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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 3699

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - I am very concerned about the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). What he has said this morning is confirmation of a fear that I have held for some time. The honourable gentleman and I have contrived over a long time now - more than 18 years - despite some occasional political differences to form and to maintain a very close, and very warm friendship. Indeed, some years ago the Minister was so moved by the quality of the friendship as to write a poem about me. It was a poem that touched me very deeply. In recent times the Minister seems to be wilting under the strain. I know that the strain of office is a very heavy one and that people react differently to it. This morning the Minister spoke about his constant attention to his work. He even spoke about being troubled by one of his staff coming into his office and interrupting him in his reading and his writing. That is not the usual behaviour pattern of the Minister.

As an illustration of the Minister's deterioration and the basis of my concern, may I remind the House of some of the recent observations made by the Minister. He depicted himself, just a short while ago, as being one of the great statesmen of this day. You will be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that fantasy manifests itself in a great variety of forms. It can take the form of acute Walter Mittyism - the individual who lives in a world of sheer fantasy. That, of course, can plunge on further to what is described as Bonapartism. Instead of dealing with the very serious matter raised this morning by the honourable member for

Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the Minister went into a world of fantasy. I will come back to that.

I am trying to help the Minister diagnose what is really wrong and find out what we can possibly do - all of us - to help him to stand up to the great strain of office. Such is the measure of our affection that we would not like to see the honourable gentleman wilt under the strain. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will have noticed - it was, I regret to say, again shown here this morning - that the Minister has such a desperately well cultivated regard for himself. That had never been the case with the honourable gentleman in the past. He has always had such a massive urbanity - almost a disregard - of his own importance and his own contribution to the national Parliament. Why has he suddenly become, as it were, the prisoner of his own elevated assessments? This does concern me. I speak now as one of close friendship and of intimate standing with him. The honourable gentleman - referring to the matter raised by my friend the honourable member for Mackellar - has not dealt with the subject of the debate. That is unusual and quite unlike the honourable gentleman. Of all the relevant minds I have ever encountered in the past, it has always been the mind of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who is now a Minister of State in Her Majesty's Australian Government, the Minister for Labour, which has most impressed me. Why has this great relevance of mind suddenly deserted him? Alas, the honourable gentleman was not able to grapple with the problem before him this morning. I say to the honourable gentleman that he should try and relax. If he can relax occasionally he will find that the tensions will not be so great and the aggravation of hypertension will probably slough away. I think he needs a rest, but I will come back to that later.

The honourable member for Mackellar, with characteristic academic detachment, said on 16 October that labour's share of gross domestic product has increased since .1948 and 1949. The honourable member for Mackellar expressed himself in such robust language on that occasion that it was found that he had to leave the services of the House for a day - a matter that distressed him no end and, speaking for myself, upset me somewhat. What happened the next day? The Minister came into the House - here, Mr Deputy Speaker, is a further illustration of the deteri oration which has taken place with my honourable friend - and used language which was quite unlike him. He does not normally use any sharp, harsh, pejorative language. He is the gentlest of souls. But what did he say of the honourable member for Mackellar? Referring to an advertisement the honourable member for Mackellar had had published in a newspaper, the Minister said that it was a despicable twisting of statistics. I had never in all of my life heard the honourable gentleman use language like that. I wonder why he did so on that occasion? He went on then to speak of an officer of his Department, Mr Tilling. This is the language that my honourable friend the Minister used:

In 21 of 24 regression equations Mr Tilling found that the share of national product going to labour had declined in the 20 years from 1948-49 to 1969-70.

The honourable gentleman always has been a realist. I wonder why a measure of unrealism now seems to be capturing him. He would not for one moment deny that that was the language he used. It is in Hansard. The honourable gentleman always has been an immaculately truthful person and he would not depart from that stand willingly, consciously or with any measure of intent. That is a further expression of my concern. If Mr Tilling had said that, I imagine it would have been able to be confirmed by reference to Mr Tilling's paper. But Mr Tilling's paper, with very great respect to my dear friend, does not support the Minister. This is what Mr Tilling had to say in his paper:

Recently many trade union leaders have expressed the view-

I punctuate this to observe that the Minister for Labour has occupied significant trade union leadership positions in the past; we all freely acknowledge that, and we join with the honourable gentleman in at least equating our assessment of his own opinion in that field - that labour's share has fallen over the past quarter of a century. They have claimed that despite the increasing organisation and development of the trade union movement and despite the increasing proportion of wage and salary earners in the labour force workers have been receiving a diminishing- proportion of the national cake. This attitude may have had a not insignificant effect on the level of the industrial disputation in recent years. It is hoped that the evidence submitted in this study will enable a better appreciation of the facts on this question.

Mr Kelly - Who said that?

Mr KILLEN - That was said by Mr Tilling. It does not merely puzzle me, it worries me desperately - because my honourable friend the Minister for Labour has always had great command of the language and a love for it. He has always observed, with great scruple, anything any other person has written. Why the change? Why the alteration in the pattern of behaviour? The honourable gentleman must realise that Mr Tilling's paper does not support in any shape or form what my friend has had to say. The last thing I would like to draw to the attention of the House, and of the Minister for Labour, is what his dear colleague the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had to say on 10 October this year and to the remarks made by the honourable gentleman again .this morning. On 10 October this year the Prime Minister said:

.   . it is clear from looking at the statistics for the last 20 years or so that the amount of the gross domestic product represented by wages and salaries has gone down. . . .

The honourable gentleman has offered no evidence to support that contention. The honourable member for Mackellar went to the statistical service of the Parliamentary Library and was given a table which showed quite conclusively that in the last 20 years the contrary is the case. To take the year 1972-73, the proportion of the gross domestic product at factor cost was 61.5 per cent; for the year 1953-54, it was 56 per cent. Since when has delusion ever had anything to do with the Minister for Labour? Why the incapacity to be able to deal with the facts in his customary scrupulous fashion? What has happened? I think that this is a further indication of the tremendous strain that the Minister is under. I would hesitate to seek to describe in any clinical fashion what is wrong because I am not capable or equipped to do so, but I do suggest to the honourable gentleman that at the earliest opportunity he should seek a break from the great cares and strains of office and reflect upon what has been said here this morning by the honourable member for Mackellar. I am sure that if the Minister for Labour could return to his old form, he would say to the honourable member for Mackellar: I am sorry for the mistakes I have made. It distresses me no end, but now that I am hale and hearty again I am ready to take up the reins of office.'

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