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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3383

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - I rise to address myself to the oft-quoted fallacy that a number of country seats held by the Government are threatened by the Opposition. A report in the New South Wales publication Country Life' on 31 October 1973 suggested that 6 Government-held seats were in such serious danger. I am pleased to say that my seat was one of those included in this extravagant misapprehension. I find myself in good company, of course. The seat held by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) was another threatened by such danger, and others were the seats held by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen), my friend the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) and the honourable member for Hume (Mr Olley).

The facts are that in my own electorate, and I can speak only for my own electorate on this matter, the Opposition spokesmen are acting like demented people. They have no positive proposals to offer the electorate. They are now sketching out in greater detail, especially after last night's performance, an image of petty obstructionism. What member of the electorate is going to ponder on the finer points on which so much time was wasted last night in the face of the reality that an absolute majority existed for the Bill then under consideration? What sort of electoral impact will be made here except one of petty obstructionism? Far more importantly, opposition has been directed at those issues and policies that are of direct benefit to my electorate.

Imagine the embarrassment of Opposition spokesmen as they try to convince the fishermen of the South Coast that opposition to off-shore legislation will be to the benefit of the fishing industry of Eden-Monaro. Imagine the embarrassment of Opposition spokesmen as they try to convince local government that opposition to Australian Government assistance to local government is in the interests of the community at large. Not only does one find that access to the Australian Loan Council is being denied to local government by Opposition spokesmen, but also the whole approach to the Grants Commission is being frustrated by those spokesmen in my electorate. What possible appeal can this have to the electors of Eden-Monaro?

Not only that. Now the Opposition is denying teacher and parent representation on the Schools Commission. What appeal can this possibly have to the parents in my electorate? What appeal can the criticism of the Opposition, particularly of those on my near right as I stand in this House, have when they quite scatchingly condemn me as an academic? Academic - Oh, it is a disgusting thing to be! Yet most of the parents in my electorate devote a great deal of time and energy in order that their children can have the benefit of tertiary education. I note from the comments made by honourable members on the other side of the House exactly what the opinion of the Opposition is on this sort of education. What sort of impression are they creating? It is a wonderful impression as far as Labor members who hold country seats are concerned.

Then we have this incredible atmosphere, which has made the job of the Opposition spokesman that much more difficult in the past few weeks, in relation to the isolated children's grant. Their colleagues in the States felt so deeply about the problem of the education of isolated children that in response to the Australian Government's grant they withdrew State assistance of just on $80. That is indicative of the sort of situation that exists in my electorate. What possible grounds are there for assuming that this electorate is threatened by people with such a negative, anti-social approach to the problems of the community? Not only this, but we find that the Premier of New South Wales, Sir Robert Askin, has been parading recently seeking a mandate from the electorate which consists of opposing the Australian Government. He has come to my electorate with the proposition that he should be voted for because he will resist the Australian Government; he will not co-operate with the Australian Government.

My goodness, if ever there was a need for co-operation between the Australian Government, a State government and local government, it is on the borders of the Australian Capital Territory. To move those borders, as has been suggested by an illustrious Country Party spokesman, is simply to delay the problem. What do the people in Bateman's Bay, who are affected by the expansion of Canberra, think of a suggestion that their problem could be solved by moving the borders of the Australian Capital Territory? What do the people in Cooma and in Goul burn think of this petty solution? They think that this is a typical Country Party answer, one that sees the immediate problem but has no vision for the future.

So this image is being characterised right through the electorate. In addition, the very credibility of those who lead the Country Party is being eroded. Take, for example, the sugar contract. Here one saw a petty, mischievous attempt to try to erode the credibility of a worthy objective for the sugar industry. Once again with wheat sales, a sterling attack was started to be mounted against sales to Egypt, but it has evaporated. Not one question has been asked on the subject in this House. Further, in regard to the meat tax there was a deliberate, mischievous attempt in categorical statements by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) to mislead the meat industry.

Mr Fisher - On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, as one of those who will lose his seat at the next election, allowed to make a campaign speech?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson - Order! No point of order is involved.

Mr WHAN - The Leader of the Country Party has been making categorical statements that the Government is following a certain line of action, and he misled the meat industry into believing what he said, stirring them into a frenzy of hatred for the Government, but the manifestation was not realized. What has happened? The credibility of the man who did that is seriously under examination by the whole rural electorate, reinforced by his attempt to do the same thing in regard to sugar contracts with China and wheat sales to Egypt. The record speaks for itself. There has been a petty attempt to create uncertainty in the minds of the rural electorate by this mischievous, deliberately malicious attempt to discredit the Government.

Then we heard from other members of the Opposition the confident prediction that Col. McArthur, Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board would be sacked by this Government. That prediction never came to fruition. That prediction was confidentially made by a spokesman for the Opposition. The confident statement that the superphosphate bounty would be removed in the Budget was not realised. Then we have the Leader of the Opposition predicting that there will be a depression. His minions in my electorate are rushing around telling people that we should cut Government expenditure. He is telling people that we should cut Government expenditure, that a depression is coming. He is saying this to people whose children could not get work for more than 12 months after they left high school. He is saying this to people who only 18 months ago knew what unemployment was and what it was like to be under a government which did not increase public expenditure when unemployment was rising. Here we have the Leader of the Opposition predicting a depression and a state of unemployment, and then cutting off the solution to the problem. What inconsistency do people in my electorate see in these people who come and parade their arrogance to them?

We have, too, the systematic and visionary approach to agriculture by this Government. We find that the rural community in the electorate is seeing that the basic objective is to give greater security and greater price stability, particularly for those products which largely depend on export markets. I remind honourable members that 95 per cent of our wool is exported, 85 per cent of our wheat is exported and 80 per cent of our sugar is exported. Discussions are being held in these areas in order to establish long term contracts for the sale of products to China and Japan. The discussions are ongoing and they have every prospect of success. We have now contracted to deliver to Egypt one million tons of wheat worth more than $130m f.o.b. This has been done in line with an existing agreement which was entered into by the Australian Wheat Board and signed under the previous Government. The Government is guaranteeing 75 per cent of the risk connected with this delivery. The Government's rural policy is bringing stability to the export of products and it is guaranteeing export markets. What worries honourable members opposite is that this state of affairs will manifest itself before they have an opportunity to destroy the electorate's confidence in the Government. What also worries honourable members opposite is that if they do not succeed in forcing an election by June of next year, they will never occupy the Government benches again.

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