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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 398

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - After listening to the speech from the prophet of disaster, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), I suggest that we give him a single ticket to the Philippines, for he would be much happier there than he is in Australia. I congratulate the new Speaker on his elevation to that very important responsibility and congratulate him on the way he has carried out his duties so far. I congratulate also the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) and the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-iReply which we are debating at the moment. Their maiden speeches were outstanding contributions from 2 new members of the Parliament. As a veteran of this place, and having heard hundreds of maiden speeches since I entered the Parliament, I believe that the standard of speeches I have heard on this occasion has been the highest I have ever listened to from any party in this House. This augurs well for the standard of debate throughout this term of Parliament.

The maiden speeches to which I referred took me, back 26i years to the Address-in-Reply debate of November 1946, the beginning of the Chifley Government's last term. On that occasion I had the honour of moving the Address-in->Reply after having won the seat of Wilmot for the first time on 28th September that year by 843 votes.

One cannot but feel a surge of emotion at the Labor Party again occupying the Treasury bench. It is 23i years since I spoke from this side of the chamber. Only the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and myself have survived the vicissitudes, crises and electoral swings of the past 231 years. I was surprised to read in the 'Australian' of last Friday that Alan Ramsay did not know that I had been a member of this Parliament for all that time, so this afternoon I correct the record for the benefit of the Australian'. Only 3 of the 125 members of this House were here when the last Labor Government was in office. It is a thrilling, satisfying experience to be still a member of. this Parliament when Labour returns to office after all those years in a political Siberia. One of the great realities of parliamentary life is the fact that, as Saint Paul said in his Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 13, verse 14, 'here we have no continuing city'. He must have had in mind members of Parliament when he wrote those, words. It is a dangerous, exciting, but short life to so many new men who, with high hopes and aspirations, first take their seats in this Parliament. They may be here 3 years, 6 years or 9 years, and then suddenly it is all over. Suddenly the people have spoken with that frightening and ruthless finality which only a ballot box can record, and some members are no longer in this Parliament.

The average length of service in this House since Federation has been just under 10 years. Anyone surviving beyond that length of service is on borrowed political time. But the political demise of individual members is much more frequent than that of governments. A long time has elapsed since there was a change in the Australian government. Who would have thought in 1949 when Ben Chifley lost 12 seats, including the seats of 4 Ministers, that it would be the end of 1972 before another Labor Government was elected. Nobody in Australia could have imagined that it would have been so many years before we regained office. I have sat in Opposition for so long that 5 anti-Labor Prime Ministers have been in office in my time here, namely, Mr Menzies, Mr Holt, Mr McEwen,. Mr Gorton and Mr McMahon. Nothing is more frustrating, more heartbreaking, more chilling or more depressing than to sit in Opposition for 23 years. Although I was Opposition Whip for 17 years, which is a record period for a person to hold the office of Whip of a major Party in the Federal Parliament - when Labor was elected to government I did not desire to contest the position of Government Whip - and although I found myself completely and fully occupied as Opposition Whip, it was maddening sitting in Opposition to see the Liberal Party-Country Party coalition returned to power with monotonous regularity at 9 elections.

Mr Luchetti - They had some lucky escapes.

Mr DUTHIE - That is very true. They had 3 lucky escapes in 1954, 1961 and in 1969. The previous government remained in office all those years, often thieving Labor's policies to stay there. To emphasise how long we have been out of Government, let me remind this House that no-ohe under the age of 38 in Australia today remembers the Chifley-Labor Government. Two decades of Australians have grown up within the shaky shadow of a Liberal-Country Party coalition government.

But at last the electorate caught up with that Government. It had to in the end. But the question was whether we would live long enough to be here when it did. The election of 2nd December 1972 will come to be recognised as a turning point in Australia's history. Twenty-seven new members were elected to the Parliament, mostly men under 45 years of age. There are 16 new Labor members, 8 new Liberal members and 3 new Country Party members elected to the Federal Parliament. This means that 22 per cent of the members have come in for the first time. That is a very big changeover in personnel indeed.

The electorate has trusted Labor, at last, with the huge responsibility of governing this nation. It is both a thrilling and a humbling experience. Brand new Ministers tackle untried tasks and make nation-shaping decisions. They are all on unfamiliar ground. They have to learn about their departments and their personnel. They run head-on into bureaucracy or departmentalism. They find themselves armed with executive power, both exciting and frightening. They suddenly wish each day was twice as long to help them cover the colossal work load involved in the far-reaching scope of a new sphere of action.

It is therefore time for tolerance and a fair go by everybody in Australia. Our Ministers have performed exceptionally well so far, in my opinion. Perhaps it is appropriate to remind the House that Labor has served a record apprenticeship and a record probation period in preparation for government. Perhaps it is not unusual that our Ministers are doing such a good job. The prayers of thousands of Australians are directed at this Parliament and particularly the new Government and its Ministers. But let me add a warning: This is not a time for smart Alec decisions. This is not a time for arrogance. This is not a time for swelled heads. This is not the time for knowallism This is not the time for frothy enthusiasms. This is not the time for intellectual snobbery. This is not the time for youthful superiorities.

Mr Hunt - Time is up.

Mr DUTHIE - We have a long time yet. This is the time for a realistic appraisal of what the formidable task of being a Minister involves. It is the time for humility. The greatest in this world are not the most arrogant but the most humble How well I remember what happened in 1949 among some of Chifley's Ministers who forgot the axiom that true greatness is won through true humility. It is the time for learning about responsibility. It is the time to seek advice. It is not the time to think one knows everything about everything. It is the time to keep physically and mentaly fit, for one needs the constitution of an ox to stand up to the pressures and challenges of long hours of Cabinet responsibility.

I have seen Ministers through the years wilt under the pressure of the long hours imposed on them here. They must work much longer than the ordinary member, trying to keep on top of their correspondence and their responsibilities. I have been a member of this Parliament much longer than 90 per cent of the new Cabinet. I make no apology for expressing these thoughts and warnings at this exciting time in Labor's history.

When the Australian people elected us to Government, and turned out of office the Liberal-Country Party coalition they accepted a whole new range of ideals and ideas and of policies and objectives. These policies, when implemented by the Whitlam Government, will change the face of Australia. I have no doubt of this at all. I hope and I pray that this will be for the better, and I hope and 1 pray that all the Opposition members will feel that it is for the better too, even though they may doubt this at the moment.

I wish to quote from the new book by Christopher Falkus which is obtainable in the Parliamentary Library. It was published last year and is entitled The Life and Times of Charles II'. At page 202, having described the King's death, Falkus writes this potent assessment:

With Charles died the age he had created.

I believe that with the defeat of the LiberalCountry Party coalition an age died in Australia. After all, that Government built something into this country. We might not have agreed with everything it did over 23 long years but with its defeat an age has come to an end. An age has been buried and, in some respects, a way of life has been buried.

Mr Giles - It will not be undone though, will it?

Mr DUTHIE - No, but I hope it will be changed here and there for the better. Life is a constant moving onwards and new ideas must continue to pour into the bloodstream of our nation's life. We are not the only ones who have ideas. The previous Government had a go. It had 23 years of putting its ideas into legislative form in Australia. Now members of the Opposition should give us a chance. I believe that with the implementation of the new ideas that we are putting forward changes for the better in the whole structure of Australian life will occur.

Labor has always been a progressive, goahead, innovating, reforming, renewing, recreating Party. Labor believes that what is physically and economically possible is also financially possible. Labor believes people come before profits. Labor believes that to stand still is to stagnate. I have read the comment about being in a groove and that the only difference between a groove and the grave is the depth. The youth of Australia who helped us to victory will be given the right to vote on attaining the age of 18. The sick, widows, including working widows, the infirm, invalids, children, public servants and people in almost every sector of the nation will be given new hope and security. The old fears, the old bogies, the old conservatism, the old laissez faire philosophy, the old shibboleths, the old monopoly capitalism, the systematic sale of Australian assets overseas, the old pollution of cities, the chaos in transport, the constant downgrading of Australia overseas and the abject subservience of Australia to other countries such as America will all be wiped from the face and heart of Australia under the Whitlam Government. We want to build a new nation which will be strong and secure in its own right and have a clear voice of its own. (Quorum formed.) Tonight after 8 o'clock my colleague, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates), will be making his maiden speech in this Parliament. I am sorry that what I have been saying has upset the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) who called for a quorum to be formed. A breath of fresh air is already blowing through the corridors of government reaching out to people and places everywhere.

At this stage I want to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for his personal part in Labor's great victory. His strong leadership, his incredible energy, his courage in dealing with Party problems in some obstreperous States, his clear, direct and frank exposition of our policy in the campaign and his platform and television performances all contributed to the creation of confidence in the electorate towards a Labor Government. It was a lack of confidence and trust in the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition government which helped in its defeat.

The Governor-General's Speech outlined a massive program of action to be undertaken by the new Whitlam Government. Since I have been in this House I have listened to 11 Governors-General outline government programs for the new Parliament, but I have not listened to such an impressive charter for action and change as that contained in the last Governor-General's Speech to which -we are replying. I was deeply impressed by a passage of that Speech which states:

My Government believes that its economic, trade, development and industrial policies provide a basis for strong and continuing growth of Australian prosperity. It is, however, deeply conscious that enconomic growth and material well-being no longer reflect the whole aspirations and expectations of the Australian community, and that prosperity alone is no longer exactly equated with true progress.

I could not agree too much with this because man does not live by bread alone.

Mr Turner - Tell us about Lake Pedder.

Mr DUTHIE - I will tell you about Lake Pedder - it is in my electorate - but I will not waste time now. One can give man everything equated with material, scientific and physical progress but man is still poverty stricken unless he finds the answer to selfishness, greed, arrogance and self-love. He is still poverty stricken until he learns the secret of finding happiness, forming friendships, caring for people and having the capacity to serve others. True progress, therefore, is measured not only in financial and physical wellbeing alone. Nor is it measured only in material wealth, economic stability, expanding trade, balanced budgets, annual profits, oil wells, beach homes, cars and boats. Without a matching moral and ethical advancement, without a sense of community responsibility, without respect for others, without personal and government integrity, without a massive caring for others, without a sharing of opportunity, without a love of justice, without a love for the underdog, without a tolerance for opposing viewpoints and without a faith in something beyond ourselves, true progress is impossible. The new Labor Government wants to lift the standards of action in Australia, awaken a new pride in our country, revise our national objectives, expand our vision and horizons and re-list our national priorities.

There are other subjects that will come up for discussion later, subjects such as local government and rural assistance, housing, education and a host of other matters, and I will be speaking on these when the time comes. I did not think it appropriate to raise these matters at this time. We accept the challenge that has been given to us to govern and I feel sure that by adopting the right attitudes we will win much support and get all our programs into operation within the 3 years of this Parliament.

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