in Brisbane, though.

Senator WOOD -No. In Brisbane we find the most out of date concept as far as civil aviation is concerned. But those of us from Queensland, the Northern Territory and the other distant States are expected to pay higher air fares in order to give luxury outfits for overseas terminals in those major capital cities. This is one of those aspects where we cannot get back everything we spend. It is all right saying, as I have heard one of the ex-Ministers on my side say, that people who use the air services should pay for them. That sounds all right but it is a case of getting down to a practical basis. If we carry this exercise right through we could ask: What about the motorist? Of course, the motorist pays tax on fuel but what does he pay for the upkeep of the bitumen roads which the municipalities and the developers provide and which the municipalities keep in order? Does the motorist pay for everything he gets as far as road usage is concerned? Of course he does not. But civil aviation is a good old packhorse, as we might term it, of a fast character. It is quite easy to pass these costs on. But the ridiculous thing is that we have the highest charges in the world for civil aviation.

What we have to think of when we pile these charges on is that we are piling them on to a transportation system which not only takes our people around this country but also people who are coming to this country on business and on holidays. The development of the international travel trade is one of the things we should be encouraging very strongly. I have been associated with the development of the Great Barrier Reef for over 40 years. I have been in travel business during that time. The trend is for more Australians to go out of Australia than possibly ever before. I notice that the Government has made some small approach to try to develop the domestic tourist trade. But we have these cheap fares for people leaving Australia. What are we doing? We are piling all the costs on in order to make it more difficult for people to come into this country. We in Australia have to recognise that we are possibly further removed from the great supply of people for the tourist industry than any other country. We in this region are not surrounded by any other country. We are an island on our own. Therefore it should be our aim to make it as attractive as possible to bring people here. But it is not just a matter of people on holidays. We have to ask what it means to this country.

At the present time we know that the accommodation industry is facing a fairly difficult period. We want more people to fill the accommodation. We are continually asking for people to build more and better accommodation. But what is the good of that if we do not have tourists to fill it. For some little time now the accommodation industry has been having a difficult time. I think that the aim of governments should be to make tourism as cheap as possible. They should make transportation cheap for people to get here and also do everything possible to encourage them to come here. Why should international travellers, and particularly Australians travelling around our own country be saddled more and more with the debts which to a very large extent are caused by expenditure on people in the capital city areas?

I think that the Government provides only about $2m to encourage the tourist industry on an international basis. Only a small amount has been set aside to encourage further development of the domestic industry. Because of the situation that has developed, because there are so many influences causing people to leave our country, we should be spending much more than that today to try to encourage people to this country. We have put up barriers not only in the form of these increased air navigation charges, which naturally are passed on. I refer to revaluation as a result of which we have made it more costly for people to come to this country. Because of the revaluation of the Australian dollar it is much more costly for people in the United States of America to come to Australia than before. I am not talking about whether or not the Australian dollar should have been revalued; I am simply indicating that because of these difficulties we should be spending more and more money to help bring people to this country.

I do not know of a cleaner industry than the tourist industry. There is no pollution associated with it. I do not know of a better industry and I do not know of one which gives a country more and which results in people taking away nothing. The tourist industry is one of that type. People come to our country to enjoy the scenery and local things and they leave their money behind. They take nothing from the country but the pleasure and happiness of a holiday here. Australia is a country of different aspects and I believe that it has an appeal for overseas people. The basis of the tourist industry and of holidays is that people can see different things, different places, different people and different customs. I have talked about this subject for years and I think that we do not encourage the tourist industry nearly as much as we should. All governments have failed in this regard and I think that this is a subject that we should press more strongly. I think that Senator McAuliffe would agree with me that our State of Queensland, with its Great Barrier Reef, its beautiful tropical vegetation and other features which people have the opportunity of enjoying, could gain to a very great extent from an increase in the tourist industry on an international basis.

Senator Byrne - When you think that we are exporting tremendous amounts of capital as a result of the outflow of our tourists, we should try to get an inflow as well.

Senator WOOD - That is one of the unfortunate things. Great quantities of minerals such as coal and iron ore are going out of this country and as a result we are getting overseas credits but the matter of earning credits in this country has been lost sight of.

Senator Byrne - Also, our tourists are going overseas.

Senator Gair - People should see Australia first.

Senator WOOD - Yes. Senator Byrne has reminded me that in the tourist industry we are losing because more money goes out of this country as a result of our people going elsewhere than is earned from people coming in. We should be working to reverse that situation so that we earn more money in this country from overseas tourists than our people spend through leaving Australia.

I want to refer to another subject, the mining industry which has been mentioned by other honourable senators who have spoken. I think it is a matter of great regret that there has not been sufficient encouragement given to the mining industry. It is very regrettable to me that the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has adopted such an attitude to the mining people. It has caused strong ill feeling. In addition, because of his statements and attitudes, people have been discouraged from looking for minerals. It takes a lot of money to find minerals and many of our smaller companies are going broke because they cannot get money. People today will not subscribe to such ventures. I know that Senator Lillico very ably pointed out the necessity for overseas capital to help in major efforts.

Senator Gair - We would not have had the mine at Mount Isa if it had not been for overseas capital.

Senator WOOD -Senator Gair, a former Premier of Queensland, reminds me of Mount Isa Mines Ltd. It is an excellent illustration. Mount Isa is a wonderful mining area. I remember that the Premier before Senator Gair mentioned Mount Isa and said that it was very hard for him, as a Labor Premier, to go to Mount Isa preaching against capitalism when the Mount Isa people -

Senator Mulvihill - It has to be controlled though. They cannot just do as they like.

Senator Gair - It is controlled by Australians today.

Senator WOOD - I am sure that Senator Gair would agree that the Mount Isa Mines people have been a wonderful example not only because of the development of the area but because of the way that they have built amenities and have treated their employees and staff.

Senator Mulvihill - Not always.

Senator Gair - Always, yes.


Senator WOOD -Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Mount Isa Mines has been a striking example of a wonderfully successful operation. It also has given first class conditions to its employees and staff. An overseas company, in the main, put its money into Mount Isa and waited for more than 20 years before it showed a profit. If honourable senators can tell me the name of an Australian who will put his money into a proposition and wait for over 20 years for a return I will be pleased to meet him. The average Australian would not put his money into a venture for that long. The average Australian wants a quick return. An overseas company puts its money into Mount Isa and waited for over 20 years for a profit. Now we have a wonderfully successful operation there. Senator Gair, a former Premier of Queensland, would know as much about it as most other honourable senators in this chamber, if not more than anybody else. That company has done a wonderful job, not only for Queensland, in providing employment in that north western part of the country. Over the years it has also done a very good job for Australia from a national point of view by selling those minerals overseas and bringing overseas money to this country.

Senator Gair - It has had a general effect on Townsville and other cities.

Senator Byrne - It created a city in the far north west of Queensland.

Senator WOOD - That is right. It created a city in the north west of Queensland. As Senator Gair said, the effect of that development has filtered through to other places such as Townsville which has received very direct benefits from the development of Mount Isa. Everyone who is an Australian and has the Australian spirit wants to see Australians own as much of Australia as possible but we have to be practical about these things and consider what Australians will put their money into and how long they will wait for a return. If they will not do this we just have to get somebody else to put in the money. Somebody was telling me about one of the mining shows in Western Australia. I think it was Sir Charles Court who said at the dme that he wanted 1 5 per cent Australian equity. But what happened when he tried to get that? No Australians wanted to participate. I think it is most unfortunate that this depressing feeling has been created about our mining operations. The head of Mount Isa Mines Ltd stated only a few months ago that to get any sort of mining industry of reasonable size under way takes about $20m. It takes money to do these things.

A very definite effort was made in the Budget to affect the gold industry. This would have affected the State of Western Australia about which you, Mr Acting Deputy President, would be particularly concerned. It was recognised, particularly by people in the Kalgoorlie area and others, that the attitude of the Government towards the gold industry in wiping out all concessions that had previously been given to it could have a very detrimental effect. It is to the credit of the Labor Party Caucus that it stood up to its Ministers and said that some of this policy had to be altered. I am not one of those people who say that Caucus should not do this. I always have taken the view that Ministers are not supreme gods. I believe that the great bulk of the people in a party should have a say. It is to the credit of Caucus that it did this. The 'Australian', which is a Whitlam supporter, always attacks Caucus for doing this sort of thing. I applaud the Caucus and say that that was the right attitude. It is nice to see that at least the Government has now become sensible in this regard. Although it has not gone all the way, I hope that what has been done will help the gold industry more than would have been the case if that policy had not been altered. As far as price control is concerned, we have different ideas expressed about this matter. We know that a referendum is to be held later.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.

Senator WOOD - Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out several matters relating to the Budget which we had before us a little while ago. I had moved on to the matter of prices control and the referendum which is about to be held. I know that the case for the referendum is presented in such a way that it appears to be the answer to everybody's troubles. Over a period price control has not been proved to be the answer. Back in previous days, in war time, the then Government had power to control prices and so on. Those of us who can remember back that far remember just what happened. It is easy to recall the shortages of goods and how those who had the most money were able to buy from under the counter. The ordinary person was on the outside. He was like the label on the bottle; he was on the outside, and he missed out.

Price control does not encourage production. One of the main causes of inflation is a lack of production. Senator Lillico, who sits alongside me, gave me a statement from the Hobart Chamber of Commerce which indicates how price control acts in reverse to the encouragement of production. With the control of milk and dairy products, the dairy herds in Tasmania fell by 26,000 head, and in Australia by 300,000 head. The fixation of fat lamb prices wiped out the fat lamb export industry in Tasmania. That indicates just how effective these things can be.

Senator Wilkinson - Price control did not do that.

Senator WOOD - It was under control.

Senator Wilkinson - There was price control, but it did not do that.

Senator WOOD - There was price control, and people could not get the goods. There were shortages and so on. The people who had the most money could get the goods, and others could not. The honourable senator knows that as well as I do. It was a headache for the Government of the day and for everybody who had to try to work with the prices department. I can remember that the difficulty in ordering a suit to be made was that the tailor from whom a person was buying the suit had to wait for a price from the price control office.

Senator Primmer - Where I was we were issued with our suits. We did not have any shortages.

Senator WOOD -Perhaps so. The climate of the city in which I live is such that a suit is a great advantage. Senator Wilkinson knows as well as I do that when the dead hand of government gets on to these things it certainly kills production and incentive. There is no question about it, there has to be an incentive for people to produce. If there is price control and all this sort of nonsense things will be worse. Already there is a shortage of goods, and the whole problem will be accentuated. I know that a lot of airy fairy things are said to try to dazzle people that certain things will be the cure-all for everything, but in the long run price control is no advantage but a disadvantage.

Honourable senators will remember that it was a Labor government, as far as I can recall, which tried to get price control unto the Federal Government. They will remember the referendum which was held in, I think, 1944. At that time Queensland had a Premier who was looked upon as one of the great men of the Labor Party of that time. Sir William Forgan Smith was the Premier. He represented the city from which I come- Mackay. He had a strong personality. In Proserpine, which is 19 miles or so north of Mackay, there were recently some celebrations of so many years of the town's existence. One of the legal men in Mackay went to Proserpine, and in a display depicting the history of the area, saw on show an edition of the Proserpine 'Guardian ' of an earlier era. Apparently it carried quite a big spread, in the form of an advertisement or statement, which said: 'Don 't give any more power to Canberra, Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland, said so'. That advice might well be taken to heart by true Labor men today. Forgan Smith was a strong Labor personality. His view was: "No more power to Canberra'. I believe that the people of Australia should say that to this Government on 8 December.

We hear a lot of nonsense about what won the election for the Labor Party, how it was swept in and so on. Actually, there was no sweeping into office. The result was very close.

Senator McAuliffe - Oh!

Senator WOOD - The honourable senator should analyse the figures. It would not have taken very many votes for the result to have been the other way.

Senator McAuliffe - The number is in the frame; you know that.

Senator WOOD -I know that.

Senator Keeffe - You are living in the past.

Senator WOOD - Other people say that I am a futurist. I do not know. Senator Keeffe said that I am living in the past. I hope that I will always retain a youthful and fertile mind and will look to the future, not look backwards. One never gains anything by looking backwards. One can be a futurist and gain a lot by it. A lot of people claim that the ALP was elected on the policy which it presented to the people. My experience has been that very often -

Senator McAuliffe - Yesterday Senator Maunsell, one of your colleagues, criticised us for implementing our policy. Now you have gone the other way.

Senator WOOD - I am not responsible for what other people say. I paddle my own canoe, and I speak accordingly. My experience has been that if I talk to the general run of people after a policy speech has been delivered and if I ask them what points of policy they remember- it may surprise honourable senators opposite to know this- a number of people begin to think about it and say: 'I cannot tell you any points'. Arrogant Gough made so many points in his policy speech last time that I do not think even members of the Labor Party could recite half of what he said on that occasion. I know that it is a very easy thing to say: 'This is the platform, this was approved'. My experience is that very few people can remember what was said in a policy speech. As a matter of fact, most campaigns are generally won or lost on some general feeling which the people have about a government.

If the Senate feels that some change should be made to a Bill there is no reason why it cannot make the change. It has been said previously by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), in reply to a question, that the Senate is elected on the same basis as members of the House of Representatives are elected- by the people of the States. The structure of the Senate is such that there is always a carryover from the previous 3 years. I know that newspapers and other people take great delight in trying to denigrate the Senate. They say: 'The Senate should not do this, and the Senate should not do that'. We know that a lot of these newspapers are slanted in their approach. They do not have a genuine outlook, often it is a very immature outlook. Take as an example the 'Australian' which belongs to the multi-millionaire Rupert Murdoch. What does that paper do? It is a Whitlam supporter. Apparently it is not a Labor supporter. When Caucus, in a truly democratic manner, changes something, what does that paper do? It takes members of the Labor Party to task and says that they should not have challenged Mr Whitlam and his ministry. I have always maintained- I have always stood for this in Parliament, in my Party and elsewhere- that if I felt strongly about a thing I had the right to vote accordingly. I will not sell out. I have always taken the view that all members of Parliament have equal rights. A leader or a Minister does not have the right to act like God, although he might think that he is God. Every member of Parliament has an equal right in deciding ultimately what the legislation of this country shall be. As I have said, I believe in being fair. I think the Labor Party has demonstrated that it is democratic in relation to this matter because Caucus is not prepared to make a decision if it thinks its Ministry is not correct. I will always say that.

During the last days of the administration of the previous Government a great deal was said about our Government being an unemployment Government and so on. It was rather interesting to see in a newspaper cutting from the Sydney Sun' of 19 September 1972 an article which referred to the Labor Party in opposition making a great old song and dance about the number of unemployed. Of course, the figures released gave the impression that there were more unemployed than apparently was the case. We know that today a number of people do not want to work; they draw social service benefits, dodge work and so on. I think I read about some chap in my own area who registered as a lion tamer. There would not be too many positions of that nature offering. If a lion was brought to him to tame one probably would not see his heels for dust. But I remember during the last days of the previous Government when a great hullabaloo was being made about the unemployment situation the New South Wales Employers' Federation said that many industries could not find labour. This statement by the Federation was confirmed by a report in the 'Sydney Morning Herald ' that more positions were being advertised as vacant than was the case in the previous 12 months, so much so that various industries could not get the people they needed. In fact, one industry had to close down because it could not get employees. One concern said that it wanted some hundreds of men and it could not get them. But at the time it was being said that unemployment was so great that our Government was a government of unemployment. This, of course, was utter nonsense.

A large amount of money has been budgeted for education. A great hullabaloo is going on at the moment about a double dissolution that may take place if certain things are not done. If both Houses of the Parliament went to an election I think it could be a very interesting election campaign, because under the education policies of this Government certain schools are not being provided with assistance. I want to make it quite clear that I have never been in favour of subsidising private schools. I believe it is the Government's job to provide schools. As a consequence, if other people want to run schools it is their business. But if one is to adopt a certain principle in this regard it has to be a fair principle. I voted against the proposal when it was initiated. I fought against it. But once a proposal is adopted, everybody must be treated fairly.

What is the result of the Government's education scheme? Contrary to what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said and contrary to what the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, said, the Government has deprived a number of schools of a subsidy. What schools are involved? They are mainly protestant schools. What is behind it that they should all be protestant schools? Is it suggested that only protestant people are affluent? That is nonsense. Of course, originally there were Jewish schools and I think probably two or three Roman Catholic schools which were to be deprived of a subsidy. It is to their credit that a number of bishops of the Roman Catholic church rebelled about this situation. They said it was not fair that this distinction should be made. If the Labor Party would like a double dissolution on this issue I think a very interesting election campaign would ensue in relation to the discrimination between one church school as opposed to others. If it is necessary to vote on this issue I will have no hesitation in voting according to what I think is right.

I have run through these points because I did not have the opportunity of taking part in the Budget debate. I thought that something should be said about them. I believe that probably some consideration might be given to what I have said because I feel that each and every one of us should be aiming at building Australia into a better country. I trunk some of the suggestions have merit in them and we might look at them to try to do more for Australia. The most important problem facing us at the moment is inflation. As I said before, this colourless Budget has failed to face up to the problem of inflation. In fact, if anything, it has increased it.

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