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, 31 August 1972
Page: 1041

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - The last few words of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) reminded me of a country cricket match when a character was given out lbw by the umpire and as he walked towards the pavilion he gave the umpire what I would describe as a most ungenerous look. He said to the umpire '1 wasn't out' and the umpire said: 'Just have a look in the paper in the morning.' The honourable gentleman has tried to encourage himself with a wonderful di.-play of optimism. For my sins, I am addicted to going to the races. On the main gate of every racecourse should be printed a notice to this effect: 'Through this gate pass the greatest optimists in Australia'. On the other side of the gate, there should be a notice to this effect: Through this gate go those who find the road to financial attainment on the racecourse difficult to get'. One may have to paraphrase it. a little, but I am sure that honourable members get the point.

This may not be a desperately profound thing to say, but I want to say it: The Budget must be looked at as a whole. We must be concerned with the totality of the Budget. For example, one could turn to the speech of the honourable member for Franklin and look at the transport problems of Tasmania in relation to the mainland. I can understand the honourable gentlemans concern about the difficulties in his own State, but to answer that would mean that one had to depart from the basic philosophy of the Budget. I would like to give him a quick assurance that, as far as the Australian Broadcasting Commission is concerned, I for one do not seek to impeach all of its members and burn them at the stake. I certainly do not resent criticism; but I am sure that my honourable friend will understand that this is not the luxury I want to indulge in. 1 want to turn to the totality of the Budget and see what it seeks to achieve. The Budget seeks to remedy what I, for my part, concede were errors in the last Budget in slowing down the economy of the nation. There may be those who say: It is unfair to concede that a mistake was made.' I do not subscribe to that view. I believe that the dampening down of the Australian economy 12 months ago was a little too elaborate. As a consequence today, this Budget sets out to restore confidence to the community, to ensure that consumer spending is boosted, to give impetus to employment and so forth. It is very easy to look at any Budget and to find a fault here, a blemish there, a suspected weakness somewhere else and to concentrate on them. For example, I would have had a preference for cutting sales tax to give an immediate impetus to consumer spending. But, on the other hand, the judgment was made by the Government that income tax should be cut so that the money is immediately available. This is a judgment. Whenever any person criticises anything in the Budget he is under an obligation to say what is the effect of this on the Budget as it applies to some other area. It is the interrelationship of the Budget, the totality of it, with which we are concerned.

The Budget speaks for itself. Honourable members who have spoken have referred to its effects as they see them. What was the alternative that was put to us by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam)? Whereas private members of this Parliament can engage in criticism to their hearts" content, the leader of an opposition can enjoy no such place of favour. He speaks for his whole Party. It is his Party's programme that he is presenting. Let us look at the speech made a week or so ago by the Leader of the Opposition. He started by describing the Budget in the imagery of the. desert. He said it was a mirage that would shimmer for 3 months. I am going to try to persuade honourable members that if they accept the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition it will be like accepting an invitation to join the caravan which starts for the dawn of nothing. In 61 minutes of sustained moaning the Leader of the Opposition set out to give us the impression that he did not think much of the Budget. He is entitled to do that. If there should be any doubt in the minds of honourable members that he does not like the Budget, they can look at the amend ment that he moved. He said, for example, that the Budget should be condemned for a variety of reasons. He said that there is no framework for improving the standards of education, health and welfare'. I have just culled out a few that seem to me to bc of more significance than others.

There is only one inference to be drawn from the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and that is that he believes that in all of these fields to which he referred, there should be greater expenditure. In other words, the deficit of $630m should be boosted. That is the only possible inference to be drawn. I come back to the original proposition that I put, namely, that it is the totality of the Budget which must be examined. Commonwealth expenditure in the field of education for the coming year will amount to $426m and for social welfare about $2,529m. These amounts, apparently, are not substantial enough for the honourable gentleman. He believes that they should be condemned. Therefore one can only conclude - it is a fair conclusion, I submit - that he has in mind no marginal amounts to boost them. He has in mind a very substantial amount indeed, and it is rather curious for the honourable member for Franklin and some of his colleagues to say: 'This is a panic Budget. You are seeking to secure favour in the election'. If that proposition be true, what on earth are honourable members opposite seeking to do because their proposal is that a $630m deficit is not enough? Kick it up to $ 1,000m? Any advance on that? Make it $ 1,500m? Any takers? This is the logic of the Labor Opposition in this debate, and that is the first point of significance in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition.

But the second, and I believe the most fundamental, argument which the honourable gentleman mentioned, has as of now not been adverted to but I will spend a moment or 2 referring to it. During the course of his speech the honourable and learned gentleman said:

Any function of our society will grow in strength, quality and equality to the extent that the Commonwealth involves itself. But if the Commonwealth involvement is limited just to providing cash, then there is no true national commitment at all to promoting the quality and equality of that community service.

The significance of the words-

Mr Lloyd - Centralism.

Mr KILLEN - If any persons ever describe the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and myself as quivering towards centralism because we want the nonsense about the territorial sea settled, 1 hope that they will remember the words of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Graham - Read on a bit.

Mr KILLEN - There is no need to read on. His literacy is even extended to Queensland. What do the words 'if the Commonwealth involvement is limited just to providing cash' mean? They simply mean that the honourable gentleman certainly does not have in mind any section 96 grants to the States - Premiers' Conferences, Australian Loan Council meetings, meetings of friends and supporters all gathered around a central table, and they go away from Premiers Conferences indulging in what is almost now a national sport saying that they have not got enough when they go back to their States.

The Commonwealth says: Here is a section 96 grant for you, old chap. This should encourage a smile back on to your face'. The Leader of the Opposition has not got this in mind at all. He would not be content with the grants procedure. He wants all functions, not merely to be susceptible to Commonwealth control but to be controlled by the Commonwealth.

We are not dealing with some private member of the Parliament indulging himself in the luxury of playing the role of a critic. One's mind turns to the essay of Samuel Johnson when he wrote of a critic:

The power of invention having been conferred by nature upon you, there are many who seek notoriety by indulging themselves in the role of a critic.

Here is the Leader of the Opposition speaking on behalf of his Party, the alternative Prime Minister, saying to the Parliament and to the country: T propose to dismantle the whole process of government in Australia'. This is not some fiddling little point. All State functions and all local government functions are to be brought under the control of this Parliament. Let no person say that he did not know the gun was loaded. This is the policy of the Labor Party in Australia. Not to be content with providing the cash, it wants the control.

The curious feature about this is that the honourable gentleman did not say how he would get it. Would he get it by referendum? Would any person with 2 wits to rub together - I fear that may except one or two people - really contend that you can go to the Australian people with a referendum proposal and say: 'Here it is boys, vote for giving all power to Canberra'. This was tried in 1942 when the late Dr Evatt vent to the States asking them to refer all powers to the Commonwealth. Two State parliaments were so minded but that proposal collapsed. In 1944 there was a 14-point referendum. We have had 24 or 25 referendums in Australia and 4 or 5 of them have been carried. It is almost hilarious to imagine that you would ever get out of referendum these powers. The only other way in which the honourable gentleman could possibly get these powers would be by persuading the States legislatively to vote themselves out of existence. Is he seriously contemplating saying to Sir Robert Askin: 'Come on, you are running downhill. You look a little old and tired. We will take over from you*. Is he contemplating saying to the newly appointed Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer: Look, old chap, Sir Henry has gone on his way and I think you had better go into retirement, too'? ls he contemplating saying to Mr Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland or to Mr Tonkin in Western Australia: Come on, give us all. We will run things from Canberra'7

By what means does he propose to get these powers? What I am putting to the House is this; It is passing strange indeed that any person should come forward with such a proposal, but when the Leader of the Opposition comes forward with such a proposal and does not say how he will get it, I think that the country is entitled to say to itself collectively: 'What goes on here?' But even assuming that he should be successful - in other words, let us assume that the witch's brew, if you like, should work and he should get all the power in Canberra - what has he got in his mind? Again T do not want to give offence to the honourable gentleman because of an innate sense of courtesy and sensitivity, but let me refer to a few suggestions made by him.

He wants to restore the value of repatriation benefits despite the fact that this Budget provides the greatest repatriation benefits ever in the history of federation But what does the vague collection of the words 'restore repatriation benefits' mean? It is uncosted, unknown, unstated. I go to another one, restructing income tax'. What on earth does that mean? What are the costs involved in that? Again, unstated. Labor proposes to reduce sales tax. By how much, 2i per cent, 5i per cent, 10 per cent? Conduct an auction, if you like. What does it mean? What does the honourable gentleman have in mind? He said that a Labor government would purchase residential land. What, a $15,000 block close to Bondi Beach or a $500 block out the back of the Barcoo? What does the honourable gentleman mean by this? Again unstated, unkown, undeclared. Labour says that it will turn rural relief into a long range plan. Dearie, dearie me, fancy the Labor Party talking about turning rural relief into a long range plan. Most Labor members would get lost in a horse paddock. 'Regeneration of urban transport'. What cost has the honourable gentleman in mind for that proposal? Again, unstated, undeclared, unknown. I could go on from one to another of these vague hilarious declarations of intention. But the truth is not declared. The truth is blurred. I remind the House that, when it comes to blurring the truth, the honourable gentleman paints with all the swift deftness of a Michaelangelo

But one thing above all other things is certain. If a Labor Government set out to implement its proposals in the vague sense in which they have been presented to the House, the country would face not a Budget deficit of $630m but a deficit getting within touch of $2,000m. What would be the effect of that? The effect of that would be to give to this country a form of inflation which would make a complete mockery of all the endeavours both of the governments of Australia in the last 20 years and of every private individual. I think that the choice before Australia in the coming election deserves to be stated with some measure of clarity. On the one hand, the people can settle for a party which for the moment has successfully concealed its deep ideological divisions and is led by a man-

Mr Foster - Oh!

Mr KILLEN - I know that this makes the honourable member laugh. This is the first time I have seen him smile genuinely in the last week. I was referring to a party which is prepared to tolerate proposals put forward in the form in which they were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition a week ago. On the other hand - I want to remind those who sit on this side of the House of this fact - the people can look to the great traditions of our Party, the Liberal-Country Parties. These traditions were founded upon a genuine belief in the capacity of the individual to use his initiative, to seek skills, and in the use of those skills to be rewarded. The great traditions of our Party were founded upon people being willing to have a go, to take risks and to stand up to the critics, be they to the Left or indeed to the Right. The traditions of our Party were founded upon a belief in building an Australia that is strong, free and above all responsible. The ultimate test of government is not what any one individual in the Government may stand for or believe in. It is what, the Government as a totality stands for. It is what the Opposition comes forward with such a stands for. For my part I would like the Labor Party to know that I go out into the next election, along with those others who stand behind the Government, with my head held high, and unless I am greatly mistaken I will be back here, my head again held high. When the ultimate test comes, when the Australian people realise the significance of the choice they make - responsibility in government or irresponsibility; that is the choice - people with normal cerebral processes should not be in doubt as to how they should vote on that occasion. The Labor Party says that it is time to do this and time to do that. I will tell the Australian people what they will get. If they vote for the Labor Party they will get 3 years hard labour.

Suggest corrections