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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 916


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to talk for half an hour, because that is what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has sought and I get the spin off from that decision.


Mr Haslem - We would have given it to you anyhow.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN -I thank the honourable member. The House is discussing the last Budget of the Fraser Ministry; within 60 days there will be a new government in Australia. In the interim period an election will be held on the performance of this Government, certainly over the last three years and it should be over the last five years.


Mr N A Brown (DIAMOND VALLEY, VICTORIA) - Are you looking forward to it?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - The Opposition does look forward to it because the issue will be one of credibility. We now see from the opinion polls that the Government is failing miserably. It is failing because of its leadership - the leadership of one man, the Prime Minister. Its problem is that it has a lack of credibility.


Mr Haslem - Oh!


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - It is no good sighing or expressing hopes that the position will improve; it will not. Australians want to know whether they can own and control their own country. They have to consider whether this country has a future. If one looks at the policies promised to the voters of Australia a mere three years ago, one can see that there has been a complete breach of all those promises. A contractual arrangement has been broken by a Prime Minister who has no regard for political integrity or the fact that when one makes promises at elections, people expect those promises to be kept. In modern times, we can say that the Prime Minister has the 'top 40' - a top 40 of broken promises. They are all listed and clearly understood. I refer honourable members to some of them. What he said was something like this: 'We will maintain Medibank, we will fully index income tax, we will support wage indexation, we will work co-operatively with the trade unions, we will ensure the maintenance of real wages, we will provide jobs for all who want to work, we will reduce interest rates, we will bring down taxes, we will end Government extravagances and excesses and we will provide honesty and integrity in government'. That is just a sample.

However, what should we look at from the point of view of the judgment of the Australian people? Will they not make their judgment on the basis that the Government is too weak to stand up to reactionary Premiers, is unable to defend the rights of Aborigines, is anxious to maintain recognition of the butcher Pol Pot and is unable to congratulate four Australian swimmers who won Olympic gold medals? The Prime Minister is a person who really cannot cope with the job. It is not much good him going overseas to get a somewhat tarnished medal on the basis that he is interested in human rights, when he cannot even maintain and support those rights in his own country.

Look at what has happened to law and the process of the legal system under the Fraser Ministry. It has harassed and defamed the Greek community in the social security frauds case and shown massive improprieties in investigating authorities - improprieties on which the Government has refused to take any action. It has humiliated invalid pensioners in order to save a very minute amount of money. It has failed to set up a human rights commission. It has failed to enact the freedom of information legislation, it has dismantled the Australian Legal Aid Office and it has sold out the interests of the Aborigines. The position is that if a person is a Greek, an invalid pensioner or an Aborigine, the law is used against him. But if he is a media magnate, there will be no question of any breach of the law and no action will be taken.

This Government has no meaningful industrial relations policy. All it has done is pass a host of repressive and punitive industrial laws and made speeches - particularly addresses to the nation - on what is wrong with trade unionists. We cannot get anywhere with this sort of leadership. It is natural that people will vote against the Government. Is it any wonder that the public opinion polls have given the Prime Minister a popularity rating of below 40 per cent? It is on that basis that one must look at this Budget. It is a Budget that covers all aspects of society, including education. Those honourable members who have anything to do with schools in their electorates will know that the requirements of those schools will not be met by this Budget because in real terms the education vote is reduced. So we have a reduction in every aspect of Australian life.

The foreign investment policy in Australia is an open door to those who want to buy us. The majority of Australia's resources are owned by foreigners; certainly our major industries are dominated by foreign interests. The Pagewood automotive plant is in my electorate and that has now closed because of a decision made in Detroit. What do the 1,200 workers involved in that situation think of the Government? They ask why the Government has failed and what did they do that was wrong. Two-thirds of those workers were invited to come to Australia as migrants, where they were told there would be prosperity, hope and a future. They now ask why this Government has failed. That is just a small tip of the iceberg because much more is coming unless we grab hold of this country, with its magnificent resources, and use our ability to lead people to develop their own resources. They should be given a better share of the economic gains and a guarantee that they will have reasonable, and much improved, living standards.

Important issues are involved in discussing the Budget. I deal first with economic matters. It was deemed that inflation would be reduced if

Malcolm Fraser was elected Prime Minister. What are the facts? Inflation is running higher than in 1977. In March 1979 the annual rate was 10.7 per cent; 12 months before that it was 8.2 per cent. As another example, 1 refer to the rate of inflation of materials used in home building. Twelve months ago the rate of increase was 8.4 per cent. It is now 1 6.3 per cent. The unemployment figures are obtained from a number of sources. The Government usually uses the lower figures, which come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. However, on the figures from the Commonwealth Employment Office - the normal figures, because that is where the people are registered - we find that as at June last, 427,429 people were unemployed. A year before that 389,300 were unemployed. So, there is a massive problem automatically shown up by the statistics.

Since the Fraser Government came to power the number of unemployed has increased by 1 8 1 ,500 people. What a dismal record for a government that said there would be jobs for all who wanted them. That is a definite broken promise if ever there was one. The Opposition reminds those unemployed to indicate that broken promise to their friends and relatives. That, in itself, should amount to one million votes against the Government for its failure on that promise alone. In regard to job opportunities, we are now advised that job vacancies in Australia decreased by 7,100 between February and May of this year. We have the extraordinary situation of massive unemployment, but job vacancies reducing. In other words, there is a complete regression from the point of view of economic growth. What was the chance for our young of getting a job, expressed as a ratio, in, say, 1974? It was 1.7 to one. After only a few years, what is the ratio? It is now 37.4 to one. We have the possibility that by 1985 there might be a 1 00 to one chance of getting a job.

Let us look at what the Prime Minister promised about interest rates. In 1 977 he said that once the election was over the Government would be able to reduce interest rates by up to 2 per cent. The position is that in the last two years they have been increased by more than 2 per cent, posing further dramatic problems for people who are buying homes. They know full well that when the interest rates on their mortgages are increased their monthly contribution will increase by $5, $6 or $10 a week, depending on how much they have borrowed. Will that help the little person who is buying his own home? We say that taxes are rising; the Government says that they are not. The position is clear indeed. It is on record and can be proved that this Government is the highest tax government in history and the most inequitable tax government in history. Living standards are falling. With the tax changes, particularly the petrol tax, the freezing of family allowances, the abolition of Medibank and the increase in health costs the average Australian family is $18 a week worse off than it was when this Government came to power.

Let us look at a summary of the situation. Fraserism, to use a term, could be equated with failure. What does that failure represent? It represents failure on the issues of employment, economic growth, inflation, ministerial propriety, monetary policy, taxation promises, interest rates and the ability to keep promises. That is an incredible record for a government that now claims that it is entitled to another term of office. The only reason why this Government is saying that this Budget is a good Budget is that it has a magical feature - the surplus. It is an extraordinary situation when the only way one can get a surplus is by selling the business and winding up with a few measly dollars. We will be out.of business with this sort of government; there will be no business left. It is ridiculous to talk about having a surplus.

The Government has balanced the Budget by increasing taxes. Budget receipts this year will amount to 26.7 per cent of gross domestic product, the highest proportion ever recorded in a peacetime position. Every year the Fraser Government's Budget receipts, as a proportion of GDP, have exceeded those of the Labor Government. The average during the Labor Government was 24.4 per cent. Under five years of this Government the, average has been 26 per cent. The position is that if taxes are increased there is less for the people to spend. We have also the problem of the national debt. In 1975 the national debt was $441 per head; it now stands at $1,264 per head, which is an increase of 1 87 per cent.

Let us look at the second line of the Government's strategy, the monetarist philosophy. This philosophy is based on the proposition that if one controls the money supply one automatically controls inflation. That cannot be proved. I ask honourable members to look at it from the point of view of an argument put forward by a professor at the London School of Economics. He was able to show, in a rather amusing fashion, that the correlation between the money supply and inflation could be equated to the level of increases in prices and the level of dysentery or the level of the rainfall. That is about the way in which we are looking at it from this Government's point of view. Perhaps the useful service the Government has performed for monetarism could be equated with what the Boston Strangler did for the fortunes of the door-to-door salesman. It is a bankrupt, useless proposition.

An analysis of the Government's economic strategy was conducted by no less a person than Hugh Stretton. It is worth repeating what he said. He said:

In a world in which scarcely any free-trading economy ever got rich, we are told that free trade is the way to national wealth.

In a world in which no primary producing country ever made its people rich or skilful unless it also protected, industralized and diversified its economy, we are told that the way to stay rich is to reduce and specialize our secondary industries.

In a world in which productivity reflects education, skill and research, we are told to cut public production of all three.

In a world in which public and private enterprises are so closely meshed that they almost always vary together, we are told that they vary inversely and that the way to increase total production is to cut public production.

In a world in which inflation has risen roughly in step with unemployment, we are told that maintaining unemployment will reduce inflation.

We are also told that lower wages and welfare will make the lower classes work harder, but higher salaries and profits will make the upper classes work harder.

As technical progress increases potential productivity, we are told to employ less people, pay them less, and prepare for lower material standards all round.

That is an excellent summary of this Government's philosophy. That is it in a nutshell. The Government has opted out of its responsibilities for looking after people. It has opted out of its responsibility for looking after this nation. It has failed on every count that one would want to bring before the Parliament at this time. The Government states that the outlook for the current year is strong in economic activity, led by what it calls a private sector demand. But in a rare spasm of realism it says that it recognises that the Australian economy and, in particular, exports will be affected by slower economic growth overseas. However, it blithely expects private consumption expenditure to accelerate and business fixed investment to rise strongly.

Let us look at the evidence for that. The national accounts released with the Budget show that the gross national expenditure in constant dollar terms for the last financial year was 5 per cent less than it was for the previous financial year. Private consumption expenditure in constant dollars and seasonally adjusted fell by O.S per cent in the June quarter. Private capital expenditure fell by 1 .4 per cent and total expenditure fell by 3.2 per cent. Yet the Treasurer (Mr Howard) claims in the Budget that there has been a recent encouraging lift in expenditure. He is blinded by his own rhetoric. If this Budget is about growth it is about growth in unemployment - the

Myers report does not call it unemployment any more; it calls it jobless growth - and about growth in taxes, growth in inflation and further economic stagnation.

Inflation will increase because of the Government's adherence to its stupid oil pricing policy. Last year that policy contributed 2.5 per cent to the inflation rate. Unemployment will increase because tax revenue is rising faster than public services. Unemployment will increase because the continual erosion of family living standards will mean that people will buy fewer goods. Unemployment will continue because of the Government's continued assault on, for example, the housing industry. In real terms, net payments to the States for welfare housing are a mere oneseventh of the amount paid to the States in 1974-75- a measly $7 5m.

The Government is anxious to compare itself with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. Let us look at that. In 1974 Australia's real growth was 2.8 per cent, but for the OECD it was only 0.6 per cent. In 1975 our growth was 2.3 per cent but for the OECD it fell by 0.5 per cent. So in those years Australia was well above the average for the OECD. What happened when this Government came to office? In 1976, for example, the average growth rate for the OECD was 5.3 per cent. What happened to Australia? We plummeted immediately to below the OECD average- to 3.8 per cent. In 1977 we managed only a 1.1 per cent growth rate whereas the growth rate for the OECD was 3.8 per cent. The consequence of all this is reflected in unemployment comparisons. Up to 1976 Australia's level of unemployment was always less than the OECD, but on the entry of the present Government into office and in every year and in every quarter since 1976 Australia has exceeded the OECD average in respect of unemployment. The result is that Australia is disgraced by being the only OECD country with the longest average duration of unemployment for individuals. For example, in Australia the average period of unemployment for an individual under 20 is six months, but in the United States of America it is 7+ weeks and in the United Kingdom it is 5i weeks. For those over 25 years of age the average period is li months but in the United States it is 13 weeks and in the United Kingdom it is 16 weeks.

We should never forget the social costs of unemployment. The United States Congress states that a one per cent general rise in the rate of unemployment led to a 4. 1 per cent increase in the suicide rate, a 3.4 per cent rise in mental hospital admissions and a 5.7 per cent increase in deaths.

As a matter of interest, last year 20 per cent of the suicides in New South Wales were committed by the unemployed.

It is a national scandal, is it not, that the Government of our nation which has a quarter of a million unemployed people under the age of 25 years - the third highest level of unemployment in the Western world - continues to refuse to invest in their future but at the same time is scouring Europe and elsewhere to persuade tradesmen to migrate to this country. What an anomaly and what an indictment of the policies of this Government! Where is the evidence for this claim, Mr Deputy Speaker? Let me refer you to it. The proportion of employed males aged 15 to 19 years in apprenticeships fell from 41 .3 per cent in 1976 to 38.7 per cent in 1979. Yet last year the Government underspent its already miserly assistance on apprenticeship training by $11 ,4m.

This Government stands indicted because the level of taxes that it has imposed has eroded the living standards of the people. The Opposition can prove this claim. During the five years that this Government has been in office the level of pay-as-you-earn tax has doubled but wages have risen by only 50 per cent. In 1975-76, wage and salary earners paid $24 a week on average in PAYE tax but in 1980-81 they will be paying $42 a week on average. What about the additional taxes? Let us look at the oil tax. In 1975-76 each Australian household paid $1 .20 a week for oil. In 1980-81 each household will be paying $14.20 a week. If honourable members analyse and assess those two taxes on the basis of the average Australian family, they will find that, compared with the position in 1975, a two income family is now paying $50 a week extra in tax.


Mr Baillieu - How much cheaper would petrol be with your Party?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - It would certainly be 5c a litre cheaper.


Mr Baillieu - Is that right?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - Yes, and I would be thankful if the honourable member would make a speech on that matter.


Mr Haslem - How quickly would we run out of it?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN - How quickly would we run out? I have not the time to debate it with the honourable member but we make the point- we will develop it as we go along - that the oil tax that the Government is taking from the people totals $3,500m or $4,000m.


Mr N A Brown (DIAMOND VALLEY, VICTORIA) - We will give you an extension of time.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN -I cannot get an extension because your Prime Minister is to debate this matter next. The issue is this: The Government is taking $4,000m a year from motorists. That is equivalent to an increase in income tax of 29 per cent. How much of that tax is the Government spending on alternative energy or fuel conservation research? It is spending a paltry $18m. The Government is socking the people who use the bowsers to get taxes and to retain that money. All it is offering for alternative energy resource research is a paltry $18m. That is where the Government's policy will fail.

Let me remind honourable members that roads are a problem in New South Wales and in every other State of Australia. The Government's appropriation from the petrol tax for road construction in New South Wales is a mere 14 per cent of what that State pays. It has given that State a five-year road program that will not even maintain that level of contribution. In the final period of the five-year term, the increments will be a mere 6 per cent which will be at least half the rate of inflation. So, in practical terms, while the Government is collecting as much as it can from the motorists it is giving less than ever for road construction. Because of its oil parity pricing policy the average cost of bitumen for road construction has increased by 1 8 per cent because of the tax revenue grab. The Government will in no way allow State governments, main roads authorities or local governments even to maintain the roads we have.

In the few minutes left to me, let me make the Opposition's position very clear. While we have been discussing domestic areas, let me not overlook international affairs. The Budget Speech mentions international aid and what this Government has contributed. One of the points that we have been trying to get the Prime Minister to recognise is that he is failing in the international sphere. I think he is also in disagreement with his Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) particular in matters relating to countries north of Australia. Honourable members will know that we are denying aid to Vietnam. 1 have been to Hanoi and I know full well that the Catholic Bishop of Hanoi wants aid for his people. This Government denies all aid to Vietnam because it suits China. This Government's Indo-China policy is now being dictated by China. It is not necessarily in the interests of Australia. Unfortunately the Prime Minister makes out that it is his own policy. If that is what he says- he repeated it today- he must bear the odium of it because nothing but odium comes from the continued recognition of Pol Pot who stands guilty of genocide. This nation cannot continue to approve of murderers and butchers who are responsible for the genocide of their own people. It is not open to Australia to put its recognition on the basis that it does not mean anything. It means a substantial amount to those unfortunate people.

I refer honourable gentlemen to the statement made by Khieu Samphan, who was the President of the Pol Pot regime. As recently as March this year, he expressed his warmest thanks to the Government and the people of Australia for helping to mobilise opinion in respect of Kampuchea. I have been inside the refugee camps of Kampuchea. The people there certainly do not like the Vietnamese. But their No. 1 enemy is Pol Pot. Where is the guarantee that, if the Vietnamese forces leave Kampuchea, somebody else will save the remnants of the Kampuchean people from Pol Pot? Is it not a fact that in the absence of any preventative force Pol Pot will again swarm over the remnants of his people? This man is a butcher of infamy, even by the standards of world history, when one looks at the numbers of people killed, including two Australians. I was told that a 16-year old boy admitted executing 750 people. Their only crime may have been to smile, or to wear glasses or to know how to read and write. That was their only crime! The torture chambers bear testimony to the treatment to children of six, seven and 1 1 years of age whose only crime was that they were the children of businessmen. For that, their only crime, they were cruelly annihilated.

Why does the Government continue with the fallacious argument that it is helping to establish peace in the region? Its actions are bringing about world destruction. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, has no problem through not recognising Pol Pot. It is therefore ridiculous to suggest, as the Prime Minister did, that any move away from Pol Pot is a move towards Heng Samrin. It is a move towards achieving human rights. It is a move to indicate clearly to everybody in this region that people will not get away with that sort of infamy. It is a move to indicate to China, which I now understand contrary to the policies of the 1960s is a new found friend of the Prime Minister, that such behaviour is not the way to remove regional problems. If there is another clash between China and Vietnam, we will have to bear a very heavy responsibility. If the people of Vietnam need aid why can we not provide it? If they need food and shelter, why can they not get it? What is the Government doing for the cause of peace? It clasps its hands and says that it is in the interests of world peace that it continues to recognise Pol Pot. Nobody else in the world would sensibly argue that.

Let me finish on this note. The President of the Notre Dame University in the United States, Father Theodore Hesburgh, having recently been to Kampuchea, commented on the issue by saying:

No civilised country should have diplomatic relations with Pol Pot. We ought to be ashamed to see Pol Pot anywhere except in gaol.

The criteria of recognition relate to a number of factors - effective control of a territory, permanency of occupation and the support of the majority of the people. Pol Pot fails on all of those three issues. Yet this Government is led by a Prime Minister who is so afraid of what China might say that he now says that we must continue to recognise the Pol Pot regime and still vote with a few countries at the United Nations, to support Pol Pot. That is a summary of a Budget which covers not only the international area but also the national area. It is one of great problems. It contains issues for the Australian people to judge. It will be judged on the credibility of the Prime Minister. It will be judged on the issue of whether people can be trusted to maintain their promises. I think the verdict will be heavily against the Government.







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