Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 716


Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - A Budget, of course, reflects many of the policies of a government because the policies have their counterpart in the revenue raised and the expenditures that are detailed in that Budget. In the 20 minutes that I have available to me it is obvious that I cannot canvass a large number of matters. I shall therefore concentrate on two or three that appear to me to be the most important. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke on Tuesday evening he referred to the excuses that the Government had made for not doing this and not doing that Excuses can be of 2 kinds. Firstly, there can be the excuse of the school boy who arrives late having come to school on a ferry, whose clothes are dripping wet, and who says he is late because he fell in the water. It is quite obvious that his excuse is valid. Secondly, there may be the office boy who comes up with the excuse for the sixth time that he has to attend the funeral of his grandmother on a day which happens to coincide with a cricket test match. Some excuses or reasons may be valid; others not.

I wish to say a few words about the reasons why the Government has faced great difficulties before I proceed to other aspects of the Budget. I believe that no government in the history of Australia since the earliest days of the colony has faced greater difficulties than the present Government faces today. We have seen the collapse of an empire of which we were part and we now know that our old connection with Britain is no longer what it was. The security of the world is no longer in the hands of 2 superpowers conducting a cold war, we being a satellite of one of them. There are now in existence or emerging 5 super-powers, and we have to decide how to navigate in these difficult waters. A statement was made by President Nixon which indicates that in the future we shall have to depend upon ourselves much more than we have ever done in the past. Unless we are blind we can see that local military power is still important. In Bangladesh it was the greater strength of the Indian Army that resolved the issue. In the Middle East it was the military power of Israel which determined the outcome. In South Africa, no matter what the Africans may do, no matter how they may rage, it is the greater military strength of the South African Government that preserves the situation there. In other words, local power is still immensely important.

So one looks to the Budget to see whether the Government has adequately taken into consideration our national security without which all our domestic concerns are as nothing, because the preservation of the state is the first requirement. I do not propose to go into this matter in detail except to say that despite all the criticism that is being levelled against the F1ll aircraft the day may come when we are exceedingly glad to have it. The Government has now embarked on one of the largest programmes it has ever undertaken in providing destroyers, a naval force that is able to look after the situation in our environment, particularly the archipelago to our north and in the seas to the east and west adjoining our coasts. Again, the Government seeks to preserve the strength of a very small standing Army. On the other hand, the Opposition - one must always remember in a Budget debate that the Opposition is the alternative government, and the more so on the eve of an election - proposes nothing of this kind. It thinks there is no threat whatsoever. Those of us who remember how in a very short time, between 1933 and 1939, the threat of Hitler blew up in Europe and those of us who remember how quickly the threat from Sukarno blew up on our northern shores will not be so complacent. We know that these things can happen quickly. Unless the keels of ships have been laid and they are built, it is useless when the threat arises to then start building a ship which may take 6 years to complete. So the Government prudently is looking to the security of this nation upon which all the other things we have must rest.

The Australian Labor Party says: 'We believe in ANZUS'. Perhaps that is so, but it has downgraded it. Now it is not a defence alliance, but simply a kind of economic partnership. There is a great difference between the Labor Party's attitude and our attitude to the ANZUS alliance which, in the last resort, we regard as the sheet anchor of our defence. I do not want to go into this matter beyond saying that if one looks at this item of expenditure - a very considerable item and a most important one from a national point of view - one finds that the Government is pursuing a prudent course and the Opposition has no answers. 1 turn to these other so-called excuses. I come to the field of trade. The wool industry - the greatest of our primary industries, our greatest export industry until recent times and certainly a key industry in this country - has faced, through technological change, competition that it has never faced before. One cannot suppose that with the development of artificial fibres wool will ever again be what it has been in the past. The Government has had to face that situation. In other times this could have been disastrous; the economy could have capsized completely as a result of such a setback. We have been fortunate indeed so far as mineral exports are concerned. Nevertheless, it is no mean feat of financial management that this has not been a completely disastrous blow to our economy. As if this were not enough, we have had Britain entering the European Economic Community, which has affected other of our exports, particularly primary exports. As if these things were not enough, we have seen the collapse of the stability of world currencies so that exporters and importers have not known what prices they would have to pay or what prices they would receive for their products. What would Labor do about this situation? We have heard a few words tonight and earlier, about revaluation. I do not want to enter into this aspect in any detail; unfortunately, I do not have the time. Hot from television we have this script of questions asked by a television questioner and answers given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The question was:

On inflation, and in reference to the Reserve Bank statement of the other day, would you endorse what they have had to say about inflation, that it could be reduced either by revaluing the dollar or-

There the question trailed off. Mr Whitlam replied:

Yes. I agree with that entirely. I think the Australian dollar is undervalued, that as long as that remains it will promote inflation in Australia.

Mr Whitlamwent on to say how reluctant he was to answer this question. Then he said:

But you asked me: I am convinced that the Australian dollar ought to be appreciated in value.

This is what we get from the Leader of the Opposition. Tonight we have had an equally plain statement from another leader in the Opposition, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), in which he completely contradicted what the Leader of the Opposition said.


Mr Cohen - What would you do?


Mr TURNER - The question is not what would I do; the question is this: Can the people trust a party when 2 of its leaders express completely contradictory views on a highly important matter? How important this matter is has been debated already in this House, and I have not time to go into it further. Somebody interjected and asked what I would do. I will tell honourable members one of the things I would do. I hope that the Government, in framing a policy to deal with this situation, would take this into account: What we have is a pile-up of foreign currency owned by Australia, and there it lies idle. As has been said, it could be used to buy Australian assets cheaply. Another thing that might be done with it is this: For a very long time we have refused to give permission to entrepreneurs in this country to invest Australian money in Indonesia and other countries of South East Asia. In the past this has been a perfectly sensible, rational kind of policy because we have been a capital importing nation rather than a capital exporting nation. Now, for the first time, we are in a position where we could export capital. We have some foreign exchange, and I suggest that here is an opportunity that ought to be seized.

Instead of leaving this fund of overseas money idle and posing a threat if it is used in certain ways, why could we not use it in this way to promote our trade and our prosperity in South East Asia? Such action does promote our trade. I was asked what I would do. I have put this up as part of the answer. It is certainly one of the things that I would do.

The great problem with which the Budget has to grapple - any alternative government has to grapple with this problem, let us remember; we must always see that the Government is proposing to do and what the Opposition would do in regard to these great matters - is that we face, as the rest of the industrial world faces, what has been called stagnation. That is, stagnation - unemployment and lack of business activity - on the one hand and at the same time growing inflation - prices going up and wages going up. So, what has been called stagflation is inflation while at the same time there is unemployment. The management of an economy is very much a balancing act. We have been chided by the Leader of the Opposition for not having some permanent solution to this problem. Can honourable members imagine any permanent solution to walking on a tightrope? If we continue to lean either to the left or to the right on the tightrope, the results could be quite disastrous. Quite clearly, if we are engaged in a balancing act we must always be adjusting the situation to remain in balance.

So, at a time when there is unemployment we seek to increase the expenditure of the community in order to absorb the unemployed. This is precisely what the Government is doing. That increased purchasing power may be injected by various means. It may be done through public works; it may be done through reducing taxation and leaving more money in the pockets of the people to be spent to promote employment as well as for their own satisfaction; or it may be done by embarking upon a form of public works - say, housing, which promotes employment probably more than almost any other means. But I have a great objection to using housing simply as an economic regulator. I believe that it should be the subject of a continuing social policy. If we simply pour in vastly more money - the Govern ment is indeed pouring in more money - particularly at a time of land shortage, we simply bid up the price of land without any advantage to anybody. I do not have time to go into this matter in detail, beyond saying that the Government is performing this balancing act by what I believe is the best method; that is, by putting purchasing power into the pockets of the people to serve their satisfaction and to promote employment.

I believe that, despite the valiant efforts of the Opposition, there are few people in Australia today who do not believe that we are on the rise again, that employment will grow and that nobody who is in work need fear that he will lose his job. The Government has sought to deal with inflation by various methods. These are long term methods. One of them is a revision of tariffs so that employers cannot always feel that they need not mind accepting higher wage rates for their workers because they can always use excessive protection and push up prices. A revision of tariffs is one of the long term methods. Another relates to restrictive trade practices and monopolies legislation which has been forecast by the Government, because it is notorious that these also are factors in the bidding up of prices.

The Government's policy on arbitration has been perfectly clear. Arbitration comes into play when conciliation has failed. When has conciliation failed? It has done so in 2 circumstances. The first is where the employers and employees in an industry cannot arrive at a common agreement. Then conciliation has failed and the Government's .policy is that the matter should go to arbitration. The other circumstance in which a dispute should go to arbitration is where employer and employee are willing to enter into some collusive agreement to boost wages and prices against the public interest. In these 2 circumstances - that is, where the parties cannot agree or where the public interest is involved - the Government has said that there must be arbitration.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, through Mr Hawke, has done everything it possibly could to prevent arbitration from working. It has said: 'We must have a situation where ever more powerful unions use ever greater blackmail to achieve their purposes'. And so inflation continues. What may be the end of this road nobody can foresee but it is obviously the most serious matter in our domestic situation today. It is a reversion to the good old rule, the simple plan, that he may take who has the power and he may keep who can. Put more simply, it is back to the jungle. There was a time when other countries faced with this problem turned to Australia thinking that in arbitration we had the answer. We thought we had the answer, but no longer. This road is long and the end is not yet in sight. The oil strike ended at last because too many people were about to be thrown out of work. For the sake of 1,000 men who were seeking more than they ought to have, men in other industries were being stood down. Two trade union leaders went on television and said that it had to stop. Nevertheless, we have to remember, when we are dealing with arbitration and we think it may be a new province for law and order, that law is enforced not only by the police but because the vast majority of citizens believe it to be right. Those who have to be dealt with by the police are only the small dissenting minority of little consequence, but we cannot enforce the law unless the vast majority of the community believes that the law is right.

Perhaps in these industrial matters we have not arrived at that point. If that is so we have a long hard road ahead of us before people realise that we simply cannot go on like this without bringing about anarchy in the end. It may be that the hard lesson has to be learned the hard way, and at long last it may be that the trade unionists will say that this is not good enough. For the sake of 1,000 men here or a few hundred men there a whole industry and a community is thrown out of work. England has almost reached the state today that it fears it may become - and this is a dread word - ungovernable and this is the prospect that faces us. In the circumstances what has the Opposition to offer? This is the great threat in our society today, so what has it to offer.


Mr Kennedy - Co-operation with working people.


Mr TURNER - Not confrontation but co-operation. Co-operation means yielding always to blackmail - surrendering and yielding always to blackmail. What we must have in this country is a government that, when it really comes to the crunch and we have a situation of open defiance, and this is what it amounts to, can go to the people and seek a mandate from the whole of the people to deal with those few who are holding the community to ransom. If the Government in office can be blackmailed then we have no chance of anything but anarchy and the road to anarchy is the road that Hitler trod. The first need of any modern community must be order; otherwise it reverts to the jungle. It was that sort of situation that led to Hitler. This is the mere truth that I am speaking, attested by history beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I have not much time left but I would like to say something which is not related to what I have been talking about. In this House we usually have 10 or 12 honourable members listening to debates. We have carried out experiments and they have failed. As a result we have 10 or 12 honourable members sitting here at almost any time out of a total of 125 members. This occurs because honourable members will read speeches which mostly are not worth reading. The standing order that provided that speeches may not be read has to be restored if this Parliament is to have any life in it, if it is not to be dead as it is now. Also the practice of broadcasting into our offices speeches made here should be discontinued so that honourable members have to come in and listen to speeches. Honourable members should have to get up and make speeches-







Suggest corrections