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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 898

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) expressed concern in his speech about the degree of unemployment. I am sure that all members agree that we want to reduce the level of unemployment. However, the honourable member criticised the Commonwealth Budget from that angle. I just want to say that the Budget generally is designed, and I believe will do so very effectively, to stimulate the economy and this is the best basis upon which unemployment can be relieved. Therefore I believe the Budget is in fact one which is designed to help relieve unemployment by way of stimulating the economy.

By common consent this is one of the most comprehensive Budgets ever presented to the Federal Parliament. I compliment the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and the Government on it. Also I would say - and I do not think I would be speaking in any biased way - that it has been one of the most favourably received budgets because it has provided great benefits for many people in a responsible way. The Budget will give more substantial benefits to more people in total and in relation to the population than any Budget for a very long time, if indeed there has ever been a Budget that has given such substantial benefits to the percentage of the population as are provided by this Budget.

As I have said, the benefits are to be provided in a very responsible fashion. An overall deficit of $630m in a Budget of approximately $10,00Om is not a big deficit; it is by no means a large deficit when compared with the total involved. The Budget domestic deficit is only $60m. We have constantly heard - and during this debate this has been one of the subjects which has probably been most strongly stressed - about the problem of inflation in Australia. I would like to tell the Parliament and the people of Australia that Australia's performance in coping with inflation will stand comparison with other nations around the world. Figures have been given in relation to this matter, but I would like to quote some figures which I have received from the Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. The figures relate to a comparison made between Austrafia and Japan, the United Kingdom, France. West Germany and the United States of America. I will not mention the West German figures because they do not go far enough for purposes of a comparison to be made across the board. Therefore, I will compare Australia with Japan, the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America. I think that honourable members will agree that they are nations which have great resources and which are among the affluent countries of the world.

For the purpose of the comparison I asked the Research Service to obtain figures for a 5-year period - 1965 to 1970. Taking the base as 1965 equals 100 points we find Australia in front of them all. From 1965 to 1970 - and these are the latest figures that I was able to get - inflation in Australia rose from 100 to 121 points; the United States, which was nearest the Australian figure, rose from 100 to 122 points; Japan was next rising from 100 to 124; and the United Kingdom and France rose from 100 to 127. Therefore, from these figures we can see that any suggestion that Australia has not coped with its problem of inflation equally as well as the nations 1 have mentioned can be completely refuted.

Even more than that, if we take the last 2 years that were available to me - that is 1969 and 1970 - the figures are even more complimentary to the Australian handling of the situation. Using the same base, I find that the level of Australian inflation rose from 117 in 1969 to 121 in 1970. The nearest country was France which had an increase from 121 to 127 points. Therefore, Australia had a rise of 4 points against a 6 points rise for France. In other words, France the country nearest Australia in this comparison, had a rise of almost 50 per cent greater than that of Australia. Inflation in the United States rose from 115 to 122, a rise of 7 points; in Japan the rise was 7 points - from 117 to 124; and in the United Kingdom the rise was from 118 to 127, or 9 points. I asked that the figures which were made available to me be not taken from any specific area. In fact, I think that the figures which were made available to me show in no uncertain fashion the success that this Government has achieved in coping with inflation compared to what has been achieved in other countries.

I believe that one of the most important parts of this Budget, not only from a rural industry point of view but also from a national point of view - and I am very pleased there has been some acceptance of this as a national need - is the provision of long term loans for primary industry. I believe that this is the most welcome part of the Budget for many primary producers who are suffering from a shortage of finance. This is a problem which has confronted primary industry for many years. Long term loans for primary industry are essential if we are to enable many people in rural areas to carry on their businesses. The Budget provides $20m for this purpose.

We know that there are various means by which financial assistance can be provided, but whatever means are used, whether the scheme is implemented through a new rural bank or in some other way, the scheme must be got under way. The point that I want to stress in connection with this is the urgency of providing assistance. It has been said that legislation will be brought down during this session to implement the scheme. I urge the Government to act quickly. If there is to be any delay in establishing the new bank I would suggest that as a next best thing the Commonwealth Development Bank should be rechartered to allow it at least to provide long term loans for primary industry, the need for which is essential. A rechartering of the Commonwealth Development Bank in the way I have suggested would not be detrimental to the establishment of a new rural bank because the division of the Development Bank dealing with long term rural finance could be used as the nucleus of a new rural bank which would follow and which I believe is necessary.

During my travels throughout my electorate I have found the most talked of subject to be this provision of finance to give assistance to rural industry and the fact that in the past rural finance provided in many areas has not been sufficient to give the across-the-board assistance that has been necessary. In the past people have been assisted because they have been in grave difficulties. Many very deserving people who have not reached that stage are nevertheless in need of finance. I hope that action will be taken as quickly as possible to implement this measure.

One problem associated with this is the extreme difficulty that we have always experienced in overcoming the attitude that we are adopting a sectional approach by providing rural finance. So often it has been designated in that way by the metropolitan media. However, they have overlooked the fact that this finance is required for industries which are vital to the welfare of Australia as a nation and that it could do much to encourage people to remain in areas other than the capital cities. They forget also that any viable contribution towards this end is ultimately of advantage to our nation and to our overcrowded cities. One of the heartening factors in relation to the acceptance of a national approach for long term finance for rural industry is demonstrated in an editorial which appeared in the Sydney Sun' on 17th August this year. The editorial, under a heading 'Easing Despair from Debt', stated:

Most of us have got some idea of what it's like to be in debt.

But nothing can be quite so despairing as being in debt and trying to make a living in the country.

The outlook for many thousands of people, farmers little and big, is not just daunting - it's horrifying.

Many of them owe everything except their pride and determination to see it out.

Many more owe so much they have been driven to the cities. Shouldering their bad debts for the rest of their days.

I emphasise the next part, which stated:

This is a nation that owes its existence to what its rural industries earned overseas.

Industries still vital to Australia.

The plan for a national rural bank revealed yesterday by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, is one welcome way to help them.

Help stall the creditors and promote sound investment other than handouts.

The farmers haven't had much of a break. Not even with the weather.

They don't want charity. Just understanding and time to pay.

That is the sort of approach that I welcome in the metropolitan media. I hope that this editorial will be followed by a broader approach to this question throughout the media of this country. It was certainly heartening to me to see the change of attitude in this article.

I should like now to touch on another matter which is affecting the country generally and rural areas in particular. Let me refer to the discussion about the appreciation or otherwise of our currency. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has taken the stand that the Australian dollar should be appreciated. Whatever excuses might be offered in regard to what he said - for example, that it is only an expression of personal opinion - the fact is that the Leader of the Opposition has taken a clear stand on this issue, and if his views do not reflect the opinion of the Opposition, if he is out of touch with the Australian Labor Party's policy, if his opinions are not worth anything to the members of his Party, he should resign and make way for someone who can speak authoritatively for the Labor Party. However, I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition will be placed in that embarrassing position because I am of the opinion that he is voicing the majority Labor Party viewpoint on this issue.

Despite the fact that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the Opposition's Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, has expressed opposition to that statement, I do not believe that the honourable member for Dawson and those few people in the Labor Party who support him will cut much ice in the general Labor Party Caucus. For very clear evidence of this let me refer to what happened at the meeting of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party at Launceston when the policies of the honourable member for Dawson were rejected in favour of the policy put up by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). The honourable member for Dawson was so put out about it that he appeared on television and was highly critical of the decisions of that Conference. He said that he felt sorry for Labor members in rural areas holding marginal seats. Here is a noise coming in. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster), who is trying to interject never stops talking, and never says anything.

No doubt efforts will be made to patch up, at least publicly, the division that is obviously showing within the Labor Party. ] believe that the thinking that exists in the Labor Party will favour the Leader of the Opposition instead of the honourable member for Dawson, because the Labor Party - even in its efforts in this House - has shown itself to be a fragmented body of people without the capacity to govern. All the media have agreed that Labor has once again shown publicly the extent of the serious differences of opinion that exist within its ranks. How can Labor be an effective Government when it has these divisions which cannot be kept under cover, which cannot even be kept within the Party room and which are ventilated on the floor of this House in no uncertain fashion?

I hardly need emphasise the tragic effects of the policy expressed by the Leader of the Opposition because the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), the honourable member for Dawson and others have done this quite effectively. Nevertheless, I would again stress the fact that while such a policy would be disastrous for primary producers and would perhaps be the last straw for them, it would also be the last straw for many manufacturing industries which would not then be able to compete with imports. Thus unemployment would be very greatly increased. The honourable member for Braddon who preceded me in this debate spoke about unemployment. I believe that revaluation would be one way in which unemployment would be very greatly aggravated. I can imagine nothing which could be more likely to cause an inflow of capital into Australia in the hope that a change of government would almost certainly result in a substantial appreciation of the Australian dollar than the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. These are the facts. I emphasise them again. They have been mentioned before but I think some of them are worth repeating. There is a very great fear in the minds of the Australian people that any possible alternative government would be absolutely disastrous for this country.

I want to refer now to estate duty. One of the outstanding features of the Budget is the substantial reduction in estate duty. The burden of providing insurance to cover these duties has become quite beyond the capacity of many primary producers, and other people as well. The position has been reached in which a family could be in a sound financial position one day and could be virtually insolvent the next day as a result of the death of the father. This intolerable position will now be very greatly relieved. Mothers of families will be able to live without the fear of having to meet an assessment for death duties which they know is beyond their capacity to pay. This humane aspect of the Budget is worth emphasising. The Government has accepted its responsibility in this field and is carrying out a policy which I hope will mean the complete abolition of death duties. This will be an added incentive for young men to stay on the land, as they will now have a more reasonable chance of carrying on the family property after the death of the father. This did not apply in Queensland a few years ago, before the Federal Government and the Queensland Government made a reduction in death duties. But that reduction was not enough. The proposed very substantial reductions in Federal death duties will be a very welcome relief. I trust that the State governments will follow the lead which has been set by the Federal Government, as was done previously by Queensland. State governments collect considerably more in death duties than the Federal Government collects, and the need for a further reduction in State fees is quite obvious.

In the comparatively short time remaining to me in this debate I want to refute the suggestion that this is a rich man's Budget. It has been constantly put that this is a rich man's Budget. But when one looks at any section of it one sees that this is not the case. Let us look at the subject which I have just been discussing - estate duties. In regard to suburban estates going wholly to close relatives, an estate with a net value of $40,000 at present attracts duty of $937, but the new duty will be nil; for an estate with a net value of $60,000 the present duty is $3,500, but the new duty will be $937; and an estate with a net value of $150,000 is at present subject to duty of $25,500, but this will be reduced under the terms of this Budget to $21,642. So how can the Opposition claim that this is a rich man's Budget? The examples which I have just given emphasise that it is not. Honourable members can go into every other aspect of this Budget and find that the position is the same.

With regard to taxation, a man with an annual taxable income of $40,000 will have his tax reduced by 7.2 per cent; the tax on a taxable income of $20,000 will be reduced by 8.7 per cent; at $10,000 the reduction will be 12.6 per cent; and at $5,000 it will be 22.4 per cent. I could go on giving example after example to refute completely the Opposition's story that this is a rich man's Budget. It is no such thing. It is a Budget which caters for the more deserving sections of the community which the Australian Labor Party claims to represent. The Opposition has moved an amendment in respect of this very worthwhile Budget, which of course it had to do because it was in a spot and had to try to catch some votes somehow in the face of a very well received Budget.

One other matter to which I wish to refer is the problem faced by wheat growers in rural areas. The growers have had to try to carry on over many years with a payment of $1.10 per bushel, but their costs have been increasing all the time. It is a fact, however unpleasant it may be to hear about it, that growers will find it impossible to continue to meet these constantly rising costs without some increase in their net returns. I believe that, as has been pointed out, the market at the moment does not offer a lot in this field and that the position should be examined to see what can be done to assist growers. One way of assisting them could be by consultation between State governments and the Federal Government with a view to reducing government charges. Freight charges also could come under investigation. In regard to local government rates, assistance for local authorities is something which is very urgently in need of examination. Land rents in many instances are much too high in relation to the earning capacity of the properties. I think that we have to look at the question of whether the basis on which land rents are charged is equitable in the light of present day conditions.

Finally, as the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) is at the table, I would like to refer to another way in which I believe people in rural areas could be helped, and that is by regarding telephone calls to the main centre of business as local calls. I have always felt that the PostmasterGeneral's Department should be a department which is not only one which is of service to the community but also one which can be used to help to promote decentralisation throughout Australia. I believe that there are avenues in which this Department could be used to achieve decentralisation. The greatly inflated telephone charges that have to be paid by both individuals and businesses in rural areas represent a major handicap to any effective decentralisation policy and a severe social disability to country dwellers.

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

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