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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 561

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - This will not be the first time that the term '2 nations' has been used in politics, but I believe that it aptly describes this Budget. This is a 2-nations Budget framed as though there are 2 standards of social justice and social equity in this country - one for those who live in the metropolitan cities and one for the one-third of all Australians who live outside the metropolitan cities. It is unjust for 3 main reasons. The first is that it adds to the cost burden of country people. By 'country people' I mean country people in general. Petrol forms an integral part of freight costs confronting them, and freight is added to the cost of most items that country people have to buy. Telephone and postal services are essential to them, but the charges for these services will be increased also. One should remember that in the country there is probably a higher percentage of low wage earners than in the capital cities. A great number of workers in country cities and towns are earning just the basic wage. Approximately one-third of the dairy farmers of Australia, as well as other farmers, are receiving less than the basic wage. Yet they are to be saddled with this added cost burden.

I shall mention some other interesting examples of added burdens. For example, pensioners in country towns will have their telephone rentals increased, in some cases by 100 per cent. The Budget gives notice of the establishment of community health centres which supposedly and hopefully will help people, but so many things that are supposedly for all of Australia never seem to get through to the country cities and towns. One adverse effect that the development of community health centres or medical centres could have is that even fewer general practitioners and medical services could be available in many country communities. Another aspect of the Budget is the increase in regional social service offices. I hope this is not just for the metropolitan areas, because one of the problems in the country areas is the distance of many people from the closest office. I live in a fairly intensely settled rural electorate, but there are people who live 50 and 60 miles from the nearest office, and the people who are the least able to travel and the least able to afford the trunk call that is required to make contact with the social service office are the people who need the advice and the assistance of that office - the widows, the elderly, the invalids and the unemployed.

The second area of injustice is that the much publicised assistance for decentralisation and for local government that would help country areas - the promises were made during the election campaign and since - is nonexistent in this Budget. The Government is to make a loan at 7 per cent for the AlburyWodonga growth complex. Apart from the contradiction of our Treasurer (Mr Crean) being a low interest man, of what use is a loan that has to be repaid? One can quote time after time from statements made by Government supporters when they were in Opposition about the incorrect financing of the Commonwealth in providing loan money rather than grant money to the State's and local government. I agreed with them. But what is the Government doing now? It is providing loan money as its only contribution to decentralisation.

Many local government bodies have been led to believe that the Government will provide them with a new source of revenue through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. However, this money will not be available to local governments for general revenue purposes. It will be available only after all other avenues of revenue have been exhausted and an example of facilities less than the average can be shown. I ask whether any study was made by the Grants Commission of the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney which are to receive $8m in this Budget. I challenge the Government to prove that they are the most deprived regions of Australia and as such should receive or need assistance. Is this assistance to be in the form of grant money or loan money? If it is grant money, why does the Government have 2 standards of justice - one for the industrial suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney and another one for Albury-Wodonga and other complexes? If it is to be loan money the Government will not be helping these regions at all because the greatest burden that both State government and local government have is the repayment of debts and loans. All that this Government will do by providing more loans will be to increase this debt problem.

Transport, is a problem for country people. Where are the great promises of assistance for interstate highway and railway transport that one heard before the election? There is nothing. The Budget outlines assistance only for suburban transport. Many country people are becoming more and more concerned about what will happen to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement when it is renegotiated next year. They are fearful that at the time this Government will reduce the amount of money available for country roads. The problems of transport represent a great cost to country people. Communication charges are another cost, particularly to business people in country cities. What has happened to the lavish promises of many Labor would-be politicians and politicians that trunk call charges would be reduced? What has happened to the election policy statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)? He said:

Our first help for State programs will be to implement, for all States, the recommendation of the Victorian Decentralisation Committee that 'centres nominated for accelerated development be recognised for telephone charging purposes as extensions of the metropolitan area whereby rentals would be equated and calls between these places and the capital charged as for local calls'.

If rentals for telephones in country cities and farms are to be increased, as they have been dramatically, surely justice requires that an extension of the local call charge area should be made because the people in the metropolitan areas can do all their business - I am referring here to the average businessman - at a local call rate. But this is never so in a country area, particularly if one is a businessman.

The third area of injustice in this '2 nations' Budget concerns the primary producer, who has been singled out for special savage attention. If there is any moral in this Budget it is that the electors of Dawson, Riverina, Eden-Monaro, Hume and Wide Bay must realise now how ineffectual their representatives in this Parliament are and that all of their protestations and promises are absolutely useless. We have a very interesting example of this in the Dartmouth situation. I would like to quote an article which concerns the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and which appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of August 1971. The article stated:

An 'anti-irrigation, anti-development' lobby was campaigning for the abandonment of the Colleambally irrigation development in New South Wales, Mr Al Grassby has warned.

Mr Grassby,the Labor MP for Riverina, said the lobby wanted all the water from New South Wales's Blowering Dam used in South Australia.

It also wanted the construction of the $60m Dartmouth Dam in Victoria abandoned, he said.

Well, at last we have the moment of truth. This 'anti-irrigation, anti-development' lobby is none other than the Prime Minister himself. Surprise, surprise! So despite all of this great screaming about people who are not sympathetic to rural needs, we need look no further - and the honourable member for Riverina need look no further - than the man who is right here and out in the centre, the Prime Minister of Australia.

The concessions to primary producers which have been largely wiped out in this Budget encouraged improved farming practices. They also provided some sustenance to farmers during poorer times and have resulted in the great achievement that even today food prices in Australia in terms of a percentage of average weekly income are cheaper than in any other country. It is all very well for someone to say: 'What about the high food prices today?' But what did we hear from these people when lamb and other food products were being given away? I believe that a person can justifiably stand up and say that high food prices should be pegged only if he stood up when prices were at give-away levels and said that these prices were too low and that we had to do something to increase them.

There are some curious situations in the Coombs report and in the Budget on sales tax anomalies. The removal of the exemption from sales tax of fruit juices which is used in soft drink is one. As a result children now have to pay more for soft drinks. People can argue that Coca-cola or some other soft drink might not be much good for children. But I would prefer to see children encouraged to drink soft drinks that some other liquids. The Coombs report and the Budget make no mention of some other curious anomalies. For example, all apple and grape wines are exempted from sale tax but other fruit wines are subject to a 15 per cent sales tax. Here is an area that should have been dealt with by Dr Coombs, if he was fair dinkum.

To put it in another way - and I hoped that the Government would have seen it in this light - if it is fair and just for there to be no sales tax on grape and apple wine, why should other fruit wines be taxed? The pear industry in its move towards diversification would have been considerably assisted in the development of perri, baby chams and pear alcohols generally by the removal of this sales tax. The industry has no hope of developing its market while it has to pay a sales tax of IS per cent when the other industries do not. It would not cost the Government anything because it does not collect money from this source anyway.

One other feature of the Government's Budget is its phony accounting. Firstly I refer to the phoney accounting in assistance to rural industry. According to the Budget Papers assistance to rural industry is up $56m. But if we look a little closer we will see that the accounts for rural industry this year include for the first time transfer payments of $77m between the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Wool Board and the Reserve Bank of Australia. These are transfer payments that are pay-outs on one occasion and pay-backs on another. They have nothing to do with assistance to rural industry in the sense of some grant or concession. So there is S77m less to start with.

Promotion levies are included for the first time in this Budget. Farmers themselves put up the money for these promotion levies, not the Government. The $20m for rural credit that was included in the Budget was put forward by the previous Government in its Budget of 12 months ago, not by this Government. An amount of $47m is to be provided this year for rural reconstruction. But $15m of that was put forward by the previous Government when it was in office. So instead of having an increase of $56m there is a considerable decrease. This ls apart from the fact that the loss of concessions, telephone charges and so on to farmers will amount to at least $150m this year. Apart from the loss of concessions and the phoney accounting rural people, who in the main are deriving higher incomes, will be paying at least 50 per cent more tax because of the double problem of ordinary tax and provisional tax. It is fair enough that country people should pay the same tax of anybody else. But country people will be in for a real shock when they start to fill in their next year's income tax returns. I hope that that shock comes about at the same time as an election.

The phoney accounting continues, as other speakers have pointed out, in education because the true increase is not $404m but $260m. As the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out last week, this is still a welcome lift. I say also that it is a welcome lift. But apart from aspects contained in the Karmel report, basically all the other increased expenditure had also been promised by the previous Government in its policy speech following acceptance of certain reports. If the LiberalCountry Party Government had remained in office I believe that much the same lift in education would have taken place. Once again the problem arises of how much will get through to the country areas. This problem occurs also with special features of social security and health expenditure. It never seems to get through. I hope that in the case of education it will be different.

I deplore the breaking of a pre-election promise by the Prime Minister that existing aid to independent schools would not be' reduced. This was referred to by the honourable member for Wannon last week. If aid is to be provided for non-government schools it can be justified only on a per capita basis. I believe that it can be justified in the sense that it is a per capita saving to the government system and is providing a democratic choice to parents. One of the greatest dangers facing democracy in this country is a centralised and monopolistic education system. The new arrangements following the Karmel report discriminate against parents because there is no correlation between the wealth of a parent and the school that his child attends. There has been no means test of the parents, only of schools. If a needs test is to be applied to grants for independent schools, I believe that it can be justified if it is applied to capital grants only. If there is any difference between a well endowed or so-called elite school and an ordinary non-government school it is in the provision of buildings and other capital facilities, not in the children who attend those schools.

I welcome the announcement by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) that the grant for tourist attractions of an Australian nature introduced by the previous Government will be extended this year. Again I congratulate the Government for this action as it is a most worthwhile venture. But when will some form of special benefit be provided for the parents of handicapped children who cannot send their children away to a special home? When will such a benefit be introduced? I believe that this group of people is now the most financially and socially disadvantaged in our society. I was hopeful that something would be included in the Budget for these people, but it is not. I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will soon introduce a special benefit of that nature.

The Government has not mentioned in the Budget its intentions in respect of donations for voluntary foreign aid organisations. Many people believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Government would make donations to voluntary agencies tax deductible, or matching donations would be made by the Government, or that both would happen. So far the Government has been very quiet on this subject although Budget time is when this sort of change must be stated if anything is to happen. All the supporters of voluntary agencies in Australia giving foreign aid are questioning the bona fides of the Government in this matter.

Another feature of the Budget is the question that must arise regarding centralism and State socialism. After the Budget is there any area in which State governments have unfettered control, including those areas which the Constitution has stated or implied are within the administration of the State governments? Is there anything left in which the Federal Government does not have a finger and cannot tell the States what to do? Why should taxpayers' money be used to build a pipeline? If one believes reports in today's newspapers, the taxpayers' money is to be used even for a car factory for the production of a people's car when it can be built cheaper and the facility run more efficiently by private enterprise at no cost to the taxpayers. The Government could still control the price and the end use of the product by regulation.

I believe that there is a warning to the Government in the Budget. Many people voted for Labor for the first time last December. Many middle class people and pensioners have received a great shock from the Budget. Pensions are barely keeping up with inflation, let alone rising to 25 per cent of the average income. Many pensioners who receive part pensions will probably now be worse off because their pensions will be taxable. The Coombs document, which is very selective in what it singles out for criticism, should be studied particularly by middle class people. They should read what the future holds, what shocks are in store for them next year. For the same group of middle class people personal taxes this year will increase by more than the average increase of 27 per cent.

Good examples were given last night by the Leader of the Opposition. The increase in the price of petrol must also be met. These people turned last December to Labor. When the effect of the Budget is felt I am confident that they will turn again and replace the Government.

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