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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 568

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I rise in this debate to discuss both matters which are covered by this Bill. I compliment the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) for raising the point about education. Sex education is one of the important factors to be considered. This Bill is one legislative measure which can be taken by this House to ensure that women are not discriminated against in our society when it comes to the purchase of contraceptives. The whole principle of imposing a sales tax, as I understand it, is that it is a revenue producing measure and it is also used to assist in preventing the purchase of luxury items. I think we have come far from the day when in our society we considered contraceptives and their use as a luxury. They are very important. As a former school teacher I believe that this country ought to be doing a great deal more than it is at the moment in educating young people and in this respect I support the remarks made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb).

It seems quite ridiculous that we expect people in our society to act with a proper respect towards one another when we do not give them the education that is necessary. Moral education does not just mean preventing people from stealing, cheating and murdering; it means educating the whole personality. How can we educate the whole personality, how can we make sure that our people are properly educated if we do not consider something so important and so basic as sex education? This does not need to be done in an underhand way, as it is often done now. It does not need to be ancillary to the rest of our education. What we should be thinking about is giving children a fully rounded education.

Mr Duthie - And in the home first.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I agree with the honourable member for Wilmot that this education should be given in the home first. In this respect it is most important that parents be given the right sort of education and encouragement so that they can pass their knowledge on to their children. I think most honourable members will agree with me that it is not easy for parents to give their own children a fully rounded sex education. This is something very important and basic to us. Most people have a certain degree of reserve where this subject is concerned. One of the things we must consider and one of the things that this Government can do through its education policy is to use the Commonwealth Department of Education to give a lead to the States, to provide the finance and the facilities to give children and parents a fully rounded sex education.

I was interested to hear some of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). He seemed to indicate that zero population growth, when related to Australia, should be considered as a separate matter. I do not believe that is the case. I believe that when we consider zero population growth we are considering a world problem. The population of the world has increased enormously since the Industrial Revolution and since medical science has managed to control diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis which once wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. Even such illnesses as pneumonia have been almost completely controlled, particularly when contracted by younger people. Because of the controls of medical science we have reached the stage where even comparatively small modern families contribute to a very rapid growth in the world's population.

I do not think I am speaking like a latter day Malthus when I say that unless we control our population, the world's resources will not be adequate. I know there are economists who disagree with that view. Dr Colin Clark of Melbourne has written a number of papers on the subject. When one looks at the figures - it is a matter only of looking at a simple graph - one sees that the world population is increasing at a much faster rate than our ability to provide resources. After all, we do not want to live in a world in the future of 20 or 30 times the present population - that was the figure Dr Clark mentioned the other day - even if it were possible to produce the food that would be required for that sort of population. Living in that sort of a world would be like chooks living in a battery cage. I am not saying this is what the Leader of the Opposition or any other members of the Opposition have suggested, but when we come to consider zero population growth I think it is quite futile and useless to consider it merely as a question of what we are going to do in this country. We are part of the world. What we do in this country contributes significantly to what goes on overseas. When the honourable member for La Trobe mentioned this fact I considered that he was quite correct.

The Leader of the Opposition raised the question of child care centres. The previous Government did not do nearly enough in this field. There is much more to be done. I will be most desperately disappointed if this Government does not do a great deal more about child care centres in the future.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the need for more child care centres and the remarks made previously in the debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). Although the previous Government took some useful action in this field, on which it should be complimented, I believe that this Government will do much more. It is pleasing to note that we on this side of the House will be able to count on the support of the Opposition. I believe that this matter is one in which the Parliament as a whole can make a real contribution to the welfare of the Australian people. It is important that, in considering child care centres, we think of them as providing a service not only to those women who work but to the whole community. In my mind there is no reason why women who care for children at home should not, on occasions on which it can be justified - that would be on many occasions, I would imagine - leave the children in a properly staffed child care centre so that they can do some shopping, visit an art gallery, go to the pictures or do any of the other things which many women, because they have to care for their children on a 24-hour basis, find it difficult to do. I find completely untenable the argument which was put by the Leader of the Opposition that government action in promoting population control as an unwarranted intrusion into the freedom of the individual. Are we to allow the old and discredited economic concepts of complete freedom to operate in this day in relation to social affairs? If we are, those members of the community who are less competitive in society will suffer. Any decent society would not allow this to happen. Of necessity, some controls and regulations are necessary. When considering controls and regulations, the important factor is to see that basic rights and reasonable freedom of action are not infringed unduly. In short, the matter is one of balance.

In mentioning matters of sex education, 1 did not mention what I believe to be a very important factor, and that is the regard which we should have for one another as individuals. This should be emphasised more than it is. Boys and men should be taught that girls and women are not sex objects to be exploited for their pleasure. Girls and women should be taught that boys and men are not there just to provide them with a succession of escorts. Real consideration for people as human beings, each with his or her contribution to make to society on a free and equal basis and unhindered by past discrimination, should be a basic aim in our society. Of course, population control is not only a matter of providing good sex education and of making contraceptives available at a reasonable price to men and women who wish to use them; it is a matter of quality of life as much as a matter of birth control. It is pleasing to see that the Commonwealth Government is taking decisive steps to improve the quality of life in our cities and to build more pleasant urban areas. Through full and proper co-operation with the States we can build a much more pleasant and satisfying urban environment at no more expense than our present expense.

I believe that the contribution made by this Bill in removing the sales tax from contraceptives, thus making them generally more easily available, will improve the quality of family life. Parents should be assisted with the free choice, which they have in theory, to regulate the size of their family. Family planning clinics should be available much more readily. In the municipality of Diamond Valley, of which I am still a councillor, the Council recently established a family planning clinic. The Council was assisted to a considerable extent by the State Government. The field is one in which I believe further CommonwealthState co-operation is possible and desirable. Family planning clinics should give advice not only on contraceptive techniques but also on the proper spacing of children, how to manage a budget - especially in the case of young parents where the wife can no longer work - and family organisational problems. These clinics should be staffed by people who have wide practical experience, extensive training and a sympathetic and understanding approach. Ideally the staff should be drawn from the community in which the clinic is situated. I believe that the Commonwealth can make a very valuable contribution in this field.

The Leader of the Opposition criticised also an attitude which he believes the Government has to migrants. We on this side of the House welcome migrants. We will do everything we can to see that they are integrated into the Australian community. Successive Liberal-Country Party governments in previous years have a lot to answer for because of the way in which they treated migrants. Far too many children of migrants were given their schooling in areas where facilities and accommodation were inadequate and, in some cases, deplorable. The classic argument was that education was a State responsibility. Previous governments overlooked the responsibility that they had to migrant children. Despite the serious situation which now confronts the Labor Party as a government, I believe that resolute steps should be taken to see that migrant children receive education which is equal to the best, not the worst.

I have been impressed by some of the things that have been said by honourable members opposite. Happily we now live in a society in which this Parliament is not being urged by any of its members to reject the Bill. 1 believe that this is a healthy, sensible and humane attitude. Only if we continue to act in this way when we are confronted with social matter such as this will we be able to assist as well as is desired those people whom we represent. Unwanted pregnancies are the principal factor in abortions. If we are to control the number of abortions we must do everything possible to see that all children are wanted and that all pregnancies are desired. This is the ideal. The matter is a complex one which I do not wish to go into in detail at this time, but 1 believe that the measure to remove the sales tax on contraceptives, as proposed in the Bill, is only one of a wide variety of family support, counselling, education and other social welfare programs which this Parliament should consider and support. We can prevent a great deal of misery and unhappiness if we are prepared to assist people to make the right decisions and if we face up to the difficult and complex questions which we will be called upon to discuss. Closing our eyes to important social and moral questions will not make them go away. Action is required.

I believe that the principle of removing sales tax on both categories of goods mentioned in the Bill is sound. Sales tax is a flat tax and, as such, has no regard to the ability to pay. I believe that we should look at the complete range of sales tax with a view to considering other measures which might be more equitable and efficient. It would be interesting to calculate the cost to the Commonwealth of the actual collection of the tax and to the sellers of the goods in making their individual calculations. I do not know whether information of this sort is available, but I think that it would prove most instructive. Many people have complained to me about the time it takes them to calculate the sales tax on the goods they sell. The cost probably runs into very many millions of dollars. The whole question of equity and rationalisation of taxes should have the early attention of this Parliament.

Previously I mentioned the provisions in the Bill to exempt the payment of sales tax on goods used in the conversion to the metric system of weights and measures. One point I make is that the provisions will reduce the price to the consumer. I think the Government should be congratulated on that. The Bill will have the effect of reducing the cost to manufacturers and others affected by the decision, which has been taken already, to convert to the metric system of weights and measures. One would hope that this cost saving would be passed on to the consumers. Already there are disturbing signs that some people will use the understandable confusion in the minds of many people to make exorbitant and unjustified profits. I have a newspaper cutting from which I wish to quote. It is from the 'Australian' dated 14th August 1972. It states:

Complaints that manufacturers are using the conversion to metric measure packaging to increase prices are being investigated by the South Australian Prices Commissioner. . . .

The article went on to say that he was examining price movements which could occur with changes in container sizes and product weights during the metric conversion. The article continued:

It is not possible to make an exact conversion to the equivalent metric weight of a product, and some products will be a fraction lighter and some a fraction heavier.

But unfortunately there are some people who are blatantly charging the same price and altering the packet size. Of course there is a price control commission in South Australia. It seems to me that the proposed legislation to set up a Commonwealth prices justification tribunal cannot come too quickly. I think that we ought to be addressing our minds to what other measures this Parliament can take to control prices. The House will remember that in 1948 the people of Australia rejected, among other things, a proposal to give the Commonwealth power to control prices. I do not know whether it is possible to consider this matter again, but I think that honourable members ought to consider it because there are so many people who are suffering. I believe that the Australian people would support any move to give the Commonwealth power to regulate prices. I do not see how we can properly control our economy if we do not control all the factors that operate within it.

I notice that my time has just about finished, so I wind off by saying that I believe the Government is to be congratulated for making provision in this Bill to assist consumers by reducing the price of goods by the removal of sales tax on goods which are the subject of metric conversion. I particularly commend not only the steps which are set out in this Bill to remove sales tax from certain goods but also the very quick and decisive action which the first Whitlam Government took in making it clear that tax on contraceptives was to be removed. They are both important measures. One is mainly of economic significance; the other is of economic significance and very wide social significance. I commend both aspects of the Bill to the House.

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