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Wednesday, 15 March 1961

Mr JESS (La Trobe) .- I understand that we are debating an Opposition motion of want of confidence in this Government. I understand also, although nothing so far has led me to believe it, that we are under attack. I am sure that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) made a very good speech.

If only I had been able to understand it! He seemed to whip from bough to bough like a budgerigar and did not remain for very long in one spot.

I should like to read to the House an extract from an article written by Alan Reid which appeared in to-day's " Daily Telegraph ".

Mr Curtin - Who wrote it?

Mr JESS - Mr. Reid.

Mr Curtin - That's a turn-up for the books.

Mr JESS - He is not always on our side. This is what he said -

Normally a government builds up its reputation during a parliamentary recess, then in session exposed to Opposition criticism goes downhill a bit.

But the present Menzies Administration seems to have reversed this traditional pattern.

Ils standing seems to go down when Parliament is in recess and to recover while Parliament is in session . . .

One reason which could be advanced is the weakness of the Labour Party.

Honorable members opposite should read that article. Let me turn now to the Administrator's Speech when he opened this parliamentary session. He said -

The Parliament has assembled to proceed with the nation's business and to work to promote the best interests of the Australian people.

In my opinion - and this opinion is coming to be shared by many people, not only in this House but also throughout Australia - for the first two weeks of this session the Opposition has not even considered the best interests of the Australian people. Instead, political opportunism has been rife.

To the general public, and to me before I was raised to this illustrious House, a want-of-confidence motion usually conjures up a picture of two powerful political parties sitting on opposite sides of the House coming out at the ringing of the bell just like a pair of fighting cocks. After the Opposition's performance of the last few days one cannot help but feel that public money has been wasted. We did not see any fighting cocks in the Opposition; we saw only parrots. For at least five days the Opposition has contributed nothing of any benefit to the people of Australia. T am prepared to repeat that statement outside the House.

After listening to honorable gentlemen opposite for the last eight months in this place, I have asked my colleagues why each succeeding Opposition member says the same thing. One of my colleagues said to me: " Don't be a fool. Don't you know that the parliamentary proceedings are being broadcast? If the 8 o'clock public does not catch it the 9 o'clock public will." In other words, Opposition members address the people outside as they would at a political meeting, and not the Parliament.

In any crisis, whether it be internal or external, one would expect members of the various political parties, as Australians, to come together in an endeavour to find a remedy for our ills and to work together for the betterment of the people. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) sniggers, but I do not think that my remarks apply to him so 1 shall exclude him. I am confident that the Australian Government is working for all sections of the community. The measures that it has adopted have been designed for the ultimate benefit of all, not only of one section. F state emphatically that I do not blame any one section of the community for any of the problems which may confront us at this time, but if the Opposition would apply itself to the Parliament and not to the public the dignity and the reputation of the Parliament would be greatly enhanced.

The Government has stated its policy very clearly. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and various other members on this side of the House have participated in the debate. It is not necessary for all of us to repeat the various statements which have been made by our leaders in explanation of the Government's policy.

The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said this afternoon that there had been too much academic argument. He used a lot of long words which, frankly. I could "ot understand. T wish that he would come down to my level. Whenever the Government has seen a red light indicating a danger spot on the road ahead, it has been prepared to amend or to revise its policies. The Opposition has criticized this practice, not only on this occasion but also in relation to the Marriage Bill, the Matrimonial Causes Bill and other legislation. The Government is to be commended for its honorable actions. It has shown that it is reasonable and receptive to suggestions that are advanced, lt is not full of humbug, and it is not steering a course which it refuses to alter because it is hide-bound.

During a brilliant speech yesterday the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) stated that he would name the guilty men of the party supporting the Government. Of course, he did not name one.

Mr Luchetti - I named you.

Mr JESS - You did not name me. I only wish you had. I am only too proud to be linked with the Government. I support its actions and I am confident that its policies will pay off eventually to the benefit of the Australian people - not only one section - regardless of the Opposition's actions. How could one expect any reasonable wantofconfidence motion from the Opposition? How could one find anything constructive in what has been said by Opposition members during the last five days?

I shall by-pass a number of comments which I had intended to make because I think that already I have dealt rather harshly with the Opposition. Her Majesty's Opposition occupies a position of distinction which has been filled by many honorable men and many honorable parties, but at this stage of our history the Opposition has a leader who is never sure which party he leads and a deputy leader whom 1 believe to be as much a Labour man as I am. These gentlemen are backed up by a front-line of men who are devoid of any constructive idea, and a back bench of members who do not know which side in their party is going to win and so are afraid to support either. In addition, the genuine, decent Labour men are called rats by their own executive.

Mr Cope - How did you get in?

Mr JESS - Fortunately, I am not on the Labour side of the House. All that Opposition members have said is that import control should be re-imposed. The Opposition has said to the Government: " We will now attack you. We will not tell you what you ought to do and we will not tell you what we would do if we were in office except that we would re-impose import controls."

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) mentioned the capital that is coming into Australia from overseas. I presume that he would cut that off completely. But we have not heard from the Opposition how, if this capital were diverted from Australia, it would employ the new work force which is becoming available at the end of each year, quite apart from the inflow of immigrants. There would be no development, no building and no opportunities for employing our work force. I do not think that the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House really expect to win the election at the end of this year. I really do not think they want to win it. I believe they think that if, by using impeding tactics, they can harm the economy and prevent it from recovering, they will be a sure thing for 1964. But even that hope, I think, is fast failing. With the exception of the Government - which, in my opinion, I repeat, is acting for all Australians and for the community as a whole - there seems to be little representation in this House of the decent hardworking trade unionist who has Australia's interests at heart. AH the backing of the Opposition seems to go to the militant unions. The others, which seemingly are not so well organized, receive very little consideration. I would again stress the article, " That Labour has only one voice, that of Chamberlain ". That was written by Reid in the Sydney " Sun " to-day.

I compliment the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who made a very constructive speech and introduced a few new ideas, which I think are worthy of support by the Government, on the question of oil search and the development of the north. The Government has announced plans in that regard which I think will have great and outstanding effects on the economy of this country. In respect of wool, I agree with the honorable member. I think one of the big problems that will confront Australia in the future is that wool is meeting greater competition from man-ma(k fibres overseas. But surely the economic development of Australia must always depend upon the manufacturer, the primary producer and the trade unionist realizing that they are all Australians and that on their co-operation and understanding their future and that of the nation depends. I feel that that point cannot be stressed strongly enough and I believe that at this moment it is not being realized in very many sections of the community.

I think there are reasons why, in the past, trade unions have taken militant action, for which I do not blame them. There have been many things that the manufacturer has done and whch I do not support now and did not support then. I feel that the same thing applies to the primary producer, but I think that at this stage we should get together and do something for Australia and for its people instead of becoming so insular and small-minded. In my opinion, the Australian manufacturer has lived for too long under an umbrella of government protection. Now the manufacturers have the cold winds of competition blowing on them. That is not an original saying, as honorable members will realize. However, if they are good manufacturers they will give the consumers the benefit.

I would like to stress some of the reasons why, in my opinion, import licensing should not be re-imposed and why the Labour Party should oppose its re-imposition, as it seemingly endeavoured to do when that suited Labour's purpose once before. Some manufacturers will never reduce prices - those are the manufacturers who are not honest and outstanding Australian citizens - as long as they have protection against competition. At this moment they are not interested in reducing their prices, because honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House and very many others are endeavouring to re-impose import licensing. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said yesterday that employees are being put off but prices are not being reduced. This is for one reason. The manufacturer is not prepared at the moment to reduce his prices, because he feels import controls will be reimposed through pressure, and competition will vanish. When you hear people advertising television sets at £100 below the list price if you can name a make beginning with the letter A, with five letters, they can certainly reduce their prices to the Australian people.

I compliment the Government in every way on its immigration policy and I hope it continues. I believe the Government has done a magnificent job for this country in this field. It is a joy to see these people coming in from countries overseas and to see how thrilled they are with Australia on seeing how well we live. It is a shame that some of our people belittle this country and do nothing for it, and are dissatisfied with everything we have, which the rest of the world would give its heart and soul to obtain. The Government's policy, as has been stated, has been and will be one of full employment. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that the remark of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) that we were not used to living with full employment was a damaging admission or something of that sort. Never in my life have I heard such rubbish. This Government has stated its policy clearly. No country in the world has yet lived with full employment, but we are endeavouring to do so and will succeed.

The Government's economic policy has been under attack by the Chamber of Manufactures and by the Chamber of Commerce, both on different sides of the fence, but I think most people agree that the Government is right. If the Opposition wants to do something about the economy, it should make a statement about the wharf stoppage in Melbourne to-day and about that at Fremantle recently, as well as about various other strikes which are not helping the economy one iota, but about which honorable members opposite have said nothing.

The Melbourne " Herald " to-night states "Hopes for 1961-62 are rising". It is an article by John Eddy, the "Herald" economist. I will not read it in its entirety, but I suggest that members on the other side of the House get a copy, read it and become unhappy. T am sure that is what will happen to them. In the Sydney " Sun " to-day appears the heading " Government Action Backed ", and further down we have the president of the Australian Exporters Federation, Mr. A. Sparks, saying some favorable things, with some reservations, about the Government's policy. The executive director of the Employers Federation has been saying very nice things, with wee reservations. The senior lecturer in economics at Sydney University says that the Government's measures are working well, and then continues quite lyrically.

I have confidence in the Government. I believe the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is an act of complete humbug and I think some members of the Labour Party agree emphatically with me in that regard but lack the courage to get up and say so.

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