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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 772

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I have quite an affection for the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke), but I do not think he did any better job today than he did recently in Brisbane at a meeting which he attended. Today's 'Courier-Mail' reports as follows:

Question time was a tame affair with the main dissenting voice that of former State Liberal MLA, Mr Ray Smith.

He said he had been disappointed that the 3 Liberals had spent so much time discussing aspects of Federal Labor policies, particularly the national health scheme.

If they were discussing that matter, they should have been giving it a little more advocacy. The article continues:

He said he believed the men should have talked more about local issues.

It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Petrie has not realised the import of this Budget.

I compliment the Treasurer (Mr Crean) because this Budget, together with the recently announced monetary and fiscal measures, will bring about a very necessary transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector. I say that it is a very necessary transfer because the public sector in this country was neglected for 23 years. The private sector was allowed to run on virtually unchecked. All the checks were placed on the public sector. The result was that we had the very serious local problems about which the former State Liberal member of parliament spoke. For example, the amendment moved by the Opposition suggests that public sector spending is inflationary but private sector spending is not. In each case further expenditure is involved. If we are to spend more in one sector because it is absolutely essential in order to meet community needs, obviously we have to spend less in the other sector. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who used to be a Treasurer of this country, should know this.

It is very important that far greater emphasis be given today to the public sector to meet the need for schools, hospitals, local government works, roads and sewerage. Attention should be given to the fact that there are extreme shortages in the building industry and that far too much emphasis is given to commercial building. In a suburb in my own electorate, let alone in the city of Sydney, all space in commercial buildings which went up 3 years ago still has not been let. I know of another building of which one floor has been completed. Less than one-third of it is filled, yet the owner is going ahead with the construction of another 4 floors. This uses up men and resources in a very crucial and important industry which, when it is working correctly, shows that the economy as a whole is working correctly. It has always been said that the building industry is the yardstick of the economy as a whole and there is a great deal of truth in that statement. But when it becomes unbalanced like it is today, when all the resources are going into buildings which are not being used, a transfer of capital must be brought about.

We have spiralling land costs today brought about undoubtedly because everybody is trying to put money into land as a result of the cheap credit which is available and the easy availability of this credit for the purchase of land. I know of one family of 3 people, each member of which is between 25 and 35 years of age, each of whom paid a 10 per cent deposit on a block of land in addition to purchasing a home. If this goes on, naturally it will bring about a shortage of land and a spiralling of land costs. Nobody with any commonsense will suggest that this should be allowed to continue indefinitely. The private sector, as everyone will agree and as the business community certainly knows, has been overheated for some time. For the last 23 years there has been insufficient emphasis upon the public sector with the result that we have these extreme shortages now and are faced with the necessity for the Commonwealth Government to move in to help finance local government. This should not have been necessary, but after 23 years of neglect by the previous Federal Government this Government had to do something in this field. We have very excessive overseas reserves which today - let us be quite frank about it - are quite embarrassing because they have brought about far too much liquidity. There is far too much finance in circulation, once again overheating the economy and certainly bringing about very great problems in respect of land speculation and commercial buildings.

The Leader of the Opposition speaks about price and wage freezes, but he is not being fair dinkum because he knows as well as any other members of this Parliament that the Government has not the power to control prices. We heard of the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin, crying his eyes out about inflation, but he will not take one action to control prices although he has undoubted power to initiate control over prices. We have to look at future needs. No one can say that this Government is doing nothing about inflation. It has moved in to take an active part in controlling it. I sincerely hope that when the Leader of the Opposition and honourable members behind him say that something needs to be done about inflation and that there needs to be price control, they will support the Government if it goes to the people and asks for power to control prices. I hope that the Government, supported by the Opposition, will be able to go to the people of Australia to ask for the power to control prices.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - When we were in power we did not need Federal power to control them.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins - Order! The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - He is provoking us.

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