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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 700

Mr WALLIS (Grey) - I think it was rather amazing to hear the speech that was just delivered by the former Prime Minister particularly when we consider the 1971 Budget - a Budget that created massive unemployment in Australia - and the 1972 Budget which was brought down to try to win an election. Firstly, I should like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on the Budget which he presented to this House last week. His is not an easy position. He had to follow 23 years of Liberal Party-Country Party government. To hear honourable members opposite talking tonight and previously, one would think that the question of inflation, as the Treasurer said, started on 2 December 1972. But our memories go back to 1949 and I can clearly remember Sir Robert Menzies promising to put value back into the pound. Following that he was able to fool the Australian people, win the election and we then saw the greatest bout of inflation that Australia has ever seen. We can also cast our minds back to that time when the ordinary worker in industry secured cost of living adjustments to his wages. Although the problem of galloping inflation had been created by the Menzies

Government the only way it could try to stop it was to cut out the worker's, quarterly cost of living adjustments and making him carry the whole burden.

Speaking to the Budget itself, one of the main planks in the Australian Labor Party's platform was education. Following the winning the election on 2 December the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) set up the Interim Schools Commission under Professor Karmel, a well respected and renowned South Australian educationist, and of course he has brought down his report. The provisions contained in the Budget give effect to quite a number of recommendations in that report. Education, which I think for quite some time has been something of a poor relation, has had its allocation increased by 92 per cent to a grant total of $843m. This of course is of particular concern to me since I am, I think, the only South Australian Labor member who lives in a country area. That area takes in the Eyre Peninsula, through which I" travel quite regularly. I always make it my business to visit schools in the area. To say the least, the schools show the neglect of 35 years of Liberal Government in South Australia. Probably the most progessive education Minister in Australia is Mr Hugh Hudson, from South Australia. He has drawn up plans to improve the standard of buildings and the general standard of education in that area. We know that the honourable members on the other side of the chamber are always very free with statements to the effect that the Labor Party does not worry about people in country areas.

Mr Bourchier - You proved it.

Mr WALLIS - Mine is a wheat growing area. I suggest that if honourable members are ever in that area they should have a look at the schools there. One can see the effect of 35 years of Liberal neglect. But steps are now being taken and I hope that with the extra allocation in the Budget that the State Education Department will start to replace some of the old schools. The Department also has some plans but because of lack of finance in the past it has not been able to proceed. With the extra finance we certainly hope that the Department will be able to carry on and provide a decent education, decent buildings and so forth for the children in the more remote areas.

I mentioned that the allocation will now allow the campaign for the provision of better school buildings and so on to be speeded up. In the more expanded areas of Whyalla and Port August - not so much Port Pirie because it has been static for some time - most of the schools are first class. But the rest certainly fall far behind. I would hope that with the extra allocation in the Budget by which the Commonwealth takes over full responsibility for all tertiary education, it will accept responsibility not only for universities but also colleges of advanced education, teachers colleges, technical colleges and so forth. The only technical institute in South Australia outside Adelaide is in Whyalla. Its activities at present are severely restricted to teaching mainly mechanical subjects. We hope that with the extra allocation the Whyalla Institute of Technology can greatly expand its activities, even to the extent of becoming a teachers college. By doing so this area which could be designed a growth centre, will be able to provide services for the tertiary education of many people on the Eyre Peninsula who now, if they want that education, have to move to Adelaide.

The Government also took the opportunity in the Budget of increasing the living allowance payments to a total of $3 2m. We also notice that the amount allocated for technical training - a very important aspect of education - has increased by $10m to a total of $25.6m. We also note that in- the Budget the Treasurer is prepared to make allowances of up to $304 a year for children from low income families. This will certainly give an opportunity to many children who now do not have an opportunity because of the poor economic background of their parents, to take up adecent education and have the advantage of what is available to them. There is an increase of $97m in the 1973-74 year for capital current grants for primary and secondary schools. The appropriation of $2m fo assist in providing facilities for the teaching of migrant children must be a great help to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby).

We have heard a lot of criticism of the Australian Labor Party with respect to its attitude towards those who live in the more remote areas of Australia. I hope that the Country Party, particularly the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who has mentioned this matter on many occasions, will give the Government credit for the provision it has made to assist in the education of isolated children. Not long after taking office, the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) allocated Commonwealth money to provide for the first time for assistance in the education of isolated children. The amount of SI 2m has been allocated in such a way that, depending on the circumstances of a child's parents, a payment of $350 completely free of a means test and a further allowance of S350 subject to a means test may be provided in respect of each child who qualifies for this payment. The honourable member for Maranoa has spoken on this matter in the House on a number of occasions. Not many compliments have come from the Country Party with respect to the actions of the Labor Government and I hope that the honourable member for Maranoa will acknowledge this action which has been taken by the Minister for Education.

The program of this Government is based largely on welfare matters. In this respect, I turn to provisions for health services. Community health centres were given some prominence in the Budget. Initially, an amount of $10m has been allocated to enable a start to be made on community health centres. We certainly hope that in the future we will see spread throughout Australia community health centres of the standard of those which have been opened at Melba and in one other suburb in the Australian Capital Territory. Also, $7. 5m has been provided to set up clinics to handle the problems of drug dependency and alcoholism. This is one extra provision included in the Budget in the he"alth field.

The school dental scheme is fairly well advanced in a couple of States. In the Budget, $7. 9m is provided for the extension of the school dental scheme. The Budget also includes a provision for assistance to those older citizens, who must use hearing aids. At present, a charge of SIO is made for hearing aids for pensioners who bear the cost of the replacement of batteries for those hearing aids. The Budget will wipe out that charge. Pensioners will receive hearing aids and replacement batteries free of charge.

I turn to the field of social services. Generally, pensions are to be increased by $1.50 a week. Mention was made that, in the autumn session of next year, a further increase will be granted. This action is in line with the electoral primise given by the Prime Minister prior to the House of Representatives election in December last. Recently, in answer to a question, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) stated, if it was found that the value of the increase of $1.50 had been eroded by that time, consideration would be given to lifting the level of the increase in autumn above the $1.50 a week that has been promised. I mention also the greatly improved home care program for the aged and increased subsidies to senior citizens' clubs. This provision will assist a few of the towns in my electorate which are now in the process of trying to raise money to provide senior citizens' clubs. The assistance that they will receive from this Budget provision will expedite the whole of that program and will permit these towns and cities to carry out these projects

With respect to social services, I notice in the Budget an allocation to increase the number of regional offices of the Department in remote areas. As a member who represents a pretty vast electorate. I know that a number of the social service problems directed to me come by mail or by telephone. The provision of extra regional offices in at least 2 more of the major towns in my electorate would mean that a more extensive service would be provided to the people who will not feel so remote from these facilities to which they should have access quite easily. I was quite pleased to see the increase granted with respect to handicapped children. That increase is $1.50 a day. This matter is of particular concern to mc as I have a personal involvement with the Mimimooka Mentally Handicapped Children's Hostel in Whyalla. That hostel provides accommodation for retarded children from the Eyre Peninsula area. In the past, that hostel has run into many financial problems. Although it has received assistance from the Commonwealth Government with respect to the provision of the hostel building and it has received SI. 50 a day per child, it has still run into financial difficulties in trying to maintain the hostel and in providing a hostel situated close to a special school. The financial burden has been very great. The announcement that this hostel, Song with others, will receive another Si. 50 a day for each child will certainly give it a boost.

I refer next to repatriation benefits. One of the repatriation provisions now included enables not only ex-servicemen to use the facilities of the Repatriation Department for the provision of artificial limbs and other artificial appliances but also civilians. I know that, at present, repatriation facilities are available for civilians but only at a pretty great cost. A visitor to me in Port Pirie last week showed me a bill which revealed that the cost to him of adjustments, etc., for such an appliance was $680. The fact that these people will be able to make greater use of the facilities of the Repatriation Department will take some of the financial weight off those people who have been unfortunate enough to have lost limbs and who must have those limbs replaced periodically.

I intend to speak at length later, when the relevant Bills are introduced, on the increase in the allocation for Aboriginal advancement. I point out now that the allocation this year is double that which was appropriated last year. Certainly this is money which can be well spent because Aboriginal people in many areas have a need for advancement with respect to welfare, health and education.

When the sitting resumed this evening, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) spoke in the Budget debate. He made mention of the program that he will introduce to assist people to own their own homes. In the Budget, $2 19m is made available to assist the States to provide welfare housing. There is also an increase of 20 per cent in the sum appropriated for defence service homes. Mention is made also of the new proposal by which the Labor Party intends to allow interest on mortgage payments to be tax deductible. I know that honourable members opposite state that this scheme will replace the homes savings grants scheme. At least the Treasurer has given plenty of warning that that scheme will cut out in December 1976. Nobody should be caught by saving for this scheme and then finding out that it has been discontinued because approximately 3i years' notice of the intention of the Government to take this action has been given.

Although the homes savings grant scheme has been a means of assisting a large number of young people to obtain their own homes, it is not without fault. Plenty of anomalies have existed in it, particularly anomalies in relation to the upper limit with respect to the cost of a home beyond which the grant is not payable. I instance the case of one young man who was having his home built. While the home was under construction he decided that he would put in concrete footpaths, a brick barbecue in the backyard and other such items. When the value of the home was assessed, it was found to be $80 greater than the upper limit provided and this factor denied that young man the payment of that grant. I am sure that the provision which the Australian Labor Party intends to introduce to allow interest payments on mortgages to be a tax deduction will be of much more assistance to young couples than the homes savings grant scheme has been. Let us not forget that that scheme was introduced initially purely and simply as an election gimmick in the early 1960s.

The Budget reveals appropriations by the Government for such matters as the arts, recreation and national fitness. One interesting item of which I took note was the amount that was allocated for legal aid purposes. We all know of the problems into which people get themselves. Those who are without means fate the additional problem that they cannot afford a lawyer. I know that it is said that such people can seek legal aid, but legal aid is a pretty complicated business. If one lives in a country area, it is not quite so easy to get legal aid. South Australia has recently introduced a scheme of legal aid. I am glad to see that the Australian Government is now to provide $2m to the States to assist them in the schemes they are operating.

All the matters I have mentioned have been part of the Labor Party's election promises; they are promises that have been kept. I was surprised last night to hear the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the former Minister for Social Services, state that the Labor Party had said that when elected it would wipe out the means test. He used the word 'lies' quite often in his speech. I would say that what he had to say comes under that description. Everybody knows that I campaigned twice on the means test, once in 1969 when I said that the Labor Party would cut out the means test in 6 years and again in 1972 when I said that the means test would be cut out within 3 years. In the interim the means test had been eased by the previous Government. So, what was said by the honourable member for Mackellar last night was not quite true.

I have only a few moments left and I wish to refer to the increase in petrol prices. Being the member for a large electorate I know what effect the increase in the price of petrol will have as I probably use as much petrol as does anybody in this House. I am a bit disappointed about the increase in the petrol prices overall, because it will certainly go right through the economy and will help send prices up, particularly in the more remote areas. I wish to deal also with postal charges. There is no doubt that the provision of telephone services in rural areas is a very costly business. I know that there is quite some discontent over the increased rentals. The telephone directory for my electorate shows that there still are a terrific number of manual exchanges. I think the increase of $8 in rentals for telephones connected to these exchanges is in proportion to, or slightly less than, the increase in many other areas. I know that the Postmaster-General's Department has come in for quite an amount of criticism, but there were a few items in which there were reductions. One of course was the first step on telephone trunk charges which are being reduced from 19c to 15c for a daytime call and 15c to 10c for a night call. The fee for the transfer of a telephone has now been dropped to $30.

In concluding I refer to the position of the brandy grape growers in South Australia. I speak on this matter as a South Australian. I have read of the Premier of South Australia expressing his concern about the increase in excise on brandy and its effect in South Australia. I know that the Treasurer has said that he is prepared to listen to complaints on behalf of this industry and I hope that if he receives any submissions from the South Australian Premier he will give them consideration and see whether some better arrangement can be arrived at. I -had a few other comments to make but I notice my time has expired.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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