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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 804

Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - I am honoured and privileged to rise to speak after the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) in what he stated he expected to be his swan song speech. He is a man who, over the many years he has been here, has won a very real place in the hearts of many honourable members on all sides of this House. I have been here only a relatively short time but I have the utmost respect and affection for him. Also, I agree with much of what be said in his speech, particularly the last point he raised relating to young couples trying to set up a home in the face of giant interest rates. I see this as one of those highly urgent priorities which the present Budget has not tackled directly but which I believe will be tackled by this Government in the immediate future.

The Budget was undoubtedly a brilliant budget, one of the most brilliant budgets that any of us can remember. Without doubt, it will get the country going again. There are many signs that confidence is returning to the Australian economy. There have been many recent economic indicators of the fact that confidence is returning to the economy. This is no easy matter, for the modern economy is a difficult, complex and and paradoxical instrument. This is true of whichever country in the Western world one looks at. We live at the butt end of the Keynesian era where we have no absolute certainty that the economic tools of the past will serve the purposes of today and even less certainty that they will serve the purposes of tomorrow. In the meantime, before we are visited by the new Keynes, we need to strike out strongly to remedy those ills which we can remedy under the prevailing circumstances. That is precisely what this Budget - which I have advisedly called a brilliant budget - does. It is designed to get the country going again, and to get the country going again in precisely the right direction for our era. I will say more about that shortly.

When one considers what a finely balanced mechanism the modern economy is, one realises that some of the recent statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) are remarkably inept, illconsidered and gauche. When one considers the psychology of the economy, one realises that some of the recent statements made by the Leader of the Opposition are remarkably unbalanced and academic. I mean academic' in the worst sense, as being unrelated to reality. The most recent gaffe which the Leader of the Opposition made was to make it clear that he believes in revaluation. We have seen the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), who is not in the House at the moment, become very heated about this matter, but what he failed to make clear when he spoke today and in his recently reported statements in the Press was that this matter of revaluation is an issue only because of the remarkably ill-informed, ill-considered, gauche and inept statements on this matter which were made by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is not a private member of this Parliament. He is not a man of no consequence - or ought not to be a man of no consequence. He is a man who leads an alternative government. He is the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. This is the context in which remarks that he makes about matters of high national moment must be considered. I say that this is irrespective of the merits of the argument for revaluation and the merits of the argument for devaluation.

The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition can only harm the Australian economy because in this way he creates uncertainty and hesitancy in many absolutely crucial sectors of the economy. Also, his remarks are precisely such as could encourage a rush of investment from overseas which would come in to make a quick kill at the expense of the Australian community. There are many ways of tackling capital inflow into this country. As everybody knows, at the moment the Government is considering the policy on overseas ownership of the Australian economy. This is a very important way in which the question of capital inflow can be considered. But for the Leader of the Opposition to make remarks at this time which can create only domestic uncertainty and which can lead only to our being placed in a very awkward position in terms of international monetary movements, is remarkedly ill-considered, inept and gauche. Of course, it is not unusual for him to make statements like that. 1 have heard it said that every 5 months he makes a major gaucherie or gaffe. I am not sure whether it is every 5 months or every 4 months. Sometimes one wonders whether it is not every 5 days. A friend of mine recently suggested that the Leader of the Opposition ought to be known from now on as Mr Gaffe Whitlam, but I will not enter into that.

What troubles me is that matters of high national importance can be treated in this offhand, academic fashion. As 1 have said, the attack on the Leader of the Opposition comes not fundamentally or primarily from this side of the House but from his colleagues opposite. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who is sitting at the table representing the shadow ministry, has told us not to worry about what the Leader of the Opposition has said because he is expressing only personal comments and they are only personal statements. The Opposition Leader's own colleague has said that they in no way commit the Opposition. That would be all right if this were some philosophical debate and if some nice semantic points were involved. But nice semantic points are not at issue here. Vital matters affecting the Australian economy are at issue. What a pity that the Leader of the Opposition can in no way commit the Opposition on vital matters like this. What a pity that on matters of the greatest national importance the Leader of the Opposition can in no way commit the Opposition. I suppose this is really par for the course in both personal and party terms, for not only can the Leader - the public spokesman - of the Party not commit the Opposition in vital areas but what is even more serious is that the elected Labor members of Parliament cannot commit the Labor Party on any policy matter. Their only role in terms of policy is to decide on the precise time when Labor Party policy might be implemented.

Dr Patterson - What are your views on it? Tell us your views.

Mr STALEY - This is called 'Party democracy'.

Dr Patterson - You have not got any views on that.

Mr STALEY - We know your views. It is your views which have made it absolutely clear that your Leader does not represent his Party just as your Party in the Parliament does not represent your Party outside it. The Government's position on this issue is absolutely clear. There is no question of any revaluation at the moment. I think this is a good decision and I think it will stick. As I have said, the difficulty faced by honourable members opposite - and 1 feel for them in this - is that their Party is still dominated by the trade unions of Australia. The boss of the Australian trade unions, Mr R. J. Hawke, is literally leaving the Leader of the Opposition without a feather to fly with. In a recent television debate Mr Hawke even in effect opened Labor's election campaign. This is a right which is normally taken by the Leader of an Opposition or the leader of a Party but when he should have been debating law and order with Senator Ivor Greenwood he was in effect opening Labor's campaign for this year's election. The Leader of the Opposition could grow the wings of an angel but he would still only be able to flutter around in the Hawke cage, for the unions dominate the Australian Labor Party today as much as they did 50 years ago. Constitutionally the position remains the same. There has been some talk-

Mr Bryant - To what section of the Budget are you addressing yourself?

Mr STALEY - 1 am talking about the whole ramifications of this Budget and the financial framework of the Budget, including the direction of which this Budget talks. I am making some remarks about the sort of situation which would develop if the Australian Budget were created by the alternative government. What sort of Budget would we have? Who would create a Budget for the Opposition? We have heard it said that there are some old tired men around this country. The old tired men in this country are the men of the Opposition. The average age of members of the Ministry is very much less than the average of those in the shadow Ministry. Which party is the old tired party? The Labor Party is the old tired Party in Australia. It is a Party in which the policy making conferences are dominated by union officials. This was all right in the early years of this century when there was a role to play, but these conferences make Labor policy; they make the policy for the elected members of Parliament.

In terms of philosophy it is the Labor Party which represents an old tired philosophy, for it retains the philosophy of socialism. Some of the clever younger members have tried to redefine it but it stands as a basic objective of the Labor Party, as upright as it stood for many years. The ALP believes in the socialisation of means of production, distribution and exchange. And if you do not like it, then scrub it. This philosophy of socialism is increasingly irrelevant to the real issues of our era, for the philosophy of socialism must include more and more government, more and more regulation and more and more central direction and this inevitably entails less and less emphasis upon the individual, the person, the identity. This latter emphasis is what the Liberal Party stands for.

The real reason why this Budget is such an exciting document is that it takes new directions in terms of what I call the new liberalism. Let me illustrate my point. The child care policy of this Budget is a very carefully thought out policy. It take- months and months to produce policies in important areas. The child care policy of this Budget entails the proposition that the community will control the child care centres. We are not setting up a costly and elaborate new Commonwealth bureaucracy to do a job which people, where they live and work, can better do that job. This is the philosophy which runs through the whole of the budgetary proposals in regard to education. The notion is that the people should have the education which they will create and that it is not something which can be rained down on them from the skies but something which they create and as far as possible they control.

Also in this Budget we have an absolutely clear admission of the importance of fighting the war against poverty. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has made clear a number of times that in his recommendat.ons in the field of social welfare he was determined to beat the levels which Professor Henderson has described as th: poverty line. The Budget goes through these areas one by one in an endeavour to ensure that the particular category of pensioner's will be so treated that they will be above the poverty line. But perhaps most important of all this Budget represents a reversal of a trend to more and more government. It is not just a question of a few more dollars in the pocket. It is not just a question of what people will take home after tax. It is not just a question of what extra amounts pensioners will receive, lt is a question of whether we believe in personal decision making. It is a question of whether we believe in people or whether we believe in governments more than in people. It is a question of whether we believe i=.i the individual or the bureaucratic State, central direction, social engineering and all that increasingly irrelevant lot.

On the other hand in recent times the Opposition has been up to all sorts of different tricks. It has been promising the world. (Quorum formed) I was about to say that the Opposition had been promising the world for months and months. Suddenly, as the 1972 election drew near, members of the Labor Party started renegeing all over the place. They were conscious that their promises would cost hundreds or thousands of millions of dollars extra each year and the Australian taxpayers would have to pay it. Now members of the Opposition are not prepared to tell us whether they are ready to foot the tax bill or what are their policies. In many vital areas they have no discernible policy whatsoever. They are having 10 bob each way. I remind honourable members of Labor's policy on conscription. We used to be told that Labor would abolish conscription. Now the Opposition is saying that if it could not get the volunteers it would be prepared to use conscription. That is what we are led to believe by the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), the Opposition's shadow Minister for Defence and spokesman on defence matters.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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