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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 937

Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) - It is a rather strange feeling to stand here this evening and to make what will be my last speech on a Budget in this House. I am one of the folk who know what will happen in the future and it is in one sense rather strange to think that it is 28 years since I made my maiden speech in this place and on that occasion was heard in complete silence as the courtesies of the House were extended to a new member. So, I would like on this occasion to make one or two comments which are perhaps a little different from those one would normally make in a speech on the Budget.

I think, first of all, of the staff of this Parliament in their various avenues. 1 think of the Clerk and his assistants many of whom, over a number of years, have served this Pariament and the members well. I think of the attendants, of those in the refreshment rooms, of our transport officers, who do such a fantastic job in looking after members' travel arrangements, and of the Commonwealth car drivers - both here in Canberra and in the various States- all people who make the work of a member possible. I often wonder whether we really appreciate completely the contributions that those people make to the working of this Parliament and, if I may say so, without whose efforts in their various aspects and capabilities this place would not run.

Then I think also of the electorate that it has been my privilege to serve. The electorate was created in 1949. The first member for the electorate was the late Jim Eggins who served for a brief period before he passed away. The boundaries of the electorate changed and as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, some of the northern part of the electorate is now in the electorate of Cowper, your electorate. The electorate was represented nobly by the Right Honourable Sir Earle Page for many years. It was also represented by that gentleman when its boundaries were moved further south in New South Wales. I think of the people of that electorate who have given me the opportunity and the privilege of serving them and this country for such a period. Without their support and assistance it would have been impossible for me to have achieved anything. I have been conscious all the time that I have been the member of my responsibility as the representative of those people.

I believe Australia is facing almost the crossroads. The political future of this country might almost be said to be in the melting pot. There are many opportunities. There is a great future for this country. But I believe this will be so only if each one becomes aware of his or her responsibility in that regard. 1 noticed that it was suggested recently that the New South Wales Parliament might be elected for a four-year term. If my memory serves me correctly, I advocated that for the Federal Parliament not long after I was elected - not merely because I had been elected as a member but because I believe that at least a four-year term is necessary. Over the period it has been my privilege to be a member of this House we have had numerous elections, a double dissolution and Senate elections being held separately from those for the House of Representatives-all of which in my opinion have militated against a real sense of what this Parliament is all about.

People have had to go to the polls so frequently - we must include also State government elections and local government elections - that the real sense of what an election is all about has frequently been forgotten by those who ought perhaps to be aware of their responsibilities.

I express my appreciation and thanks to all those who have played their parts in the functioning of this Parliament. I thank also, as I said, the people of my electorate who have given me the privilege of being their servant for such a period. I express my appreciation also to the friends I have in the Australian Labor Party, in the Liberal Party and, of course, in my own party, the National Country Party of Australia. I thank my leader and deputy leader and other Ministers and particularly, Mr Deputy Speaker, you and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) who have been closely associated with me in the State. I think of many other honourable members of the National Country Party who have served this Party and who had a sense of responsibility for what that service meant. I hope this Party never forgets that as an important part of its platform.

I mentioned earlier the importance in my mind of our democracy and our parliamentary system. We talk about it frequently and 1 think we fail to realise exactly what it means. I am not favourably disposed towards this new committee system that has been inflicted upon us. There is an inherent danger in that committee system. It is exemplified here this evening in the fact that so many of our members are at committee meetings. As important as those committees might be, I still believe that the most important forum in Australia is this chamber- this Parliament. I have said in this Parliament that the humblest person has the right to have his case presented and argued by his member of Parliament. We must never forget that. I remember in the early days- I will admit that one has to be careful not to say that things are not done today as they were in the olden days - when the Estimates debates in this House were real debates, when the Minister was at the table and the Committee of the Whole debated the Estimates. Questions were asked of the relevant Minister and there was a searching of the department's estimates that were before the Committee. I believe that that is what is needed today.

One detrimental feature of our parliamentary system today is television. Our elections are fought on television instead of out on the hustings and we have lost that common touch, that grassroots appreciation of what this political life is all about. I concede that times change but sometimes we can say that they do not change for the better.

Mr Innes - I am committed to three committees tomorrow afternoon.

Mr LUCOCK - As the honourable member for Melbourne has said, this is one of the difficulties. One finds that one shoots from one committee to another and from one place to another. I am a member of a committee that is meeting at the moment. Perhaps I can say that the members of that committee are lucky in that I am not down there with them. We have to work out these problems and find solutions.

I mentioned earlier that a government should be elected for a four-year term. This would give a political party an opportunity to work out a better and more balanced program than is the case at present. We have to look also at the suggestion that was made at one stage that people from outside the Parliament should be elected to the Cabinet. I think that would be one of the worst things that could ever happen. Whatever the situation may be, one has in the Cabinet people who are also members of parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has to face his electorate and literally report on his stewardship. I know that the Cabinet brings in men from outside to give advice and to put certain matters before it. It is an advantage to be able to meet representatives of various groups such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the chambers of commerce and manufacturing and mining interests. They should be brought before the Cabinet so that its members can talk to them. In addition, rural industry representatives and others should be brought before the Cabinet. But we should still retain the system whereby our Cabinet comprises Ministers who are members of this House, who are responsible to electorates, and who have to report back to those electorates.

I want to comment now on the European Economic Community. Over a number of years, at the various Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences that it has been my privilege to attend- I regret very much that I will not be at the conference in Lusaka but the Whip of our Party, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), will nobly and well represent us- I have been highly critical of Britain being a member of the EEC. I strongly opposed this even before Britain became a member. I think we are tackling this problem in the wrong way. We are conveying an impression that we are disturbed because Britain's membership affects our trade balance, our exports and our economic situation.

This may be one factor but the major factor for which I am strongly critical of the British and of the EEC as a whole is that it is detrimental to the economic stability of Europe and of the Western world. The EEC is building an artificial economic barrier which I believe, unless it is watched, will ultimately destroy the economy in Europe and also have a detrimental effect on the Western world. The only country to gain a real advantage from this is the Soviet Union. We must get this story across to the British people. I think they are starting to realise that it is costing them a tremendous amount to be a member of the EEC and that it is of no value to them.

There are political aspects, and those political aspects are dangerous as well. We must emphasise this economic detriment. Australia's objection to British membership of the Community should be based not only on the exports of our agricultural products and other things, but also on the fact that it is detrimental to the whole of the Western economic system. It is an artificial situation of subsidies, over-production, increased subsidies, more over-production and ultimately the Community will completely destroy itself. This is where Australia has to take a more active and a more aggressive attitude in getting this story through to the people of Europe and the United Kingdom. We have to do this before it reaches a situation of no return.

I want to make one comment in regard to borrowings by the States. The policy of this Government has been a very wise one. The Government has faced up to the problems and the difficulties of inflation. As has been said on many occasions, our economy has a stability that is admired and respected in many countries. That confidence in the Federal Government will be lost completely if we allow the States to borrow to an excessive degree. That will undermine the Federal Government's economic policies. This is something we have to look at. I will quote a brief statement from the Reserve Bank of Australia report and financial statements, 30 June 1980, which deals with the economic background. It states:

Disturbances in world economic conditions were a troublesome background to our monetary and external policies in 1979-80. Inflation worsened markedly in many western countries. A factor in this was the sharp increase in the price of oil . . .

In general, countries responded to the acceleration in inflation by tightening policy, especially monetary policy.

I believe that a tightening policy can be overdone and I have said so on previous occasions. But because of our situation, because of our setup as far as the States are concerned, I think we have to be careful, as I said, that we do not allow the States to borrow to the degree that it undermines the economic policy that this Government is trying to put forward.

Over many years I have spoken about the part Australia must play in international affairs. I mentioned earlier the conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association that I have attended and the other international conferences I have had the privilege of attending with many members of this House. 1 wish that some people could see our delegations in action at those conferences. Generally speaking, the parliamentary delegation from Australia is a delegation which represents the Australian people and the Australian Parliament as a whole. A CPA seminar is being held here at present and at that seminar there are representatives from the States and from various other countries in our area, such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea. This is where Australia can play a singularly important role. I believe we have a very important role to play in the Pacific area at the moment. I think we indicated that by the steps we took in the recent trouble in the New Hebrides - now called Vanuatu. Whilst I am a little critical of the role played by the British and the French in that matter and whilst I think that perhaps we should have been more positive, at least it shows that Australia is playing an important part in this area.

All this brings me back to the point I made when I began this speech, that is, the importance of this place, of this Parliament, not only to Australia but also to the part that Australia has to play in the Western world. This country faces many problems and many difficulties and anybody who closed his eyes to those problems would be foolish. The expression 'this is the lucky country' has been used frequently. 1 sometimes think we fail to realise just how lucky we are. But, as I see it, that will continue only if each and every one of us plays a part and makes a contribution. While I have not always agreed with the Press, 1 believe that it too has an important part to play and I believe that it makes a very valuable contribution to the progress of the reality of democracy in Australia.

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