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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 848

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - I rise to support the Budget brought down by the Government. It provides for an estimated expenditure of $10,078m, which represents a huge increase over last year's expenditure. It indicates the great growth which is taking place in this country, even taking into consideration the inflationary tendencies. It is a good Budget and has met with acclaim across Australia. When the Budget was introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) we on this side of the House noticed the grim faces of members of the Opposition. It was quite evident that it was a Budget that was good for the people of this country. It is more generous than was expected. Income tax is down; age, invalid, widow and service pensions are up; and the means test has been eased. Indeed, the means test will be eliminated over the next 3 years. This, is excellent news because it will benefit thousands of people in Australia, particularly those people on station properties and elsewhere who have been hard put , to meet their financial obligations.

Under this Budget it is proposed to increase the limit of permissible income from $10 to $20 a week in the case of a single pensioner and from $17 to $34.50 a week in the case of a married pensioner couple. The homes saving grant will be increased from $500 on savings of $1,500 to $750 on savings of $2,250. This will benefit many young couples who are desirous of building their own. home. Nursing home insurance benefits.! are to be introduced for contributors: to hospital insurance funds. In the field of child care, $5m is to be spent on child minding centres. The exemption limits on estate duty and gift duty have been liberalised. In the education field, there will. be more secondary, university and advanced education scholarships. This is something that we have desired for some time, and it has become a reality under this Budget. Those people involved in this field will be delighted with the increased opportunities for young students to obtain these scholarships.

Under the Budget income tax has been slashed by an average of 10 per cent. This measure rightly has been designed to favour the low and middle income earners, despite the attempts by the Austraiian Labor Party to reject this fact. Dependants' allowances will be increased by $52, while the minimum taxable income will be raised from $417 to $1,041 per annum. This news has been greeted with enthusiasm and will help the family man and assist in improving the economy. These taxation measures will come into operation on 1st September. Already taxation forms showing the new scale of tax are available in post offices. This shows the Government's concern that the lower tax rates should operate promptly. Honourable members opposite have endeavoured to put up a case to the effect that the resulting increase in wages and salaries will be eaten up by inflation before these measures come into effect. This is sheer nonsense, and salary and wage earners are applauding the prompt action taken by the Government, lt is all right to criticise moves by the Government to reduce taxation and to say that the reduction should have been greater, but the fact is that action of a positive nature has been taken to the extent of approximately $583m. That is some relief, and it has been very well received.

In the field of social services, the Budget will provide further assistance to all types of pensioners. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has done a magnificent job in research and effort to bring in these increased benefits through the Government and with full acceptance by its supporters. An increase of $1.75 per week in the pension paid to single age and invalid pensioners and widows with children brings the new rate to $20 per week. The combined pension for married -couples has been increased to $34.50 per week, an increase of $2.50. This Government has increased pensions at frequent intervals during the last few years. Only in April of this year pensions were increased by $1, and they were increased last year also. It is >all right for the Opposition to talk about more increases, but the fact is that this Government has been accomplishing these increases. It is introducing them for the benefit of the pensioners.

Opposition speakers during the Budget debate have been most critical of the number of unemployed in Australia as shown in the latest figures released. The Opposition has been endeavouring to blame the Government for the situation that has arisen by pointing out that 95,733 members of the work force are unemployed. When we look at the situation we find that of these unemployed 33,427 are in New South Wales; 24,037 are in Victoria: 10,050 are in Queensland; 12,136 are in South Australia; 12,537 are in Western Australia; and 3,546 are in Tasmania. The biggest increases in unemployment in this country have taken place in the 3 Labor controlled States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. One would think that the Premiers of the Labor governments in those States would do something about this position. I have no doubt that they wish the figures were

17902/72- R~ 1301

much higher. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and other members on that side of the House have been talking since last year of the prospect of 150,000 and 200,000 being unemployed. This does not do their Party any good and it does not do this Parliament or the nation any good. It indicates to me that they are trying to frighten people into a situation in which there will be a colossal amount of unemployment in this country.

These people mentioned figures of this nature late last year, as I have mentioned already, and it would appear that they would be in full support of increased unemployment. We on this side of the House are pledged to full employment. For many years we have maintained in this country an employment level of 99 per cent. Now it is down to 98 per cent, which gives concern. However, no doubt this figure is the envy of. most overseas countries whose unemployment figures are far in excess of that operating in this country at the moment. The Government realises that the present rate of employment is not acceptable and it has taken measures to overcome the problem. We have eased monetary conditions, given unemployment relief in non-metropolitan areas, increased State works and housing programmes, and provided for income tax reductions and increased pensions. I was interested to read in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 26th August a letter written by a lady from Moree. It is signed 'J. R. Hobson, Moree'. The letter is headed 'Who wants to work?' and reads:

Sir, Theheadline news on Channel 2 on' 14th August was that there were 100,000 unemployed.

My son has been advertising m a widely read newspaper for a station hand. The conditions: over award wage: fully furnished, near new house, all electric: meat, milk, power and eggs, all free; school bus to local school, 2 miles. Result: no takers.

I also approached a professor's daughter in regard to a mother's help- good wages and full keep. She was not interested, she said, as she was drawing unemployment relief 1 wouldn't know what it is costing the Government a month for unemployment relief, but it must be considerable.

There are many positions throughout bur countryside that are not being filled, such as those mentioned in tha: letter which appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald'.

It is available to anybody who is interested in seeing it. The reasons for unemployment in Australia can be set down in quite a few ways which are outside the control of the Government. Excessive wage demands being made by the unions are forcing employers in this country to find ways in which to continue in business with a minimum number of employees. Wage increases have been running at the rate of 9 per cent per annum while prices have been increasing at the rate of 7 per cent per annum. This is a clear indication of excessive wage levels. Industrial unrest with unnecessary strikes and stoppages caused by communist-controlled unions has resulted in considerable unemployment. The recent strike by maintenance men employed by the oil companies caused a loss of millions of dollars to the nation and resulted in a big increase in unemployment as many industries and the petroleum distributors who are still having trouble with stocks have had to put staff off. The strike by the Victorian power distribution employees earlier in the year, caused a loss of millions of dollars to the nation and to the men and their families who were affected by it. All these happenings bring another squad of unemployed and loss of confidence in the industry concerned.

In the country districts of Australia unemployment has been created by the fall in wool prices and 3 drought years which have been experienced in the grain growing areas. These 2 factors have been responsible for the increase in unemployment in rural towns and districts and this trend has carried over to such secondary industries in the cities, as the agricultural machinery manufacturing industry, the automotive industry, the rubber and tyre industries, the iron and steel industry and a host of other. They have been severely affected and will not pick up again until the price of wool recovers and good crops of grain are harvested. This clearly shows that the cities are dependant upon the prosperity of the countryside to lift up their business activity with a resultant increase in job opportunities. This is one of the very good reasons why there has been unemployment and, if the Government were not assisting with grants to country areas, it would be much worse. The working man in Australia would now have his greatest opportunity to provide the necessities of life for himself and his family if it were not for strikes engineered in the main by communistcontrolled unions. It would be in his interests to rid himself of this cancer which has taken over key unions of this country, to get rid of the communist leaders and have good, sane leaders take over, leaders who are prepared to abide by arbitration and get on with the' job of production which is so necessary to our economy.

The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has mentioned the establishment of a national rural bank. In the . Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) it was announced that S20m would be provided to improve the long term loan position of farmers. This is an initial allocation to be used in facilitating increased availability to farmers of long term loans and the establishment of a national rural bank. This proposal is the result of exhaustive studies by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics into the rural credit supply situation and of talks with primary producers and institutional leaders. Full credit must go to the Government and to the Minister for Primary Industry for instituting this progressive step. The Minister has had conferences wilh the Commonwealth Bank df Australia and private banks on the proposal. Existing institutional advances in excess of $2,100m are outstanding at the present time in the normal banking system and it is apparent that Government funds alone cannot meet the demand in an increasingly capital intensive rural sector. Full details of the national rural bank proposal are yet to be finalised but no doubt the Minister will be giving us the facts and figures in the very near future. Other countries have this type of finance available to primary producers and with our varying seasonal conditions " across the board it could be the means Of solving credit facilities here.

It must be remembered that the Commonwealth Development Bank was founded and commenced operations on . 14th January 1960. It was established under the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959 and had as its starting point the assets and liabilities taken over from the industrial finance and mortgage bank departments of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, together with S5m in new capital. That was the equivalent of SI Om. Its total capital at that time was £15,857,000 with £5,428,000 from the mortgage bank department and £5,429,000 from the industrial finance department. I quote those figures to show how this Bank has grown. Today its capital is $61,714,000. I have no doubt that when the rural finance bank is started, with a capital of $20m, it will grow and build in the same way the Development Bank has.

The Government's policy to reduce the level of estate duty has been widely accepted. This reduction will apply to 95 per cent of dutiable estates and will mean that approximately 50 per cent of all formerly dutiable estates will be totally exempted from duty. The taking of this step follows a long history of representations from rural industry organisations. For many farmers facing a struggle in the near future to provide for the payment of estate duties, the Commonwealth's move will be very welcome. It must be remembered that when the total estate duty bill is added up the Commonwealth's share is less than one-third of the States' tax. Therefore it is hoped that the States will follow suit in this connection. All rural producers will benefit. The thinking behind the Commonwealth's action to reduce estate duties flows from 2 factors. The first is that estate duty exemption limits generally have remained unchanged for all estates since 1963. with the exception of the exemption granted to rural producers in 1970. The second is that rising money values have meant that an increasing number of quite modest estates have become dutiable, thus causing great concern to people on the land who built up studs and other agricultural assets over the years.

In this Budget all statutory exemptions from estate duty have been doubled. This move means that the cut-off point for primary producers will be $48,000 where the estate passes to close relatives and $24,000 where it passes wholly to others. These exemptions will taper off at the same rate as exemptions for ordinary estates taper off - the complete taper off points for primary producers being $240,000 and $120,000 respectively. I have a table which clearly sets out the new estate duties, the point at which they cut out and the estate duty payable on the various estates. I ask that that table be incorporated in Hansard.

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