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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 794

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - We are discussing the first and I trust and believe the last Budget of this Labor Government. It is a national disgrace. It is the blueprint of a Government which is committed to worshipping at the shrine of national irresponsible economic management. It comes at a time of record inflation and does nothing about it, in spite of the iniquitous effects of inflation on all Australians - on the working man, the housewife, the exporter and particularly people with small financial resources. For people on pensions, low incomes and fixed income inflation leads only to economic destruction. The Government claims that it is conducting a war against inflation. It is a phoney war. In this phoney war the Labor Government, in addition to the provisions of the Budget, has allowed an effective series of dollar revaluations which have appreciated the Australian dollar against the United States dollar by more than 20 per cent, thus putting into jeopardy millions of Australians whose economic livelihood depends on the growth and prosperity of our wealth producing industries.

These moves have affected all Australians who depend on the servicing or producing industries for the generation of money to finance the growth on which this country has developed. The steps that this Government has taken through revaluation have particularly affected the farming and mining industries. The Government has also slashed tariffs by 25 per cent thus placing at risk Australia's manufacturing industries the output of which allows for considerable import savings. These industries offer the major scope for employment in this country. Without reference to the Tariff Board the Government has adopted a long term economic strategy for short term and expedient political objectives.

The Government has initiated a rise in interest rates which will discourage investment in Australian development and hamper home buyers seeking homes with funds advanced to them at reasonable interest rates. Costs have been added for every individual in this country who depends on money borrowed in one way or another. The cost structure has been added to and every Australian is faced with difficulties because of the maladministration of our present Labor Government. Yet the principal economic weapon in the Budget will be not to contain inflation but to aggravate it. The rate of inflation on present trends could easily pass 20 per cent before the end of this. year because of the Government's lack of economic expertise.

Immediately before the Treasurer (Mr Crean) introduced the Budget he released a Treasury White Paper that identified the degree to which demand-pull was already becoming a significant factor in the economy. But what did he do about demand-pull? He ignored it. He introduced a Budget designed supposedly to implement the policy program of the Government but which ignored the economic costs which will result. The Treasurer ignored the economic trend of which he spoke and as a consequence the Budget will aggravate that trend. Fuel slugs, increased charges on cigarettes, beer and spirits, increased post office and telephone charges, tax increments - these are the stuff of the Crean Budget. It is all very well to turn to the few areas of benefit but each one has to be studied to see how it will affect the intended recipients.

The Budget has directly lifted the cost of living of all Australians. For the average family man the increased tax slug of the Budget will be at least $3 a week before the end of the year. As with 'No. 96', each day we wonder what the next series will bring. On Sunday last a further revaluation was announced together with a rise in interest rates. What will tomorrow bring forth? Perhaps the share market will collapse again and the hard earned savings of many thousands of Australians who have invested in shares will be further eroded. This is the product of a Labor Government. The Budget and the Government's subsequent economic decisions have already caused the biggest shakeout on Australian stock exchanges for more than 12 years. Make no mistake, it is not the little man who bought in today. It is the big man. The people who are selling their shares are not the little men. The people who are frightened are not the big people, those with a lot of money to spend; not the people who are able to put in their millions and take over shares when prices fall. The people who are hurt by the shakeout that this Government has caused are the men and women who have turned to the stock exchange because of their past faith in the future of this country. How rudely and sadly has that faith been shattered.

For the small investor the shakeout means financial peril and there is no solace in past fluctuations as the Treasurer seeks. Today's movements are his doing. Where does advice not to sell take the small investor? It might give the institutional investor an opportunity to attract a profit but it does not give the small investor a chance to hedge against inflation or to build up his savings. The spending licensed by the Budget has led the Government into further unwise decisions. Government supporters claim that they have a licence to do all manner of things. I wonder where the licence for the Galston airport decision originated? Did they take into account a comparison of costs of the Galston extension with other alternatives that were before them? I doubt it.

The whole tenor of the administration of the present regime is towards the spending of money if the Government believes that some short term political objective can be met. There is no indication that the Government has considered the way in which public funds should be spent or how the little man should be protected. The Budget allows for a massive increase in the Public Service. It allows for an annual growth rate of 10 per cent, if the trend continues, while the national work force will grow only at the rate of 3.3 per cent. Do we honestly need all these extra public servants? Who will pay for them? What of the high cost of the flow-on of salary rises of between 12 per cent and 16 per cent and the extraordinary generous pay and conditions which have been handed to public servants? I refer to furlough, maternity leave, paternity leave, annual leave and the 35-hour week. These are all desirable and we would like to see them, provided that they are related to productivity and there is some way in which the community will benefit, but the old concept of service has gone altogether.

The Budget has set the tone for the socialised Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) espouses and for a build-up in Government sponsored cost pressures which will deny the value of the benefits provided for pensioners, scholars and pedestrians for whom the Budget seems intended. The Government argument that its massive misuse of Government money in many areas of public involvement was well researched by the task force report on continuing expenditure - the Coombs report - is of course false. It is a budget of discrimination. Perhaps the Prime Minister will wind down the window of his new Mercedes and ask for the reaction of a few average Australians who are facing their own battle against the inroads of inflation.

At question time today in reply to a question by me the Prime Minister indicated that the Government does recognise the impact of public sector spending on the inflationary pressures in the community.

It is a pity it does not demonstrate it. What, of course, he intimated today was mat far from the Budget being the conclusion to the economic management of this Government, it is the beginning. It is not the end. In the Coombs report there are something like 141 recommendations of which only a few have yet been tapped. How many more of these are to be implemented? What are the implications for al] those covered by all these successive recommendations contained in the Coombs report? Let it not be forgotten that those recommendations cover areas where there are already quite severe impacts because of changing pressures. For example, one of the areas referred to concerns concessions in postal rates for servicemen. Apparently that is an area which the Coombs task force believes is expendable. There are others. Perhaps the Prime Minister will increase further the tax on pensioners. For the first time in Australia he has introduced a tax on pensioners. Perhaps that is another area into which he can move. Of course the problem is that nothing this Government does can engender confidence in the future. This Budget is intent not on the management of the economy but the so called management of its political short term objectives. It is designed rather to the destruction of the economic environment within which business operates. It is designed rather towards socialisation, which is the fundamental objective of the Government's policy. One wonders just where we go from here The lack of public confidence in national economy management is the hallmark of this Government. It is the hallmark of disgrace.

One of the disturbing aspects of the Labor Government is its chauvinism. Let us consider the actions of the Government in relation to rural people. It has been said in this House that the Budget changes for rural industry affect only Pitt Street farmers. What nonsense! It attacks all sections of the rural community - city dweller, town dweller, 'farmer, big landholder and soldier settler alike. Past LiberalCountry Party governments have given all these people an opportunity to live in an economically strong Australia in spite of disabilities that geography and export opportunity present for them and in spite of problems of seasonal fluctuations and ite swing of the economic pendulum. We in the Country Party share the concern of our colleagues on this side of the House that the strength of these significant producing sectors will be forever eroded by the Government's economic outrages which will remain a scar on the products of the producer's labour. We in the Country Party believe that the equality of opportunity afforded to people in Labor bastions should be afforded to country people. We believe that country people should not be discriminated against any more than their city cousins, whether they be isolated children seeking an education, country women who have to travel long distances to seek medical help, farmers seeking to improve their productivity and thus contributing to national growth, or rural city and town businessmen and wage earners providing necessary goods and services and some offset against the -growth of the major metropolises of Australia. These are all people for whom our past policies have been designed. These are all people against whom this Budget discriminates.

There is one Australia, not two as the Government seeks to delineate in this Budget. The 2 Australias Labor seeks is one a rural Australia, faced with crippling added tax and disincentives to production, and the other a city Australia, with a Pandora's box of promises - a Pandora's box which, I suspect, will have nothing much but hope left by the time they have been disclosed in their full impact. Is that a good thing? The answer is no. Australia needs to grow, and it needs to grow most in the rural areas to offset the problems of the metropolises. We are told of a city policy - a city policy not designed to provide help for all city dwellers but selectively for only a few. Under this Labor Government the added cost of the Budget to rural Australia will be $160m. With inflation it most probably will be $200m in added taxes and loss of assistance by the end of this year. The Budget strikes at every country person, every person in a producing industry and every exporter. In the rural sector there is a recitation of impact in areas which definitely will be disadvantaged in terms of relativity to other areas of the economy - from postal concessions and telecommunication concessions to those who use country newspapers and magazines, from telephone rentals in country areas to the metric variations in postal charges. All these are selected areas picked out by the Treasurer ia order to ensure that the country will find it more difficult to survive.

We hear nonsense of how the changes will perhaps affect some in a beneficial way. Let us consider one matter - rural reconstruction. We are told that this year rural reconstruction will cost $47.2m. This has been related to the 19 per cent increase in Government spending. Of this $47.2m an amount of $18m was already committed in the previous Budget by the previous Government. In other words something like $29m additional is being provided this year. Never before has there been a need to ensure that people in country areas consolidate on the advantages that they have because of good seasons and good marketing conditions abroad. But we hear none of this under a Labor regime.

In his Budget Speech the Treasurer said that from 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976 there will be a meat levy of lc a lb on meat exports. That charge is expected to yield $40m in 1973-74. How constant is the Government in its policy? We heard one nonsensical remark this afternoon by one member opposite suggesting that this Government can be trusted. Immediately prior to dinner the Meat Export Charge Bill was introduced. According to that Bill the charge will be 1.6c a lb on meat and edible offals derived from cattle, including buffalo and calves.- For mixed produce containing beef and offal the charge will be 1.6c a lb. The Government already has revised its Budget but it has told nobody about it. The Treasurer did not mean what he said. On each occasion when we have introduced into this House a Bill concerning another Budget proposal we will hear of another increment which will affect country people? The Government cannot maintain its economic policy week by week. What sort of economic management is this? What sort of discrimination is it against country people?

The fuel excise is to be increased and there will be fuel equalisation discounts. We have heard much of the South Australian wine industry. On 25 May 1972 the honourable member for Riverina, the present Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), said very diabolical things about a wine excise which the previous Government imposed. That excise was designed to produce $12m in a full year. On 25 May 1972 the honourable member for Riverina committed himself to ensure that never again would there be a measure of this sort affecting the wine grape producer. I wonder whether he has looked at the Budget. Perhaps he was not present when the Budget was considered. Perhaps he does not know what it is all about. However the brandy differential and the changes in the value of trading stock of grape producers manufacturing for wine are designed to produce $20m to this Government in a full year, yet when the previous Government proposed an excise to produce $12m the honourable member for Riverina said some terrible things. What utter nonsense! What hypocrisy! But this is the type of economic management for which this Government is responsible.

The Budget has been based on the premise that the rural community can absorb the costs because it has had a good season. No account is taken of droughts or of falling commodity prices. What happens if things go bad on the farms? Can people rely on the Government to help the rural community? Surely not! What of the activities of the Australian Wool Corporation? Last week for the first time the Australian Wool Commission was called on at an auction sale to buy 14 per cent of the wool offered. I wonder for how long the Government will allow the Corporation to continue. I wonder whether it will be prepared to demontrate intestinal fortitude in respect of the future of Australia's major export industry. I doubt it. Will the Government help those farming industries which get into trouble. Do not forget that it is the wealth producing industries, the export industries, that contribue so disproportionately to Australia's growth and to the prospects of a better quality of life for us all.

It is not only the rural industries, all the producing industries, that are affected by the tax changes. The Treasurer has outlined tax changes for the private companies. An expenditure of $100m has been earmarked for a pipeline authority, destroying for private enterprise the opportunity to do its own thing for the advantage of the Australian people. Instead of private investment we are spending taxpayers' money for that purpose. The mining industry has been affected by the removal of tax exemptions for gold mining and mining for prescribed minerals and also by revaluation. These measures are diabolical in their impact.

In my own electorate Woodsreef Mines Ltd is mining for asbestos. It is the only company producing asbestos in Australia. There are over 280 families in the Barraba community, a small country community, dependent on this industry. This Government is driving these people out of business. It could not care less about the unemployment that will be generated there. It has provided no compensation for revaluation. Woodsreef Mines Ltd sells its asbestos on a United States dollar base. There is no alternative price structure in the world. This Government shows no sympathy for them. They are. allowed to wither. They do not matter. They live in the country. Now the Federal Labor Government is arguing for price control. For how long does it want these powers, and in what way? Should it have them when one recalls the litany of economic horrors it has already brought down on all our heads? The Government's increased spending and taxing in the Budget is aggravating recent rises in the cost of living. If it wants to reduce the cost of living why does it not cut back its own charges?

Then there is the deplorable defence vote. It is a national tragedy being acted out by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). To his shame it is on his own initiative and not at the behest of a Treasurer concerned with Government spending. Re-equipment programs have been shovelled aside to the detriment of national security.

This Budget is contemptible and irresponsible. It ranges from taxation of old age pensioners to sociological and economic discrimination against Australians in country areas to promotion of greater inflation and reduction in our defence effort. It is a Budget of destruction, not construction. In the advocacy of Australian nationalism it denies the capacity to assert it. Above all it sets the parameters within which the initiatives of the individual will be contained, and under the guise of public interest Government involvement in every sinew of commercial activity will be progressively extended. I support the amendment and reject the Budget in its entirety.

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