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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 442

Mr KING (Wimmera) - Firstly, 1 take the opportunity of congratulating you, Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Duthie), on reaching the high office you are holding at this moment. It has taken you some 26 or 27 years but, fully appreciating that you are an old resident of the famous Wimmera area in Victoria, I am sure you have a strong fighting spirit and no doubt that is why you are now occupying the Speaker's chair. I would ask you to pass on my congratulations to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. I think it is proper, too, that at this stage I should congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his election to office, an office that has evaded him for so many years as has government evaded his Party. I would agree with you, Sir, when you spoke during this debate this afternoon and said that you had heard some outstanding speeches from new members. I would refer to some of the new members on this side of the House particularly my closest colleague, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher). A lot of people will hear a lot from him over a lot of years. 1 am sure he will be with us for a long time. I am not decrying - some of the new members on the Government benches. We have heard some good speeches from them but I would offer a small piece of advice to them. I would suggest that in some instances they keep away from the academic line and address themselves more to the practical side of politics, because it is the practical side of politics which keeps them here.

Mr Whan - Is that what keeps you here?

Mr KING - The honourable gentleman seems to be interjecting a lot. He may be one of those honourable members to whom I am referring, but I am not sure. However, we will deal with him at some future time. Most of the older members will agree that it is the aim of most candidates when they stand for election to be elected. Once they get into this place they say that they do not want people to think their election was a fluke so they seek re-election for another term. If re-elected the process continues. They find many inducements to being a member. If a member is in the Government benches he is looking for office; if in Opposition he is seeking some position. Incentive is present.

I challenge some of the statements that have been made by honourable members opposite not only in this House but also prior to the elections. Members of the Government have claimed that they have been given a mandate to do this and that. True, they have a mandate to govern but as my colleague, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), rightly pointed out they have been given only a narrow mandate. How do they know that all the things for which they fought are what the people want? Members on this side have been fighting for different issues and these could be the things the people want. After all, when we examine the numbers in this chamber there is not a great difference between the Government and the Opposition - a total of some 8 or 9 seats. If honourable members examine the final results of a number of seats occupied by members sitting on the Government benches they will find that those members would not now be occupying those seats if there had been a small swing in the votes. So I do not think it is correct to say that the Government has been given a full mandate to go ahead with all the programs with which it would like to proceed. 1 am sure that if a blunt question were, put to the people: Do you believe in socialism? Do you want to socialise the whole of industry? The answer would be no. The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) referred to gimmicks and I am sure he was right on the ball.

I would suggest to those people who did not have the opportunity of listening to this debate late this afternoon that they take a little time to read the Hansard record of it, particularly the address of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) on the question of revaluation and devaluation.

Mr Bryant - Oh!

Mr KING - The Minister is laughing and is interjecting from outside of his seat. He is laughing at this important matter. There are many answers to this question which many members opposite do not seem to appreciate. If I have time and do not answer too many interjections 1 may try to provide the answers. What is worrying me and what is worrying many people is not the question of the Government doing too little but rather its doing too much, too hurriedly and too indecently in some areas. The Government's actions will have a big effect on the economy and on many people throughout the nation. Various Ministers, including the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), have allocated many millions to various projects, including railways, housing, social security and a host of other things. However, they overlook one factor, namely, that one does not simply spend money and expect to see houses pop up or a new railway line appear. One must take into consideration many factors. It is not merely a case of money. One must have the materials and the right sort of labour - specialist labour. Naturally if one does not have all these things one gets an unbalanced situation. Members opposite seem to have forgotten that the first requirement is to secure a balance. That was the aim of the previous Government and I believe that despite all the problem areas it passed through in recent years it was getting on top. That is why we have seen a big fall in the unemployment figures.

Outside the chamber this evening I was talking to some people who referred to a television interview which took place tonight. The persons to whom I refer were certainly unbiased politically. They said that there was no race so far as that argument was concerned and that the former Minister for Labour virtually ate the present Minister for Labour. I think that would be a reasonable result because, after all, the former Minister was working on facts whereas the present Minister was trying to argue that because of decisions and actions by the present Government the employment situation has been eased. Do not let us kid ourselves. The employment position will not be eased by a stroke of the pen. nor can it be expected that any action taken will be effective within a matter of a few days. That suggestion is just not on.

A while ago I was talking about expenditure. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has outlined that the increase in social benefits will cost $126m in a full year. That does not sound much when one says it quickly, but let us consider the position. The Government's policy is to increase the social service benefit every half year. If one projects the figures to the point at which the Government reaches its goal, bearing in mind the proposal to do away with the means test, the cost to the economy will be in the vicinity of an additional $ 1.000m. If that cost is added to the present figure the amount will be almost doubled. Only one group of people will have to answer for this, that is, the taxpayers. I think it will be found that they will tell the Government quite frankly at the next election where they stand on this question. We have almost reached the stage where, in view of what has happened in the last 3 months, taxpayers will be approaching the Government within the next 3 years and asking for a subsidy to help them pay their taxes. That is how silly the position is becoming. If the proposals are not financed in that way, eventually they will have to be paid for through inflation. I can see already a tread towards a rapid increase in inflation. I invite honourable members to consider some of the recent indices which show what has happened in recent weeks. The situation worries me, it worries other members of the Opposition and it worries the people on the streets - many of them. As I have said, at the next election they will certainly let the present Government know their views on the matter.

I regret to see that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has left the chamber. I thought he would have been here for a while. 1 propose to mention some of the things that have been confusing people. In recent weeks the Minister for Immigration has made an untold number of statements. I am becoming sick of opening my mail and finding another 2 or 3 statements on immigration. They are all so confusing. One minute we hear the Minister talking about Australia reducing the intake of migrants, the next minute we find that the Government does not intend to interfere with the present policy, but then we hear that the Minister proposes that young attractive girls and non-Europeans shall be brought in on certain grounds. Where are we going on this issue? One area in which I can agree with the former right honourable member for Melbourne and the present Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) is in their immigration policy. Unfortunately for the welfare of Australia as a whole, the Labor Party does not appear to agree with the Minister for Services and Property in regard to this matter. I certainly agree with him.

Our goal is a homogeneous population. It is for the Government to decide what its future policy will be. But, please, will it tell members of the public where they stand. The Government cannot have a quid each way on this issue, yet that is exactly what the Minister for Immigration is trying to do. I do not know what our immigration policy is. Migrants come to me and ask what the position is. They ask whether they can bring someone into Australia, but I do not know. I am sure that many other people outside this place do not know what the position is. The Minister's latest contribution relates to the admission of New Zealand residents, other than the white population. I have no great argument against this, but, believe me, I would like to see a definite policy laid down in this respect. Does this mean that anyone can migrate to New Zealand and then remigrate to Australia? This seems to be a little like the embargo on the export of merino rams. The Australian Labor Party has been saying that it did not want to export merino rams, yet if any other country wants to buy them it can get them out through New Zealand. This has been the case for 30 years.

Mr McVeigh - Do you have to see Gough to get them out?

Mr KING - That might help. If one were to be on side with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) one might be able to get them out of Australia. I understand that merino rams have been exported from Australia to Ceylon since this Government took office, but not a great deal of mention has been made of this. We know also that it was intended to send some merino rams to Mainland China until some outside force said that this must not be done.

Because the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is at the table I shall raise a matter that concerns him. Much publicity has been given to the question of a Commonwealth grant to the various States for housing. As a Victorian I am, naturally, looking at this from Victoria's point of view to see how much my State will receive. I understand that the allocation to Victoria was to be $1.5m. There has been some disturbance about this. The Minister for Housing in Victoria has said that he does not like the scheme proposed by the Commonwealth Government. I congratulate him for trying to get an improvement in the conditions attaching to the allocation. I believe that he is standing on very firm ground in taking this attitude. The Victorian Minister has said, quite rightly, that the Government of his State has over-ridden his decision and said that it intends to accept the money. Of course it wants the money, but the Victorian Minister is putting up a fight for certain rights. He wishes to retain the principle that individuals have the right to purchase a home.

The Commonwealth Government has stipulated that the funds provided to the States shall be for rental housing only. This is the Government's policy. This is true socialism coming out, very slowly and in a limited sort of way. I congratulate the Victorian Minister for Housing on his stand and I hope that he has some success. At the moment I want to be sure that Victoria will still receive the $1.5m, or whatever the figure may be, but certainly I do not want the funds to be earmarked in such a way that they must be used for rental housing only. The effect of this would be to take away any encouragement to a person to have pride in his own premises. It will create as an attitude: Just spend the money, fellow. There is plenty more to come. Do not worry about it. We can get some more. I repeat my congratulations to the Victorian Minister for Housing for the stand he has taken.

My time is limited and there are many other matters with which I should like to deal. No doubt I shall have plenty of opportunity at some time in the near future to raise those matters. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) made great play of the question of revaluation and devaluation. He, with the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), has said what is tantamount to a statement that the revaluation decisions will have no effect. I agree with some parts of the honourable member's statement, but when it comes to the sale of commodities there must be an effect. They should not try to pull the wool over people's eyes by suggesting that revaluation will have no effect. The leader of the Australian Country Party spelt this out very clearly just before the suspension of the sitting and there is no need for me to repeat what he said. One has only to read his remarks in Hansard to see the real story. When it comes to other exports - that is what concerns me - the first statement I saw was that made by the Minister for Primary Industry who said that Australia's revaluation and the United States' devaluation would have no effect on meat prices. I regret that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is not in the chamber because during this debate he said much the same thing. He said the price of meat is higher today, despite the revaluation and devaluation. I think he included also wheat and wool m his remarks. But it is not a matter of the price being increased as a result of our decision or, as has happened in one instance, through lack of a decision, but rather the reason why the prices have increased. I do not have time to go into detail about that, lt is just crazy to think that 2 variations in currency bringing about an effective appreciation of about 18 per cent in the value of the Australian dollar will not affect our imports. The real reason why the price of meat has increased is to be found in the law of supply and demand. That fact cannot be denied. I do not recall the people who now complain about these prices making any comments 2 or 3 years ago at the height of the drought when graziers were disposing of their stock at give-away prices. There was no comment then. Prices today must be viewed in relation to the present situation. But I do agree with the Minister when he says that revaluation will not have an effect on some of our imports.

I should like the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr Cairns) to indicate any item he likes which has fallen in price as a result of devaluation. I cannot find any imported goods which have been reduced in price since the alteration of the Australian currency. I wish to cite a matter which was brought to my attention in a letter that I received dated 28th February. I have not the authority to mention the author's name or the name of the company mentioned. Briefly, the facts are that the gentleman concerned had ordered a tractor worth $11,000. He calculated that as a result of currency alterations the price reduction on the tractor should have been $1,980. He approached the agents for the tractor and said: 'Are you going to reduce the price of the tractor?' The interesting point is the answer which he received. The dealer's answer was along these lines: There will be no alteration in price because the tractors which we export today have been reduced in value'. I should like Labor members to analyse that answer closely because this is the effect that these currency movements will have. The point is that those who export are not always engaged in importing. A balance is not necessarily achieved in these matters when one man loses and the other man gains.

In conclusion, I warn the people of this great nation that we have had it very good for 23 years. Honourable members on the Government side who are trying to interject do not like to hear these facts. In the not too distant future we will see an inflationary spiral in Australia that we have never seen before. It will result from quick decisions, the implications of which have not been thought out. Sooner or later this country will pay for them. But I have sufficient confidence in the people of this great nation to feel sure that, after they have had a little taste of what true socialism means they will wake up to what they have done and they will change the

Government. It certainly will be time 3 years from now for that change.

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