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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2655

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) -Although, after the shocking performance of the Oppostion in yesterday's censure motion, my comments are not as current as they were last week, I rise to express my complete disgust and contempt for the vote of the Australian Country Party in its party room to deny the Government the Appropriation Bill and the actions of various Liberal members who are advocating denial of Supply. I am sickened by the rumours I have heard in this place over the last 2 weeks about the deals that are being attempted. Any move to deny Appropriation or Supply would be one of the gravest steps ever taken in the Australian Parliament. It would be one of grossest irresponsibility. If the 3 Opposition Parties were to agree on either of these measures and if numbers were used in the Senate - where all Australians are not even represented - to deny funds, the effect would be felt by all Australians and would cause much suffering, mainly to those unable to afford any loss of income.

If the processes, customs and traditions of our parliamentary democracy were to be overturned, we would have a vacuum created in the way the affairs of the nation are run, and the processes of disbursement of money would be stopped. A chaotic situation could develop, and the income of thousands of pensioners, public servants and servicemen would be threatened. The Opposition says that to cut inflation we must cut Government spending, but it will never say where. The only other measure the Opposition proposes in respect of inflation is a 90-day wage and price freeze - something which honourable members opposite would never have done in government - which by itself would do nothing. What else do they think about - 200,000 people unemployed or the bankruptcy of industry? In fact, everywhere the Government has cut public spending there has been an uproar. No matter how justified some of the Government's measures have been, we have seen massive campaigns by the articulate and powerful in our community being orchestrated by the Opposition.

To be consistent, they had better say where they will cut Government spending if they are re-elected. Similarly, if they intend denying Supply they had better say where. Which area are they going to single out for cynical reasons so that they may flirt with the electorate at a double dissolution? Are social security payments to be stopped? Are the Government's new programs to cease? Are the child care centres and pre-school programs which are to commence in 1974 to cease? Is the twelvefold increase in expenditure on public schools in 1974 and 1975 to be put at risk so that the genius of the per capita system can be reintroduced? Are the new cities programs to be sabotaged after all the planning work has been done? Do I have to tell the people in my electorate that nothing is certain while we have an election? This is the sort of thing that the Opposition proposes. Any move to deny the passage of the Appropriate Bill or the Supply Bill would be an assault on democracy. The British system makes it clear that the popular House is paramount in matters of Supply. There has never been a suggestion that the Upper House should exercise such powers, and the proposed action, if successful, is against all the traditions of our British system. It shows how intemperate the Opposition is when it discussed such matters while the monarch was in Australia. The Upper House is elected on a fancy franchise, is only a House of Review and has no power to deny Supply, morally or historically.

What the actions of the Opposition amount to is its total gutlessness born of an arrogance perpetuating its view that it alone has a natural and divine right to govern. It should remember that in 1966, when we were slaughtered at the election we did not give up. Democracy, the will of the people, accepted practice, the law and order of our society are to be overturned so that the Opposition may attempt to regain power simply because the opinion polls are with it and it has plenty of money. The Opposition now exists by malappointment or gerrymander. The number of seats it wins in this house depends on the allocation of Democratic Labor party preferences. The House of Representatives is the only House in which a Government can be formed. Twenty-two Liberal members and 6 Country Party members sit in this chamber because of DLP preferences. Almost the majority of the Opposition's representation has been elected not on No. 1, not on No. 2 but on No. 3 votes in many cases. Some honourable members opposite have only 17 per cent of the popular vote. So it is no wonder there are those who would attempt to deny the democratic wishes of the Australian people. Last December the Australian people voted for a change of government. Of 6,642,627 votes cast in the 6 States only 2,718,684 went to the Liberal Party or the Country Party. The Australian Labor Party had to win some 505,042 votes above that figure to govern. The Australian people knew that any new government would inherit massive problems. The main reason the last Government was thrown out was its lassitude in tackling the problems it faced. I estimate that it takes one year to undo 3 years of conservative laissez-faire government, and all Australians with any sort of realistic view know that it will take the Australian Labor Party at least 2 terms in government to get the country back on the rails.

The past Government's major initiative was to involve Australia in the Vietnam War and to try to keep the United States involved in our region. Any intelligent observer would realise that to effect any real changes for the better in the many areas of crisis and the mess we inherited as a result of a lack of sensibly directed public programs would involve some unpopular decisions. Policies from 1944 and beyond have never been re-examined, and our foreign policy was totally out of accord with reality. Good government is not necessarily popular government or the pandering to every sectional interest. The Opposition, urged on by opinion polls, forgets that at any time during a term in office a government's support may drop.

How much support was there for the Liberal Party during the traumatic days when it sacked its own Prime Minister when in office - cut his throat in mid-term - because of the ambitions of those who sit on the benches opposite? How many Cabinet changes were there in the last Government? There were some 66 in 2 terms. In May 1971 there were 7 deposed Ministers on the back bench, as Ministers were chopped and changed as the power struggle went on within the Liberal Party. The back stabbing was intense, and even today the scars remain. It must be reassuring for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to know that there will be no move to depose him in this term. It is clear that all the animosities still remain; the suspicion held by the older members of the relatively newer members remains. The Opposition's is the same bitter Liberal Party and the same compromise coalition of disparate forces. We have the Liberals versus the Country Party in Victoria; shy friendship between the Country Party and the DLP in Western Australia; the Country Party in love with the DLP in Queensland and at arm's length in New South Wales. These are the men who wish to deny the Government trying to run the country and cause great suffering and disadvantage to the Australian people in their wish or hope for power motivated only by unprincipled opportune political gain.

How prepared are the Opposition parties for Government? I was amazed by the sanctimonious views of the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). I have always regarded him as the most capable member of the Opposition and even wrote to him personally at the time my predecessor so brutally cut his throat. But if you take the reasons he states for an election and denial of supply and look at them consistently you see that he should be the last to raise such a question of machiavellian proportions. Because he himself was destroyed by the newspapers and his colleagues, he is mistaken in thinking that the tables can be turned. If he thinks that his Party can capitalise on the Press campaign being waged in a few quarters, I think he is mistaken. We do not believe that a handful of journalists have such power. But this is the man who when he was Prime Minister had his own Minister for Defence resign and who provoked massive rows with the generals. This is the man who had $50m peeled off him in the 1971-72 Budget when he was Minister for Defence. That was about 2.9 per cent of the gross national product. This was when we were committed to Vietnam. This is the man who went to Papua New Guinea with a gun on his hip and who shot down plans to take over MLC Ltd. In this latter action he at least roused decent emotions and tried to prevent the sell-out of our resources, not even necessarily to the highest bidder. This is still in contrast to his colleagues who still want the open door policy even if we cannot use the reserves we pile up, even if our economy gets completely distorted.

What is the Liberal and Country Party's foreign policy? In a speech at the University of Sydney the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) said that he still sees the threat of communism as the main threat. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) sees Japan as the potential threat, and the Leader of the Opposition wants Japan to be more involved in the region militarily. Of course he now admits that even his Party would have recognised China eventually. The official Liberal Party spokesman agrees with all we are doing but does not like the way we are doing it. On other issues the Liberal Party and Country Party are trying to provoke hysteria. There are only a few members with the courage to state the facts as they see them and attack the Government on policy and principle as they see them. For example, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) attacked some of the doctors' campaign tactics with respect to the proposed national health scheme. A report on what he said about this matter states:

But in its present form it Is not nationalisation of doctors. . . . But cliches are dropping out of mouths all around in the hope that people are idiots, will believe them and hate the national government and the Labor Party.'

Mr Chippsaid many doctors' associations were opposing the Government's scheme because they claimed it would destroy the doctor-patient relationship.

We allowed pensioners to be regarded by the medical profession and other professions as second class citizens,' he said.

At the same time he attacks the Government where he sees the deficiencies in our scheme but he does not attack us just to add to the hysteria. The Fairfaxisation of our defence policies was recently spelt out in articles-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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