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Thursday, 21 November 1974
Page: 2693


Senator JESSOP (South Australia) - I rise to make one or two comments on the Bill that is before the House. It is a Bill for an Act to provide financial assistance in relation to local governing bodies. I do not think that I appreciated the comments that were made by Senator Gietzelt about my colleague Senator Carrick who, I believe, laid down in very clear terms the feelings of Opposition senators. We believe that this Bill provides the opportunity for the Government to do something about the unemployment situation in Australia. I have been travelling around South Australia, as is my habit, and I have discussed the problems with local government authorities. The feeling in South Australia was that the Bill that is before us would provide local government authorities with additional funds to compensate them in some way for their lack of finance to fulfil their obligations in the local government area, particularly in respect of main and district roads in an area where the Government has deprived them of funds.

One particular council with which I discussed the problem was a council on Eyre Peninsula. The district clerk said: 'Look, I thought this grant was going to compensate for the loss of funds that we have experienced due to the Commonwealth aid roads grants'. This council is down no less than $8,000 in this respect, in spite of the money that the Government is providing under this Bill. Of course the Government in providing money under the Commonwealth aid roads grants scheme for roads, particularly in rural areas, over the next 3 years, paid no regard to the fact that the cost of constructing roads had escalated at a rate of about 10 per cent up to the time that the new Commonwealth aid roads grants scheme was contemplated. The Government forgot that since that time the costs of road construction have escalated way and above what was contemplated under the scheme. So these people have been deluded by the Government into believing that the Bill which is before us will compensate them for that fact.

I have before me figures which show that out of 85 district councils in South Australia, 62 of them were down and only 23 of them happened to be marginally up on the road grants that were provided in 1973-74. So it is quite phoney for the Government to come forward and say that it is being generous with this Bill. It has certainly left local government bodies in South Australia in particular with a question mark in their minds as to the integrity of the Federal Government. I support the point of view put forward by Senator Carrick when he said that the Canberra-based Grants Commission has become, in effect, the rating authority of local government throughout Australia.


Senator Wriedt - Senator, whatis the source of your information on those figures?


Senator JESSOP - My source of information happens to be the Local Government Association in South Australia.


Senator Wriedt - In that case may I invite you to table the figures that you have?


Senator JESSOP -I will give Senator Wriedt the figures that I have, certainly. He can have them.


Senator Wriedt - I do not want them. I want the Senate to have them.


Senator JESSOP -Or they can be tabled. There is no question about the integrity of my remarks. I am suggesting that the figures that I have here are authentic and demonstrate that many councils will be disadvantaged in the future as a result of this Bill.


Senator Gietzelt - Disadvantaged? This is money in addition to their rating money. How can they be disadvantaged?


Senator JESSOP - Senator Gietzeltinterjects very aggressively with a guilty conscience because he knows very well that his Government has deprived local government authorities in Australia as a result of the Commonwealth aid roads agreement. I can understand his agitation. We believe that providing money in the local government area is one way in which the Government can provide job opportunities for the unemployed in Australia. I go back to 1972 when the Australian Labor Party, in its policy statement, said that Labor's first priority would be to restore genuine full employment without qualification and without hedging. I think it is interesting to remind Government senators of some of the remarks that have been made by their spokesmen. I recall a statement made by Mr Hawke. He said that the unemployment figures confirmed the restoration of confidence in the economy and the implementation by the Government of its promises of full employment. I remind the Government that in the 1974 policy speech the Australian people were asked to think again. They were asked to remember the situation that obtained when they elected the Government in 1972. The Government claimed that unemployment was then at its worst for 10 years but said that full employment had been restored. What a phony statement. Senator Gietzelt dares to suggest that the Australian people ought to have confidence in the Government. I remind the Senate that in Hansard the new Treasurer, Dr J. F. Cairns, -


Senator Marriott - Have they sacked Crean?


Senator JESSOP - They have sacked Crean. Cairns has, in effect, sacked Crean. In July this year in Hansard Dr Cairns is reported to have said that it would be the purpose of the Government to prevent unemployment occurring and to ensure that there were alternative jobs. Perhaps a little more ought to be said about what Dr Cairns has stated. The 'Australian' of 18 July 1974 reported him as saying:

These figures indicate that up to the end of June unemployment was insignificant and carefully under control.

It might even excite supporters of the Government to recall what the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) said. He said he would sooner resign than preside over an unemployment figure of 250,000 people in Australia. Only today I read in the 'Australian' where Mr Hawke, the President of the Austraiian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, forecast that there could be 300,000 people out of work in Australia by January. Perhaps this may herald the resignation of Mr Cameron as Minister for Labor and Immigration.


Senator Marriott - He and Jones could swap portfolios, I reckon.


Senator JESSOP -I believe that Senator Marriott's comment is quite valid. I endorse what he said.


Senator Milliner - What did he say?


Senator JESSOP -Would the honourable senator like to repeat it just for the benefit of Senator Milliner?


Senator Marriott - Mr Cameronand Mr Jones could swap portfolios.


Senator JESSOP - Thank you, senator. This merely illustrates our concern, on this side of the

House, with respect to this Bill. We believe that this is an area where the Government has an opportunity to provide more finance so that people who have been unemployed as a result of the Government's mismanagement of the economy can be assisted. We find it quite strange that the Government has not recognised what it has done to local government. It must recognise the fact that virtually all municipal councils, shire councils and semi-government authorities are facing serious financial difficulties arising from the credit squeeze which this Government inflicted upon them. Of course many councils have been forced to reduce their staffs. They will have to reduce their staffs because, we believe, the Government has been ungenerous in its recommendations in this Bill.


Senator Milliner - I ask the honourable senator to tell us some of the local government authorities which have reduced their staff.


Senator JESSOP -Would you like to hear them?


Senator Milliner - Yes.


Senator JESSOP -Well, there are several councils.







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