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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 1676

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - I support the Bill but I wish also to draw attention to some of the stupidities that are going on in Australia today. On the day that this measure receives royal assent, all Queensland should dress in black. In effect it is dead because of the stupidities of the Queensland Government that has put itself in the position of leading a mendicant State, a pauper State. Senator Lawrie is about the leave the chamber. He said a few minutes ago that he is proud of the fact that the elected representatives of the Queensland people had come to the Commonwealth Government and said: 'We are broke. We want some additional money.' He and his colleagues are prepared to go cap in hand to the Commonwealth Grants Commission as a result of their own maladministration, and he is proud of that. I do not see how, as a Queenslander, he can be proud of that effort. Thousands of other Queenslanders are far from proud of it.

Queensland has had a proud record in times of drought, flood, unemployment and depressions. Never before have we had to become a mendicant State, but it has happened in this period of affluence. Senator Lawrie stressed the importance of Queensland and the development that had taken place under the present Government. Now this allegedly affluent State has become a mendicant State - a pauper State. There is not much to be proud of in that. The Queensland Government is alleged to have done many marvellous things, but now it is broke and must go cap in hand to the Commonwealth for additional funds. I will deal with that aspect subsequently. 1 want now to make a few observations about the Queensland Government. When the present Queensland Government was elected its supporters said: 'We ate people of business acumen - people who can manage the finances of the State.' Does their latest effort indicate that they have lived up to their words? Does their performance in leading Queensland to become a pauper State for the first time in its history indicate that they have the ability to manage the State's financial affairs? Obviously not.

Senator Lawriecited some important figures in his speech. He said that 9 million tons of coal had recently been extracted in Queensland, from one area. Let us analyse what that coal means to the State. With royalties payable at 5c a ton the State receives $450,000 for 9 million tons of our precious mineral resources. Senator Lawrie can be proud of that effort if he wishes, but 1 am not. Senator Lawrie referred to the new power house at Gladstone but he did not remind the. people and honourable senators that the Queensland Government borrowed $80m from the Commonwealth to build it, and is paying interest on that loan at 64? per cent.

Senator Lawriealso referred to Queensland's railways. My godfather, one of the worst things that ever happened in negotiations between a State and the Commonwealth was when the Queensland Government negotiated for money to build the rail link between Townsville and Mount Isa. It has cost the people of Queensland approximately $3 8m to date, whereas in every other State such funds have been provided on a $1 for $1 basis. But not in Queensland with its allegedly magnificent government that claims that it can do so much to manage successfully the finances of the State. Queensland received no financial assistance to construct the railway line between Mount lsa and Townsville. Yet, members of the Country Party - and I suspect members of the Liberal Party would do likewise - try to justify the actions of the Country Party-Liberal Party Government in Queensland in coming to the Commonwealth for additional money for budgetary purposes this financial year. I submit that the Queensland Government is a government of dishonesty, and I hope that I will be able to prove that statement subsequently.

Senator Lawriesaid some other amazing things in the course of his remarks. He was the principal speaker for the Country Party. He said that he welcomed the fact that Queensland had become a mendicant State. If that is his opinion, let him accept the responsibility of it. Let him go to the people of Queensland and say: 'We have now become a mendicant State. Notwithstanding the fact that Queensland came through depressions, floods, fires, unemployment, droughts and other afflictions, we are now a mendicant State'. How in the name of goodness can anybody justify pride in Queensland becoming a pauper State when, over the years, it has overcome all its difficulties. Our society in 1972 is supposed to be affluent. Queensland is supposed to have a government that has developed the State to the point that it is rich. Yet, Queensland has become a mendicant State, The honourable senator should bow his head in shame that he should attempt to justify the actions of a government that has brought Queensland to that level. Senator Lawrie and, I suspect, other senators who are members of the Country Party will not tell us what becoming a mendicant State will mean to Queensland. It means that Queensland will not exercise the control over its own affairs that other sovereign States exercise over their affairs. Tasmania has experienced this situation but I think that Tasmania is in a slightly different position from Queensland. If Queensland continues to be a mendicant State it will not control as a sovereign State its affairs in the way that it would like-

Senator Little - I would vote against the Bill if I were you.

Senator MILLINER - That is all right.

Senator Marriott - He is not talking about the Bill.

Senator MILLINER - I will talk about the Bill, Senator Marriott. As an Assistant Minister who has nothing to do-

Senator Maunsell - Get back to the Bill.

Senator MILLINER - All right. I am speaking about the dishonesty of a government which has gone before the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and honourable senators opposite do not like it. They do not like that dishonesty to be unveiled and to be paraded before the Australian people. I propose to continue to do so. Neither will honourable senators like it when I tell them why the Queensland Government has reduced Queensland to a mendicant State.

We heard Senator Lawrie say today on the subject of freight charges that freight charges imposed by the Queensland Railway Department in the Northern Division and the Central Division were high because the people in the metropolis had cheaper rail transport. Fancy a representative of the Government having the audacity to rise in his place and to say in effect: 'People in the country areas of Queensland are penalised because we have not the courage to impose proper charges on the people in the metropolis'. That is what the honourable senator said, and he represents country people. He is merely a craven representative of government who would make such a statement.

Senator Lawriesought to justify the absurdity of the royalties paid on coal to the State on the basis that the royalties provide employment opportunities for Queensland workers. Of course employment opportunities are provided. If the royalties paid were 20c a ton or lc a ton, employment opportunities would still be provided. The point is that the royalties that are paid are so ridiculously low that Queensland suffers as a result. I ask honourable senators to visualise the area represented by 20 tons of coal. As honourable senators picture an area of that size for a moment I ask them to note that the Queensland Government will receive $1 as a royalty payment for that 20 tons of coal. I do not know how much a stockpile of 20 tons of coal is worth, but the Queensland Government will receive a royalty payment of $1 for such a stockpile.

Senator Mulvihill - Chicken feed.

Senator MILLINER - Of course. In a few years time, the value of 5c will have depreciated to such an extent that it will be worth only 2c; that could be the situation in 4 years or 5 years time. No provision is made in the contract relating to coal that the royalty payment will rise as the value of the dollar is eroded. Surely no one could say that a government which has allowed minerals to be taken out of Australia at such a price has been responsible. We are giving our minerals away. I wish to get on to the honesty or dishonesty - I put honesty' in quotation marks; 'dishonesty' I would prefer to say-

Senator Cotton - I rise to take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. Before the honourable senator launches himself into this argument, to which he has referred before, standing order 418 might be referred to. This standing order states:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament . . .

We would not care to have it said that we were a dishonest Parliament. I do not think that the honourable senator should say that about a State parliament.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! On the point of order, I draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that standing order 418 states:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament . . .

I think that to impute dishonesty-

Senator Poyser - That is saying that he is not allowed to tell the truth.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Truth requires definition. I would request honourable senators in referring to other houses of parliament to observe the provisions of thai standing order so that its wording is not transgressed.

Senator MILLINER - I accept your request, Mr Deputy President, and I shall refer instead to the unusual actions of the State Government of Queensland.

Prior to the last State election in Queensland, the Premier said: 'We have no intention whatsoever of interfering with the liquor laws of Queensland'. Yet, 3 months after he was elected, the Queensland Premier announced that the State liquor laws were to be amended. Church authorities took deep exception to this proposal and they interviewed the Premier. The Premier said: 'Yes, I did say that I had no intention of interfering with the liquor laws of Queensland, but I said that 3 months ago. My opinion is changed now. I am entitled to change my opinion 3 months after I expressed it'. 1 suggest that that is a most unusual statement for the leader of a government to make.

Senator Maunsell - That is not unusual.

Senator MILLINER - 1 say it is unusual. An honourable senator says that it is dishonest. 1 accept what he says, although politically dishonest' would perhaps be a more appropriate term.

Senator Cotton - I raise a point of order. I think we would all be much better served if we tried to behave in the spirit of standing order 418. As I said earlier, I do not want to get involved in this matter any further than 1 am, but I do not think that we would care to have it said of us that we were dishonest, so we should not say that about another parliament, lt is quite wrong and improper.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! Senator Milliner, you will confine yourself to the measure before the Chair and not stray to various other authorities and legislatures.

Senator MILLINER - I now come to a situation* in which there was to be a redistribution of seats in Queensland. Everybody, particularly members of the Liberal Party, said that there would be no increase in the number of politicians in the State Parliament. But what happened? As a result of the unseemly behaviour of both Liberal and Country Party members in the State House, in brawling - in the widest sense - among themselves as to who would retain the Treasury benches in Queensland, it was eventually agreed that there would be an increase of 2 representatives in the State Parliament. This was at a time when they were saying to the workers of Queensland: Tighten your belts, intiation is with us, and consequently you must do what we say, that is, peg wages'. Yet they themselves increased the number of representatives in the State Parliament by two. They went even further and introduced legislation to increase their salaries by 28 per cent. They also increased the superannuation and retiring allowances, notwithstanding

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! Senator Milliner, you must keep within the bounds of the Bill and keep to a temperate description and phraseology.

Senator MILLINER - I believe I am doing that. I believe I am showing that the Queensland Government has mis-spent its money and now it is necessary for it to come to the Commonwealth for money. Surely I am entitled to say those things. If they hurt honourable senators opposite I am sorry, but I cannot help it. We know that that is the situation, and that the back bencher in the State Parliament would have received more than honourable senators sitting here tonight. I accuse honourable senators on the Government side of not having the fortitude to stand up to their Ministry and I accuse members of the Ministry of being very greedy individuals. The Prime Minister wanted a salary increase of about $8,000 a year for himself, and at the same time he was telling his representatives to make certain submissions in the national wage case in opposition to the workers' application for a wage increase. There are 2 standards, and honourable senators opposite cannot deny that that is correct. Senator Bonner, who is seeking to interject, can have his say later.

Let me come to the financial statement of the Queensland Treasurer, Sir Gordon Chalk. At page 8 of that statement, which he presented to the Queensland Parliament on 23rd September 1971, one finds this incredible comment, which I suggest is another factor which required the State to become a mendicant State. It reads:

Another feature of the Budget is the institution of a scheme to provide worthwhile rehabilitation assistance to our severely depressed wool, industry in the area running roughly from Charleville to Richmond, an area that has been described as the disaster area of central Queensland.

Senator Maunsell - Hear, hear!

Senator MILLINER - 'Hear, hear,' says Senator Maunsell. Let me read a little further and show up his government in a very bad light:

The Government -

The State Government - has been greatly concerned at the plight of the producers in. this area for quite some time. They have endured not only the depressed market prices which have been experienced by all wool growers in Australia but also the deprivations of drought in 8 out of the last 10 years. The State Government has on several occasions pressed the Commonwealth Government for special assistance for these producers, but without success.

That is the State Government saying that Senator Maunsell's Government has failed to assist the people in these drought stricken areas. I hope he is proud of that. The statement continues:

In framing the Budget I-

Sir GordonChalk set out with a determination that every endeavour should be made to prevent the collapse of industry in this State - whether it be heavy industry or primary - and in this view I have had the full support of all my parliamentary colleagues. The Government has therefore decided that, despite its budgetary stringencies, it will now 'go it alone' with a $10m scheme of special assistance in this area.

Senator Maunsell - A very good Government.

Senator MILLINER - If the honourable senator is proud of an unusual type of government, that is his responsibility. There we have it in a nutshell. The State Government approached the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government said; 'No, you will not get the additional money for the people on whose behalf you are making the representations'. What happened then? The State Government gave it to them in its Budget and then it went back to the Commonwealth, through the back door, to get it.

Senator Maunsell - It still got it.

Senator MILLINER - Of course, but that is not the point. The point is that there is a double standard. If the honourable senator cannot see that, I am sorry for him. The situation is that it is a double standard and one cannot avoid accepting it as such. Let us look at the Queensland Government, which boasts about the wonderful performance it puts up. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission states:

The Government of Queensland made an application on 30th September 1971 to the Commonwealth Government for a special grant of financial assistance for the year 1971-72 to be provided under section 96 of the Constitution.

Further on it says:

The Queensland Government's submission expresses the belief that industrial development in the Slate would tend in the long term to raise average incomes nearer to those in the standard States.

Yet, when I say that Queensland is a low wage State, Senator Maunsell and his colleagues come out and try to denounce me. Let us see how inefficient the Queensland Government is. Honourable senators may recall that at the last Premiers Conference the Queensland representatives were elated when they were given the right to levy payroll tax. No sooner had they got back to Queensland than they said this in their submission to the Commonwealth Grants Commission:

The effect of Queensland's below standard capacity in payroll tax . . .

Yet they say that they will increase their payroll in the long term to raise average incomes nearer to those in the standard States. Surely this would not be a serious submission by a responsible government. Let me refer again to the special report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission of 1972, in which at page 6 it is stated:

5.   Queensland examined its budgetary prospects for 1971-72 in the light of actual figures for the first 6 months of the year and other information which had become available since the estimates were presented to the Parliament. It considered that the final budget deficit was likely to be about $ 10.5m rather than the figure of $7m indicated in the budget.

That was stated in 1971. On 23rd September 1971 the budget was presented to the State parliament. The Government said that it was budgeting for a deficit of $7m. In the same month it came to the Commonwealth and said that the amount was no longer $7m but $10m. Let us look a little further at what the Commonwealth Grants Commission said. I am still referring to the Queensland Government submission. Page 8 of the report states:

15.   Queensland supported its general contention that its freight rates are higher per ton mile than in the standard States by a comparison of railway operating surpluses in recent years in the light of the comparative difficulties under which the Queensland railways operate. These difficulties were exemplified by statistics shown in Table 20 in Appendix C of the Commission's 38th Report. They included a route mileage in relation to population which is 2.3 times the standard State average; a figure for goods and livestock carried per route mile which is only 52 per cent of the average tonnage for the standard Stales; and railway employment which relative to population was 49 per cent above the standard State average. Despite these difficulties Queensland's per capita operating surplus, for the period from 1967-68 to 1969-70 shown in the table, was $5.88 per capita compared with an average of $1.71 for New South Wales and Victoria.

What did the Commonwealth Government say in relation to this? It was fairly critical.

Senator Marriott - Why does the honourable senator not incorporate that in Hansard

Senator MILLINER - That is the silent, acting Minister.

The ACTNG DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! Senator Milliner, you will address the chair.

Senator MILLINER - I shall do that, Mr Acting Deputy President. I just want to say that the honourable senator has nothing to do but interject. The Commonwealth Grants Commission stated: ii invites the interested parties to submit further evidence so that these matters can be more fully investigated before it recommends a completion grant for Queensland for 1971-72.

The Commonwealth Government is critical of many things. Yet it knows what has been going on in Queensland and it has turned a blind eye. I ask honourable senators to look at page 13. It must do Queensland a tremendous amount of good for people to say this:

29.   As to social services expenditure (other than education) and departmental expenditures, the submission expressed agreement 'in very general terms' with Queensland's claim that it has disabilities which should be compensated for through higher per capita general revenue grants. However, it stated that 'the disabilities that exist in these areas generally apply to only a small part of the total expenditure (e.g., expenditure on hospitals in country areas and not hospitals expenditure as a whole)', and was therefore critical of the approach taken in the States's submission. . . .

Again I remind honourable senators that these are the people who claim to have a thorough knowledge of financial responsibility. Yet people ridicule their submissions to the Commonwealth. I close on the note that I believe that this is a sad day indeed for Queensland. If honourable senators read the criticism of the Commonwealth Grants Commission they will see that Queensland was extremely fortunate to receive an allocation of ยง9m. I submit that the Queensland Government has not been responsible. I. submit also that the Commonwealth Government has not acted as responsibly as it could have in some of the matters raise.d by honourable senators on this side of the chamber.

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