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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 728

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I am happy to participate in the cognate debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1972-73 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1972-73 which were introduced into the House recently by the Treasurer (Mr Crean). This legislation is designed to enable the Government to carry out its undertakings and its election promises to the people of Australia. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) seeks to appropriate a total of $67,944,000 from the Treasury. Mainly this sum of money is to meet the need for capital works and services for the extra departments and the changed structure of Government departments. The amount for capital works and services is $21,124,000. Included in the total appropriation sought under this Bill is an amount of $15m for a loan to the New South Wales Government for specific budgetary assistance to that State following an undertaking by the previous Government. The provision of $31,820,000 for employment creating purposes will enable the States to proceed with approved projects in accordance with agreements reached with the Commonwealth.

My concern is that the previous Government in its anxiety to reduce unemployment figures prior to the last Federal election on 2nd December stipulated that loan money for unemployment relief was to be used by the States to absorb the largest number of unemployed. My constituents feel that the money is not being wisely spent and I think the same pattern applies in other parts of the country where unemployment is acute and work of an unimportant nature which absorbs the largest number of unemployed is being carried out. I refer to work such as the cleaning out of gutters and reducing the grass and weed menace in the respective shires. Councils in my area, particularly the City of Greater Cessnock Council, feel that if the money is allocated to obtain more capital equipment such as bulldozers and materials used in more effective projects such as sewerage works, road building and the construction of bridges it would be of more benefit to the people in the shires because it is work of a permanent nature. I hope that it is the wish of all honourable members that unemployment relief work should be of a more constructive nature.

Everyone in this Parliament knows that there is an urgent need throughout the country for sewerage facilities. Many parts of the country lack adequate sewerage facilities. I think that the installation of sewerage facilities should be regarded as more important than the clearing out of drains and the removal of weeds or grass. I think that the type of work in which some of the former unemployed were engaged, such as removing weeds and grass, had a somewhat demoralising effect because those engaged in it felt that they were not doing a constructive job of a permanent nature and from which all the community would benefit. I guess that such work would have the same mental effect as if the person concerned were digging post holes and filling them in again. It is not work of a permanent nature. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to make available a substantial amount of money to be spent on capital equipment so that work of a more constructive nature might be carried out throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in my electorate of Hunter. - Admittedly 1 suppose that any government would like to reduce the number of unemployed by engaging the unemployed people on projects which absorb the most labour. I can understand why the previous Government implemented a policy whereby the highest percentage of labour was engaged in work that would have the purpose of reducing the unemployment figures. Any government which does this is committing an act of deception. It would be better to tell the Australian electors as a whole that the Government was engaging the unemployed on a more worthwhile class of work such as the installation of sewerage facilities, road building and bridge construction. I emphasise the need for sewerage facilities in particular.

I was pleased to hear my colleague the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) refer this afternoon to the plight of those unfortunate people in Australia who have to depend on charitable organisations to supply them with kidney machines. I cannot recall any other honourable member on either side of the House raising this matter in which 1 believe the Parliament as a whole should show greater interest. Right near my home in Toronto a very decent type of young Australian boy has been on a kidney machine for 2 years. He has to depend on the local Lions Club to raise sufficient money for the machine. The amount required to instal a kidney machine in his home was correctly quoted by the honourable member for Scullin as $5,000. 1 think that we are imposing too much on worthy organisations such as Lions, Rotary, Apex and similar bodies. When you think that to enable this young Australian lad to live he has had to depend on these service organisations to supply him with a kidney machine there is some reflection on all parliamentarians-

Mr Bury - Mr Speaker, so that all honourable members may hear this important statement 1 invite your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed.)

Mr JAMES - I am grateful to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) for directing attention to the state of the House. He obviously thinks that my submissions to the Parliament are worthy of a larger audience. I think they are too. For the benefit of those honourable members who did not hear what I was saying before attention was drawn to the state of the House I was emphasising to the Parliament the urgent need for it to give greater consideration to making money available to the States to relieve the chronic situation of persons who must use kidney machines. These machines could be made more readily available without the need to impose on worthwhile organisations such as Lions and Apex Clubs and the like, which in recent years have had to go around collecting money to provide kidney machines to relieve worthwhile Australians of the great mental torture in having to travel considerable distances to hospitals to receive kidney machine treatment.

I have not the precise figures but there must be some hundreds of Australians who need such treatment. This is evident from the long wait for a kidney transplant, which, I understand from the honourable member for Scullin, is now approximately 2 years. Earlier today the honourable member for Scullin expressed great concern for and showed a great interest in these unfortunates who have to spend a minimum of 30 hours a week having their blood purified by a kidney machine to enable them to live. I hope that in the future the Government and the Parliament will take a greater interest in this problem and appropriate sufficient money so that kidney machines will be made more readily available to those unfortunate Australians who suffer the kidney ailment which necessitates treatment by a kidney machine.

I make reference also to Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1972-1973 which is before the House at present. The appropriations in this Bill similarly are designed to meet the needs of the pattern of Labor's legislative program of change. The Bill provides an appropriation of $10,850,000 to be allocated to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account to improve the health, education and housing of Aborigines and to make legal representation available to those Aborigines who appear as defendants in courts. For some years Europeans, particularly in New South Wales, have had the benefit in certain circumstances of legal representation being provided by the State Public Defender's Office Which does a good job for those eligible for its aid.

I think the right for Aborigines to have an equal opportunity to avail themselves of the benefits provided by the Public Defender on the same basis as Europeans is long overdue. Of course, I am reminded of the fact that it was a New South Wales Labor government which introduced legal aid for Europeans through the office of the Public Defender in the New South Wales Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice. Some years ago the Australian people by referendum expressed overwhelmingly the view that more should be done for Aborigines. Whilst I admit that the previous Government had shown some endeavour to aid Aborigines, I am joyfully pleased that my Party in Government is making a more determined effort to relieve the plight of Aborigines.

It is not true to say that in recent times nothing has been done. I had the opportunity, with the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) and others, of visiting the Kormilda College in Darwin, which is to be rebuilt. Another college is to be built for Aborigines near Alice Springs. My Government believes that sufficient was not being done by the previous Government and we are endeavouring to meet the needs of Aborigines whose problems are a legacy, one might say, of our great-great-grandfathers. The present generation of Australians has copped the lot, if I may use the vernacular, and has been burdened - and happily so - with the need through taxation to assist financially in meeting the problems of the Aboriginal people.

In the news media recently there has been much talk about the reaction of the people of the southern metropolitan area of Sydney who have expressed indignation at the possibility of an Ampol refinery being built in that region. This matter was raised during question time here today. I feel that I can assure the Parliament that the people of Newcastle and the people of the Hunter Valley region would not express strong resentment at the oil refinery, which is proposed by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and H. C. Sleigh Pty Ltd, being built in the Newcastle area. Despite this Government's efforts, which have been partially successful in reducing the number of unemployed, unemployment is still far too high in the Hunter Valley region and in my electorate. For instance, in the Cessnock Shire about 500 workers are unemployed. Included among this number are 186 senior males, 116 junior males, 66 senior females and 90 junior females. It is my hope and wish that If BHP and H. C. Sleigh, which I understand are carrying out a feasibility study, see fit to implement and bring to fruition the establishment of an oil refinery at Newcastle, attached to that oil refinery will be a coal pilot plant.

The United States of America is becoming concerned at exhausting its natural gas supplies, at the present time, when the development of Australia's natural gas supplies is in its infancy. The oil magnates of the United States are switching their interests to coal with a long term view to developing oil from coal with methods which would reduce pollution to a considerable extent. This process would be a considerable boon to the coal industry in the Hunter Valley, which is becoming redundant through the domination of the export coal industry in the Bowen Basin. Should a coal research pilot plant be attached to the BHP and H. C. Sleigh oil refinery, it might regenerate the coal industry in Newcastle, should such a refinery be established near the port of Newcastle. It would give some assurance to the security of employment of those who are still engaged in the coalmining industry in the rich Hunter Valley area.

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