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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1212

Mr MILTON(8.33) —Those members of the public who have been listening to this debate can hear from the remarks of the honourable member for Boothby ( Mr Steele Hall) the kind of negative attitude the Opposition has in relation to the Budget. There was nothing positive from the honourable member, just personality slanders and accusations. It is a pity that we are not on television tonight because had we been on television the public could have seen that when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) spoke after dinner at the commencement of this debate there was nobody on his side of the House to hear him speak. In fact, he had to call for a quorum to be formed in order to get his own supporters into the House. That is how far the support for the Leader of the Opposition has fallen.

Another factor I mention in this debate is the attempted derision by members of the Opposition in relation to the remarks of the honourable member for Canberra (Mrs Kelly) who spoke about the positive role that women should play in the Public Service. They completely derided her by interjecting all the time. The sheer hypocrisy of the situation would dawn on people if debates were televised because they would see that there is not one women member on the other side. That is how much the Opposition cares about women in our society! Having made those remarks, I give my general support to the appropriation of $73,855m for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the 1983-84 Budget. I make one or two remarks in relation to some of the functions of the Department. In reading the 1982-83 annual report of the Department I noted the following comment:

The workloads of the divisions vary according to the current activities of the Government. For example, the Economic Division bore much of the workload connected with the National Economic Summit Conference; it is also involved heavily in the Budget process, although all divisions share the responsibility for briefing the Prime Minister on Budget matters.

As the Treasurer (Mr Keating) indicated in his Budget Speech, the economic policy approach of the Government is based on the prices and incomes accord between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which was a positive initiative arising from the National Economic Summit Conference. The essential ingredients of that accord are worth mentioning, as their adoption is essential if the living standards of Australians are to be improved. The essential ingredients relate to the policy areas of industrial relations legislation, industrial development and technological exchange, immigration, social security, occupational health and safety, education, health, and Australian Government employment. Many of these policy areas will be the subject of inquiry and consultation by the Federal Government with the aim of framing legislation and introducing planning procedures which will create a sound base for national economic revival and social equity for Australian workers.

I will concentrate on those elements of the accord which can be directly identified with Budget initiatives, bearing in mind the statement in the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I begin with the area of health and the most welcome introduction of the universal health system, Medicare, from 1 February 1984. Whilst Medicare in its first year of operation will not be able to cover all the aspects of the many deficiencies in health care which emerged during the chaotic Budget policies of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition Government--

Mr Dobie —Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. We are discussing the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of the Special Minister of State. I am having difficulty in seeing the relevance of Medicare to those departments.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —The Chair is similarly tested. I ask the honourable member for La Trobe to make an effort to maintain relevance.

Mr MILTON —Mr Deputy Chairman, I draw your attention to the fact that in the annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet mention is made of the National Economic Summit Conference. I am trying to point out that areas of the accord are contained in the Budget and I am drawing a parallel with those items of the accord. I will show how the prices and incomes accord agreement has been met. If the honourable member will bear me out, he will hear the points I am raising. I was talking about health. I was pointing out how the Government ought to be congratulated on the very prompt introduction if Medicare . I will mention something very briefly about social security and social welfare because that, too, was an important aspect of the accord.

Mr Dobie —Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. I regret having to say this about my friend on the other side, but this is the estimates debate on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the other department.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —The honourable member for Cook has made his point. The Chair is prepared to allow that there could be an extremely tenuous link. I am prepared to hear the honorable member further. But I again exhort him to maximise his efforts to be totally relevant.

Mr MILTON —Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. I will try not to try your patience. The point I was trying to make was that, contrary to what members of the Opposition have been saying, a number of matters in relation to the prices and incomes accord have been met in the Budget. Some matters do give me concern which perhaps have not been met in relation to the accord. One of those was the fact that that amount of unemployment benefit paid to those under the age of 18 was only $45 a week. I think another $5 a week would have been very appropriate. In that respect, I draw attention to the fact that in the budget of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet there is an item relating to the Office of National Assessments. That item has had quite a large increase in its allocation. The point I would like to make is that in the total Budget there has been a large increase-some 31 per cent-in the amount of funds allotted to security services. I think it would have been far more beneficial if that money had been directed towards the under 18-year-olds. So to that extent I have one criticism of the Budget allocation for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. However, in general, I support the Budget and the amount which has been given. I believe that if in the following year, the Government follows what is in the accord, we will find that the union movement will be fully in support of the Budget initiatives.