Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 295

Mr JAMES (Hunter) -The Speech of Her Majesty, which foreshadowed Government activities and policy for the remainder of the Government's term of office, has disappointed most honourable members on this side of the House, not because of any lack of respect for Her Majesty but because the Speech is a dismal document produced by the Government. The Fraser Government is in a deep dilemma. Things have not turned out as it expected. During the short time in which I have the privilege to address the House I intend to point out some of the inconsistencies in the Government's policies. The Government claimed when it came to power that it principal objectives were to overcome inflation and unemployment. It accused the Whitlam Administration of being responsible for them when unemployment and inflation constituted a disease that had enveloped the Western world, created in the main by the financial policies and the activities of multinational corporations that operate so freely in the Western world without governments being able or wanting to take the necessary action to curb their activities.

Let me point to some of the remarks of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) prior to coming to office and after he came to office. In his election policy speech on 27 November 1975 the Prime Minister said that the principal objectives of overriding concern to the Liberal-National Country Party Government would be to create new jobs and control inflation. Since that date general unemployment has risen by 33 per cent, youth unemployment by 87 per cent, Aborigine unemployment by 50 per cent, and female unemployment by 45 per cent. The underlying rate of inflation is now increasing to over 12 per cent per annum. Will the Prime Minister assert, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) did last Friday, that these figures reflect the success of the Government's policies and that the high unemployment and high inflation are indicators of a satisfactory economic recovery?

I have a copy of a Press statement issued by the Prime Minister on 1 October 1975. He said that the Opposition would delay Supply in the Senate. Whilst not wishing to hark back to the events of 1 1 November it may be useful to refer to the criteria which the Prime Minister enunciated as the reasons why Labor should go to the people. He said:

We have the highest unemployment since the Depression. In January 1977, over the 12 months after the Fraser Government came to office, the number of persons registered as unemployed reached 334 589 or 5.8 per cent of the estimated work force- the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression. The Prime Minister was the man who went into power to cure unemployment and inflation. He also stated:

This is the worst prolonged inflation in history.

In its first year in office, in the March to December quarters of 1976, the Fraser Government presided over a 13.7 per cent rate of inflation. The 6 per cent increase in the December quarter consumer price index is the highest since the December quarter of 1951. It is inevitable that inflation will increase to record levels in 1977 as the effects of the hasty devaluation flow on into higher prices for goods and services.

The Prime Minister also said:

School leavers will no longer be able to get jobs.

In January 1977 there were 155 944 young people under the age of 2 1 who were registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service. When Labor was last in power, in October 1975, there were only 87 762 young people unemployed. Youth unemployment has increased by 78 per cent under the Fraser Administration. The Government's only substantial response to this problem has been the Youth Employment Subsidy Scheme, which will assist only 4000 young people with jobs out of a total of 1 5 5 944 young unemployed. This is a disgraceful and deceitful example of the performance of a government which claimed that it was coming into office to clean up the unemployment mess allegedly left by the Whitlam Administration. A lucky 0.03 per cent will gain employment from the subsidy scheme for a limited period as a result of the Government's grudging generosity.

The Prime Minister said in his election policy speech:

The savings of the retired are being destroyed.

He was referring to superannuitants and pensioners. The rampant inflation that will overtake Australia in the next 12 months because of this Government's economic policies will strike hardest at those on fixed incomes. To use Mr Fraser's own words, 'those least able to defend themselves will suffer needlessly'. Small businessmen are seeing their life's savings being wiped out as a result of the Fraser administration. The Labor Party when in power under the leadership of Mr Whitlam was frequently accused of creating unlimited bankruptcies throughout Australia. Let me cite to the House some of the figures concerning the number of persons who went bankrupt during the LiberalNational Country Party administration prior to the Whitlam Government coming to office. Labor was accused of sending small businesses to the wall, yet under the McMahon Government Australia saw the highest level in bankruptcies in the last 5 years or 6 years. In 1972, 1685 businesses went bankrupt. That number included 975 personal bankrupts. Almost certainly the Fraser Government will create more bankruptcies than occurred during the McMahon administration. In my view, it will send more small businessmen to the wall than the McMahon Government ever did. This Government, as a result of its mismanagement of this country, should give serious consideration to resigning and going back to the people.

Mr Fraseris on record as saying:

The Labor Government 1972-75 has been the most incompetent and disastrous government in the history of Australia. Although Australia has basically one of the strongest and healthiest economies in the world, in 3 years this has been brought to the brink of disaster by incompetence of the worst kind.

Without reason or excuse the weakest sections of our communitythose least able to defend themselves- have suffered needlessly.

Under the Fraser administration we now have the highest unemployment since the great Depression of the 1 930s and the worst prolonged inflation rate in our history. School leavers will not be able to get jobs in the foreseeable or distant future. Young people can no longer afford to buy a home because of inflationary costs. The savings of the retired are being destroyed and small businessmen are seeing their life's work wiped out when they were looking forward to a healthy retirement. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Government's Budget is an admitted failure. It has failed on 2 counts. The Budget is based on a total deficit of $2.8 billion which is already estimated to be over $3.5 billion. By the end of the financial year it could be over $4 billion and the Treasurer is not concerned with this fact. Is it any wonder that his family wants him to retire from political life? On the second count the Government has already announced that unemployment will rise to over 400 000 by the end of the year. The trade union movement has foreshadowed the possibility of 700 000 people being unemployed towards the end of 1977. If the Government is sincere enough to admit that there will be over 400 000 people unemployed in the immediate future, what an admission of the Budget's failure by the ones who are responsible and who claimed prior to coming to power, that they would overcome these sorts of problems. On top of all this the Government has shown itself to be incapable of behaving with propriety. The Prime Minister has shown himself to be incapable of setting and enforcing decent standards of behaviour for his Government. The Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, stated:

The disgraceful conduct of the Government over the loans affair follows a long record of scandals involving relations of Ministers, political appointments and attempts to evade the Constitution itself.

In just 3 years nine of the Government's senior Ministers have either resigned, been dismissed or demoted because of incompetence or impropriety, including 2 men who were Acting Prime Minister when Mr Whitlam was out of the country. They are people Mr Whitlam now says he cannot trust.

Mr Fraserwent on with these wicked accusations, yet he has in his own Party men holding responsible positions. I refer to the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), a man who would have you believe that he is a decent family man. He well might meet his responsibilities in that regard but as has recently been pointed out he is the man who was involved in a scandal in connection with Patrick Partners which is under a cloud of dishonesty and deceit so far as its shareholders are concerned. He should consider in accordance with the Westminster system resigning until the matter is cleaned up.

Mr Groom - It has been cleaned up.

Mr JAMES - It has not been cleaned up- not according to Masterman's report. I refer also to an honourable member from Western Australia who was once a shadow Minister climbing up the political tree again. He is now responsible for the administration of an important Government committee.

Mr Hodgman - And a very good member, too.

Mr JAMES - You would not like to have been involved in the scandal. Do you condone bribery? I hope you do not. You will lose my respect if you do.

Mr Hodgman - He was acquitted; you know he was acquitted.

Mr JAMES -He was acquitted?

Mr Hodgman - He was.

Mr JAMES - He was not. He was found not guilty.

Mr Hodgman - I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter is reflecting on the honourable member for Curtin and on the judiciary. The honourable member for Curtin was acquitted of the charges laid against him. The honourable member for Hunter should not refer to him as a man who was found guilty of bribery. I do not think the honourable member meant to say it but he did say it and he should withdraw it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member for Hunter, in responding to an interjection by the honourable member for Denison, phrased his reply in a way that could be regarded as being a reflection upon a decision of a court. In those circumstances I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw the comment which was made in response to an interjection which was out of order. As the interjection has been recorded I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw the comment that the honourable member concerned had not been acquitted. I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw that part of the remark.

Mr JAMES -I withdraw that part of the remark. The honourable member for Curtin was found legally not guilty. But thousands of people hold an alternative view.

Mr McLean - You are a muck raker.

Mr JAMES - I am not a muck raker. You cannot afford to -

Suggest corrections