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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 2116


Mr CROSS (Brisbane) - The Queensland Grant BDI is very important to the State of Queensland. In the current year the level of Commonwealth assistance to Queensland is running at something of the order of 43 per cent of the budget of that State. Of course, since uniform taxation was introduced, all States have felt that they have not received quite as much as they should have received from the Commonwealth. It is a fact that uniform taxation has been of great advantage to th« less populous States such as Queensland. The constant search for additional finance by State governments in the relatively undeveloped States has caused governments of all political colours over the years some concern.

I was interested, in looking at this Bill, to go back to the financial statement of the latest Labor Government in Queensland made by the Honourable E. J. Walsh on 20th September 1956 to compare that with the financial statement made last year and to note the change in the financial pattern of Queensland and its increased dependency on the Commonwealth. Some comment was made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who has just resumed his seat, on developments in South Australia compared with those in Queensland over the years. He gave credit to the gerrymander Government of South Australia led by the then Premier for many years, Mr Playford, who is now Sir Thomas Playford, and went on to say that this was the reason why South Australia had made progress in comparison with Queensland. South Australia and Queensland are 2 very difficult States to compare because South Australia is very limited in resources and development is concentrated on the south-east corner. In addition South Australia had the great advantage during the Second World War when Labor governments presided in this place of being furtherest away from the Japanese invasion. Therefore South Australia received a flying start with industrial development because of assistance it received from the Commonwealth government of that day. This is not to denigrate what succeeding State governments have done in South Australia but merely to record that during the war munition factories were built in South Australia and were not built in the electorate of Herbert or in the north of Australia. Those factories were built in South Australia close to iron and steel supplies and, of course, the shipbuilding facilities at Whyalla. As I have said, South Australia was furthest away from the war time threat.

I cannot understand honourable members apologising for the backwardness of Queensland after 15 years of CountryLiberal Party Government. There must be better explanations.It is not true, of course, that the Government of Queensland has always felt it has received a fair deal from the Commonwealth. For example, an article appeared in the 'Courier Mail' of 16th February this year. Under the heading 'A "shabby deal" for Brisbane' the article stated:

Brisbane had been given a shabby, unfair deal by an inflexible Prime Minister, the State Treasurer (Sir Gordon Chalk) said last night.

He criticised the Premiers' Conference decision under which the unemployment grant to Queensland would be doubled from $450,000 a month for the rest of the current financial year, but only for rural areas.

He pointed out:

I fought across the table for nearly half an hour' . . . 'but got an inflexible "No" '.

That was the level of Commonweolth assistance which was given to the metropolitan area of Queensland as recently as February of this year at a time when the State Treasurer was seeking Commonwealth funds for the relief of urban unemployment. The latest figures available indicate that the level of unemployment in the metropolitan area of Brisbane stood at the end of March at 9,314 people; that is, persons registered for employment. This is much too high.

The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) gave credit to the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) - who has been getting credit for a lot of things lately - and said that he was the manwho thought up the idea of an application by the State to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. This is not true. When the Labor Government went out of office in Queensland it had accumulated very substantial reserves which were built up in part by the profits of the railways during the war. These reserves precluded an approach to the Commonwealth by Queensland as a mendicant State mainly because this arrangement arose out of the experience of Labor governments that took over in Queensland in the depression days and managed the finances of that State in a very prudent manner. But when the Country-Liberal Party Government was elected on 3rd August 1957 - known in Queensland as black Saturday - the Treasurer, Mr Hiley, who is now Sir. Thomas Hiley, got the idea that he would spend the reserves in trust funds that the Queensland Government then held and throw

Queensland to the Grants Commission. Somewhat belatedly, that is what has happened.

I am not quite sure of the year, but in the early 1960s Victoria announced its intention of applying to the Grants Commission at the same time as Queensland was going to apply. This would have meant that there would have been only one standard State. The Commonwealth came to the party with a revision of the income tax reimbursement formula and Queensland decided not to apply.

I do not blame the Government of Queensland for applying to the Grants Commission. I think that any State government is entitled to get whatever monetary assistance from the Commonwealth it can. But t think there are some very serious matters that have been raised in the reports of the Grants Commission. The low level of royalties is one example. It is obvious that before the Queensland Government can go back to the Grants Commission with any surety of what it will get in future years it will have to look at how it raises its revenue. 1 want to make a few comments on some aspects of Country-Liberal Party rule in Queensland, and as my predecessors in this debate tonight have done, compare that Government with Labor governments. First of all, the question of hospitals was raised. I would have thought that this would be almost the last thing any Government supporter would raise. I well remember when a Labor government, led by the present Senator Gair, fought this Government to retain free hospitalisation in Queensland. Over the years this Commonwealth Government has refused to support free hospitalisation and indeed has done everything it can to destroy free hospitalisation. Free hospitals existed in States other than Queensland prior to that time. If we look at the estimates for Queensland we shall find that in 1970-71 S68m was expended from the Hospital Administration Trust Fund and that in the current year almost $79m is required. Hospital benefits from the Commonwealth have been as follows: 1969-70 - SI, 090,608 and 1970-71- $955,028; and the estimate or 1971-72 is $970,000. Hospital expenditure in Queensland is rising and the Commonwealth support by way of hospital benefits is falling consistently year by year.

We have the ridiculous position where the Minister for Health in Queensland, who is responsible for hospitals, has poured scorn on the Labor Party's health scheme which would increase assistance to Queensland's free public hospitals by $22m a year. Hospitalisation in Queensland is free only in the sense that one does not pay for it when one is sick. As the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) correctly said, the people in Queensland pay for free hospitalisation at other times. They pay for it in the smaller amount of money that is available for education and in other fields. I am not knocking free hospitalisation. A Labor government set up the system and Queenslanders want it. But the hospitals are operated at a cost and a Labor Federal government would . ensure that money is made available to improve them.

I would like to deal with the record of the Queensland Government in the field of housing, because this is another area in which the Queensland Government is assisted financially under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. Before I talk about this I would like to mention also the assistance given by the Commonwealth under the dwellings for aged pensioners scheme. In 1969 $3,350,000 was provided to Queensland over a 5-year term under this scheme. Up to 30th June 1971 Queensland had spent $108,554 and constructed 18 units. Queensland has one in 6 of eligible aged pensioners and has constructed one in 82 of the units, which is the worst record in the nation. This is an example of an area in which Commonwealth money was available and had been appropriated but which has not been taken up because of the ineptitude and incapacity of the State Government.

I would like to mention the work of the Queensland Housing Commission. It is interesting to consider just what the cost of the Country-Liberal Party Government has been to Queensland since 1957. When it was elected in that year it abolished the previous system of acquiring land for the Queensland Housing Commission. Labor governments of earlier days acquired dairy farms and other areas suitable for development perhaps 5 years ahead of the urban spread in metropolitan areas and country towns. It paid the people from whom it acquired the land a reasonable sum and subdivided the properties in order that suitable land would be available at the most economical cost. Land was then made available. As honourable members know, people c;m elect to purchase homes built under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. They could do this with a margin to cover the cost but the State sought to make no exorbitant profit out of land subdivision.

When the new government came into office, firstly all of the allotments which had been acquired and subdivided were revalued and were made available for purchase at the current valuations. Since that time the system of land being subdivided by the Queensland Housing Commission has been abolished and land is now purchased from subdividers and land speculators, which of course has meant an enormous increase in the cost of housing in Queensland. Not only has the cost of housing risen, but the number of government houses being built is actually falling. Let me make some comparisons. Tn the field of workers dwellings built under the long established Queensland scheme and provided out of loan funds, in 1.959-60 the number of workers dwellings built in Queensland was 521 and in 1968-69 the number of workers dwellings built in Queensland was 295. Under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement the number of houses built in 1956-57 - which would have been the last year the Labor Government was in office - was 1,369 and in 1966-67 - which is the last year for which figures are shown in the Commonwealth 'Year Book' - 1.252 houses were built. Notwithstanding the fact that the Queensland population has increased in that period, the actual number of houses built through the Queensland Housing Commission has fallen.

When one considers housing one should also consider the abolition of rent control and all that this has meant to people in receipt of low incomes, the working people and those people who are obliged to rent houses rather than to purchase them. When Labor was in office in Queensland it kept a certain proportion of the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement homes for people who wanted to rent a home rather than to purchase a home. This does not apply only to people on low incomes. It includes people whose occupations require them to move around, such as school teachers, bank officers and the like, and who very frequently prefer to rent a home rather than to purchase a home. The Queensland Government's policy since 1957 has been to sell every home it can. We all want to see a high level of home ownership, but we all must acknowledge that there is a need to cater for those people who wish to rent a home.

I do not have a great deal of time in this debate, but I would like finally to deal with the railways. The Commonwealth over the years has assisted the other States in rail standardisation work. When assistance was sought for the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway in Queensland, it was refused in the first place. Sir Thomas Hiley went overseas to raise money, but he was unsuccessful. Eventually money was loaned to Queensland at a high rate of interest compared with the grants made available to other States for rail standardisation. An outstanding failure of the present State Government has been its failure to provide a fast transport system to Inala - a Brisbane suburb which is a housing commission area - which system was under way under the previous Labor Government. When the present State Goverment came into office it abandoned the plan for the electrification of railways. We know the difficulties that exist in the metropolitan area of Brisbane with the cluttered roadways, the problems involved in the building of freeways and how expensive this is. But if a Labor government had remained in office in Queensland the metropolitan area of Brisbane would have had electric trains by 1960.

The last matter I wish to raise is payments for flood mitigation work. Recently I asked the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) a question about the approaches made by the Queensland Government for assistance in flood mitigation. I refer to a statement made by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland. I quote from a telegram he sent on 18th February to my hard-working colleague Brian Davis, the State member for Brisbane. The telegram reads: . . 1 might mention that an approach has already been made to the Commonwealth Government for special financial assistance for Brisbane and near coastal areas in respect of damage caused by cyclone Daisy.

Being rather interested in this matter, I asked the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) a question seeking information about payments made to New South Wales and Queensland for flood mitigation during the last 10 years. In the reply given to me I find that in that period New South Wales has received, by way of grants from the Commonwealth, $10,405,000. The reply which I received today from the Treasurer reads:

At 18th April 1972, the only formal request received by the Commonwealth-

From Queensland - is for an amount of $137,500 towards the cost of flood mitigation works within the area of the Herbert River Improvement Trust. However, the Queensland Government has informed the Commonwealth that it intends to submit requests for financial assistance under the National Water Resources Development Programme towards the cost of flood mitigation works on a number of rivers in that State.

In that same question on notice I also asked the Treasurer:

Has any assistance been requested for flood mitigation in Brisbane?

The answer was 'No'. I would like to make the point that the Australian Labor Party is pleased to see the assistance that is being given to the State of Queensland. Whatever assistance is given through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, even if it were doubled or trebled it would still be insufficient to compensate the people of Queensland for the incompetence of the CountryLiberal Party Government since 1957.

Debate (on motion by Mr Katter) adjourned.







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