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Tuesday, 14 May 1968

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) - It was nice to hear the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) urging an increase in pensions generally. Of course, it is getting close to Budget time and evidently the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has nodded to the honourable member to let him know that there is every likelihood that there will be a slight increase in pensions. However, after almost 19 years of LiberalCountry Party governments we find that there has been a steady deterioration in the standards of living and in the value of the wages earned by the average Australian. We have reached crisis point. This is proved by the incessant complaints received by individual members of the Parliament from their constituents. This has been the experience of the honourable member for Mallee, too. People say they are finding it difficult to maintain their families in keeping with normal standards necessary to ensure their personal welfare. Fathers find it most difficult to maintain their families because of the low purchasing power of wages. Many find it necessary to work long hours of overtime to acquire even the bare necessities of life. How true this is. Overtime tends to depress real wages but in the search for employment the father of an average family demands to know, before he takes a job, how much regular overtime is available. Many are forced to take second jobs, and many trade unions find among their members numerous men who are working at two jobs. One union reports that it has bank officers, clerical workers and retail trade employees by the score on its list as cleaners, and many of the employees in the hotel and catering trades are working double jobs. Statistics have shown that as far back as 1966 there were 148,000 employees officially working second jobs. Noone knows what the real figures are, because most people work their second jobs under assumed names for obvious reasons. The figures also show that there were 1,096,400 women working, comprising approximately one-third of the national work force. These figures show that Australia is not much of the lotus land that it was described as by a former Prime Minister of this anti-Labor Government, when women have to go back to work in industry to keep up with prices which are increasing rapidly and are out of all control. This Government should concern itself with the welfare of these people generally.

One would never have thought that conditions in Australia could have deteriorated to such a low level. We remember the famous advocacy of a former anti-Labor Prime Minister of Australia in his election speech as far back as 1949, when he said that he would put value back into the £1. Unfortunately, the Australian people fell for his false promises. After 19 years of antiLabor government we find that prices are beyond control. Any housewife will tell you this. In September last, statistics showed a 4% increase in the cost of living in Sydney under a State anti-Labor government. That is equivalent to 85c per week. It followed on increases in food prices and housing costs. Food prices rose at a higher than average rate of 2.8%, whilst the rise in the other capital cities was 75c in Melbourne, $1.02 in Brisbane, 54c in Canberra, 75c in Adelaide, SI. 02 in Perth and S1.62 in Hobart. One finds that the high cost of living is the result of anti-Labor governments and the lack of price control which has allowed prices to rise in essential areas of family needs. The honourable member for Mallee supports an anti-Labor government.

Further increases are expected in petrol prices which will finally be paid by the general public. Last year Ampol Petroleum Ltd achieved a 33.8% profit increase on 1966, and a record profit of $6,750,154. Factors which contributed to this record profit were taxation concessions granted by this Government to this huge monopoly and to other companies, and higher motor spirit prices. The Federal conference of the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia decided in April 1967 to examine price movement in the December quarter of 1967 and to request the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to lodge wage claims to compensate for wage increases. The Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and the Amalgamated Engineering Union requested the ACTU conference in 1967 to make a claim for a minimum family rate of at least $48 per week. The accuracy of this level is confirmed by the latest figures and the report of an Australia-wide gallup poll which showed that the cost of keeping a family rose by 5%, from $44.60 to $46.60 in the past year, 1967.

The total wage decision defers any application for wage increases to help offset the rise in cost before August 1968. Considering rates of price increase in 1967 this decision cannot be accepted, and steps will have to be taken to find a way to increase wages to retain purchasing power which has deteriorated to an all time low. Then, of course, there is the question of bousing. Who will deny that rents are at an all time high? Families are being asked to pay up to $25 per week for very mediocre accommodation by rapacious land and estate agents battling on the unfortunate misery of poverty stricken people. These estate agents operating in our community are most enthusiastic supporters and financial contributors to Liberal-Country Party election funds. Why is this? I believe the answer is obvious to the average man on the street.

Recently we have seen the spectacle of the wave of hysteria created by the daily Press in all parts of Australia around the election of the Liberal Party Leader who in due course has become Prime Minister of Australia. Before his election the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), on 7th January 1968, said:

If I am elected Prime Minister I have no doubt we will continue in this country as we should, as to the goals we should seek. If I were able to frame the functions of future policies I would aim at a society which would remove burdens from those in dire need.

All members of the Labor Party Opposition in this House are looking forward to the implementation of this policy of a wide increase in the value of all social services, especially a substantial increase in the miserable pittances now paid as age, invalid and widow pensions. This will help to lift the burdens from the shoulders of the old pioneers who, after all, were responsible in the first place for creating the conditions which made it possible for the new Prime Minister to be elected. We hear quite a lot in this House from the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) whom I have accused before of being a colossal humbug.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will moderate his statements.

Mr CURTIN - Hardly a week goes by without the Minister's voice being heard on the sad plight of the graziers due to weather, drought or devaluation. This so-called eloquent champion, the Deputy Prime Minister, forcefully pleads their case for more Government aid. We read in the 'Daily Mirror' of 12th December 1967 of a 32- year old grazier who spent more than $100,000 on six racehorses. He staggered seasoned buyers when he paid $30,000 for an untried New Zealand colt. Amongst those he staggered were countless thousands of factory workers whose working day is spent in noisy, smelly, sunless tin sheds and whose taxes will eventually provide the relief that these tall, sunburnt pioneers from the west of the Blue Mountains demand. The same pioneers will not allow the Government to give the workers an extra hour of daylight which they could enjoy in the garden. How true that is of our everyday life. The article in the 'Daily Mirror' went on to say that the Deputy Prime Minister's pleas for those orphans from the outback sounded like a lot of cant and humbug, a statement to which I heartily subscribe. That comment also applies to the speech of the honourable member for Mallee. Let the Prime Minister's first and most important job be to increase the welfare of our aged, invalid and widowed people who are in the direst need.

I should like to voice my views on the comic opera methods adopted by both the Liberal-Country Party hierarchy and the daily Press in the election of our present Prime Minister, and especially to the insulting remarks by the colossal humbug, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, about the honourable member for Lowe.

Mr Turnbull - I rise to order, Mr Speaker. Is the word 'humbug' a parliamentary term?

Mr SPEAKER - In the context used by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith I do not think the word could be described as unparliamentary.

Mr CURTIN - Thank you, Mr Speaker. I take it that the honourable member for Mallee gives humbugs to his grandchildren to eat on Saturdays. The Prime Minister's first and most important job ought to be to increase the welfare of the aged, the invalid and the widowed people who are in the direst need.

Of course, we see political history repeating itself. During the years of World War II the then Leader of the Country Party, Sir Arthur Fadden, claimed that the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, had stabbed him in the back. All honourable members remember this. Now we witness the opposite. We are faced with the spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister claiming that the Treasurer, an aspirant to the Prime Ministership, had stabbed him in the back. There is a lot of stabbing in the back going on among the Liberals and Country Party members. The Leader of the Country Party said that he and his Country Party colleagues would withdraw - he was starting to sulk - from the coalition Government in the event of the Treasurer being elected

Prime Minister. So what are veiled threat* really worth? Seemingly the Deputy Prime Minister has not forgotten what happened previously. For many years, of course, k has been obvious to the most casual observer that relations in the so-called unified coalition in this Parliament have not been very happy at all. The daily Press, noting this, has worked overtime in keeping up the pretence of unity to the public by seemingly sensational untruthful editorials in its organs. But the truth had to emerge and this happened during the recent bitter campaign for the Liberal Party leadership when we witnessed the infamous standover tactics of the Leader of the Country Party, Mr McEwen, in co-operation with the organs of the putrid Press, creating the hysterical climate which surrounded the candidature of the Treasurer for leadership of the Liberal Party. They were out to kill the Treasurer at all costs. This will go down in political history as the most degrading public spectacle of all times. I ask the genera] electors of Australia why they cast their votes for parties such as the Liberal Party and the Country Party and thereby assist the parties to stoop to such gutter tactics. Let us pause a moment and see what the financial editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' said in an article on 13th December last. This man would not be a Labor supporter. He said:

The Leader of the Country Party is ever and always the actor. One who does not shine so much in dialogue but gets his effects by specialising in exits and entrances.

This seems to be a similar case to the old electoral hedging instinct that took the Deputy Prime Minister out of Australia while the decision had to be taken on Australia's reaction to the devaluation of sterling. Where was the Deputy Prime Minister then? We also saw that instinct at work a year previously during the general election campaign for the House of Representatives. The Deputy Prime Minister campaigned especially in Western Australia - and this may be news to the honourable member for Mallee - at least as much against the Liberal Party as against the Labor Party. Listen to this. He appealed to Labor voters to give the Country Party, above all, their second preferences.

Mr Turnbull - 1 did not go to Western Australia.

Mr CURTIN - I never said that the honourable member for Mallee went to Western Australia. He is a nonentity; he is only a backbencher. Following the same line this year, the Deputy Prime Minister, perhaps after taking a wind check, conspicuously decided to abstain from taking part in the Corio by-election campaign in his own State. Why? A few months later he announced that he would not be taking part in the Senate election campaign in November. Why? His reason was that he had to attend a meeting of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade countries in order to resist the wave of protectionist pressures which had occurred in the United States of America. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Government, the Leader of the Country Party, always has to be in America.

Further, adding more fuel to the fire which was raging between the members of the coalition, the Liberal member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) circulated a letter to all Liberal and Country Party members accusing the Leader of the Country Party of one of the most dastardly acts of treachery in Australian politics. These were strong words indeed. What is becoming of the greatly publicised unity of this Government? The honourable member for Mitchell, a Government supporter, said that the Leader of the Country Party fastened on the unfortunate death of Mr Harold Holt to destroy the Treasurer, which he failed to do when Mr Holt was Prime Minister. The honourable member for Mitchell, a New South Wales electorate, stated in his letter: i am of the opinion that the three main contestants for the leadership of our Party could not demand or expect more loyalty and support than they had shown their leader, Mr W. McMahon, who became leader of the Party on the demise of Mr Harold Holt.

Further in his letter the honourable member for Mitchell said that as this incident occurred during the arrival of overseas dignatories for a memorial service for the Prime Minister the statement by Mr McEwen would be recorded as one of the most dastardly acts of treachery in Australian politics. He went on to say that appeasement did not pay; that no outsider should be allowed to dictate to Liberal Party members of Parliament or Liberal Party senators. He said that if they succumbed now they would be under constant threat of a recurrence of similar demands in the future.

Another Liberal Minister, the former Minister for Shipping and Transport. Mr Freeth, defended the right of the Leader of the Country Party.It was a case of a fellow Liberal Party Minister attacking his colleague in preference to the Deputy Prime Minister. This Minister said that it was quite wrong to explain the issues question as being due to the personal antipathy between the two men. He said that Mr McEwen had said that the reasons were known to several Ministers before Mr Holt's death. Not to be outdone, the Leader of the Labor rats in the Senate, the Democratic Labor Party, threw his weight into the attack on the Leader of the Country Party.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Kingsford Smith has used the word 'rats'.

Mr CURTIN - CouldI say 'vermin', Sir?

Mr SPEAKER -I ask the honourable member to withdraw the word 'rats'.

Mr CURTIN - Rats? You ask me to withdraw the word 'rats'.I may prefer the word vermin'.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member cannot reflect upon another member in the chamber or in another place. I ask him to withdraw the words'vermin' and 'rats'.

Mr CURTIN -I withdraw the words vermin' and 'rats', Mr Speaker. J was not referring to any man. I was referring lo a party.I do not think my words should be objected to.

Mr SPEAKER -I think that reflection on any member in another place is objectionable to the House.

Mr CURTIN - I withdraw, Sir, in deference to you.

Mr SPEAKER -The honourable member will withdraw the words but not in deference to me.

Mr CURTIN - I will withdraw, Sir. The DLP members threw their weight into the attack on the Leader of the Country Party.

This Leader of the Country Party is not much good. He has a lot of questions to answer. The Leader of the DLP said he believed that the attack on the Treasurer was both unfortunate and ill-timed and the announcement by the Leader of the Country Party of apparent antipathy towards a member of Cabinet showed that the coalition was on very weak grounds. A senator of years gone by, ex-senator Foll - a red hot conservative Liberal - is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald' to have said that he was at a loss to understand why a busy man like the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party spends so much time attacking the Basic Industries Group. It is easy to see in these attacks veiled attacks on certain Liberal Party Ministers and members. After all, the Australian Country Party is itself a splinter party. It came into existence after 1917 - there was a strike in 1917 - because a few members of Parliament were disgruntled at not being able to secure portfolios in the Billy Hughes Nationalist Government.

On 8th January 1968 the 'Sydney Morning Herald' returned to the attack on the Treasurer, stating that charges so far published were open to quite different interpretations. The newspaper said that at their worst the charges might be considered to disqualify Mt McMahon, not only from being Prime Minister but also from being Treasurer, but were capable also of a more innocent interpretation. The newspaper said: The new Prime Minister, whoever he may be, should not include him in his Cabinet until this business has been decided. Perhaps Mr McMahon can now save the Liberal Party from acute embarrassment by withdrawing from the positions of Deputy Leader of the Party and Treasurer until the charges have been discussed and he has had a chance to clear himself.' How the dogs bark! In an editorial on 2nd January 1 968 the 'Daily Mirror' stated that the Leader of the Country Party was the right man for Prime Minister. What a strange statement, that is coming from the 'Daily Mirror'. How the Press can somersault from day to day. All these statements in the Press are a clear indication of the hostility and hatred that have been boiling up within the so-called unified Liberal-Country Party coalition Government I make that remark, for what it is worth, to the electors of Australia.

In summing up my remarks on this comic opera situation I would like to quote the words of a gentleman who is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald' of 12th January this year to have said: The adulation heaped upon the new Prime Minister by certain newspapers would lead one to believe that Alexander the Great had risen from the grave. Actually the ease with which he won the post points out the deplorable lack of talent among the Liberals sitting in the House of Representatives. It seems that we are going to have a dose of the great new society shoved down our throats, which means, of course, more taxes and more men for Vietnam. I sigh for the days of old Ming, the great white father who promised us nothing and made sure that we got it. At least he ignored us with great dignity and spared us all the gaff about glorious destinies and exciting tomorrows. The gentleman whose remarks I have just referred to stated: 'If Senator Gorton or his advisers think that a photograph showing him clad in shorts and leaning on a shovel will endear him to any section of the public they have another think coming. Australians do not want to be led by a man leaning on a shovel.'

Seeing a photograph of our Prime Minister leaning on a shovel reminded me of crude remarks made by daily newspapers during the depression, when I and many others were engaged on dole work. The Press said that all dole workers did, loafers that they were, was to lean on their shovels day and night. We got £3 17s a week, 1 week in 7, on which to keep our families. This was under a Liberal Party government, of course. Our Prime Minister should bear in mind those comments about people who lean on shovels.

In a feature article on 12th January last the 'Daily Mirror' served up more drivel and Yankee blah when it said that the American 'Washington Post' in commenting on the election of our Prime Minister had remarked rather wistfully that Senator Gorton would have made a fine candidate for the American presidency. That is the type of blah we get from the putrid Press. It was softening the Prime Minister up, leading him on to sell Australia, as he and past Liberal Prime Ministers have done.

Why can the average Australian not be protected from this baloney at 5c a time? I suggest, for the benefit of all Australians, that we endeavour to entice our Prime Minister to leave for America as soon as possible, since an opening presents itself for him to nominate for the American presidency. Australia and Australians would be well rid of him.

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