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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1655

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) has given us a fair example of the double standard. During the 23 years Ja& previous Government was in office - and the Australian Country Party was part of that Government - nothing was done, at all about price control and no effort was made to institute an investigation into the prices which private enterprise organisations charge. The practice of giving rebates that the honourable gentleman talks about has been going on for years. In many instances the rebates given by oil companies to private purchasers are greater than the rebates that they are prepared to give to their own one-brand service stations. If the honourable gentleman took the trouble to examine the report of the inquiry into the petroleum industry which was carried out some years ago by the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce these facts would be revealed to him. What the honourable gentleman talked about has been going on for a long, long time. 1 think it is fair to say that State governments have constitutional power over price control. The honourable member for Paterson was a former member of the New South Wales Government of which his Party is a coalition member. That Government could institute an inquiry and enforce forms of price control if it so desired. It is open to the Party of which the honourable gentleman is a member to take action in this matter because it has the constitutional power to do so. I am quite sure that the Askin Government will not do a single thing about it. It is far better to complain here.

Mr O'Keefe - It has done something already.

Mr SCHOLES - The New South Wales Government has the constitutional power to take action but, as I have said, I am sure it will not do anything about it. It is easier for members of the Parties which form the New South Wales Government to talk in this place, which does not have the power to take any action, and then to go back to the electorates and say that another government will not do anything about it.

Mr Giles - We learnt that from you.

Mr SCHOLES - 1 say to the honourable member for Angas that I hope that I am never in the situation where I propose a resolution to this House and then vote against it being voted upon. The facts are that repeated requests have been made especially to the Victorian Government to do something about setting up a mechanism for examining prices. These requests have always been refused on the grounds that the government's philosophical point of view is opposed to interference in the free enterprise system. I accept that as the view of the Victorian Government. But it is pointless to complain, for instance, of unions moving outside the established machinery for the price fixing of labour if one is not prepared to participate in schemes to examine the methods of price fixing for the employers of labour. 1 think it is time that State and Federal governments agreed to do something to take up the constitutional void which exists because of the changes which have taken place over more than 70 years since Federation, to ensure that one form of government or the other is able to and will legislate in fields such as price justification. The Commonwealth is almost totally limited in the actions it can take in this field - actions which are akin to blackmailing companies to comply with what the Government says. There are very few legislative means by which the Commonwealth can force a prices policy on companies in general. The States have this power and also with the power an excuse that it is not practical for a State to act in isolation on such matters, although the South Australian Government has done so rather successfully over a number of years.

The honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow) mentioned briefly the position with regard to Commonwealth assistance for school libraries in Victoria. During the last Parliament members of the then Opposition, members of the present Government complained repeatedly that the level of per capita grants given to private schools was at considerable variance with that of grants given to State schools. The then Minister for Education and Science informed the House on a number of occasions that the reason for this variance was that the responsibility rested on the State government to meet part of the cost of providing these libraries. If we accept that, I suggest that it is a cynical exercise for the Victorian Government now to suggest that it will catch up on the backlog in the provision of libraries in state secondary schools out of additional money to be made available for educational purposes by the Commonwealth in the next financial year. A smaller number of schools than should have obtained libraries have them.

Two high schools in my electorate are without libraries. Both of those schools have been promised libraries from the amount of money which has not as yet been spent by the Victorian Government - the only government which has not fully taken up its allocation of funds.

The schools I mention are both in areas where the need for library facilities is extremely great. They are in areas where the parents are in the semi-skilled to unskilled working groups. It is establishable that children from those areas have a greater' need for availability of literature and libraries than would exist in areas where parents have a higher educational background. The culturally under-privileged children have a greater need in this area, yet they are the very people who have not been provided with libraries under the existing State policies. In the next 5 years some of those schools will probably get libraries but in that time at least 4 groups of students will have passed through the schools from Form 1 to matriculation without the benefit of libraries. In many cases those students will have totally lost these educational opportunities. It will not be of any benefit to them to come back and look at a building which should have been constructed 20 years earlier.

I want to take up only one other point. It relates to the availability of housing for rent. The Victorian Government has so far refused to agree to the new Commonwealth-State housing agreement because it contains a provision that 50 per cent of the total funds provided under the agreement be used for rental accommodation and 50 per cent for houses which are to be sold. The Victorian Minister for Housing has said repeatedly that the Victorian Government sells its houses to tenants. There is no evidence of this. In fact, the manner in which the houses are sold is exactly the same as that adopted by A. V. Jennings Industries (Australia) Ltd or any other mass seller of houses. The only difference is that the Victorian Government has set a minimum and maximum income level for persons who can purchase the houses. If a man earns less than a certain income he is denied the right to purchase, and if he earns more than a certain income he also is denied the right to purchase. Persons who are not able to meet the commitments involved in purchasing a house have no access whatever to new Victorian Housing Commission houses. In my electorate not one dwelling has been erected for rental purposes in the last 14 years. In that period one-third of the total number of houses in that area which were then available for rent have been sold without being replaced. So whereas in 1958 there were some 3,500 rental dwellings available to low income earners in Geelong, with the population now some 50,000 greater there are only 2,000 houses available.

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