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Wednesday, 13 March 1968

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - At the present time we are debating the GovernorGeneral's Speech. His Speech was amazingly brief when one considers the almost infinite number of things which are so urgent and pressing in the community. We have social problems, economic problems, and things of the spirit, perhaps one could say, such as civil liberties and aid to culture and arts. There is a whole host of things - they are almost innumerable - which require urgent attention from the Federal Government, from the central authority which virtually has control of finance in the Australian community. The Governor-General's Speech - a copy of which I have in my hand - comes to us rather as a bad case of malnutrition. It is remarkable for the vague way in which it deals with the few points to which it refers. Where some specific points are dealt with, it is possible to get from what has been put forward any number of interpretations. One can get an interpretation of positive action or an interpretation of no action on the same subject. I will deal with this aspect in a few minutes.

Where is the bold outline drawn bravely on the canvas that we were promised would be coming forth from the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on such important things as national development? Where is the planned policy for balanced and integrated growth in the various sectors of the Australian community? It is absent now, just as it has continued to be absent for the past 20 years. What is the policy of the Government on economic growth? Is it to continue allowing the Treasury to adopt stop-go, up-and-down, concertina approaches to economic growth; a slump followed by a boom and back into a slump? Is this the economic policy that we will continue to have? We have had it for 20 years. There is no suggestion here that we will get away from it.

We have a number of new frontiersmen in charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth, yet there is not one iota of change in any point which has been outlined in the Speech. Nothing has been proposed in regard to a more equitable distribution of the wealth of the community. On the one hand we have untaxed unearned capital gains, excessive profits and extravagant expense accounts for businesses written off at the taxpayers' expense. On the other hand we have blanket appeals in the capital cities every winter for pensioners and people living in poverty. There is so much that has to be done for these people who live in this unhappy shadow of poverty and who are dependent on the warm-hearted generosity of a few charitable people in the community. The Government neglects its responsibilities.

We are told that we can expect some sort of an assault on the deficiencies that are caused by poverty because we have a new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth); a man who will give a new deal in this field; a man who has made some very forthright statements in this Parliament on what is necessary in this field. He made it quite clear today at question time that we can expect little. He is a man who in 1962-63 had the opportunity, when the Government the Government and compel it to bring had very narrow majority, to vote against about far-reaching reform in social service payments. He reneged at the last moment He was tried under pressure and found wanting. In the first week of this Parliament he has again been tried and found wanting. The pensioners need expect no change to their unhappy lot. So much for the Minister for Social Services, the virtuous exemplar who is going to fight for the under-privileged in the community.

I now refer to housing. There are 70,000 outstanding applications for the rental and purchase of housing authority homes. The people who go to these authorities in the States are the people who have real social problems. They are the lowincome earners who are living in depressed conditions and paying high rentals for unsuitable accommodation. There is no mention of housing in this Speech.

Surely education would be the field where the new Prime Minister would burst through with new concepts. After all, he was the Minister for Education and Science in this Government for some years - since about 1963 if my memory serves me correctly - yet we are ranked thirteenth in the world in respect of expenditure on education. If I have time I will show that he has done little to get on top of the problem of social and economic discrimination that exists in the Australian community insofar as education is concerned, which discriminates against the low-income earner when he wishes to provide adequate, equal opportunity for his children to go on to higher standards of education.

How will we finance defence expenditure? This matter was vaguely passed over in the Governor-General's Speech to the Australian people. How will we finance this huge defence bill, which is increasing? Will we do it by the way which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) suggests - a belt-tightening process? Again, there is insufficient time for me to discuss this now, but I will mention this a little later. What about the new deal for exservicemen? Where are the new repatriattion provisions that will increase payments to our ex-servicemen in order to bring their benefits up to a livable level, up to the real level of purchasing power which they have lost over recent years? There is no mention of these provisions in this Speech, yet we have a new Prime Minister, a man of opinions, a man of new ideas who is going to change the face of this country. There is not one iota of change mentioned in this Speech. In regard to the future programme for Papua and New Guinea, suffice it to say that we still have the same Minister in charge.

Some months have passed since devaluation was announced by Great Britain but Australia still has no policy. The primary producers, who are the most concerned about devaluation in the Australian community, are most concerned because they have no idea of what the Government proposes. The dairy farmers, too, are alarmed at the Government's proposal, which is so vaguely stated, to remove some of them from their farms. Just what is intended by this proposal? I have some qualms that the intention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) might be to fully outline for the first time this policy when he is away from Parliament, in my electorate, on Friday night. The policy should be outlined in Parliament first because Parliament is the democratic body to which the Minister is answerable.

The country has a new Prime Minister. From his performance to the present time I believe it is fair enough to dub him 'Mr Confused Decisions' because he has yet to give one decision to which he firmly adheres or one opinion that he will not vary as time of day changes minute by minute or the temperature goes up and down. The country has been dazzled and overwhelmed by the public relations effort to promote the political image of the new Prime Minister - a man of dash and decision. The motive behind the public relations effort of the Government, through the Press, seems to be to promote him as a man of dash and decision. Just how much dash and decision have we seen from him in the short time that he has been in office? He dashed in on the postal strike and said: We must keep the mails* moving.' So many people said: 'Hooray! This is a jolly good effort.' Within a matter of a few days the country was almost plunged into a national strike, not only with the postal workers on strike but the railway workers, waterside workers, seamen and transport workers, all of whom were threatening to go out in support. The country was on the verge of immobilisation. The economy was about to bog down because of the incompetent way the negotiations on the strike were handled. For the first time for some decades the welfare of the country was threatened through the incompetent, bungling manner in which the top administrators of the Cabinet handled the postal strike over the Christmas period. Of course the Prime Minister was happy to get away from the situation - to slide out from under, to use the vernacular.

What happened over the Christmas period? This was a time of great action - a time when great announcements were made. Great Britain was to withdraw from the Malaysian scene at a much earlier time than expected and a heavy responsibility was to be cast somewhere. What was Australia's position? What were we going to do? A senior Minister of the British Government came to this country to speak to the Cabinet and outline the proposals of the British Government. The Cabinet mct for long periods to discuss this. As I mentioned earlier, the Post Office strike was on. At this time Hanoi issued tentative offers on peace talks. Three important matters came up for consideration by the Government. What came out of its deliberations at this particular time? An announcement was made which clearly indicated that the Liberal Party, under its new Prime Minister, had truckled down under pressure applied by the Australian Country Party. In four States of the Commonwealth men were to be appointed as distribution commissioners. They were public servants and would be under the control of Country Party Ministers which is not without significance. That is the most important thing that could be announced, in spite of the fact that peace efforts had been made by Hanoi, that the Post Office strike was practically paralysing the country and a British Minister was out here discussing Britain's future role in Asia and Australia's obligations thereafter. Britain's decision to devalue was made at this particular time also. All that the country could get from the Prime Minister was a concession that the distribution commissioners would be influenced largely by some members who were under the control of Country Party Ministers. We all know that the country is about to face up to a gerrymander where members of Parliament will be representing goats instead of people, which is appropriate perhaps for the Country Party.

During the interim between the Prime Minister accepting office and the opening of Parliament the hopes of the pensioners of the community were fostered by certain statements that he made. The Prime Minister said:

The goal must be to relieve those in the greatest need without penalising those who have saved to help themselves, and without destroying the incentive so to save. This is not easy, but it is a goal (hal we must seek as a nation and a government.

That statement sounds very grand and as though something positive would be done almost as soon as Parliament reconvenedLe' us look at the statement again:

The goal must be to relieve those in the greatest need without penalising those who have saved to help themselves.

The Prime Minister was going to help everyone. When Parliament resumed the Prime Minister did not help anyone; he sent a telegram to pensioners to tell them that they need not expect anything. The honourable member for Mackellar is in charge of social services - a man who was going to do so much. On the first day of Parliament he failed to do anything when he had the opportunity. The Prime Minister is a man of confused decisions; he makes a public statement early in the piece that the pensioners can expect a radical change and improvement in their situation. A little later, after the pensioners have been beguiled and perhaps intoxicated by the happiness of the thoughts that have been aroused, the Prime Minister announces that they will receive nothing.

Then there was the glorious example of the Prime Minister backing out of the issue of Vietnam. How thrilling it was to have a Prime Minister who came out forthrightly and declared that there would be no buildup of Australian troops in Vietnam - that there are as many there as there ever would be. That was a very positive, very precise and forthright statement. In a matter of days the crusty old establishment which dominates Cabinet and which rules the destiny of this country so badly got at the Prime Minister and he came out with an 'all the way with LBJ' speech. We were back where we were 3 years ago. We had the promised reshuffle of portfolios in the Cabinet; the promise that this man, who was going to be an efficiency expert in political and public administration, would merge certain departments. The three defence junior portfolios would be merged into a single defence departments - a very appropriate suggestion. Health, social services and repatriation would become one department - Health and Welfare. Treasury would probably absorb Housing; transport would be in one department. Everyone was excited. Here was the efficiency of a radical change. Here was a complete deviation from anything that had been seen before. It was new thinking and frontier-like statesmanship. Then the announcement was made that no changes would be forthcoming, except that two unfortunate individuals would no longer be in the Ministry. Their main sin seems to have been that they backed the wrong starter in the Prime Minister stakes. These are the only changes.

Mr Daly - They did not have a swimming pool.

Mr HAYDEN - That could be right. The Prime Minister did not eject the lightweights who had been passengers for so long. The Department of Territories still groans under the load of an autocratic, unimaginative Minister with an end of the last century colonial outlook and policies of a similar nature when in fact he should be thinking of the beginning of the next century and where we stand. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea will focus, from international sources, more attention upon ns and cause more criticism of us than any other single issue that we are handling within this country; yet the Government seems to be doing everything it can to encourage the maximum amount of criticism that can be attracted from outside sources. So much for the much vaunted reformer who was going to change the face of government administration in this country. Nothing has happened.

The Prime Minister has been hailed as being able to give direct answers. It has been said that he does not hedge but is very down to earth when interviewed on television. I have seen his interviews on television. From what I can see, he has two stock answers. His first answer is: T have not been in office long enough to discover yet, but give me a little time.' The other answer is: 'I am looking at the matter at the present time.' If he keeps looking at matters all the time he will get the name of being the looking glass Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the key appointment in this country. The position is not one for an apprentice. Someone who has served extensively in various departments, who has proven administrative ability and who can look after the country is the man to fill the position. The position is not one for a learner. The Prime Minister is certainly a man of dash and decision; he has dashed all hopes through the lack of positive decision.

It is said that he is a man of opinions. Well, as I said, he has an opinion on just about any subject you like to mention. The only trouble is that his opinion varies with the hour of the day. This firm man who is going to mould the Public Service into the efficient bureaucracy and take away its autocratic power has become a victim of that same autocratic power, lt is well known that he wanted to eject Sir John Bunting from the position of Secretary to the Prime Minister's Department for which he receives a salary of $17,500 a year. He wanted to kick him upstairs to some sort of appointment elsewhere. It is well known in Canberra that Sir John Bunting refused to accept this. He pointed out that his was a Cabinet appointment and that Cabinet would have to unappoint him. The result was that Mr Hewitt was not able to take over the complete field of the Prime Minister's Department and so the responsibilities are being cut in two. On the one hand there is to be the policymaking section under Mr Hewitt and on the other the Cabinet secretariat under Sir John Bunting. Both men are to receive $17,500 a year for doing the work that Sir John Bunting did alone until a few weeks ago - and that work can in fact be done by one man.

This is a defeat at the hands of the Public Service. And the pressure of resentment and opposition from the Public Service has not finished because there are serious rumblings of discontent among the permanent heads. They feel that their guaranteed future progress, their security of position, and so on, have been threatened by this appointment of Mr Hewitt. So confusion is rampant, indecision is engendered and the public is bedazzled and bewildered as it follows the Prime Minister through his kaleidoscopic moves and his gyratory decision making.

We could not have a better example of this than the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service containing his interpretation of how the economy was performing. At 4 p.m. on the day after the Minister made that statement the Prime Minister was reported to have criticised it trenchantly. At 7 p.m. on the same day, however, the ABC news had a different story. The Prime Minister's Press Secretary, Mr Eggleton, was quoted as having said:

The Prime Minister, having read the text, finds nothing extraordinary about the speech.

The Prime Minister thought that there was nothing extraordinary about the speech. It was a rather gloomy, dour sort of assessment of the performance and future role of the economy, yet the Prime Minister found nothing extraordinary about it. The Prime Minister is a remarkable man. He had a quid each way about how the economy was performing because only the night before the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) delivered his interpretation of the state of the economy - an interpretation which had already been endorsed by the Prime Minister and which was completely contradictory to the interpretation of the Minister for Labour and National Service. In a speech to the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers on 28th February the Treasurer said:

Figures for consumer spending at constant prices in 1966-67 were released last week by the Statistician. These indicated that in the year 'real' consumer spending per capita increased by 2.2%, which compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous decade. There is little doubt that since 1966-67 'real' consumer spending has been increasing as strongly as it did in that year.

The Treasurer went on to give a very optimistic interpretation of what good results we can expect from the economy in future. Yet according to the Prime Minister there was nothing extraordinary about the statement made by the Minister for Labor and National Service. Nothing extraordinary? After already endorsing what the Treasurer had said about the optimistic outlook, increased real wealth, real income and the real rate of growth being achieved in the economy? Nothing extraordinary? I will read two extracts from the statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. His statement was made on 29th February at a luncheon given by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. The Minister said:

Until some three years ago average wages in real terms were rising year by year, sustained by heavy investment and progressive improvements in productivity. This has since ceased to be the case largely because the Government has been obliged by events to make greater demands for real resources in large part, but not wholly, to meet the rapidly increasing requirements for Defence.

This statement is a complete denial of what was put forward by the Treasurer, who said that real income - after the deflation of cost of living increases - had increased in the last few years. On the morning following the Treasurer's statement the Minister for Labour and National Service completely contradicted him. The Minister for Labour and National Service also said:

It is most important, therefore, that the whole community realise that for the time being at least thoughts of increasing their personal standard of living must be subordinated to the needs of the Nation.

There is no relationship between what was said by the Treasurer and what was said by the Minister for Labour and National Service. There is an extraordinary difference of interpretation revealed in those two statements. On the one hand the Treasurer told us that things were going to be good and that we could sit back and take it easy; on the other hand the Minister for Labour and National Service told us that we had to tighten our belts!.

Frankly, I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service was telling the truth. Although I do not endorse the sort of policy he puts forward I believe we will have real problems in the future in meeting our defence payments, facing up to problems of overseas trade deficits and possibly a shortcoming in the inflow of foreign investment. These are serious problems for an economy such as that of Australia. Australia has been allowed to gear itself for dependence on a heavy inflow of overseas investment. If there are to be deficiencies of inflow into one section of the economy then they have to be made up in another sector. If we depend for inflow on external sources and those sources are cut off or reduced then the deficiencies have to be made up internally. This can be done only by extracting the funds from somewhere within the circular flow of the economy, domestically, and that means a belt tightening process in any person's language.

Here we have the short term record of the Prime Minister - not a particularly illuminating record. Certainly it is a record that does not create great excitement or an opinion that he is a man of decision, a man of positive thought or a man who knows his mind. On every important issue that he has handled since becoming Prime Minister he has had several changes of opinion. I did want to talk about his record as Minister for the Navy and about the way in which the fleet was run down while he was in office. For instance, more than half of the six destroyers we had were more than 10 years old - the age regarded as the maximum life before obsolescence seriously sets in. Of a total of nine frigates, seven had a total age of 111 years. In other words, 78% of the frigate fleet was over age. So one could repeat the unhappy list of circumstances. There was the shocking tragedy in north Queensland when five midshipmen lost their lives and the report of the Naval Board Court of Inquiry was suppressed so that Parliament could not debate it. There was the HMAS 'Voyager' incident which revealed glaring deficiencies in administration and the inefficiency of the Navy. These things were allowed to set in during the present Prime Minister's term of administration.

Now I will deal with deficiencies in education. These are so glaring that they resulted in a serious rebuke for the present Prime Minister from the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. All these things can be pinpointed as clear evidence that the present Prime Minister, on his past record, has not established that he has the capabilities or the experience to handle the affairs of this country. This is not a job for an apprentice; it is a job for an outstanding man with administrative ability.

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

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