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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 1066

Mr STEWART (Lang) - The Australian Labor Party joins with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in his wish that the people of Australia shall have happiness and a happy nation. The people of Australia will get the opportunity to have that happiness as soon as the Prime Minister makes up his mind to have this year's elections. I must say that the Prime Minister surprised me this evening. It is obvious that his public relations men have been working on him very hard. The usual feline nastiness of the Prime Minister did not show out at all this evening. 1 really expected him to do what some of his senior Ministers have done during the course of this Budget debate, namely to attack personally, violently and without due regard to the facts the Leader of tha Australian Labor Party (Mr Whitlam).

Apparently the Government has decided that there is only one way in which it can win the next election, and that is by destroying Whitlam. During the course of the Budget debate I have seen senior Ministers of the Government completely demean themselves in bitter, biased personal attacks upon the Leader of the Labor Party. I do not think that the Leader of the Labor Party or any member of the Labor Party needs take too much notice of these attacks because when one appreciates how the present Prime Minister of Australia became Prime Minister of Australia, one must realise that he does not enjoy the confidence of his own Liberal Party members, nor the confidence of the members of the Australian Country Party.

One does not need to have a very long memory to recall that the previous Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, after the death of Mr Harold Holt, made a statement in which he said: 'I will not serve under McMahon. I cannot trust him*. Then, after a short period, while the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) was Prime Minister of the country, the present Prime Minister encouraged, or at least remained silent, while members of the Liberal Party in cahoots with certain sections of the commercial mass media organised a sustained and violent attack upon the right honourable member for Higgins which culminated in a revolt in the Liberal Party. The votes being equal, the right honourable member for Higgins used his own vote against himself in order to give an opportunity to the Liberal Party to change its leadership. This decision was made by something like 66 members of the

Parliament without the present Prime Minister ever having had to face an election.

The same thing applies to the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). He inherited the position he now occupies - the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Country Party. Neither the present Prime Minister nor the Deputy Prime Minister has received the mandate of the people to be in charge of the government of Australia. I refer now to the figures for the 1969 House of Representatives election and the 1970 Senate election that were contested in both instances with the present Leader of the Labor Party leading the Labor Party and with different leadership of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. In the 1969 House of Representatives election, under the leadership of the present Leader of the Labor Party Labor received 2,870,792 votes, or 46.95 per cent, of all formal votes and it won 59- seats. The Liberal Party, under the leadership of the right honourable member for Higgins, received 2,126,987 votes, or 34.79 per cent of the formal votes cast, and it won 46 seats. The Country Party, under the leadership of Sir John ' McEwen,. received 523,342 votes, or 8.56 per cent of the formal votes cast, and it won 20 seats. The total Liberal-Country Party vote was' 2,650,329 votes - 43.35 per cent- of the formal votes cast. The Labor Party received 2,870,792 votes - 46.95 per cent of the formal votes cast. In other words, the Labor Party gained 220,463 .votes more than the combined votes of the Liberal-Country Party and .3^.6 per cent more of the formal votes cast yet, it won 7 seats fewer.

Let us face- this next election on the Budget that has been produced - a completely predictable Budget. It is: a Budget which almost every political commentator and political writer judged to be the type of Budget that would be brought down, for 2 reasons: first, it was an election year and, secondly, inflation was riot in the community. Unemployment was rising each month. The economy needed a fillip and the reputation and popularity of the Government also needed a fillip. But this stagnant Government would not have taken action had it not been an election year. As far back as May members of the Labor Party and political commentators were predicting that there would be across the board increases in social services and repatriation benefits, that there would be reductions in taxation, that the education commitment of the Commonwealth would be increased, that there would be improvements in the national health scheme, that there would be an increase in home savings grants, that there would be a few incentives to primary and secondary industries and a sop or 2 to the Aborigines. Had it not been for the fact that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) came out with a statement about the easing of the means test perhaps that would not have happened. It was only this conflict between the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and the Minister for Social Services - a public conflict - that brought about an easing of the means test with the promise of its abolition in 3 years.

To most members of the Labor Party and to most members of the community the only real surprise in the Budget is the fact that families have been virtually neglected. It is in this area that assistance is greatly needed. Earlier today the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) devoted a certain portion of his speech to family allowances and child endowment. He traced the history of child endowment since it was introduced by a Labor government in New South Wales in 1927. Families have been neglected and families are the life blood of the community. They are the future generation. Children are needed and children should be given the happiness that the Prime Minister said that all Australians deserve. It will be too late, although I predict that something will be proposed by the Government in its policy speech, for some families in the community if they have to wait much longer for assistance. Many families in Australia today live close to the poverty line. Honourable members can take it from me that the Labor Party as a government will certainly see that family allowances are increased substantially.

This Budget is another example of Liberal chicanery. It is a good election Budget but it was a predictable one. But it is also a shallow document. It introduces no new approaches to any major issue. Any new innovations that appear in the Budget have been policies that have been espoused by the Labor Party and other parties for a long time. I admit that some of the things that have been introduced have also been espoused by backbench members of the Liberal and Country Parties. But there are no really new policies in this Budget. It is a propping up of the present system. It is as it is, as I said earlier, because it is election year and because the economy of the country is running down rapidly.

The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition has far more depth in it than the whole Budget. It is an amendment which looks to the future. In his speech earlier, the Prime Minister said that the Labor Party has espoused no new ideas during the course of this debate. But for the last 6 years representatives of the Labor Party have been attempting wherever possible to put forward new ideas on health, decentralisation, urban development, the need for a national fuel and energy policy, education, the need for industrial research and development and the need for a science policy. Some of these ideas that have been propagated by members of the Labor Party have been taken up by this Government. Nobody in his right mind, in a Budget speech just prior to an election, would expect the Labor Party to telegraph its punches as to what will be its policy speech at the election. But all members of the Labor Party believe that Labor's policies, as a government, will give new ideas, new approaches and new innovations. Labor will not only do things for Australia and Australians but it will also take a major role in the Pacific region. This is a status quo Budget - a propping up of the conservative ideas of this present Government. This, to me, marks the Budget as a failure.

Sitting suspended from 6.14 to 8 p.m.

Mr STEWART - Mr Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of sitting I was talking about the Budget. I admit that there are many good things in the Budget. The Prime Minister and the Government have placed a lot of reliance on the fact that the Budget has introduced into Australia policies which will give concessions to sections of the community that deserve them. They place a great deal of reliance on the Budget achieving electoral victory at the end of this year. The Prime Minister also admitted last night that he was praying for an electoral victory. I acknowledge his right to pray. I also try to pray. But if I can give him a little bit of advice, I would think that after the election his prayer might go something like this: 'Mea culpa, mea culpa, mca maximum culpa'; a rough translation of which would be: 'Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault'.

I turn now to a matter which has not been mentioned in the Budget and which has been rarely mentioned by this Government in the 23 years that it has been in office. I refer to the urgent need for a national fuel and energy policy. The Australian Labor Party suggests that the basic objectives of a national fuel policy should be to ensure, firstly, maximum long term benefits to Australia by the optimum utilisation of energy resources and, secondly, adequacy of resources for the country's future needs. The vital role which fuel and power play in national prosperity calls for positive forward - thinking and a coordinated policy on a national basis.

Some of the important reasons why this question has to be tackled with competence and foresight in Australia are as follows: Firstly, the country is large and any energy resources are unevenly distributed geographically; secondly, primary energy consumption is increasing at an annual rate of 6 per cent compared with about 3 per cent for the rest of the world; thirdly, electricity consumption is increasing at the rate of about 9.S per cent per annum compared with 5 or 6 per cent for the rest of the world; fourthly, a high rate of industrialisation and development is taking place in Australia; fifthly, a major exporter of energy resources needs to review periodically its resources and pattern of use to ensure that adequate reserves are retained for domestic use; sixthly, State fuel resources and energy consumption can no longer be considered in isolation - for example, natural gas and proposed interstate transmission lines; seventhly, the environmental and pollution aspects of fuel and energy production and utilisation are becoming of much greater concern to governments and communities; and eighthly, economic benefits may accrue to the nation by control of energy usage patterns - for example, incentives to reduce heavy fuel oil imports.

State governments cannot be expected, of their own volition, to adopt the necessary national approach to a fuel policy. Private enterprise certainly would not do this. Only the Commonwealth Government could be expected to be interested and effective in this area. The elements which should go into the formulation of a national fuel policy are extremely complex and cover both socio-political and technical matters.

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