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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 773

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Other speakers were heard in silence. Now that the honourable member for Griffith has entered the chamber the honourable member on his feet is not being heard in silence. I think there is a lesson to be learnt.

Mr ARMITAGE - He was so agitated that I found him quite incomprehensible, Mr Deputy Speaker. In this country we need many more measures if we are to have any sort of planned economy. The worker, the wage earner and business today want to know where they are going. They want to have some idea of what the future holds. This is true of every section of the community. And let us not kid ourselves, the day has gone when the business community wants a laissez-faire economy such as existed for 23 years under Liberal-Country Party governments. The day has come when the community wants to know where it is going. It wants some idea of what the future holds. If this Government were to take action along these lines - very necessary action if inflation is to be controlled and if we are to have some idea of where the economy is headed - if it said that it would Introduce legislation to control fringe and merchant banking and would introduce legislation to control capital issues, and if it were to put teeth into the restricted trade practices legislation, would Opposition members support the Government or would they once again get up with a bit of calamity howling and squeal about inflation, forgetting that inflation started 3 years ago when they were in government? That is when the growth in inflation commenced.

Honourable members opposite forget that. They squeal about inflation but when they have an opportunity to do something about it by supporting measures which will bring it under control they are the first to run out and scream as hard as they can to the public. Is the Opposition prepared to support at a referendum a reference of powers from the States to the Commonwealth to control prices? Is it prepared to support legislation for the control of fringe and merchant banking to bring it under the same umbrella as the conventional banks? This is a commonsense approach. Is it prepared to support legislation to control capital issues? Is it prepared to support legislation which will put teeth into the restrictive trade practices legislation? That is the issue. Is the Opposition prepared to do anything worth while towards the management of this economy or will it adopt the completely negative approach that it is adopting today?

It is time that a Federal government agency once again entered the field of general hire purchase. It is often forgotten that under the 1949 Commonwealth Bank Act introduced by the Chifley Government the Commonwealth Government was given power to enter the field of hire purchase. In 9 months it grew to be the biggest hire purchase house in Australia, lending on new motor cars at 4 per cent flat and making a tidy profit. One of the first actions of the Menzies Government when it came to power was to introduce legislation to restrict its ability to raise fresh capital. Finally, when that did not work, the Government ordered it out of the business altogether, except in relation to farm machinery and equipment. In other words it was a bit of public competition against the private sector. Are Opposition members prepared to support it or do they want to ensure that there is no competition and to continue the present system? I believe very strongly that the Commonwealth should bring in public competition against the private sector. A little competition of that kind is good for the soul. The advocates opposite of a free enterprise economy and of competition should be the first people to support such a proposal. But the reason they do not, of course, is because of the friends from the industries they protect who finance their parties. Why do honourable members think that the hire purchase companies were given that protection, one of the first pieces of protection given by the incoming Menzies Government?

I think also that it is time that people looked at the question of doctors fees. The day will come when the people will have to be asked whether they think the Commonwealth should have power to control doctors fees. I am concerned, as are many other honourable members, because I have received a few letters recently which obviously indicate that some members of the medical profession - I do not say all members of the medical profession - deliberately, in the privacy of the surgery, are giving misleading information to their patients.

Dr Jenkins - We will just have to picket their surgeries.

Mr ARMITAGE - Yes. As a matter of fact I have replied to each of the letters I have received. Each letter to me states that the proposed health scheme of this Government will remove the freedom of the individual to choose his doctor.

Dr Jenkins - Nonsense.

Mr ARMITAGE - I agree. It is utter and complete rot and nonsense. The scheme to be introduced by this Government will provide, first of all, complete freedom for the individual to choose his or her doctor. It will also provide freedom for the doctor to decide whether he or she wishes to practise in private practice or under the health scheme in public practice. In other words, it will put a little competition into the medical profession. Once again, members of the Opposition should be the strongest advocates of the scheme - those advocates of free enterprise. It will put some competition into the matter. In each case in which I have written in reply to those letters I have given that explanation. I have asked that the people who wrote the letters should reveal who is the doctor or the person giving the misleading information. I say here and now that if I can find the names of those doctors who are giving misleading information of this type to the public, I will nominate in the House each individual doctor. I do not think that that would hurt. Also in regard to doctors fees, I believe that the time will come when the Government should publicise a registered list of doctors who charge the common fee. I believe that those doctors who charge the common fee and those who do not should be identified. I think that the public will make its own choice between them and once again put a little competition in the industry.

This Budget for the first time enters into fields which have never been touched by the Commonwealth before. For a start, it provides finance for the establishment of the Westmead Hospital in the western suburbs of Sydney. An independent report last year estimated that by 1980 there would be a bed shortage of over 2,600 in that area. For years a hospital at Westmead has been promised by the State Government. No funds have been allocated towards it. This Government has now taken the initiative and allocated $4m towards the building of that hospital. It has allocated $5m towards local government in the western suburbs of Sydney. These suburbs have been experiencing very massive growth and this has brought about grave shortages in community needs.

This is a pilot project and I hope shortly to see a task force determining the needs of the area, the priorities and the financing of them. This is the first time ever that the Commonwealth has allocated funds for local government. Also for the first time it has allocated funds for urban transport. It will mean for example that the railway line between Penrith and Parramatta will be quadrupled. There has been chaos on those lines for many years and no action whatsoever was taken by the State Liberal Government to do anything about it. The Commonwealth for the first time has entered this field. It has allocated a further $8m for child care. It has allocated $10m towards pre-school education with the object within 6 years of giving every child who requires pre-school education one year's preschool education.

Another first by the Commonwealth is the provision of funds for the establishment of a land commission for the Commonwealth to acquire, subdivide and develop land. Surely, once again, this will give some competition to the private land developer and help to control the spiralling cost of land. For the first time the Commonwealth has given funds for medical health centres in areas which lack these facilities today. This will be of great benefit in those areas where once again the public sector has been neglected. The latchkey children can expect assistance from the funds allocated for sporting centres, etc., in schools. The centres will be for the use of the whole community. These are very important projects. This is a reallocation of resources from the private sector to the public sector which is long overdue and essential.

I congratulate the Treasurer on his Budget. I believe that together with the monetary and fiscal measures recently introduced it will bring about that very necessary reallocation of resources from the private into the public sector, and that will mean a better way of life for all Australians.

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