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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 781


Mr COPE (Sydney) - The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) endeavoured to cast by aspersion some very serious charges against the Australian Labor Party and some of its members. At various times the honourable member reminds me a great deal of Lady Chatterley's gamekeeper. 'He is always on the spot when there is dirty work to be done'. The honourable member did not speak one word about his electorate despite the fact that, according to the last census, there has been a decline of 10 per cent in the population of his electorate. The honourable member for Ballaarat also did not mention one word about unemployment, despite the fact that there is a serious unemployment problem in his electorate. I am led to believe by reports from my fellow members that he has made a speech in the House only 3 times in the last 2 years - one to present a report, another when speaking on the Parliamentary Counsel Bill 1970 and the speech which he has just made. The honourable member o;d not mention one word about the Budget. Tn regard to the old communist bogy that has been kicked about for many, many years the fact is, of course, that there has not been one communist guilty of subversion in Australia since this Government assumed office in 1949. If there has been the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has certainly not been doing its job and should be sacked. Not one person has been found guilty or even bean charged in relation to subversive activities in Australia since 1949.

In addition, it is quite obvious from past experiences that many Government supporters seem to assume that a Labor Opposition member is guilty by association. Just let me explain that in detail. I can recall the occasion, for example, when Jim Healy, a leading communist in Australia and Secretary of the Australian Waterside Workers' Federation, used to come to Canberra and converse with Mr Holt, who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service, about matters pertaining to the waterfront. Mr Holt would take Mr Healy to lunch or dinner. Similarly Mr Opperman used to take Mr Elliott, Secretary of the Seamen's Union of Australia and a noted communist, to lunch. Of course, if I were seen having lunch with Mr Healy or Mr Elliott I would be a communist. Members of the Opposition knew that the daughter of Senator McCallum, a Liberal senator for many years but later lost his pre-selection, who was a very close friend, incidentally, of the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), was a leading communist in New South Wales. We knew also that she was selected on many occasions as the leading Communist Party candidate in Senate elections. We knew that Mrs Curthoys was Senator McCallum's daughter. However, we did not say anything about it here because we know that a daughter has every right to differ from her father - just as brothers differ - in regard to politics. But just imagine if the daughter of a Labor senator had been No. I on the Communist Party ticket. What would the reaction have been of those on the other side of the House to such a situation? Also I can recall facts about the communist bogy being rolled out.

I was rather amused to see the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) complaining about the news media and the way they are affecting the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). But do these men not recall what happened to Ben Chifley when people from over the other side of the House by malicious, filthy innuendoes said that he was a fellow traveller and pro-communist? They said these things even though half of them were not fit to clean his boots. Of course, that sort of thing went over well. The Communist Party bogy was introduced by honourable members opposite because they had to win the election. The same thing happened to Dr Evatt and to Arthur Calwell. When the newspapers - not the Opposition - do this to the present PrimeMinister supporters of the Government squeal like stuck pigs about what is happening to their Prime Minister. Little do they know, of course, what happened to Labor leaders on this side of the House, particularly Mr Chifley who was one of the most revered Prime Ministers in the history of Australia. This communist bogy is so much poppycock.

Although the honourable member for Ballaarat refrained from doing so, I want to speak a little about the Budget. I thought that before doing so I was duty bound to answer some of the innuendoes which the honourable member for Ballaarat cast against my colleagues of the Australian Labor Party. Although this Budget provides some increases in social service benefits it does not meet the requirements of those whose only income is the pension, bearing in mind that a considerable major portion of age and invalid pensioners are in this category. My colleagues and I have argued on numerous occasions that the pensioner, instead of being treated as a human being possessing pride and dignity, is being treated as a political football by a Government trying to bribe voters before this election. The Labor Party Opposition believes and recognises the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners' Association as being the true voice of the pensioners. We do so because it is a diligent organisation. Above all it is non-political. In addition its claims are reasonable and just. It proposes that the single pension rate should be the equivalent of 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings. This is a goal which I sincerely hope and trust will be attained in the very near future. However, in the meantime the Labor Party policy provides that the pension should equal 25 per cent of the average weekly male earnings which at the moment approximates $96 a week.

This, in effect, would bring the pension to $24 a week or S4 in excess of the amount provided in this Budget. Such a system would mean automatic adjustments in each Budget according to increased costs of living which surely occur each financial year.

The wage and salary earners have access to arbitration and conciliation tribunals and quite rightly so. In contrast, the pensioner has been at the complete mercy of successive Liberal-Country Party coalitions which have determined the rate of pension. The sorry plight of many pensioners struggling to exist on the totally inadequate rate of pension is indeed a blot on our society. There is absolutely no guarantee that the pensioners will receive an increase in the 1973 Budget to keep pace with rising living costs. This assumption is based on the concept that by some mischance this Government will be returned at the forthcoming election. However, there is little likelihood of that happening because the people of Australia are sick and tired of this inept and haphazard Government. Many of us have vivid recollections of the grandiose, glittering vote-catching promises made in 1949 by the Menzies-Fadden coalition, the first and foremost of which was: 'We'll put value back into the pound'. That promise proved to be a mass of hot air. A promise was made to set up a committee to inquire into the abolition of the means test. That promise was never kept.

In addition a solemn vow was given that the value of all social service benefits would be maintained. Let us examine the outcome of this promise. Legislation was enacted in 1950 to provide endowment of 50c for the first child. It still stands at 50c despite 22 years of spiralling inflation encouraged and condoned by this Government and its predecessors. The endowment of $1 for the second child has remained unaltered for 24 years. The maternity allowance has been unaltered for about 29 years and the funeral benefit for single pensioners of $20 has been unchanged for 29 years.

Let me give a few illustrations of the manner in which the purchasing power of money has been eroded. In 1949-50 50c would buy 2 lb or more of butter. Today butter costs 58c a lb. The price of bread, milk, fruit, vegetables, groceries, shoes and clothes has more than doubled. The tram fare from Botany to Circular Quay in 1949-50 was 5c. The same journey today by public transport costs 35c. The cost of bringing a baby into this world has increased several-fold, yet nothing has been done to increase the maternity allowance and rectify that injustice. The perennial struggle of the mass of the pensioners, who are trying to exist on inadequate pensions far below the described poverty line, is indeed shameful. The blame must be sheeted home to the Liberal-Country Party Government, and also to the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party coalition because of its relaxation of the Landlord and Tenant Act which resulted in outrageously high rentals for substandard dwellings and rooms in lodging houses. Some pensioners in my electorate are paying up to $12 a week for a dingy room with little or no facilities.

I deal now with a very important aspect of Australia's future, namely, the takeover of our mineral resources, industries and even large tracts of our Australian territory. The ex-Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, described the position correctly and accurately when he said that we were selling a bit of the farm each day and that Australia was fast becoming a quarry for overseas interests. Mr Vine-Hall, the notable liberal from South Australia, said that the Commonwealth Government was selling Australia to the highest bidder. In 1970-71 the total amount of capital inflow into Australia was $l,900m, which is a staggering figure. As at January 1972, the United States of America had invested $US53,500m in Australia. Britain's investment in Australia was $US52,300m while Japan's investments in Australia totalled $US2,600m. Present indications are that before the end of this decade Japan will own a more sizeable portion of Australia than either the United States or Britain. The Japanese will join in industrial ventures to process raw materials in their country of origin. Many overtures in this regard have already been made in Australia.

It cannot be denied that the Japanese are most able and astute negotiators when it comes to business deals. For instance, the Japanese pay Australia $10 a ton less than they pay the United States for coal of similar quality. Yet, the Australian Gov ernment sits idly by and allows this to happen. In addition to exercising a major influence on the future of Australia's mineral resources and secondary industries, this must mean that our annual indebtedness to overseas investors by way of dividends will increase rapidly year by year. In such matters the day of reckoning must surely come. This Government is most apathetic and dilatory in searching for new markets for the products of our primary and secondary industries. Conversely we find that the new Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Tanaka, the leader of a conservative government, is now making a bold bid for close friendship ties with China. This approach certainly will enhance the prospects of Japanese industry in future diplomatic and trade relations with its near neighbour of 800 million people.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry recently announced that an Australian trade centre will be opened in Moscow. This is a step in the right direction. The Opposition fully supports this venture. But why does Australia not negotiate with China for the purpose of opening up a similar trade centre in Peking for the purpose of cultivating trade relations? China is almost totally an untapped source.

Mr Deputy Speaker,as you would be aware, Ministers particularly are unrestricted in making statements by leave and in answering questions at question time in the manner in which they choose. If they so wish, they can completely evade giving proper answers and can introduce extraneous matter. In addition, unfounded, unsubstantiated and malicious innuendoes are hurled at the Opposition as a whole without any intention of naming any Opposition member specifically. I recall to your attention the incident which occurred in the House last Thursday morning when the Prime Minister in answer to a question stated that some members of the Opposition actually condone public disorder. Public disorder' is a very fancy way of putting the expression 'public violence'. I took exception to that remark. The Prime Minister finally apologised and withdrew my name from that group.

The Australian Labor Party abhors violence whether it be in the trade union movement or in the political wing. We recall that in the 1966 House of Representatives election campaign, the Prime Minister of the day, the late Harold Holt, after addressing a meeting at Rockdale was manhandled as he moved outside to his car. We protested quite vigorously at that and were very sorry that the incident occurred! In addition, an attempt was made at the meeting at Mosman on the life of the then Leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell). The Labor Opposition does not condone violence. We do not encourageit. As a result of what happened last week, last Friday, the Administrative Committee of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party, of which I am honoured to be a member, passed the following resolution:

The New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party unequivocally condemns the use of the philosophy of violence either against individuals or property.

We also condemn the divisive policies and cynical attitudes of the Federal and State Liberal Governments on their approach to the question of Lawand Order.

While these Liberal Governments stand on the sidelines talking 'Law and Order', the Trade Union movement acts to uphold it by fighting these small groups of extremists prepared to use intimidation and violence.

The New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party fully supports and endorses the unanimous ACTU Executive decision of 22nd August, and the New South Wales Labor Council decision overwhelmingly carried last night-- that is, last Thursday night - which state:

The ACTU Executive expresses concern at the reported violence after a mass meeting of striking members of the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union held in Sydney on 21st August.

We strongly condemn the people who seek to introduce into the affairs of the Trade Union meetings such brutality and violence.

We declare that such action is not in keeping with the principles and standards as set down by the Australian Trade Union Movement and it is completely un-Australian.

We believe that such conduct and behaviour must be eliminated, and we call upon all responsible Trade Unionists to resist such violence.

Particularly, we draw the attention of the Affiliated Unions to this resolution and request that they take action to discipline any member involved in such behaviour.

Should affiliated unions decline to take such action, State Branches of the ACTU should consider the question of continued affiliation of the offending union.' and-

This is the resolution of the New South Wales Labor Council of Thursday, 24th August:

The Labor Council of N.S.W. notes the concern expressed by affiliated unions at the introduction of intimidation and threats of violence into the conduct of Trade Union affairs in this State.

The Labor Council endorses the stand taken by the Acting Secretary, John Ducker, when faced with this type of intimidation, and in his subsequent public statements declaring the wholehearted opposition of the Trade Union Movement to this type of behaviour on the part of individuals and minority groups.

The Labor Council notes with approval the resolution of the ACTU Interstate Executive, which also condemns the people who would seek to introduce violence into the affairs of the Trade Union Movement.

We join with the ACTU in declaring that such action is not in keeping with the principles and standards set down by the Australian trade union movement, and is completely un-Australian.

While noting that emotions run high in major industrial disputes and things are said and done by workers that would not be done in normal circumstances, and such an emotional outburst was one factor contained in the situation that took place following the Plumbers return to work meeting, the fact remains that violence is becoming a recurrent feature from among an element in the Trade Union Movement.

We therefore call on all workers to strongly oppose the philosophy of violence and to strongly defend the right of Union officials and the rank and file of all points of view to speak, without subsequently being subjected to abuse, manhandling, violence, or the threat of violence.

We regard democratic practice in the Trade Union Movement as essential to build the unity of the workers in their struggle for social progress.

We call upon all affiliated Unions to take appropriate action in order that any instances of violent behaviour at Trade Union meetings are properly, dealt with, and demonstrate to all concerned that the Trade Union Movement, can carry out ils affairs in a responsible way.







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