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Wednesday, 28 February 1973
Page: 57

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - Mr Speaker, I congratulate you and the Chairman of Committees on your elevation to these responsible positions in this House. My presence in this House is the direct result of a consensus of the electors of Eden-Monaro. I would not be here today but for the advice and help of the former honourable member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Allan Fraser. To my mind Mr Fraser ranks among the finest politicians this country has produced. The manner in which he handed over his electorate responsibilities to me deserves the highest praise. The results of his experience and his advice were freely given, but never pressed. His many friends were acquainted with his support for me, but never directed. His distinguished contribution to this House and to the electorate of Eden-Monaro covered nearly 50 years of Australian political history. I now take up his task with enthusiasm, and look forward to a rich, humane approach to government in the coming years.

The work of Allan Fraser and his compatriots has laid the foundation for the programme outlined in the Governor-General's speech. This is a programme of social reform, a drive to reassert the authority of morality over technology - of man * over law - and to correct a society in which humanity has become a casualty to the laws of economics. Of the 4 principal grounds providing a basis for the Government's programme I would like to examine 2: The failure of the existing social and economic structures to meet the needs of modern society, and the need for government to plan for the inevitable change that confronts us in the future. Technical change and economic development alter the framework of our society. Increasing productivity demands a rapid change in our attitudes. New commodities open a new way of life for our people. The essential connection between the changing technology and our life style has been overlooked by previous governments. The result is that our way of living, our future expectations and our very morality have not been able to keep up with the demands of the new technological age. The products of technology have tended to enslave rather than to free the people of this country.

Change is not needed for its own sake but it must come if human values are to achieve priority over the machine. Freely available motor cars create the need for new laws, a new sense of social responsibility and a new pattern of Government expenditure if lives are not to be wasted on the roads of our country. New technology will affect our morality. Efficient contraceptives are facts of science. They cannot be wished away. They will force on to the community a new morality because in many ways they make the old morality redundant. I am not quite sure whether these contraceptives are the ones geared to metric conversion ' that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) seemed to refer to when he introduced the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill.

The social security measures outlined in the Governor-General's Speech quite correctly emphasise the urgency of welfare provisions. These measures represent the basic steps in the development of a national welfare policy, freed of discrimination by sex, age or economic condition - a welfare programme which is a real response to our national conscience and which should be a basic condition in any civilised community that has a respect for its own citizens. A national welfare policy should provide a dignified way of life for the minority groups in our community which cannot contribute to the economic processes. Given this national welfare policy, it is essential then to provide a flexibility and a mobility in our labour force which gives our people the maximum opportunity to express themselves and the maximum opportunity for the nation to benefit from their skills and intelligence.

Proper education and retraining programmes provide a flexibility of labour and ideas which are basic to a creative productivity in our community. Too often education becomes lopsided because the community attaches status to certain qualifications such as university degrees, and underrates others such as trade qualifications. A continuing educational programme, such as has been outlined by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) in moving this motion, will tend to remove these artificial distinctions. The effect of failure in the academic world will be muted if people can rejoin the commercial area and try again for skills and professions later on in life. If our educational system is to give maximum opportunity to our people and provide the proper basis for our productivity it must be flexible. It must allow people to move in and out throughout their lifetime and contribute to the community by re-education.

Another important aspect developed in the Governor-General's Speech was the initiation of an industrial policy based on the needs of a creative society. In this country the traditional approach to the relationship between management and labour is based on conflict. The assumption that management and labour must always be at war underlies the community concept of industrial relations. It is a destructive concept in which nobody is right and in which antagonism is fueled to preserve the privileges and status of a few. Such an approach develops from the view that our economy is static; that we must take from one to give to another. In fact creative productivity will create more for all.

In moving from destructive scarcity to creative productivity people must discover that they belong to the same country. They must discover their solidarity and freedom to innovate. Interdependence between the social groups within our community and economic progress go hand in hand. Productivity calls for the integration of different skills and professions. Once again it calls for the opportunity for people who have made their contribution in one vocation to try their hand in another - to receive a new challenge instead of being discarded on to the junk heap of retirement because they happen to have reached a particular age. The first step in this movement lies in closer consultation between all community groups involved in the economic processes rather than the divisive basis which has formed the philosophy of our approach to various economic sectors in our community.

The people who have made their contribution in one profession should have the opportunity to accept challenges in other areas. Such an opportunity requires a continuing educational process. This is essential if we are to condition technical change to human needs rather than to subjugate man to technology. The potential productivity that can be enjoyed will be unleashed by using the total skills and experience of our community. Emphasis must be placed on our human resources rather than on the material resources of the land. The people of the country and their potential have been neglected. If we husband and protect our human resources we will have maximum scope for innovation. Costly and sterile subsidies can be replaced by the more rational use of our material resources. Subsidies are designed to protect the worker. They are not designed to produce a particular commodity. The subsidy or the tariff is designed to protect an individual group of employment, whether it be farmer or manufacturer. The people matter, the product is incidental.

Given these conditions and this basis of our economic approach, the stage will then be set to expose our business and industrial activity to the real rigours of competition. Too often private enterprise has been confused with competition. Unrestrained private enterprise has led to the development of monopolies and cartels. Such economic domination has resulted in stagnation and the use of resources to defend an outdated position. In terms of the suffocating effect that this has on innovation, there is little difference between a mature established monopoly and a bureaucracy. Both types of organisation provide a barrier to new ideas. I see from the notice paper that the Opposition is concerned about the qualifications of the staff of Ministers. I believe that under this Government appointment to positions in organisations such as the Australian Wool Corporation will depend on technical qualifications and ideas rather than associations which may have developed over the years with entrenched monopolies and cartels, associations developed in the Establishment and which are based on anything but the requirement to make a contribution in terms of ideas. It is my view that business competition requires a rule maker. Without any rules of the game competition will defeat itself or the community may have to pay the price of inefficiency. The Governor-General's Speech outlines the proposals this Government intends to adopt to control prices and business practices and yet maintain competition.

Government proposals to develop regional growth centres are long overdue. A healthy Australian society must develop the entire continent and provide balanced, sensible living conditions for the people. Eden-Monaro presents a particularly exciting regional development opportunity. Canberra is a major growth centre and its growth must be integrated with the surrounding area. Cities such as Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Cooma are strong communities and sensible overall planning is required to integrate their development with the explosive growth of Canberra. The milk, vegetables, fish and meat produced in the Eden-Monaro electorate can supply Canberra with its food requirements. Inadequate access roads which take their annual toll of life, uncoordinated sub-division with poorly serviced housing and crowded, polluted beaches may become the legacy of unplanned expansion. Disasters such as these can be replaced by triumph if this Government joins in a partnership with State and local government groups to develop the area around the Australian Capital Territory. The same challenge will develop in future around the new cities planned by this Government. The integration of city and country will become a recurring responsibility for the Commonwealth in the future.

Nowhere will the changes proposed in the Governor-General's Speech be more significant than in the country. It is time to eliminate yet another division - the division between country and city people. We are members of one nation and it is only by seeing ourselves as Australian that we can improve the value of life throughout the entire continent. Separation of country from city again creates a conflict situation which is so unproductive. It is important to change the image that has developed over recent years of the poor country cousin. A history of shortterm palliatives has developed a caricature of the beggar farmer always coming to Government for a subsidy, drought relief, deficiency payment or compensation to offset some change in the economic tide. We must restore the strong pioneer initiative that has been historically associated with farming in Australia. We need to do this by establishing a firmer economic base for the farming business.

As a starting point it should be recognised that when Government policy is directed at increasing the standard of living of the whole community the farm business suffers in many respects. If the average wage earner spends more and more on the luxuries which go to make life easier for him he spends a smaller proportion on the necessities of life - food, clothing and housing. These are the products of the farm sector. The end result is that the unit return to the farmer for his produce falls in real terms and in order to offset this decrease in income farmers must increase output from their business. Labour-intensive operations have to be replaced with capital. This creates the demand for specialised credit facilities. Just as we have specialised financial arrangements for the purchase of bousing so we need specialised financial arrangements for the agricultural sector. Many farm projects take time to pay off - sometimes 10 to 15 years after the basic decisions have been made. It is therefore essential that we have credit arrangements for the farming community which are geared to the unique farm business requirements. I believe that if we have such credit arrangements many of the problems of the farm sector will be overcome.

Another political decision which has to be made in regard to farming is a sociological decision. It might be assumed in some areas that the most efficient way of farming is by using large scale operations, maximising the returns of the large holdings and using sophisticated capital equipment. But, as so often happens, economic efficiency clashes with sociological responsibility. Company farms will tend to deal with capital cities. The country towns and provincial areas will wither away from a lack of business, and the structure of the communities will be overdominated by the largest centres. To have a balanced community and a virile country town business it is essential that we base our farms on the family farm unit. This is not an economic decision. The economic advantages of a family farm group too often revolve around the idea that the sons and daughters of farmers are expected to follow in their parents' footsteps, and they are conscripted to a life that they may not enjoy. It is essential that increased labour mobility reaches the farms of Australia and that the children of farmers are exposed to a range of options in regard to their own future careers. Unless these children have this choice they may be condemned to a life that they do not enjoy, and the country as a whole will forgo the productivity that can flow from contented and properly adjusted workers.

Many of the issues which are of concern to our community are clouded by a failure to define clearly the political and other responsibilities involved. I take for an example the proper use of our environment. Eden-Monaro contains some of the finest beaches, forests and snow country in Australia - probably the best. Clearly it is a national responsibility to preserve these areas. Unfortunately the debate about preservation of these areas at the moment is being carried on by extremists. Conservationists who apparently allow no involvement by people in the environment are opposed by sectional interests who pay little or no attention to the long-term national impact of their short-term proposals. In most of the debates about the environment the missing element is a definition of the community objective and priorities for a particular area. Defining these matters is a political responsibility.

In the Kosciusko National Park some may regard water conservation as the main environmental objective. A major proportion of our population depends on this, the largest watershed in Australia. If this is so and if it is decided in the political forum that it is so, we need to ask the ecologists to define the plant associations that will facilitate long-term water conservation in this area. Having determined the appropriate plant associations, it is then necessary to develop proper management to maintain the chosen association.

No environment is static, no plant association will remain the same on its own, and at any time certain plants will be dominating others. A natural succession will mean that we will lose the association that serves our purpose. Therefore it is essential to manage the environment. We can define 3 areas of responsibility relating to the problem of environmental conservation. Firstly, there is the political responsibility of defining the objectives and priorities for which the area will be used. Secondly, we need research to understand the variables involved. Thirdly, we need the management that will allow us to control these resources in the best interests of the community as a whole. In a wider sense the political responsibility of defining the objectives and priorities has been clouded in the political sphere by too many superficial questions and a tendency to divert attention from the substance of community priorities to the details of management. Instead of focusing political debate on the purpose for which we should use our resources for the community welfare we find people concentrating on the use of resources to satisfy short-term political pressures or concentrating on the details of management, for instance by asking where the money is coming from instead of asking whether the priorities are right.

I commend the Governor-General's Speech to this House as a speech concerned with the real political issues of our country and outlining the basis on which we can build a new creative productivity from which the whole community will benefit.

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