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Tuesday, 6 March 1973
Page: 259

Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) - In rising to speak for the first time in this House I ask the Deputy Speaker to convey to the Speaker and to the Chairman of Committees my sincere congratulations on their election to their exalted positions. I have noted in parliamentary records that Sir Littleton Groom, a predecessor of mine in the seat of Darling Downs, was also for a time Speaker of this House. Also I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to convey to the Speaker my sincere and warm appreciation of his most human thought in insisting that the wives of new members be seated in the chamber for the swearingin ceremony. No doubt tonight I can be excused for being somewhat overwhelmed - certainly overawed - by the knowledge that I am following in the footsteps of a great Australian, Sir Reginald Swartz, who is a manly man and a friendly friend. He served his country with great distinction in peace and war. He epitomised the Australian ethos. He was a veritable dynamo and full of new ideas. He was like a force that would never stand still. I wish him well in his retirement and recall the words of Hamlet: 'He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again'.

The Darling Downs electorate has a worldwide reputation for the quality of its products and the friendliness of its people. It is a very great honour to have the opportunity to represent those people in the Parliament of this country. I hope that I can fulfil, as my 5 predecessors have, the trust and confidence which have been placed in me. My division is an area where there is an independence of the rural and city areas, each of which has a deep respect and appreciation of the other's point of view. There are 2 main cities in my electorate. Toowoomba, the garden city, is famous for its carnival of flowers and for its rugby league footballers who humbled the might of Great Britain on the playing fields in 1924. Warwick, the rose city, is famous for its rodeo - which is a truly distinctive expression of the Australian way of life - and for its schools. The economy of the area, based as it is on agriculture and employment in various industries which serve agriculture and on export manufacturing and processing, has been dealt a savage blow by what is termed revaluation. The people are disturbed and they have a right to be because their financial security is not only being eroded but also is being threatened. Therefore, one of the great issues in the Darling Downs area is the matter of revaluation compensation which will be necessary because of 2 recent decisions - the unilateral appreciation of 7.05 per cent by the

Government of this country in December and the 10 per cent devaluation of the American dollar.

It is not my intention to become involved in the arguments for or against the devaluation decisions. However, I am concerned with the great injustice which has been done to the various sectors of the economic life of my constituents, namely, the primary producers, the manufacturing exporters and the employees. A nice sounding platitude and a very fine piece of rhetoric has been echoed, that compensation will be available provided hardship can be proved. On behalf of the people of Darling Downs I reject the proposition with the narrow guidelines laid down by the interdepartmental committee. It is completely and utterly unjust to members of a section of the community who, as my friend the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said the other day in this chamber, were the main contributors in allowing the Australian people to have a credit balance at the end of the last quarter of last year. Some $28m has been savagely grabbed from the pockets of the Australian wheat growers. The sum of $10m has been taken from the sorghum exporters of southern Queensland - $4.2m as a result of direct action of the Government and $5.8m because of the decision of the United States Government.

The Government is hiding behind a smokescreen of buoyant world markets, deliberately, to deny a just debt to individuals who are struggling for their very existence after years of drought, low overseas prices, increased costs which are moving forever upwards at a galloping rate following the Government's announced intention to grant 4 weeks annual leave, and the granting of concessions to those unions which will dance to the musical strings pulled by such people as Carmichael, Halfpenny and Elliott.

When a fall of 18 per cent in the f.o.b. price of sorghum - that is to say, $12.60 a tonne on the basis of a sorghum price of $70 a tonne - is related to farm gate price, excluding freight and handling charges, the rate of fall in income is not 1 8 per cent but 23 per cent. Mr Deputy Speaker, would your Government stand idly by while the earnings of the Australian worker were dissipated by 23 per cent? Well, I ask your Government not to stand idly by while the farmers of this country have their incomes reduced by 23 per cent due to the actions of your Government. We heard in the Governor-

General's Speech about the Labor Government's plan for a growth centre in Townsville. Like snow on a hot day, this promise has melted away. Let us hope that this Government does not forget about Queensland. Some honourable members opposite certainly have not forgotten about the State when it comes to criticising that great Queenslander, Joh Bjelke Petersen, who, as a great defender, has safeguarded the rights of a small section of Queenslanders whom the Labor Party seeks to steamroll into Papua New Guinea.

If the Government is serious about improving the quality of Australian life, is concerned about the imbalance of population on the seaboard and is desirous of establishing a relatively pollution-free environment, there is no better place for an injection of Commonwealth finance for growth purposes than the Darling Downs. It is a good place in which to live. A solid number of industries and a work force are already present. In addition in the area there are reserves of over 1,000 million tons of top quality steaming coal. At present this is the subject of a tender to the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland for the purpose of establishing a power house. It is worthy of note that the estimated reserves are in excess of the reserves at Moura and Blackwater and have one very great advantage over these areas in that they will be under the control of that great man of principle, Joh Bjelke Petersen, rather than being a political football in the game of personal ambitions and antagonisms between the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) and the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor).

One cannot but be depressed by the obvious policy of the present Government to pursue deliberately a policy of centralism, or what the Government euphemistically refers to as 'a true and co-operative federalism*. Advance notice is served that I am totally opposed to the centralisation of power in Canberra by the devious method of eroding the powers, and rights of the individual - and this is surely the most sacred right of all - and attempting to destroy the State and local authorities. The words of the Prime Minister, as recorded in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 13 th November 1972, are worth repeating. He said:

If we were devising a new structure of representative Government for our Continent, we would have neither so few State Governments, nor so many local Government units.

Of course, we would expect the disciples of Lenin, Marx, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung to move relentlessly towards abrogating the freedoms which so many of us on this side value so much. We have had suggestions of grants to ease the States transport problems, providing the Commonwealth has representation, a situation repeated in the realms of education and health. Now there is the offer to take over the railways.

History has recorded that the classic Federal position deteriorated as the States lost fiscal power. The effective power, the power of the purse, firmly resided in Canberra. The establishment of Commonwealth monopoly over income tax. the extension of the concept of excise duty by the ruling of the High Court in the case of Western Australia v. Chamberlain Industries, the inability of that court to limit the Commonwealth's power to impose conditions on grants under section 96, have led to the situation where the finances of the State are dictated by the whims of the Federal machine. But what an avalanche we can expect now with the Prime Minister's proposals for the complete restructuring of Australia's system of government, the eventual aim, of course, being complete control from Canberra. The best form of Government is that which is closest to the people. Hence it is vitally important to maintain local Government.

A few figures are worth recording: Firstly, the local government tax per head of population in Queensland at $51.10 is higher than the Commonwealth average for the 6 States; secondly, the accumulated debt of Queensland local authorities, is in excess of $380m. The seriousness of this situation is obviously beyond disputation. However, I presume now from the published statement of the Prime Minister, and the remarks in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, that irrespective of what facts are assembled, however just the case is or however unrelenting is the pressure, representations to trie present Government would be like pouring water on a duck's back.

In a democratic system, disagreement and discussion are both inevitable and desirable. As an Australian, I am somewhat concerned at the changing emphasis in our foreign policy and in the surging trend towards centralism. In both these fields, one cannot but be concerned at those directions which are rather depressing in their familiarity and rather outrageous in their neglect of the welfare of the

Australian people. It is true to say that under the previous Government there was an appreciation of the changing pattern of Australia's involvement in world affairs. But it is well to remember our very close links of the past with the United Kingdom, links which are still very important, as well as our necessity to have strong alliances with the United States of America on whom we will have to depend. Whilst recognising the People's Republic of China, let us make sure the people of Taiwan are not sacrificed. And we must remember that Japan is one of our great trading nations. It might be fair comment to say that each could not live without the other.

We have on the Darling Downs some problems with agriculture and the impact of freight costs on our manufacturing industries. We have on the Downs a family company producing heavy duty trucks. In addition to high electricity costs, this company also incurs heavy freight costs on its raw materials. These conditions also apply to other manufacturing and processing export industries. This burden on country manufacturers can be eased by subsidising freight and by retaining export incentives. It seems to me to be far better to spend money on attracting people away from the seaboard than to waste millions of dollars on servicing them in the overcrowded areas.

The history of agriculture over a century and a half on the Downs, subject as it is to all manner of pressures from economy, science and philosophy, has left its marks with erosion. One cannot but be amazed after flying over the areas at the veinlike scars of deep gullies and yards of sheet erosion. It is estimated that some 8 million tons of soil is removed each year and this pollutes the streams and rivers and causes havoc with the roads and consequently increases costs to the local authorities. But above all, this is erosion of the very best of soils, which often have been treated with fertiliser. Some 11,000 tons of unit nitrogen are used on the Downs each year. Methods have been devised of controlling erosion - contour banks, grass and strip cropping. But what is urgently needed is a suitable pasture that will grow on the black soil earths. I suggest that Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation be asked as a matter of extreme urgency to carry out research into a suitable pasture. Indicative of the concern on erosion, the

Allora Shire was officially declared a soil erosion hazard area - and plans of action to safeguard the soils for the use of future generations are now on the drawing board. But what will be necessary will be finance. It is understood that an approach will be made for a subsidy of 50 per cent from the Federal Government, 25 per cent from the State Government, and 25 per cent finance to be supplied by the landholder. I hope that, when the matter is aired, it will be treated with the concern and seriousness it deserves.

The butter industry on the Downs is in serious difficulty - due to harsh seasons, Britain's entry into the European Economic Community and the increases in the margarine quota, and a price received completely unrelated to the cost of production as it does not take into account the value of unpaid family labour - and, I emphasise, the Australian ethos has been built on the family unit. As butter is manufactured where cream is produced the industry is a valuable employer of decentralised labour. Queensland's share of the Australian butter production in the last year was 9.3 per cent. With every other section of the community receiving substantial benefits I hope that something can be done to save this Queensland industry for, say what they like, Butter is better'.

This is a House of responsibility - a responsibility to be exercised with justice. This House must not and cannot degenerate into a mere rubber stamp, subject to the dictates of outside bodies. The Parliament is supreme. I hope that for the progress of our nation, for the development of our way of life, for the maintenance of our ideals and for the progress of peace at home and abroad our efforts will not be in vain.

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