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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2206

Senator MCAULIFFE (Queensland) - One never ceases to be amazed at the attitude of honourable senators opposite. The truth of the story is that they have not realised even yet that an election was held on 2

December last and that the voice of the people was such that there was a change of government. The simple story behind this urgency motion, as is evidenced by many of the contributions made by Opposition senators in this chamber, is that Opposition senators have not resigned themselves to the fact that they are in opposition and that a new Government is in office. As my colleague Senator Cant said in his address, this urgency motion regarding excessive and arbitrary powers in Canberra is a phoney. The real reason behind this motion being moved today, particularly when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, is to give the Opposition an opportunity to attack the Government and to express its spleen because it is no longer the government.

Opposition senators have convenient memories, because 2 December when the people were asked to vote at an election was not so long ago. It will be recalled that prior to the election the Australian newspapers, which traditionally have been anti-Labor for a long period of years, were advocating on their pages a change in government. Big business which also has been traditionally anti-Labor and which has financed the election campaigns of Liberal-Country Party governments for a long period of years was also advocating that it was time for a change. We do not need to be reminded of the position of the economy on the eve of the election. We know that there was no planning in relation to the economy. People had lost confidence in the economy. They had lost confidence in the Government. Everyone knows that unemployment was at a high level. The record of the previous Government which was in office between 1969 and 1972 shows that in 1969 unemployment stood at 49,000 and that in 1972, when that Government was defeated, unemployment stood at more than 100,000, which indicates a proud record of an increase of more than 100 per cent in the unemployment rate in this country over that period. The only boast that the previous Government can make is that unemployment ran wild, the economy lacked planning, and the electorate generally had lost confidence in the government. By a resounding and overwhelming victory at the polls Labor became the Government.

Let us analyse what has happened since the Labor Party came into office and the Twentyeighth Parliament started to legislate on 27 February. During its first 100 days in office, when the Opposition was ridiculing the 2-man ministry or criticising the Government in relation to other matters, this Government- the facts are recorded in Hansard for anybody to readachieved more than the previous governments had achieved in the 23 years that they were in power. The record speaks for itself. Since the Twenty-eight Parliament assembled on 27 February this year a record total of 232 Bills has been introduced into the Parliament-this was the figure as at 22 November of this year- and the session is still unfinished. Never before in all our history has such a wide-ranging, reforming program come before the Parliament.

The next best to this record in the history of the Australian Parliament occurred in 1968 when 169 Bills were introduced into the Parliament and 157 were passed. It might be of interest to honourable senators in the chamber to know that of the 232 Bills so far introduced- there are more to come because the year is not out yet- 1 5 7 have already been passed, despite the fact that the Government does not have a majority in the Senate. In relation to the previous record of 157 Bills passed by the non-Labor Government in 1968, it might be well to bear in mind that that government which passed 157 of its 169 Bills commanded a majority in the Senate on almost every issue. It can be safely forecast that the record of this Government will comfortably exceed that of the Government in office in 1968. Surely this is not the action of a government which is drunk with power or which wants centralist control; it is the action of a government which has come into office, sprung into action and been prepared to legislate and do something.

Let us have a look at the measures which have emanated from a government which, it is alleged, is self interested in gaining additional powers at the expense of the Australian public. The structural transformations carried out by the Australian Labor Government's legislative record include matters dealing with the Grants Commission, the Cities Commission, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, and the Australian National Airlines Commission. Legislation has been introduced in relation to the Australian Industries Development Corporation and the Trade Practices Commission. Legislation which has been approved and which is waiting to come forward is concerned with the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation. Certain structural innovations have been carried out by this Government also. These have not been to the detriment of the Australian people and they are not the result of the actions of so-called power drunk bureaucrats here in Canberra. Legislation has been passed in this regard in relation to the Pipeline Authority, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Australian Electoral Office, the Film and Television School, the Insurance Commission and the Commonwealth Teaching Service. Legislation has been introduced to establish the National Investment Fund, the Social Welfare Commission, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Schools Commission. Legislation which has been approved and which is yet to be introduced is concerned with the establishment of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority, the Export Bank and the National Parks and Wildlife Commission.

No one with any common sense or any decency at all could say that any of those legislative measures have been to the detriment of any section of the Australian community. They are the hallmark of a Government that has shown initiative and sincerity in purpose, a Government that has shown a keen desire to honour the pledges that it gave when it was campaigning for the 1972 election. I heard Senator Maunsell from Queensland criticising this Government for implementing its election promises. No doubt ringing in his ears clearly still must be the promise made by a former Prime Minister and member of a former Liberal government- Sir Robert Menzies- who in 1949 promised to put value back into the pound. The Liberal-Country Party coalition was in office for 23 years, and that promise was not fulfilled. What Labor promises it will do, Labor will carry out. That is the record of the Australian Labor Party. Surely no one on the Opposition side will challenge what the Labor Party proposes to do in the field of education.

Senator Gair - It has broken a promise on education.

Senator MCAULIFFE - It is said that we have ' broken a promise. I will answer that interjection in a moment. In the financial year 1973-74 this Government will spend $843m on education, an increase of $404m or 92 per cent on that spent last year during the term of the previous Government. For the 2-year period 1971 and 1972 the McMahon Government spent $40. 5m on government schools. This Government will spend 12 times that amount- $495m. How often have we heard it said in this chamber that this Government is opposed to non-government schools? Is it the action of a government opposed to non-government schools to increase the grant of the McMahon Government of $71. 5m to $192m? Let us look at the area of Aboriginal affairs. Honourable senators opposite can examine any piece of legislation and they will find that the performance of this Government compares more than favourably with that of any other government in the history of this nation. The

Labor Government will spend $1 17m on Aboriginal affairs in 1973-74. This is double the amount which was spent in 1972-73. The significant improvements will be made in the fields of housing, health and education and in providing employment training facilities. Are these the actions of a Government that is seeking excessive powers and centralist control, or of a dictatorial Government that has a disregard for the welfare of its people?

Let us have a look at how this amount of $1 17m will be spent on Aboriginal affairs. It will be spent as follows: $32.4m on housing, $2 1.3m on education, $ 12.9m on health, $9.Sm on missions and settlements, $ 10.8m on community activities, $2m on legal aid and $28. 3m on advanced programs. Surely this is the action of a humanitarian Government that has a regard for the wellbeing and welfare of the Aboriginal people who were disregarded by previous governments for so long. So much for education and Aboriginal welfare.

Let us quickly analyse the activities of the socalled bureaucrats, the obsessed-with-power Government that we have in Canberra today. Let us have a look at the social welfare field. Under the Snedden Budget of 1972 the age and invalid pension was fixed at $20 a week. Already it has been increased to $23 a week in the Crean Budget. Under the Snedden Budget the combined married rate pension was fixed at $34.50 a week. In the Crean Budget it was increased to $40.50 a week. I could also refer to widows' pensions, to unemployment, short-term sickness and special benefits, to long-term sickness benefits, to supporting mothers' benefits and to the other humanitarian and social welfare legislation in order to indicate what this Government has achieved in 12 months. I repeat: Surely this is not the action of a Government that is rapidly concentrating excessive and arbitrary power in Canberra. Let us ask the Australian people whether all these things which I have enumerated regarding social welfare, education and so on have been achieved as a result of the rapid concentration of excessive and arbitrary powers in Canberra. They will give their answer at the first opportunity when this Government goes to the polls and asks the people for a mandate to continue the policies. Of course they are good policies.

It was said earlier, by interjection, that the Australian Labor Party and the Prime Minister did not keep an election pledge regarding education. I presume that the honourable senator who interjected was referring to the lack of financial assistance to schools that fall within category

A.   There are some 1 14 of these schools. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) were quite specific when they commented on this point in September 1972. They said that the financial assistance that was given to schools under the then Government would be continued in 1973, but that from then on financial grants would be granted on a needs basis. In order to have the record right, I will read the statement made by the present Minister for Education. He is reported at page 1936 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 26 September 1972 as having said:

We take the attitude that in the coming school year of 1973 this Bill must therefore be allowed to proceed. But we give a fair warning that if we are in power, while there will be an expenditure on non-government schools of no less than the sum total that will be appropriated in this Bill, the appropriation will be reapportioned- it will be reapportioned on the basis of need.

That is the promise that the Labor Party made in this Parliament on 26 September 1 972, and in no way whatsoever has the Labor Party repudiated that promise.

During this debate reference has been made to inflation. One would think that inflation is something new; that it has come to light only since December 1972; that it was manufactured by this Government. Let me take the minds of honourable senators back to 1949 when the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government first came to power at the commencement of its 23-year term of office. At that time inflation was running at a rate of 8.4 per cent, but after the first Fadden Budget was brought down in 1 950, the rate of inflation rose to 12.2 per cent. After the second Fadden Budget in 1951, the rate was 22.5 per cent.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson)- Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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