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Wednesday, 12 September 1973
Page: 872

Mr OLLEY (Hume) - I support the Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) on 24 August. It is the first Budget introduced by a Labor Government for 24 years. We on this side of the House are not ashamed that it reflects the changes in approach to national problems promoted by the Australian Labor Party and endorsed by the Australian electorate last December. I reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as rather shallow, an expression of the past policies of the former Government and a misrepresentation of the present Government's policies. We have just heard the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) say that if one could find a fault with the present Government it is that it has tried to do everything. Rather than talk about policies as he said he would do he went on to speak about personalities and to complain that certain things had not been done, lt did not seem to line up with his idea of what the one fault might have been.

The policies of the present Government have been quite positive. There have been significant changes in government attitudes. The most significant change from the pattern of past years is that the Budget is not the one document in the year which purports to determine the direction of the Government's policies and actions. Rather it is part of the continuing process of government and brings together the actions and initiatives that have been taken and those that are approved. The Budget should be considered in conjunction with the effects of legislation already enacted during the first half of this year. Above all else the Budget indicates a national program of reform and innovation and a dramatic departure from the concept of previous years - the concept displayed in recent Budgets which resulted from considerations of electoral popularity, political expediency and a compromise between the opposed forces of the Liberal Party and the Country Party.

A couple of days ago the honourable members for Calare (Mr England) referred to the initiatives of the Government but he had to preface this by referring to the approaching Parramatta by-election. Apparently the thinking of honourable members opposite is that every action taken by a government must have some ulterior motive. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech on the Budget referred only briefly to the rural sector. He accused the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson), the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) and me of having abandoned our electors. The suggestion was that we should have different policies for different electorates.

Itis interesting that the right honourable gentleman referred to primary producers but did not mention all the other people outside rural industry who are employed in country areas. He did not refer to the factory workers, shop assistants and council employees. All of these people are Australian citizens and are entitled to share equally in the national benefits with their city cousins and people involved in the rural industries. It was very presumptuous of the right honourable gentleman to make that accusation but apparently he is also thinking in terms of the past when members of the Country Party made their submissions and if they did not get what they wanted in the Budget or in other legislation they were regarded as having abandoned their electorates. So they went before their electors and told them what they wished to hear. Very often it was a vastly different story from the story they told in the Parliament.

I remember very well a member of the Country Party who attended a meeting of his constituents and congratulated them on their initiative in organising a protest meeting about the embargo on the export of merino rams. He said: 'I am pleased that you came to me. I agree with you and your opinions will give me added strength to take this matter back to the Parliament.' But what did he and every other member of the Country Party do when returning to the Parliament?. They have 2 voices, one for the Parliament and one for the people. If there has been any abandonment of the electors it has been the Leader of the Opposition who has abandoned the Aus tralian electorate. He holds a responsible position in the Australian Parliament but consistently he has refused to exercise properly the functions of his position. He has resorted to a negative approach to most problems and to cheap attempts to score political points over the Government should the opportunity arise.

The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Budget was bad for country people. I suggest that he should look at the legislation that has been passed by the Government which is beneficial to every section of the Australian community. I refer to legislation with respect to education, for example. We should remember that this Budget almost doubles the amount of money provided for education. Does the right honourable gentleman suggest that country people will not share in the benefits of the increased expenditure on education? I hasten to point out that our approach to this problem is vastly different from the approach of previous governments. We accept that education is a State matter. We do not want to take it over, but the Government has decided in its wisdom to make a financial contribution to education to provide every child with an opportunity for learning to a proper and acceptable standard. To achieve this end assistance to education must be given on the basis of needs and this is our approach.

Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that country people do not share in the benefits of improved social welfare or the benefits flowing from our contributions to housing and health? Does he realise, that the plight of unmarried mothers and deserted wives in country areas as well as in the cities which produced so many personal tragedies under the previous Government's policies has been attended to? As to assistance to rural industry the Budget merely sets out the amounts anticipated to be required, without actually removing any obligation to meet further costs if necessary. Nobody could deny that the financial position of primary industries today is so much better than it was in previous years under the former Government and that it is reasonable to expect a reduced requirement for assistance to those industries. I will give an example. The estimated amount of assistance for wool marketing in 1973-74 is $575,000 compared -with about 34,200,000 in 1972-73; it is about one-seventh of the previous amount.

I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is patently dishonest when he suggests that this

Government has reduced aid to primary industries. For any industry stable and satisfactory prices are better than subsidies paid as a result of ad hoc decisions. Generally speaking, assistance to primary industries has been increased above that given in previous years. I must say that I am disappointed that the Treasurer saw fit to increase country telephone rentals and postage rates on some articles and also to increase the duty on motor fuel. I do not deny that there is logic in the argument that the cost of providing telephone services in country areas is greater than in the cities and that rental charges should be equalised. However, if this is to be done, the least we can do for country people is to alter the charging method for calls by country people so that they can ring up their nearest major centre on a local call charge.

The increase in postal rates will particularly hit country newspapers. Many country readers depend on the post to receive copies of the local rag. We are still in the position where there are some independent papers in country areas, despite the move by the Press barons to take over all means of communication. It will be a pity to see some of these newspapers shut down or sold out because of the additional costs incurred by this Budget. Increased costs for motor fuel will, of course, add to all costs, particularly in country areas where many of the articles consumed by the public are subject to freight charges. I have made representations to the Ministers involved in these matters and I hope that some result will be obtained.

Throughout this debate, members of the Opposition have made repeated references to inflation. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a temporary price-wage freeze. Is it not amusing what the change from government to Opposition has done to members of the Opposition? Their thinking has changed completely. Had the Leader of the Opposition made his suggestion about the price-wage freeze when his Party had the power to do something about it, people may not have thought, as they do now, that it was simply a matter of cheap politics.

Since Robert Menzies won the 1949 election on. among other things, his promise to put value back into the pound the previous Government consistently failed to take any positive action on prices and wages, other than to oppose wage increases as the prime cause of inflation. Yet in his Budget speech this year the Leader of the Opposition once again changed his tune. He put forward the argument that the Labor Party had been putting to the Liberal Party and the Country Party for many years. He used his arithmetical powers to prove that the working man is slipping further behind in his seeking of wage increases to combat the effect of inflation. There is no doubt that one of the factors contributing to inflation in Australia today is the higher prices being received by the primary producer.

How many honourable members opposite are prepared to stand up and say that the farmer is getting more than he should get for his product? This is a cause of inflation. Do honourable members opposite suggest that the producer is receiving too much for his sheep, his beef, his wool or his wheat? Do they suggest, for instance, that the Australian Government has the power to do a great deal about inflation when the major States of Australia - under the control of Liberal-Country Party governments - have consistently refused to exercise any of the powers that they hold on price restraint? Members of the present Opposition not only have failed to take any action on prices but they support, and are supported by, those in the community who have been in a position to raise their prices and profits unjustifiably and who have done so with no real concern for the national problems. Many prices in Australia have been raised unnecessarily specifically to avoid the implications of an investigation by the Prices Justification Tribunal. The task of controlling inflation is next to impossible while the States hold the power of price fixation and refuse to use that power. This Government has made a definite attempt to make some impact on inflation. I believe that if a referendum were put to the people of Australia asking them to give the Australian Government the power of price fixation, it would be carried overwhelmingly.

Within the restrictions placed on any government during its first term of office - one of these restrictions, of course, is the fact that many of the Budget items are pre-determined by actions taken by previous governments - and within the scope allowed by the Constitution of Australia and with the exceptions to which I have just referred and to which I object. I believe that the 1973-74 Budget is sound. It is a Budget which is designed to secure a reallocation of the wealth and resources of Australia so that those people who, for so many years, have been in dire necessity can and will receive a little more of the share of the properity they have helped to create. The Treasurer has done a magnificent job in the presentation of this Budget. It is a Budget which has not only financial implications but also social implications. It is part of a program of innovation and reform which will ultimately benefit the whole of the Australian community. I believe that the document deserves the support of the Parliament.

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