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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 716

Mr JAMES (Hunter) - My speaking time has already been restricted by 5 minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker, due to your probable over-courtesy to the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). (Quorum formed.) I resent the attitude of the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) in calling for a quorum. I have behaved myself in the House tonight. I had already lost 5 or 7 minutes of my speaking time, Mr Deputy Speaker, due to your courtesy in allowing the honourable member for New England to make a personal explanation. Then the honourable member for Lyne, without justification, had to restrict my speaking time further by calling for a quorum. I want briefly to comment on the remarks of a previous speaker, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) who dwelt at some length on the appointment of judges to the High Court. I can quickly give him my opinion as to how judges should be selected. The selection should rotate between the major parties of this Parliament. All judges should retire at 70 years of age, which I believe the law now requires.

The honourable member for Griffith made adverse comment about judges hanging on in their jobs until they are 85 or 87 years of age. It must be a pretty easy job for a man of that age to be able to carry it out. Passing from that point, I also want to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Griffith about the socialist doctrine pursued, he alleges, by the Government. I remind the honourable member that apparently the tendency to socialism is becoming more popular than ever because in today's 'Age' right on the front page is a headline about Toorak of all places - I understand that is one of the silvertail suburbs of Melbourne. The headline reads: Toorak's new mayor is a socialist'. But what the members of the Opposition forget to do, when they applaud the free enterprise society which they have followed diligently for many years, and have got away with, is to bring to notice or to level criticism at the crook companies which from time to time in their free enterprise society are exposed by the daily Press. In today's 'Daily Telegraph' - I hold it up for honourable members to see - on the front page is the headline: 'Government Order to Close 29 of Barton's Companies.' We find in the Sydney 'Daily Mirror' of Thursday, 23 August 1973, the headline: "Nothing to Hide" says Director. "Misjudgments cannot be Called Dishonesty" '. This is the free enterprise society which is applauded so much by members of the Opposition.

This is one of my proudest moments in the 13 years that I have been a member of the House of Representatives, being given the opportunity to speak in support of my Labor Government's first Budget in 23 years that has been a period of peace. It has been much longer than that since the Labor Party was able to introduce a peacetime Budget. This Budget is designed in peace to promote peace, goodwill and harmony among all citizens of our land and to distribute more equally the nation's wealth. I hope that these will always be the fundamental principles of the Australian Labor Party. Let me re-emphasise some of the features that I consider are the most important in the Budget. I regard the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as the most dedicated Treasurer of all times. What should be the top priorities of any progressive and honest government? Firstly, in my view the housing needs of the people should be met adequately. From time to time the present Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has pointed out that when the Labor Government took office there were 93,000 unfilled applications for

Housing Commission homes throughout Australia. Secondly, education is equally as important. Education should be available to all children at minimum or no cost. Thirdly, social welfare should be adequate to enable our physically and mentally retarded, our aged, invalid, sick or widowed people to live in dignity. Fourthly, the health needs of our people ought to be given top priority and be provided for properly. I regard these 4 important subjects to be most important to any nation and as matters upon which any government should be judged by its people.

How has the Whitlam-Crean Labor Administration approached these important issues? In regard to housing, 40 per cent more finance has been provided in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This represents a total of $38. 6m more than was expended last year. Under previous tory governments, there have been more acute housing problems in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory than in any other part of Australia. Deductibility of mortgage interest as promised in the Labor Party's policy speech will have effect from 1 July 1974. The homes savings grants scheme is to be phased out. No one could ever understand it. I remember a time when the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), as Minister for Housing in a previous government, was introducing a Bill to amend the legislation. He admitted frankly in the Parliament at that time that the scheme was so complicated that he did not properly understand it. In my view, the homes savings grants scheme has more strings attached to it than a p parachute More people have failed to qualify for a homes savings grant than ever qualified for one. Those people who have commenced to save for the grant will have time to complete their 3 years of saving and to acquire a home before the scheme goes into oblivion.

As honourable members on the Government side who have spoken previously have pointed out, Labor is to provide over $843m for education during 1973-74. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) pointed out that this represents a 92 per cent increase on the previous years allocation for education. In my view this would be the largest amount appropriated for education in any Budget since Federation. An additional rise will take place in 1973-74 as the programs commencing in 1974 come into effect. My

Government, as it promised in its policy speech, will from 1 January 1974 assume full financial responsibility for tertiary education at universities, colleges of advanced education, State teachers colleges and other approved teachers colleges, including the abolition of fees at all those institutions and technical colleges. The implementation of these proposals will entail additional outlays of $179m in 1973-74.

Our education policies, in my view, are a blueprint for the Australian community and are so long overdue through inadequate legislative measures by previous tory governments which gave inadequate financial aid to the children of the low income groups. Now it will be seen that more of our universities will be able to house more children of the lower income groups. In this field, an awful imbalance existed under toryism in past years. A university education was regarded as too good for the children of the workers or of low income groups. Labor is to correct this tragic imbalance which has existed for far too long.

In the Budget, $7.9m will be provided for the national school dental scheme in 1973-74. This Government will abolish the $10 charged currently on hearing aids and also will make hearing aids from the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratories, and batteries for those hearing aids, free to those unfortunate people with hearing problems who have not been able to afford hearing aids in the past. As the community becomes more aware of our universal health scheme, that scheme will be applauded by an overwhelming number of Australians. It is to operate from 1 July 1974. The sum of $36 lm will be provided to meet the Labor Government's proposals in 1973-74 under the existing scheme. No doubt other countries which can do so eventually will copy our example. We believe in giving priority to preventative health measures over curative health measures. We intend to show greater sympathy to those unfortunate people who fall victim of drugs and alcoholism. We will allocate $7.5m to assist the States to develop communitybased mental health, drug and alcoholism dependency services. Further, $ 1.75m is provided for mental health institutions and $500,000 is appropriated for anti-smoking campaigns. The expenditure on home nursing aid will be uplifted. The milk subsidy for schools is to be modified. The milk subsidy will be paid for the needy but those who do not need that benefit will not receive the Commonwealth subsidy.

I turn to social welfare. An increase of $1.50 a week is provided for age, invalid and widow pensions as promised in our policy speech. This brings the single pension rate to $23 a week and for married couples it will be $40.50 a week. The allowance for dependent children of widows and aged and invalid persons will be raised to $5 a week. These increases will be extended to those in receipt of repatriation and service pensions and those receiving tuberculosis allowances. In the glories of the increases announced, we propose to implement a new benefit of $10 for orphan children whose both parents are deceased.

The first positive step in our assurance to the people that our election promise to abolish the means test in the life of this Parliament has been taken. The first shot has been fired. The means test is to be abolished in respect of all persons 75 years of age who qualify residentially for the age pension. The Labor Government will reduce this age limit in its 3-year term of office to 65 years at which point the means test will be totally abolished. When the people of Australia realise the benefits that will be derived from the minor increases in petrol, cigarette and whisky charges, I feel sure that they will willingly meet the extra costs knowing the good that the amount of money reaped from these impositions will do to the whole of our society.

Debate interrupted.

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