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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 594

Mr KING (Wimmera) - In recent times I have been very troubled by the large number of people who are showing concern over inflation- in other words, ever increasing costs. On the latest figures, it is running at something like 13 per cent. The complaints I have received cover a wide range of areas and come from all sorts of people. Farmers are complaining about the cost of machinery, spare parts, freight and fuel as well as the costs to the PostmasterGeneral's Department. Housewives are complaining about the cost of the goods they purchase for the home and also about costs to the Postmaster-General's Department The businessman is complaining likewise and he also complains about the cost to the PostmasterGeneral's Department. Now country newspaper proprietors have raised the question of postal charges on the distribution of their newspapers. Of course this is completely understandable.

The Government has frequently referred to inflation and to how it should he curbed. In the last few days we have heard nothing but what the Government is trying to do, without any real success. I want to know how fair dinkum the Government really is. It appears to me, to my Party, to my colleagues on this side of the House and to a large number of people outside this chamber that it is perhaps not quite so fair dinkum. Tonight I want to raise a few issues which I believe will prove my point. I give as an illustration the case of a wage earner. If he earns extra money he loses it in the long term because of inflation. If his income is $100 a week at the present time he pays something like $17.60 a week in income tax. If his salary is increased by 10 per cent due to inflation he will then pay $21 a week tax. In the theory if his costs go up by 1 per cent as a result of inflation he will not receive his .entitlement to an increase of $10 but $6.60. In other words, if one analyses this one will see that for every 10 per cent increase in inflation the Commonwealth Treasury receives an increase of about 4 per cent in both direct and indirect taxes. I submit that every time there is an increase in costs of one per cent it is only fair and proper that the Treasury should consider reducing some form of taxation by at least an equivalent amount. It would still be way out in front. That is one illustration.

I now want to deal with the PostmasterGeneral's Department because, according to the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen), these costs will rise tremendously in the not too distant future. I take as an illustration an average newspaper. We know that at the present time the cost of it for postage purposes is lie, rising next year to 3c. The following year it will rise to 7c and in 1976 to 11c. I want to know on what grounds can the Government of the day commit future governments as to the fees they will charge? Irrespective of what the Minister for Services and Property has said this evening, somewhere along the line between now and 1976, irrespective of the causes, there will be a general election. I want to know how the present Government can lay down a charge for an incoming government.

I want to refer briefly to a few quotations that I have noted from some of the newpapers circulating within my electorate. They give me a pretty clear indication of where they stand on this issue. I have not the time to quote many but I want to quote two that quickly come to mind. The first appears in the 'Donald Times' of 24 August 1973. It is headed 'A Blast on the Budget'. It says:

On the effect on country newspapers, in particular, of the postage rise on newspapers, -Mr Anthony and others have correctly assessed it as disastrous in many cases. It will indeed mean extinction for some, and hard times for others with the means and determination to hold on.

I will not quote all of the article, but it goes on:

The blow of increased prices will fall on country people particularly, rather than on their city colleagues, who can pick up an unposted newspaper at almost any corner. This postal impost makes another mockery of decentralisation, for it will lead to loss of employment in the country, and removal of many to the cities, to battle with the relevant competition. That the Press Associations will lodge strong protests is predictable, but it may be interesting to discover the reaction of the printing industry unions.

It may also be appropriate to ask whether the Government should take the projected rises to its own Prices Justification Board for examination, not only from the viewpoint of revenue for the Government but also from all aspects of staff performance as already suggested.

I now turn to another article which is taken from the 'Wimmera Mail-Times' editorial of Monday, 27 August. It is headed 'Planned Elimination'. The leading article reads:

We are in the hands of a calamitous government.

What other conclusion can be reached after analysing the latest Budget raid on country people's pockets? . . . Our concern is 3-fold -

The callous discrimination shown against country people who, if they wish to retain their district newspaper, will be forced to pay exorbitant rates.

I might add that over the 3 years these rates will increase by more than 700 per cent. The Government talks about curbing inflation and setting examples. The second concern mentioned in the article is as follows:

The blow against a traditional freedom, expressed through country newspapers which have such a close link with the people they serve.

The third concern is:

The future of small country newspapers.

The article continues:

The proprietor of the 'Donald Times' . . . made it quite clear on Friday that the new rates would force small papers to close.

This tragedy will be repeated in hundreds of Australian country centres.

Country newspapers have been an integral part of communities since the earliest days of settlement. They have reflected the people's hopes and anxieties; they have given readers a medium of expression and exchange which otherwise would be impossible.

In one blow, the cruelty of remote government which obviously cares nothing for those outside city perimeters, has threatened the very existence of a time-honoured institution.

This same government, hell-bent on socialism, is determined to eliminate all small businessmen so that the final bout will be a slugging match between monopoly capital and organised labour.

To clear the way for this encounter, the small man must go. This is obviously the planners' policy. The small businesses will be sacrificed on the altar of socialistic power by men displaying Stalinist ruthlessness. Independence, the livelihood of thousands of families, and quite a bit of old fashioned rugged freedom will be burnt in the process.

The article concludes by saying: 'Democracy died last week. R.I.P.'

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