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Tuesday, 14 September 1971
Page: 1233

Mr KIRWAN (Forrest) - I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which reads:

That all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: 'the House condemns the Budget because (a) it breaks the Prime Minister's pledge to Parliament on taking office to bring into effect for 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them, (b) it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government and (c) it produces no programmes for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security.'

There is no point in my appealing to members of the Government Parties on the first ground of the amendment that I have just read. I am sure that the honourable gentlemen opposite are completely inured to broken pledges and conflicting statements made by successive Prime Ministers in recent years. In fact it would appear from the events of the past 6 months that we have reached the nadir in political leadership and public credibility. The traumas associated with years of leadership struggles culminating - in the circumstances surrounding the accession of the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) certainly have destroyed any finer feelings in honourable members opposite and certainly have deadened any nerves that would respond to an appeal on the ground of broken pledges. The in-fighting and the insecurity engendered by a string of ministerial changes and sackings associated, as they have been, wilh leadership at once vacillating and contradictory have destroyed their responsiveness and cowed them into submission.

The country is crying out for concerted action. Instead it receives changing administrations. The country is crying out for vision at the top. Instead it receives vacillation. The country is crying out for integrity at the highest level. Instead it receives intrigue. The country desperately needs leadership for country people. Instead it is given the Country Party. The people cry out for bread and the Government gives them a stone. Therefore, though the plight of people reliant upon social services is extreme, there is no hope of any help from the Government. Perhaps there is nothing more urgent than a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them; yet while a pledge has been given, it will not be realised this side of an election.

Since pensioners are given a stone instead of bread, with complete equanimity by honourable members opposite, we will have to appeal to them on the remaining 2 grounds of our amendment. Firstly, the Budget contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government. Honourable members opposite may be inured to the plight of people reliant upon social services and be equally inured to the nadir reached in public credibility under the leadership of recent Prime Ministers, but surely they must be aware of and concerned about the present condition of State and local government indebtedness. The situation is one about which our Leader has been sounding warnings for some years, lt is a situation that he pronounced as urgent and becoming grave some years ago in his speech on the Budget at that time. The inclusion in his speech of matters directly Tei a ted to local government at that time drew scorn from members of the Government; , yet now we find people at almost every level of society recognising the need foi direct assistance from the Commonwealth to local government bodies. Local government bodies themselves are becoming increasingly perturbed about the situation that most of them are confronting.

In Western Australia steep rate increases last year have been followed by further steep increases this year in many towns and shires. Rural councils are faced, too, with diminishing incomes due to the rural debt. Many farmers and townspeople cannot afford to pay council rates. The new State Government of Western Australia has conducted an urgent survey of shires to establish the extent of the problem and it is preparing to act to alleviate the condition that exists. Yet the present State Government has a record State deficit which it inherited and which has to be reduced. At the same time the State Government of

Western Australia has to correct what the present Minister for Lands and Agriculture, Mr H. D. Evans, termed as the compass condition of the previous Government, which always seemed to be pointing north.

The new State Government in Western Australia has created a portfolio of decentralisation under which it has set up a committee to examine problems in the Albany region and another committee to examine problems in the Collie region. As with other rural areas, a need exists for policies to assist with education for country children, employment for country people, for rural reconstruction and for retraining schemes for people forced to leave farms or affected in other ways by redundancy. All these matters are urgent and do require early attention.

Because State governments already face crises in health, education and other fields, contributed to in no small part by the indifference of Liberal-Country Party Federal governments, an urgent need exists for the closest liaison between State and Federal governments to meet the problems that currently exist and that are developing. As the need is urgent and as no provision is made in this Budget that even suggests that the Government recognises the problems - far less is intending to meet them - I ask honourable members opposite to support the amendment moved So ably by our Leader. I ask them to read carefully his speech and the Australian Labor Party platform and, having done so, to vote with the Opposition to carry the amendment. We can discover then the will of the people on the multiplicity of problems which have grown up under successive anti-Labor governments.

Secondly, I appeal to them on the third ground of our amendment, that is, that this Budget produces no programmes for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security. The reason for the validity of this ground probably was revealed when the Prime Minister was interviewed by Time" magazine. Having answered all the questions for which he had been able to make preparation, he was asked: 'What of the future?' Whereupon, the Prime Minister shuffled through his papers in much the same way as he shuffles minis terial portfolios, and came up with a little less-- nothing. He revealed himself as a man tied to the past with absolutely no vision for the future. His party is devoid of a vision, let alone any plan, for the future. Thus, we have a Budget that provides nothing even in the short term that could be construed as a programme for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security.

One of the Government's more able and energetic Ministers - the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who is at the table at the present time - has, as he has said, prepared a scheme for improved social welfare. It would seem that there is one Minister who has sat down to come to grips with one of Australia's most pressing needs. Yet he is the Minister who has the most tenuous hold on a place in the Ministry. The Prime Minister resolutely refuses to allow him to present his scheme to Parliament.

On the question of the failure to provide for economic strength, we have the Prime.. Minister's .own statement that we can expect 100,000 unemployed by Christmas. We have the steady growth towards that figure which has been quickened since the presentation of the Budget, and we have the recently published report of the ACMA-Bank of New South Wales survey all of which, coupled with the recession in primary industry, reveals the ineffectiveness of Liberal-Country Party governments and their economic policies.

Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) to contact the Minister for Decentralisation in Western Australia with a view to discovering ways in which the State and Federal governments might encourage industry in country areas. I believe that the need to examine the things that the Leader of the Opposition has been saying for many years about urban development and cities is urgent. I believe that, in this area, as in the area of local government and Commonwealth financial arrangements the Leader of the Opposition has provided an important stimulus to Australian thinking. We need encouragement to be given by both the State governments and the Federal Government to all industries and bodies that can create the conditions that will lead to the growth of towns within country areas, so that employment opportunities might be created in pleasant, wellplanned, decentralised regions, while at the same time stemming the flow of people into capital cities that will become increasingly more unpleasant and more smog' bound. 1 believe that the south western part of the State of Western Australia lends itself well to such a plan if one were proceeded with. The region is serviced by the ports of Albany in the south and Bunbury in the west. AH of the State's butter fat, most of its milk, coarse grains, vegetables, meat, most of the State's timber, all of its tin and coal and most of its beach sands, etc., are produced in the area. The main towns of the region include Bunbury, Busselton, Collie, Manjimup and Albany, all of which could provide the nucleus for development and decentralised industries. 1 hope that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Government, will examine prospects within the region and perhaps make it a testing area for policies of decentralisation.

I might say to the Minister for Trade and Industry that, by contrast with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), I believe that Country Party members are the greatest stumbling block in the way of decentralisation. I know that they talk about it often. I also know that they have been in government for 20-odd years without doing anything about decentralisation. During most of those ' years, their Ministers have held the portfolios directly related to that area of responsibility. I believe that they publicly stand for decentralisation but privately resist it to enable them to hold country seats. Therefore, I hasten to inform the Minister for Trade and Industry that the electorate of Forrest need not be precluded from consideration on that ground. The Country Party receives only 10 per cent of the vote in the Forrest electorate.

In the interim, I believe that the Government should act swiftly to see. that no child is precluded from attending school or university because of the financial circumstances of its parents. In country areas today, people are experiencing the greatest difficulty in maintaining children at schools and universities away from home. In the interim, too, I believe special measures should be implemented to reduce telephone and telegraph costs between country areas and cities. I ask, too, that the Government act with expedition to bring down measures to provide opportunities for retraining and re-establishment for all persons affected by redundancy or debt.

I believe that the circumstances confronting us in Australia today more than for many years call for statesmanship. I believe that statesmanship is the quality most lacking in the front bench opposite and that the problems confronting us at the moment require extraordinary measures. I commend to honourable members opposite the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I commend to them the thought that they, because of the needs of the nation and because of the total lack of competence within the leadership of their Government, should take necessary action to obtain a mandate for one leader or another in this place. Stability in Government, I submit, will be found only in that way. Honourable members opposite can demonstrate their statesmanlike qualities by voting for the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister announced in my electorate that he wished to hold an early election. Let him seek a mandate on this Budget and on his record. Let honourable members opposite grant him his wish by voting on this occasion for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.

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