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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 530

Mr THORBURN (Cook) - I support the motion of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and congratulate him on the Budget. I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). For the first time in the past 2 decades a Budget has been introduced that is not designed to woo the voters of particular sections of the community or to provide unfair privileges to other sections of the community but to provide for broad overall national development.

Mr King - What about Parramatta?

Mr THORBURN - I will reply to the honourable member's interjection in a moment. This Budget gives great emphasis to the areas of education, health, social security and welfare, housing and community amenities, culture and recreation, Aboriginal advancement, sport, tourism, aid for States, transport and communications. In fact, it can be said rightly that this Budget has had a less unfavourable reaction from all sections of the community, including the Press, than any Budget introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government.

When one looks back 12 months to the time of the last Budget - to the tremendously depressed conditions and the lack of general confidence in the then Government by all sections of the community - one sees stark contrast indeed to the conditions of general prosperity that exist today. The remarks of one noted economist are relevant. He said: 'Its philosophy is clear. The Government is intent on removing some of the gross injustices in the existing framework of taxes and concessions to industry'. This Budget breaks new ground in the areas of expenditure designed to overcome the tremendous pressures of life in our cities, after years of tedious repetition of Budgets that showed no imagination and no ability to meet the needs of this rapidly changing social environment. It is a matter of getting our priorities in order and I believe that this Budget does just that.

Insufficient publicity has been given to some of the Labor Government's policies particularly in the area of education. The Government has endeavoured to give every Australian the right to a full education, irrespective of social position or family income. If we are to overcome poverty and grave social problems, these are some of the areas where significant impacts must be made. Education is one area which the former Government tried to use to great political advantage by giving particular advantage to some sections of the community. This Government has increased education expenditure in this its first year by $404m, which represents an increase of 92 per cent in expenditure on education. Some reference should be made to the frivolous amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition last evening. His amendment reads:

.   . 'this House expresses disapproval of the Budget because it is economically irresponsible in that:

1.   with inflationary pressures intense it rails to adopt any policy to bring inflation under control;

Inflation is a world wide problem. It is a problem that the Leader of the Opposition, having the wealth of knowledge that he claims to have on this subject, had ample opportunity to do something about when he held the position of Treasurer. In fact, he does make some claim that during the time he was Treasurer inflation was reduced over a period. As I indicated previously, one does not need a very long memory to recall the impoverished conditions of this country under his fiscal policies. The second point in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition reads:

2.   with resources already under strain it applies wrong economic principles by overloading resources further by expansionary public sector spending;

The great bulk of this Government's spending in this Budget in relation to the public sector is related to education, social security and housing. As I indicated previously, this Government intends to spend $404m more on education this year. Of course, the greater amount of expenditure in this area will add no burden to resources. I refer next to housing. Despite what the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) had to say, there is an acute shortage of housing available in Australia today. This Government intends to increase its spending on housing by $41 1m in this year, representing an increase of 324.3 per cent on the spending of the previous Government. Surely the honourable member will concede that these are absolutely priorities, as he has conceded already in relation to social security. The third point made by the Leader of the Opposition in his amendment reads:

3.   it permits the tax burden to accelerate to an unprecedented level;

Mr Speaker,you will remember that during the debate last night the Leader of the Opposition made a number of comparisons with the existing tax scales. I think really, this point needs little comment because tax scales were the invention of his Government. If they are unsatisfactory they reflect the general incompetence of the people who introduced them. They are the scales that were used over preceding years, and the comparisons used last night by the Leader of the Opposition were as valid last year as they are valid today. The Leader of the Opposition's fourth point reads:

4.   it is a further step in the attack on the federal system of government by Labor which aims to centralise all decisions in Canberra;

The Prime Minister has often been credited with being the greatest centralist in the Australian Parliament. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. He is one of the greatest advocates of regionalisation in Australia today. I do not think anybody could 'argue with the proposition that there are some functions at present being carried out at State level which could better be carried out by a central government or a regional government. Possibly the greatest tragedy of Australian politics was the formation of the States with sovereign rights. What was the stand taken by members of the Opposition parties when the country electorates throughout Australia - those in the Riverina area, the New England area and the Townsville area - wanted new state regions? Where did honourable members opposite stand on that issue? In these areas did they back the people to the hilt and say that it was wrong that the States should have sovereign rights, that the people they represented should have the right to have in their own areas a government which would take some responsibility for the area and which would have some regional association with it? What did honourable members opposite do when the New South Wales Government put up that fictitious referendum on the New England area which involved the whole of Newcastle? What stand did they take in relation to the New South Wales Government's proposal which everybody knew could not succeed because there was little common interest between Newcastle and the other areas?

I might remind honourable members that the very system of government on which this House is patterned provides for no State system of government. In England there is only the local or regional systems and the central government. Possibly it is time, after a century of Federal government in Australia, that we should look at the whole of the arrangements of the States system and see whether there are not better ways of arranging the community of interest between areas. Where was the present Opposition last year when local government throughout Australia asked the . various political parties to declare themselves on the Constitutional Convention? Where was the Liberal Party? Where was the Country Party? They were not supporting the local government bodies in their areas; there was not one statement from them of full support. Only the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister, gave a direct undertaking that he would not participate in any constitutional convention unless local government were represented in its own right.

Mr Lloyd - What rot.

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