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Tuesday, 23 October 1973
Page: 2484

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister for Labour will come to order and the right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Ample opportunity will be provided to both sides to debate the motion before the Chair. I ask for complete silence. I call the right honourable Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SNEDDEN - Then there , is the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and his misshapen national health scheme. He has fathered a funding proposal but there is little indication of when he is going to deliver it. We do not know what is proposed. We do know that the direct contribution that very many people, particularly the working wives in the Australian community, will be asked to pay will be an increased contribution. With inflation at the rate it is today, it is no wonder that there are many working wives. We also know that the cost to the taxpayer will grow very significantly. The health scheme has been chopped and changed to the point where nobody can be certain just how bad it is going to be. The Green Paper which the Minister proposes to produce will be merely a passing reference. The Minister persists in telling us what the scheme will not do rather than what the scheme will do. He has succeeded in having a first-class row with the medical profession, although not over fees because his own tribunal upheld the fees claim. The medical profession does not accept the imposition which he intends to heap on it. With the background of a governmentmedical profession confrontation, how can a health scheme work? This is compounded by the fact that the private hospitals threaten to close if the scheme is put into effect. The patient - nobody else - will suffer.

In the field of education the Government has made a completely unrealistic and discriminatory decision. The Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) achieved a confrontation with State education authorities as soon as he came into office, and then by refusing the per capita grants to the children in the private schools he broke a promise made by the Prime Minister, by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) and by himself. This should not happen. Children at school - at whatever school they attend - should have a per capita grant. That is the policy that we on this side of the House have.

Both foreign policy and defence have become matters of controversy since 2 December. We are no longer understood by our friends and allies, and we are treated with suspicion. Diplomacy is a 2-way process. Friends are not won or attained by unilateral jingoistic proclamations. Obviously independence of action is essential to the foreign policy of any country, but that cannot be the independence of the rogue elephant. We have pointed out in this House the inconsistencies of the Labor Party's foreign policy - how it has insulted the Americans, the British and the Singaporeans, and confused the Japanese, the Indonesians and the Filipinos and created apprehension and fear in Papua New Guinea. Even New Zealand has disagreed totally with the policy of this Government to withdraw unilaterally from the Five-Power Agreement even though it pretends, by words, that it will continue with it.

Then we had the most extraordinary situation of eight of the Prime Minister's Cabinet Ministers and 36 other members of the Labor Caucus sending a telegram to the Chilean Ambassador in Australia referring to the new Chilean Government as illegal and indicating that they would undertake to help the Chilean people to regain their freedom. The Prime Minister should make it clear that those 8 Cabinet Ministers and 36 other Labor members have withdrawn what they said in the telegram or else there is no meaning in the Prime Minister's announcement of recognition of the Chilean regime.

So the confusion grows. At least the Prime Minister has decided to abandon the task of the foreign affairs portfolio. We might hope that somebody else will do a better job, but with the ineptitude of and continual interference by other Ministers in the job of administering foreign affairs, it seems a rather forlorn hope. After all, the Minister for Overseas Trade is still available to lend a helping hand in foreign affairs. Do honourable members remember when the Prime Minister said: From now on there will be only one voice in foreign affairs'? The Minister for Overseas Trade, stripped of his responsibilities in respect of secondary industry for the favoured Mr Enderby, will now have more time to concentrate on helping Senator Willesee with his foreign affairs efforts.

I turn now to defence and the hapless Deputy Prime Minister. In no field has the Government misled the Australian people to the extent it has in defence. It has cut back defence spending and manpower in our defence industry contrary to the wishes of the Australian people. To make promises and plans for national welfare and growth while neglecting national security is an absurdity. Last year the Labor Party promised to spend 3.5 per cent of the gross national product on defence. This would have meant an expenditure this year of more than $l,600m. In fact, in the first Budget brought down by the Treasurer, the Minister for Defence succeeded in achieving an expenditure appropriation of only $ 1,266m. This is a clear, straight breaking of a promise. In fact, by the end of the year the expenditure will probably amount to only 2.6 per cent of the gross national product, a drop of almost a full 1 per cent below that promise. At the same time units and sections of the armed forces are being dismantled by stealth, without public announcements and with false assertions that the morale of our forces has not been seriously weakened while officer resignations soar. The Minister for Defence will not answer questions on these matters. He has become incompetent to the amusement of the Opposition. His- incompetence is manifest. Last week he stood at the dispatch box to answer a question. He felt pleased with himself because he had a written statement but he misread it to the extent of including as Latin American countries the United States of America, Canada and several European countries. Because we laughed we were called larrikins. There was no larrikinism about it; it was our sheer amusement at the incompetence to which the honourable gentleman has sunk. However I am glad to say that his mistake has been corrected in Hansard. This is typical of the way this Government works - blunders followed by cosmetic patching.

I turn now to the Government's handling of the economy. In the December quarter of 1972 the previous Government had managed to reduce the rate of inflation to an annual rate of less than 5 per cent. During the whole of 1972 prices had risen by only 4.5 per cent. In just over 10 months of office this Government has managed to treble the rate of inflation in Australia. It is now at the rate of 14 per cent a year and the Treasurer expects the December quarter to be as high. Not only are costs out of control but also runaway demand inflation has arrived. It is being reflected in widespread shortages throughout the economy. Industry cannot get labour which is adding to wage pressures. Companies cannot obtain raw materials in the quantities they require, steel and aluminium are in short supply and the building industry is facing material shortages. The figures released for August by the Commonwealth Statistician show up this trend in regard to production. The Government knew all about it. It was warned of it by the Reserve Bank and by the Treasury. But the Treasurer did nothing about it in his Budget. Either the Government deliberately wants to deflate the private sector and sponsor the public sector In accordance with its socialist ideals or it does not understand. The tragedy is that both of these factors are true.

The Government continues with rampant spending. If it had bothered to take note of reports, it would have known what it was in for. Only the other day, the Prime Minister's economic adviser, Dr Coombs, told .the National Press Club that the members of the community had to pay for the Government's budgetary measures. He said that they could pay either through taxes or through inflation. Dr Coombs suggested higher tax rates. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister last year assured the country that the rates of taxation need not be increased at any level to implement the Government's program and despite his assurances that taxes were already high enough, he has now refused to give the Parliament an assurance that tax rates will not be raised. We all know that the promise not to increase tax rates was broken in the Budget. This Government is a cynical government as well as an incompetent government.

The Prime Minister has been assisted by the Minister for Overseas Trade. He claims that spending by private companies is no less iiflationary than spending by government. That is a completely inaccurate view. If a private company spends money it must get it out of shareholders' funds or borrowed funds. A dollar spent by a private company is a dollar less spent somewhere else. But if the government goes on spending and creates a deficit in the Budget to finance it, it is creating inflation. We are now paying the cost of such actions. There are a number of matters which should be dealt with. Time does not permit this because the Prime Minister has indicated that he wishes to leave the House by 12 noon and I wish to accommodate him in this regard as a matter of courtesy. However, some things really must be said because it is in the interests of the Australian people to do it.

There is the claim that all our inflation is imported. Have honourable members heard this rubbish and nonsense? But Dr Coombs - yes, the same Dr Coombs - has pointed out that the failure of the revaluations of the Australian dollar to stem inflation makes it difficult to argue that imported inflation is the major cause of our problems in Australia. Dr Coombs' view is also supported by the facts. The argument that inflation is imported implies that the volume of money has been increase by the acquisition of foreign exchange and gold. But an examination of the latest Reserve Bank Statistical Bulletin shows the opposite to be the case. In the first 9 months of 1973 the volume of money increased by 13 per cent. Yet, in the same period, the value of gold and foreign exchange holdings of the Reserve Bank fell by $73 8m. The imported inflation hypothesis simply does not stand up as an adequate excuse for the Government's complete failure to deal with inflation.

High rates of inflation overseas did not prevent the Liberal-Country Party Government from achieving a rate of inflation low enough to be the envy of almost every other industrial country. The Labor Party - the low interest Party - has forced the interest rate on long term bonds from 6 per cent to 8i per cent in just 7 months. With its advisers predicting a higher-inflationary situation in 1974 unless urgent measures are taken, the Government has chosen to place all of the burden on the people of Australia and on private businesses through the monetary policy of interest rates. The probability is that the process which raised the bond rate to Si per cent, overdraft rates to 9i per cent and home loans by 1 per cent - if one can get them - will continue. It has not ended yet. Money will become even scarcer and dearer, adding to the costs and the personal burden of the people of Australia. The Government should be condemned for its economic policies. At a time when Australia is concerned with the problem of inflation it has brought down an expansionary Budget, it has supported excessive wage claims, it has supported claims for a 35-hour week and the Minister for Minerals and Energy is in the process of committing the Government to further enormous expenditures, without consulting the Cabinet and without any indication of any feasibility or cost-benefit studies having been made. The country cannot afford this type of economic management for much longer.

I now come to the Labor Party's attempt at a dirty tricks campaign. The current campaign is born of electoral fear and has 2 elements which have been linked together - first, built a fear of the bogy of the multi-national corporation and then allege that money is pouring into the free enterprise parties' coffers. This campaign has all the subtlety of a Saturday night stoush at the Trades Hall, and the allegation of a Sim fund from foreign interests reflects those are the sorts of people who are running it. The mentality of the men who have been entrusted with the odious task of pursuing it, even if it is a puerile role for them. The allegation of a $lm fund is false. It was to be expected. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour have this magnificent obsession about multi-national corporations. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and Labor's Minister for electoral survival - the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) - have joined in the conspiracy.

It is a time honoured political stratagem for a government, when in trouble, to blame foreign interests for all its troubles. History is full of these idiotic appeals to nationalism. It is one of the basest political motives to whip up a xenophobia when the government itself is to blame for the economic situation, the confusion, the industrial chaos, the foreign affairs shambles, the defence backtracking and the administrative inability. It is as old as history itself to do that. The multitude of precedents does not make it any more valid; indeed, the multitude of precedents shows that a government which whips up this sort of thing fails and is thrown out of office. Under our democratic system, fortunately, it will be done peacefully. But there is no merit in the Government propagating these false claims in order to hide its own inadequacies. This invention and the new inventions which have yet to be trotted out today - I can guarantee that new inventions will be trotted out today - are all part of the same dirty tricks campaign. The dirty tricks will become bigger and bigger lies as the Labor Party's performance in government worsens, for it will have greater need to protect its flanks.

Multi-national corporations do operate in this country and in every other country. Was it the multi-national corporations that put the Wilson Government out of office in Britain?

Mr Cohen - Yes.

Mr SNEDDEN - It was! Now we know the absurdity and stupidity of the claim. Not only do honourable members opposite allege it in relation to us but also they allege it in relation to the Conservative Party and say that it was the multi-national corporations that put the decrepit Wilson Government out of office. Does this Government deny that multi-national corporations will continue to operate in Australia? If it denies that they will continue to operate, let it say so now. (Extension of time granted.) Multi-national corporations do operate in this country and will continue to operate in this country. If the Government denies that, let it say so now. If it does not deny it, as it will not, let it stop slandering the multi-national corporations in Australia.

Mr Mathews - You send back the next cheque.

Mr SNEDDEN - With the change of government, the multi-nationals and other foreign investors will not be continuously slandered. The honourable member for Casey spent his time learning his dirty tricks from the Prime Minister as his private secretary. The honourable gentleman knows that by a fluke he won Casey last time. On this occasion it is surprising to see a man who normally is well behaved get involved in the conspiracy of these dirty tricks.

Last year the Prime Minister was claiming that he was receiving great support from business. This year he cannot get even a bob. This year the only donations will be donations by the trade unions, and we know, that the trade unions put conditions on the Labor Party when they give donations to it. The allegation made by the Minister for Immigration was disgraceful. There is not a skerrick of truth in it. It does the Government no credit to continue to make these false allegations. All it does is make clear that the Government knows how much trouble it is in. Will the Government come into this House and make a statement about what it will do to tackle inflation? Not a bit of it. Ask questions of any of the Ministers and they avoid answering what they will do about inflation. Get a Dorothy Dix question about this dirty trick campaign and they are lyrical about it. They know the untruth of it. Any man on the Government side who insists on perpetuating this untruth, this falsehood, this base lie, deserves to be known as a liar.

We would change the method of approach to foreign investment in this country. We recognise that foreign investment will help Australia to grow. We realise that it will bring greater standards of living to the Australian people. We will not slander it; we will welcome it. But what we will do is state the grounds and conditions upon which it can operate in Australia. That will be done in the interests of the Australian people. We will not conduct it on the basis of slander, we will not conduct it on the basis of refusing to state the rules. The tragedy is that it is not that the Ministers refuse to state the rules, they just do not know the rules. They do not ' have the intellectual capacity to write them down.

This Government is a complete nothing. It is a group of mediocrity which has failed the Australian people. No government in such a short time has polarised the community with so much confusion, uncertainty and doubt. No government in over 40 years has failed so miserably. The Australian people are fed up with this Government. The Australian people are afraid of where this Government is going to take them. The Australian people want the Government out. The Australian people would welcome an election on 8 December along with the referendum proposals, and the Opposition parties would likewise welcome it. If honourable members on the Government side had any decency they would vote for this motion of no confidence because they know that, while they temporarily have a majority in this House, if we were counting the votes of the people instead of the votes of the members of the Labor Party Caucus to the last inch the majority of the votes would be for this coalition of the Liberal Party and the Country Party. The Government lacks the confidence of the Australian people and it ought to lack the confidence of the Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is the motion seconded?

Mr Anthony - I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

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