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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 402

Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) - First of all may I join with other honourable members in congratulating Mr Speaker on his appointment and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) on his appointment as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. As one who served a record term in this Parliament as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees I know some of the responsibilities, joys, trials and tribulations of such a position and I am sure that the gentlemen who have been elected to these 2 high offices have the good wishes of all honourable members in this House. I am confident that under their guidance the principles and standards of this House will be sustained.

I also extend my congratulations to honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in this House. This is something which we all experience. Therefore, when a new member makes his maiden speech he knows he has with him the thoughts of all those who have had the experience or are to have it. Having listened to my Australian Country Party colleagues who have made their maiden speeches, I am confident that the Country Party will not suffer politically through the retirement of those members who are not with us in this new Parliament.

The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said that the last election was a turning point in the history of Australia. I think we would all agree with that. But perhaps the only difference of opinion between us is as to what that turning point will mean for Australia. I believe it will be a turning point in our history that the people who voted for the present Government will regret. I would remind Government supporters that they did not win the last election; the previous Government lost it. It has been said that it is very seldom that Oppositions win government, but governments lose them, and I think that is perfectly true. Having looked at the political situation, we must confess that the previous Government did everything it could to lose the election. The Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, was an interesting one. It is important, of course, because it conveys the expression of the legislative program of the new Government. A great deal of the Governor-General's remarks were presented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the election campaign. I think the difficulty and the problems which will confront Australia will be in the implementation of some of these policies and the continuation of policies that are to the benefit not only of certain sections but also of the whole community.

I wish now to comment on the PostmasterGeneral's Department. I hope I misunderstood - I will put it that way - but the PostmasterGeneral seemed to imply when replying to a question from this side of the House and in a statement that he made during the adjournment debate last Thursday that he felt it was not fair to ask people, particularly in the metropolitan area, to contribute to works and development carried out in country areas by the Postmaster-General's Department. I think that if we look at the situation we will find that people in the metropolitan area surely should be prepared to accept some of the responsibilities for the extension and development of postal and communication services in country areas. I know it is sometimes said that the telephones are essential in metropolitan areas. I do not think anyone would deny that that is fair. But let us face the fact that in some isolated country areas a telephone can mean in many instances the difference between life and death.

I agree with the Postmaster-General that money used for extension work by the Postmaster-General's Department should be taken out of consolidated revenue. The Postmaster-General may rest assured that this will be one of the things I will continue to advocate, as I did when I was a supporter of the previous Government. As a member of the Opposition I will be interested in this matter, because I believe that more work must be done in country areas and that there must be within the Postmaster-General's Department a greater concentration of effort for development and progress in these areas. I do not deny that progress and development has gone on. But in some areas, particularly in the northwestern part of my electorate, the situation has arisen where someone who has looked after a post office for many years is now not able to perform these duties and as a result in many instances the area suffers from the lack of telephonic communication. As I have said, in the last Parliament I advocated further financial assistance from consolidated revenue to provide for extensions in this field. I will continue to advocate this proposition.

The Governor-General's Speech contains many matters that relate to the policies of the Labor Party. I am not quite sure whether I agree with some of the newspapers which express the view that the Opposition made a mistake in bringing forward a motion of no confidence in the Government so early in the life of this Parliament. Surely if something happens, whether it be in the first week, the first year or the last year of the Government's occupation of the Treasury bench, and the Opposition feels that it is of such moment as to justify a no confidence motion, the time which the Government has occupied the Treasury bench is completely irrelevant. I believe that the motion of no confidence was relevant and important. I believe it was justified, because to my mind the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the sphere of Australia's international obligations weakened our position internationally. Of course, I believe that that no confidence motion should have been carried.

Another matter I wish to raise concerns compulsory unionism. It appears strange that a government or a party that has been so vehemently opposed to compulsory service in the armed Services should advocate compulsion so far as unionism is concerned. If an individual feels strongly about having to join a union, I believe the fairest Way of dealing with the matter is that he may donate to charity the contribution he would have made to a union. Surely it is a little unreasonable for the Government to pursue a policy of compulsory unionism because, let us face it, in the political situation in which we find ourselves - and I do not object to this - funds from the unions go towards assisting the Labor Party to gain the Treasury bench or to assist the Labor Party in the political field. But, I think it is absolutely wrong to a$k someone who has a particular political point of view to contribute finance that will assist and opposite political view. As I have said, I believe that some way should be found to overcome this situation.

I would now like to make a few comments about the 35-hour week. Honourable members will remember the comments that were made before the election that a 35-hour week would be introduced only in industries that could afford the financial implications and complications of a 35-hour week. I believe that the judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission after its inquiry into a 35-hour week in the Electricity Commission should be carefully considered by all people.. What that judgment really said was that there were certain developments and advances so far as the mechanics of the industry were concerned that gave a benefit to the industry as well as lowering of the production cost. The Commission said that where those improvements in conditions and production did not create redundancy or any difficulties so far as employment was concerned it felt that those benefits should be passed on to the whole of the community rather than merely to that section of industry even though it had contributed to the improvement. I believe that this judgment should be carefully considered not only by unionists but by all people. I think that certain sections within the trade union movement are losing sight of the fact that people work not only for the advantage of their own group but for the advantage of all. If this principle is lost and the values of the arbitration system are lost - and there has been some criticism of the arbitration system - then I believe that the Labor movement and the trade union movement will be put back 100 years. Surely a benefit should be a benefit for all and not only for a few or perhaps even the strong groups within the trade union movement.

I believe that where an industry .does get the advantage of a benefit, that benefit should be passed on for the benefit of all. An exam-, pie of such benefits can be found in the section of industry which employs tanker drivers and members of the Electricity Commission staff. If benefits in these 2 sections of industry were passed on to the whole of the community there would be a reduction iti the price of petrol and, electricity. If this happened those members of the unions employed in these industries would get the benefit as would the whole of the community. As , I have said, I believe the .statement and the decision of the Commission in regard to a 35-hour week in the Electricity Commission should be studied closely! I believe that benefits should flow on to those who are in industries which are facing complexities and difficulties, such as the rural producers in my electorate.

I want to make some comment regarding primary production and rural industry. The rural industries have received some benefit at the moment because of. increased prices and the improved conditions in the marketing abroad of some of our products. But let us also appreciate that those within the sphere of primary industry faced a recession ever many many months. The benefits that they will gain from increased prices will in many cases not overcome the difficulties and the setbacks they had during the period of recession. People should give very careful consideration to this before they start talking about how prosperous are all the primary industries at the present time and- how those engaged in the primary industries have benefited.

The matter of revaluation and devaluation is tied up more importantly with our export industries than perhaps with anything else in this country. To my mind it is most unfortunate that the Government does not appear to appreciate the problems at this given time and seems to have overlooked the situation faced by our export industries although it is not so long ago that our rural industries were suffering from a recession. When my Party and the Liberal Party were in office I recall criticism of certain actions taken by that Government particularly in relation to the wool industry and perhaps to a lesser degree the wheat industry. I point out that the events of today have proved that the actions taken by that Government in respect of those 2 major industries were correct. I believe that we have to face up to the fact that irrespective of industrial progress in Australia we are still vitally dependent upon primary production for our export earnings and for the stability of our economy. Because of this I. regret that it appears that this Government has not given due consideration to assistance to primary industry.

I make one comment in regard to a matter mentioned by my colleague the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe). I refer to the absurdity of the action taken by waterside workers in placing a ban on the export of meat from Australia because the price of meat in metropolitan areas was high. Anybody with any understanding of this matter would appreciate that a ban on the export of meat would have no effect whatsoever on the price of meat and that the only result that such action could achieve would be to set back beef production to a stage from which, in the long term, this section of the industry might never recover.

A lot has been said in regard to Australia's international relations. I referred to this matter when speaking on the motion of no confidence moved by the Opposition against the Government last week. Several points have already been made on this subject. I feel that unfortunately, because of the irresponsible statements which were made not merely by members of Parliament but by Ministers who hold responsible positions, we have lost a tremendous amount of ground which the previous Government held in its international relations. The statements made were of no advantage to the situation in which Australia finds herself on the international scene. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has learnt something from his recent visit overseas. It is easy to make within the domestic scene pronouncements covering a certain sphere but when you go out into the international sphere you find that the statements which you have made will not be so easy to put into practice. I believe that in his latest visit overseas the Prime Minister learnt a lesson.

I have said in this House before that I do not always agree with decisions of the United States but let us face the fact that this country certainly needs the United States more thanthe United States needs Australia. Whilst I do not agree with everything that the United States has done I believe that we have to admit that the Western World - I do not like using that phrase but perhaps it covers the ground - owes a tremendous amount to the United States for the burden it has accepted as far as economic assistance and assistance in other respects is concerned since the close of the Second World War. To my mind we should have some appreciation of the contribution which has been made by the United States. I was always amazed at the criticism levelled at the previous Government by honourable members opposite when they were on the Opposition benches. They used to say that we were slavishly following United States policy. There is one thing that I think we on this side can say and that is that certainly when the previous Government was in office it did not follow the United States so slavishly and without question as this Government has followed communist China, the communist section in Vietnam and apparently other communist and left wing orientated countries. There has been a subservience to communist China by this present Government far beyond anything which the previous Government might have done in relation to the United States. I hope that this will not continue. I look forward to this Government, having learnt a lesson and with a full appreciation of its responsibility in the international field, enhancing the prestige that Australia gained under the previous Government.

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