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Wednesday, 27 August 1969

Senator CAMERON (South Australia) - I support the Budget. In doing so I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Government for its excellent provisions. It contains recognition of many areas of need and has catered for them. The presentation of such a Budget at this time is a matter of great credit to the Government. Honourable senators opposite have stressed that the Budget has been presented on the eve of an election, but this is of no consequence. This Budget would have been brought forward, regardless of the timing of the election.

I listened with great interest to Senator Willesee and I was amazed to hear him criticise the homes savings grants legislation introduced some years ago. It has brought great satisfaction to the young people of this country and for it the Government deserves praise and not criticism. Last night an honourable senator opposite said: 'The attitude the Government is adopting to this is plainly hypocritical.' I take exception to that remark. I do not look on myself as a hypocrite. To brand all members of the Government benches as hypocrites is a very serious charge indeed, particularly when the honourable senator who made it has stated in this chamber that he would like to see the Senate abolished. Any honourable senator who votes in the Senate and then states that the Senate should be abolished is in my opinion a hypocrite. For him to call Go vernment supporters hypocrites is quite out of order.

At present unemployment is at a very low level. This situation is appreciated in South Australia because there we went through a period of serious unemployment from 1965 to early 1968. Obviously the situation has to be watched. We would not like to return to that state of affairs. Australia is enjoying at present a great increase in its intake of migrants. That is also appreciated because of its contribution to the growth of South Australia's industrial progress since the change of government in that State.

The education provisions in the Budget once again contain the massive support for education that the Liberal and Country Party coalition Government has shown in the past few years. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has already detailed the sums of money to be provided for education. I do not think it is necessary for me to cite those amounts again. Expenditure on education is to increase by 38% over last year, and payments to the States specifically for education are to increase by 53%. By 1972 there will be about 45,000 extra enrolments in universities and colleges of advanced education. It has been said that there is a crisis in education. At present South Australia spends about 27% of its Budget on education. Last year it spent 25%. I believe that this indicates a very proper attitude by the South Australian Government towards education, in co-operation with the Federal Government.

In the previous triennium South Australia provided out of its own funds S28.3m for universities and colleges of advanced education. In the coming triennium its contribution will be $40. 3m, an increase of about 40% in total, or 12i% a year compounded. Undoubtedly this expenditure will induce great pressures on South Australia's Budget, as is true of all State Budgets. 1 hope that in the coming year when the States approach the Commonwealth for special grants, the Commonwealth will see fit to give whatever assistance the States apply for, because undoubtedly they are facing massive expenditure on education.

The Budget contains a proposal for liberalisation or tapering of the means test. Undoubtedly this is a real incentive to thrift and self reliance in the community. I cannot follow the policy of the Labor Party for abolition of the means test. I join with Senator Marriott in saying that the Australian Labor Party is completely inconsistent in its attitude to this matter. On the one hand, Labor wants the means test abolished, and on the other hand, it wishes to retain a means test in respect of education. This is a quite irresponsible attitude to put forward.

I turn now to deal with the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. At present the Commonwealth provides S5 a day for each hospital bed. As my time to speak in this debate is limited, I shall deal with the situation in South Australia, because of my knowledge of the position there. The actual cost of a hospital bed in the coming year will be S26 a day; in other words, the State provides a great proportion of the money necessary for the running of the hospital benefits scheme. If the means test was abolished an intolerable burden would be placed on the finances of State governments. We would find that a drastic increase in State taxation would be necessary to meet the costs consequent upon the increased number of people covered by the scheme. Many such people would not need financial assistance.

I am sure that the majority of primary producers in Australia will applaud the efforts of the Government to provide relief for them by the measures contained in the Budget. The most significant measure is a move to provide relief from estate duty. I would hope to see the trend continue in future until the Federal Government vacates this field completely and so removes the undesirable effect that estate duty has of forcing people off the land and dividing estates. I have studied the platforms and principles of the parties, as any young person does these days. I have been amazed while listening to the proposals put forward by the Opposition and upon reading Labor's platform. It states: 'We will nationalise the means of production, distribution and exchange.*

Senator Ormonde - That is an old book.

Senator CAMERON - Very well, I will call it democratic socialisation, if you like.

Senator Georges - Why did you not state it correctly?

Senator CAMERON - We do not believe in an excessive number of words. If ever the Opposition gained office Australians would be reduced to faceless people. Everybody would have to conform to one standard, that of the average person. Any citizen with extra ability or a desire to get on in life would be automatically penalised. For the reasons I have stated, I completely reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). J support the excellent Budget brought forward by the Government.

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