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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 814

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - May I take the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory to task on something which he has just said. He could be quite right in saying that the population of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are expanding at 12 per cent per annum, but surely he must know that since his Government came to office on 2 December last the people of the Northern Territory - I do not know about the Australian Capital Territory - are now wondering whether they will stay in the Northern Territory. Under the previous Government, when the Northern Territory developed very substantially, to a great extent under the auspices and guidance of a former Minister, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), they realised what the Northern Territory was all about.

Mr Nixon - I went there more often than the present Minister does.

Mr CALDER - I am sure you did, and you did not just stay overnight at Batchelor and flit up to Darwin and so on. I thought I would point that out because the Minister really does not know what he is talking about. This Budget is a complete and utter disaster for the Northern Territory. The Minister said that the works program is costing $53m. That probably has something to do with the departmental people who have remained behind - they have put up the works program. But the policies that have been introduced by this Government are sadistically designed to ruin completely the Northern Territory - and also anyone who lives in any such place other than some suburb of some city in the south. This is obvious. It is also a disaster for Australia generally and for our defence system. It ignores inflation. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) escapes from every question that is asked of him by saying simply that inflation is not confined to Australia alone. Of course it is not, but he should be doing something about it. This Budget is an inflationary Budget.

To get back to the one-sixth of Australia which I represent and which the Government in its tax-grabbing attack seems to have completely forgotten or Ignored, T would like to point out a few things to the Ministers concerned. If the Minister for the Northern Territory were to go to the Territory now he would find that what is supposed to be and has been heralded by honourable members opposite as a fabulous Budget -the first of the few, I would think - is viciously aimed at the people who live in the part of Australia that I live in. It is aimed at battlers. It is aimed at ordinary people in the streets, no doubt unwittingly, because I am sure the people who compiled it were aiming it at some entirely different section of society. They did not realise that when they slapped an increased tax on fuel and then virtually doubled the increase by removing the equalisation subsidy of 2c a gallon on fuel used in outback places their action would increase the cost of everything that goes into these places, whether in outback Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory. The price of everything will rise to cover the extra 5c tax on petrol used for cartage. Once the fuel reaches these areas, the 2c long distance freight rebate has conveniently been removed.

I would like the Minister to go to places such as Tennant Creek and Katherine and see how he gets on. The people there would string him up, and not without reason. On top of all these things, some unwitting idiot has done away with the 25 per cent long distance freight rebate from the Commonwealth Railways. The Government has produced an inflationary Budget. It has decided to attack inflation. There is a prices controller wandering around the Territory. What can he do in the face of a more than 25 per cent rise in freight charges from the Commonwealth Railways?

Mr Nixon - That is not right, surely. Is that correct?

Mr CALDER - That is correct. Last week I sent the Minister a telegram. The Government's actions are quite incomprehensible.

Mr Nixon - It is sheer discrimination.

Mr CALDER - Yes, that is right. The people who will suffer are not the ones at whom the Government is aiming - the Pitt Street farmers or whatever they are. The ones who will suffer are the men who work in the mines at Peko, Warrego and Frances Creek, to mention a few in my electorate. They will have to pay more than 25 per cent more for their foodstuffs to be brought down the road because this Government is aiming at someone who lives in Sydney. I do not know what the Government really thinks it is doing. It is quite obvious that the Minister lost his battle. I do not know whether he even fought.

Mr Adermann - He probably never tried.

Mr CALDER - He probably never tried. I do not think he realised what was going on. Overall, the increase in fuel costs in the Northern Territory together with the removal of the Government freight subsidy will amount to $3.5m. I have only taken out some rough figures. The Minister can check them. He will probably find it is twice that amount before it is through. Many people there rely on road transport. Automotive distillate will be taxed. Motor car fuel will be taxed. One cannot escape from the increases because aviation fuel and aviation kerosene will be taxed. People will not be able to obtain anything by air at the normal price. There will be a 10 per cent increase in airport charges. In the Northern Territory, outback Queensland and northern Western Australia every station, town and mine has an airstrip. That is the way they operate. These costs were high even before this attack was made. Living in the outback is very expensive.

I will not mention postal and telephone charges and the extra costs that no doubt will be involved in radio transmission. The Government's actions are completely incomprehensible to me and to everyone else in the Northern Territory and such places. Apart from revaluations, opinions about who runs the mining industry and how competent they are - whether or not they are hillbillies - this Government is tending to destroy the income earning sectors of our commerce. After all, how did we get to the position of being able to afford all these social benefits that have been splashed around and the benefits that will flow to suburbanites out of this Budget? Where did that wealth come from? It came from our primary industries. It came from the mining industry, which after all is a primary industry. It came from the pastoral industry, which certainly is a primary industry.

Now this Government is calling the organisers and the people who run these industries hillbillies. They are being attacked by revaluation. They are being attacked by the disparity between the Australian dollar and the United States dollar. They are being attacked by increased fuel costs and by the slashing of freight rebates. Where does the Government expect to get the money to finance its fabulous schemes? The Government is going to finance them on straight inflation. In the meantime industries such as Peko-Wallsend Ltd in Tennant Creek - a town of some 3,000 or 4,000 people, taking in the whole mining setup - have of their own volition invested approximately $60m in the mulga or the scrub. Yet they are being attacked by this Government.

Mr Katter - It has Australian capital, too.

Mr CALDER - This is an Australian company. A consortium of Ministers has tied up its business to such an extent that its uranium province cannot be worked. The company cannot meet its contracts because no one is saying anything about what is to happen out at its uranium province which is west of Arnhem Land. On top of this, the company, in the face of all the attacks through export controls and revaluations, was financing its exploration and development through the sale of gold. What has happened to that? Half of the company's income will go in gold tax. I imagine that this Budget is supposed to be aimed at assisting the worker - the man who obviously voted this mob into government. These miners and transport men are the ones who will suffer. They will suffer more than the fat cats about whom we have heard so much. The whole thing leaves someone coming from the outback speechless. I invite the city slickers here, with their 4-square-mile or 900- square-mile electorates, to get out in the sticks and see how they are received. Most of them would be strung up if they went there.

I refer again to the 10 per cent tax on airports, aviation gas and fuel. This Government has decided to put out of business the biggest private enterprise in Alice Springs - Connair Pty Ltd. The Government can do this by all means, but 120 or 130 people are involved in this enterprise. They are all technical men. They want to live in Alice Springs and they have done a very good job. But no, it is to be shut down and handed to someone else. Whether those who take it over can run it I do not know.

At Alice Springs airport on any day of the week there is standing room only. There might be two or three jets and a couple of Friendships on the airstrip but there is no room to sit down at the airport. Yet passengers are paying through the nose for this disservice. At Tennant Creek airport there is a Friendship service but no jet service. Yet there is a 10 per cent charge. At Katherine the same thing applies. Katherine has one of the finest airstrips in Australia. It has no jets but it will be charged another 10 per cent just the same. This is ridiculous. By all means charge the people in the cities who have airports like Tullamarine to go through but in the country areas the Government is victimising the people who are living away from the cities, who have been prepared to go to the country and work for Australia. I do not know what the Government wants. Darwin airport is not airconditioned and it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit there today with 88 per cent humidity. Go there, you blokes in your blue suits, and see how you get on. The Minister goes there in a BAC 111 with his staff and sweeps in and out overnight. He does not have to sit around in these places and wait for the Friendship.

Mr Nixon - He does not go there often either.

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