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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 1685

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - I can understand the difficulty of the Australian Country Party senators in supporting this Bill because their brief is a difficult one. I can understand also the performance which they have put up in support of the situation, the situation being that Queensland, after many years of reasonable government, good government, under the Australian Labor Party, found itself under the control of a Courty Party-Liberal Government which over a period of 15 years has so mismanaged the affairs of the State that it had to make application to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for assistance. In other words, for the first time Queensland has become a mendicant State, a claimant State. As one honourable senator said earlier, in a way it has had to concede to the Commonwealth its sovereignty and the power to operate and to develop the State economically. So members of the Country Party have had a very difficult brief and have found the going hard tonight.

Of course, we support the Bill and the proposal that Queensland should receive the $9m because of the position in which it finds itself. What we strongly object to is that Queensland may have to make similar claims year after year if it continues to be governed by this strange coalition of the Country Party in the ascendancy and the Liberal Party in the minority, a combination which is even worse than the combination of the Liberal Party in the ascendancy and the Country Party in the minority which is the situation in this place. In Queensland we have in effect a backwoods government, a frontier type government; nothing more or less than that. In fact Queensland is now known in the southern States as the Deep North because of the reactionary policies and the reactionary behaviour of the Queensland Premier, and the rather irrational positions which he adopts from time to time on ali sorts of important matters, both State and Federal.

As one travels through Queensland one sees the effect of 15 years rule by the Country-Liberal Party Government. One can see the slow degeneration of provincial and country towns; the slow depopulation of country centres; the slow breakdown of country areas and the falling away of the rural population. This has happened and is happening because the Queensland Government has not used effectively the means available to it to raise the money which is necessary and which is available to make Queensland the richest State in the Commonwealth. lt could still be the richest State in the Commonwealth but it cannot survive mismanagement, and mismanagement is the trouble. This has been explained by Senator McAuliffe and Senator Milliner, and in some ways they have been supported by Country Party senators sitting opposite. There has been mismanagement and it will continue. The flourishing towns of Bundaberg and Marborough

Senator Little - One of your colleagues said that it would finish in a fortnight. Now you say it is to continue. Who are we to believe?

Senator McAuliffe - He said it will continue if the present government is reelected.

Senator GEORGES - I did say that and I said it clearly. If Senator Little wants 10 interject intelligently he should listen to what 1 say. He has not been listening; he just makes a snide remark every now and again. Senator Maunsell indicated that Queensland was subject to natural calamities to a far greater extent than the other States. He indicated that because of this Queensland was in a position of need. I would like to point out to Senator Maunsell something which appeared in the appropriation papers. He should take careful note of this. This fact was pointed out by Mr Crean in the other place and I would like Senator Maunsell to answer it. If there was great need for drought relief in Queensland, why did not the Queensland Government take advantage of all the Commonwealth money that was available at that time? It did not do so.

At page 46 of the Treasury Information Paper entitled 'Statement of Savings Expected in Appropriations' it is shown that S3. 6m had been set aside in the Budget for drought assistance for Queensland. Now we are told that $2. 2m of that sum is to be saved because the Queensland Government did not take up all the money that was made available by the Commonwealth Government. Yet Senator Maunsell had the audacity to stand up and say that the situation was so bad in Queensland that greater expenditure was needed and therefore Queensland finds itself in a position of financial need. Millions of dollars were available in the form of Commonwealth assistance. The money had been allocated and the Queensland Government did not take it up.

Senator Byrne - I raised that matter in this place senator.

Senator GEORGES - -Certainly; Senator Byrne raised the matter and the point ought to be made again. Mismanagement on the part of the coalition government in Queensland resulted in this money not being taken up. Recently the Commonwealth Government told the Queensland Government that it would make money available on a dollar for dollar basis for reconstruction purposes in cyclone devastated Townsville. Money was available without limit on a dollar for dollar basis. Yet at the present time there are many, many people without homes in Townsville. There are still many homes in Townsville that are covered with tarp aulins. There are still many, many families living in caravans in Townsville. In effect. many people are still victims of the cyclone. The Federal Government made that arrangement on a dollar for dollar basis, without limit, and the Queensland Government did not take advantage of it. For drought relief the Queensland Government would have received 50c for every $1 used for this purpose. In effect, Queensland would have received cheap dollars from the Commonwealth Government. Is this not mismanagement on the part of the Queensland Government and should not this point be driven home?

It is useless to say that the Queensland Government has a case for the allocation of $9m. We of the Opposition say that if the Queensland Government had carefully husbanded its resources this application would not have been necessary. If the application was not necessary and it had not been made the Queensland Government would remain in full control of its economic position. This is no longer the case because the Grants Commission has made some very damning statements about Queensland. If the present Queensland Government is returned to office there will be another application to the Commonwealth Grants Commission and 'he Commission will lay down certain conditions, lt will say that there are certain incomeraising areas that can be exploited by the Queensland Government and they ought to be exploited. At that point the Queensland free hospital scheme may well come under threat, lt will be said that as Queensland has become a claimant State it no longer can afford a free hospital scheme, that the hospitals should be used as a means of gaining some income. I would say that the Country-Liberal Party Queensland Government - if it survives on 27th May - will succumb to this pressure.

Senator Webster - That is double talk, is it not?

Senator McAuliffe - It is not double talk. The Queensland people will lose their free hospital scheme.

Senator GEORGES - I will repeat what I said for the benefit of Senator Webster who has suddenly decided to listen. The Grants Commission will point out to the Queensland Government that there are certain revenue-raising areas available to it and that it should take advantage of them. One of those areas is the free hospital scheme. If Queensland continues to be a claimant State the Grants Commission will say that Queensland cannot afford a free hospital scheme.

Senator Poke - That has happened in Tasmania.

Senator GEORGES - That has happened already in Tasmania, as Senator Poke points out. I am pointing out to Senator Webster that under such pressure and the influence of such arguments it is possible that the Queensland people will lose their free hospital scheme.

Senator Byrne - Does the incoming Tasmanian Government propose to abandon the Grants Commission?

Senator GEORGES - 1 am not in a position to answer that question about the Tasmanian Government. 1 am not certain of what will happen there, but I am certain that for quite some time the free hospital scheme in Queensland has been under threat. I would say that at the first opportunity, under pressure, the Country-Liberal Party coalition Government will impose charges and that will be the beginning of the end for a scheme which has served Queenslanders well for many years.

The Grants Commission also rather savagely criticised the failure of the Queensland Government to extract revenue which is available in the form of royalties. For the sake of the record and for the benefit of Senator Maunsell I propose to read some information which I have related to coal. I will not deal with other matters. According to the Minister for Mines, and Main Roads, Mr Camm, the estimated production of export coal in Queensland in 1970-71 amounted to 7.25 million tons and it was valued at $83. 4m. This was reported in the 'Telegraph* of 9th March 1971. The total amount of royalties paid for coal in 1970-71 was $362,500, or 0.43 per cent. For every $100 worth of coal exported, Queensland receives a miserable pittance of 43c, or 5c a ton. That figure has been used time and time again.

I point out to the Senate how this affects every other State in the Commonwealth, and in particular New South Wales. In the export of mineral resources the Commonwealth is only as strong as the weakest State. In this situation of the exporting of mineral resources I would say that Queensland is the weakest State. II is the weakest in its bargaining attempts in the arranging and signing of contracts. In being weak in its arrangements with overseas buyers it affects every other supplier of coal in Australia. The fact that we are selling some of the finest coking coal in Australia to Japan at so low a price and at so low a royalty has resulted in the closing down of some mines in New South Wales. This is the end result of poor bargaining on the part of one State government.

The inability of the Queensland Government to serve the interests of the Queensland people and the Australian people in arranging and signing these contracts, or its inability to bargain effectively, has had a direct result on the employment possibilities of miners in New South Wales. Several very profitable operations in New South Wales have had to be closed down. I think it would be reasonable to expect that the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government should bring pressure to bear on the Queensland Government to become a member of the Joint Coal Board. The Queensland Government has refused to become a member of the Joint Coal Board and to become part of a national fuel policy. This is desperately needed, lt is desperately needed in order to protect our bargaining position in the sale of our valuable mineral resources. While we sell coal to Japan cheaply, I ask honourable senators to realise this: Japan has closed down her mines. She has done this for another reason. She has closed them down to conserve her own coal resources. Why should Japan develop and use her own mines when she can buy coal so cheaply from Australia and stockpile it in great quantities? In fact, Japan is stockpiling coal in her inlets and sounds so that she can use it in time of need and cut out the purchasing from Australia.

Nevertheless, some of the finest coking coal is being exported from Queensland with the connivance of the Queensland Government. I say 'connivance' because it can be nothing less than this. It is with the connivance of the Queensland Government that some of our finest coal is being given away. It is affecting the position of other mines in Australia and the livelihood of miners in the south. For this reason I think the Federal Government ought to take a keen interest in any future contracts which the Queensland Government undertakes with overseas concerns. It is in the national interest that no State should undersell another State. That is exactly what is happening.

One of the Country Party senators made out a great case in regard to the enormous profit that we are making from coal haulage. But there is very little profit made there. The freight charged to haul a ton of coal from Moura to Gladstone is Si. 58. Perhaps a profit is made in that SI. 58 because of the immense quantity of coal which is being exported. But it is to the disadvantage of every other freight transporter in Queensland. For instance, to transport a ton of groceries from Brisbane to Gladstone costs S56. In fact, it costs almost 2c per lb to transport any commodity from Brisbane to Gladstone. It costs $56 a ton to transport goods 300 miles by rail. If we multiply the $1.58 charged for the transport of a ton of coal between Moura and Gladstone by 3, to allow for the shorter distance, the figure obtained is nowhere near $56 a ton.

This is what happens in this famous State of Queensland that is prepared to charge low freight rates to overseas concerns and high freights to Queenslanders. Not only is the transport charge high on groceries and other commodities that are necessities to the towns to the north of Brisbane, but also the cost of transporting wheat in Queensland is 5 times as much as the amount charged for the transport of coal for foreign companies. The whole position is screwy. It just does not stand up tinder scrutiny. Any reasonable person who looks at the arrangements that the Queensland Government has made will know that that Government has been negligent. If we do not say it, the Commonwealth Grants Commission will say it. In fact, it has already said it. An avenue for income is available here which would be sufficient to obviate the need to make an application to the Commission.

In regard to bauxite we find that the Queensland Government is making arrangements for its sale at a lower rate than that at which it is being sold in the Northern Territory or Western Australia. The position is that one State is underselling the other State to the advantage of the overseas and multi-national corporations and to the disadvantage of Australia. Those corporations will continue to buy from Queensland and they will use Queensland as a weapon in bargaining with the other States. If the price in Queensland is too low the pressure will be on the Northern Territory and Western Australia to lower their charges to the overseas concerns. We have become the greatest suppliers of our raw materials at an extremely low price, and Queensland leads the way. We have become the quarriers, and not the manufacturers or the processors. The sooner we get to that stage, the better. Great play was made about the development of towns and the employment of workers in various places. Let me make this clear: At the gigantic alumina works in Gladstone the only income which flows to the Australian nation at the present time is the income tax charged on the workers' wages. Do not let me hear anything about the 50 per cent we are receiving in the form of tax on company profits. We do not receive it. The companies do not show a profit. I will not say that they produce their product and sell it to their overseas branches at cost to avoid paying tax in Australia. If they have and if they are-

Senator Webster - That is not correct.

Senator GEORGES - You tell me the last time Comalco Ltd paid income tax? Will you tell me exactly how much that company paid in company tax and how much the Commonwealth derived from that?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Georges, please address the Chair.

Senator GEORGES - It will be found that the statement I make is accurate. The only income that flows to the Commonwealth from that area and some of the other mining areas for the benefit of Australia is the income tax that is earned on the workers' wages.

Senator Webster - Mr Deputy President, do you mind if I interrupt just for a moment?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, I do mind.

Senator GEORGES - He can interrupt as much as he wishes. We have other examples in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia of cases in which very little flows to Australia from very rich deposits of mineral resources. 1 remind honourable senators that at Mount Morgan all that is left is the homes of the miners and the graves of the miners who died from miners phthisis. Very little else is left at Mount Morgan where millions of dollars worth of minerals were extracted. Very little indeed flowed back to that area. We have not even the brains of the small nations in the Middle East. If honourable senators opposite had watched a recent television programme about Kuwait they would know that the people there have made arrangements for a 50 per cent royalty to flow back to them. But not us, 5c a ton will do us. Without question, we are the worst bargaining nation in the world. We do not have the brains to make certain that we get a good deal.

Senator Bonner - The honourable senator is speaking for himself, I take it?

Senator GEORGES - I am speaking for the Government. At least I have the charity to include myself in the result which flows from the faulty policies of the present Government.

Other means of income could flow to the Queensland Government. Many avenues of income arc available to it of what it takes no advantage. Some of these avenues were pointed out by Senator McAuliffe. Although Senator Maunsell began to ridicule Senator McAuliffe for raising the matter of gambling in Queensland, let me point out-

Senator McAuliffe - Did he do that?

Senator GEORGES - He did that while you were absent from the chamber. He indicated that you had no right to introduce extraneous matters concerning bookmakers in Queensland. He reflected on the statement that you made about-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Will the honourable senator please address the Chair? He is inviting interjections.

Senator GEORGES - I am sorry if I am taking advantage of your leniency, Mr Deputy President.


Jm trying to help the honourable senator because he is inviting irrelevant and other interjections.

Senator GEORGES - I am sorry that if, by being irrelevant, I have invited irrelevant remarks. I was bringing the matter back to something that was brought into the debate by Senator Maunsell when he ridiculed what I considered to be a fair statement by Senator McAuliffe. I think all honourable senators will agree that in Senator McAuliffe we have gained a new stylist. He has a new method of speaking which is refreshing when we consider that we have had to put up with quite a deal from honourable senators opposite for many years.

Senator Jessop - Get on with it.

Senator GEORGES - I am not stonewalling. It is not my intention to keep on talking tonight. I am coming to the point. In Queensland there has been a considerable turnover in gambling through the organised, shall we term it, respectable and now legal method used by the Government to achieve revenue - the TAB.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - That provides money to the racing clubs.

Senator GEORGES - Yes. Yet there is a paradox. In spite of the tremendous turnover on the TAB, in Brisbane starting price betting is at the highest level that it has ever been. That means that a huge volume of betting is taking place upon which no tax is paid.

Senator Wood - What has that to do with the Bill?

Senator GEORGES - This is what it has to do with the Bill: Queensland has placed itself in the position of being a claimant State asking for $9m because it is in a position of financial need. We are pointing out that that situation should not be. We are pointing out that, having claimed once and having received once, it should not claim again. If the Queensland Government managed its affairs properly there would not be any need to ask for $9m. Senator Wood's town of Mackay, if 1 might point out-

Senator Wood - The city of Mackay, not the town of Mackay.

Senator GEORGES - The city of Mackay would not be in the condition that it is in now if it had not been for the Country Party-Liberal Government of Queensland. Even Senator Wood would be prepared to admit that at present the town of Mackay is not the flourishing town that it was 10 years ago. The national growth rate is 6 per cent. If that rate were spread over Australia, in 13 years the economy and position of each town would double what it was 13 years previously. I defy Senator Wood to say that Mackay is twice as prosperous as it was 13 years ago. I know that Mackay is a city but I like to call it a town. In Queensland, they are alt towns. 'Town* is a nice name; 'city' is sometimes a pretension. Nevertheless, the city of Mackay is in the same position as are other cities. It is in need; it has a higher level of unemployment than it should have, and its general condition is not as prosperous as it was under a Labor government. Senator Wood cannot deny that. Let me return to the point that 1 was making. There is a source of revenue-

Senator McManus - He means that under the Gair Government it was prosperous.

Senator GEORGES - Under a Labor government, name it what you will. All I can say - it has been said here previously - is that the Gair Government was bad but that a Country Party-Liberal government is considerably worse. That has been proven in Queensland. The source of revenue which is available to the Queensland Government, as the Treasurer knows, is the turnover tax which could be obtained if there were proper controls over racing. What Senator McAuliffe said earlier, that a clique is endeavouring to control and monopolise gambling in Brisbane and Queensland, is correct. Not only does it have a considerable say in the methods which are used through the legalised gambling, but it has considerable control over and operates at quite a significant level the SP betting upon which no tax is paid. There has been evidence recently - the Government has had evidence and it has taken no action on it - that bookmakers do not put in correct returns so there is a considerable loss of income from this source.

Senator Poke - That is if they are not registered.

Senator GEORGES - Even the registered ones are not putting in correct returns. Recently in Brisbane there was a court case in which a bookmaker sued a client for not paying a debt. When the case came to court and the client pointed out that he had paid his debt, it was found that the bookmaker had not registered that transaction. Many other transactions are not registered, and tax is not paid on them. As Senator McAuliffe has pointed out, in Queensland there is a great need for an investigation into all the ramifications of betting and gambling to make certain that there is no loss of revenue to the State. We are saying and making it clear that there is mismanagement in Queensland. There is mismanagement by the Country Party-Liberal Government. It is of no use for that Government to cry out about other issues such as law and order, and to bring all kinds of extraneous issues into the election campaign. The Government should keep very closely to the issues and make certain that the people are fully aware of the political issues, not the emotional issues.

The cost of living in Queensland is getting progressively higher. Opportunities for Queensland are becoming less. Let me make a point concerning Gladstone, a town upon which the Queensland Government depends so much. I was there only recently. No-one knows what its future will be. There has been no information, no arrangements, no discussions, and no date set for the building of the smelter at Gladstone. A great smeleter was to be built there.

Senator Jessop - Gladstone needs a new Federal member.

Senator GEORGES - It does not need a new Federal member. This is a State responsibility. Let me make this point: The Federal Government has made money available for the construction of a power station there. It was supposed to be a 4- unit power station to supply the smelter. It has been cut down to 2 units. The latest report is that it will be cut down to one unit. In other words, it will be a ninor power station. Yet there has been no announcement by the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government has a responsibility to make known to the people of Gladstone what will happen there. Noone knows. Dow Chemical (Aus.) Ltd was supposed to set up a caustic soda plant there. The authorities at Gladstone - the Gladstone Harbour Board, the Gladstone Town Council and other authorities - have not heard from Dow Chemical for over a year. What will happen at Gladstone? Will Dow Chemical build its plant there, or has it forgotten about that? Is the smelter to be built at Gladstone? The talk is that it will not be built there because of the overproduction of alumina throughout the world.

Is the power station to be built at Gladstone? We do not know. Where is the progress that the Country Party and Liberal Party Government boasts of in Queensland? We should be given certain information about Gladstone and other places but we are not given it. The only achievement at Gladstone is the sale of our raw material at a very low price. Go north to Weipa and see our tremendous bauxite resources there. We have the facility only to export and a promise that we may build a smelter at Weipa. It is said that there may be some development; we may have this and we may have that. The Country Party and Liberal Party Government has been in office in Queensland for 15 years. The Federal Government in its transactions with Queensland should take account of the chances of the Queensland Government's continuing in office. We hope that it will not after 27th May.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - That is a pious hope.

Senator GEORGES - It may be a pious hope but I invite Senator Lawrie to study the electoral boundaries in Queensland. He will discover that it takes about 5,000 or 6,000 people to elect a Country Party representative and about 20,000 people to elect a Labor Party or Liberal Party representative.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - Your arithmetic is bad.

Senator GEORGES - Quite apart from my arithmetic, does Senator Lawrie want me in a future debate to cite the relevant figures and the methods used to gerrymander the Queensland electorate, where the Country Party' considers that one vote should not have one value?

Senator Bonner - But you have not-

Senator GEORGES - It is of no use for Senator Bonner to talk on this subject.

Senator Webster - What do you believe in?

Senator GEORGES - I have said before, and Senator Webster can read il in my earlier speeches, that to achieve an effective and representative system of government that is responsive to the will of the people it is necessary with speedy communications and modern methods of travel to have a voting system of one vote one value, lt is of no use for the Country Party to talk about anything else. It does not believe in one vote one value. It believes that a Country Party vote should have double the value of an urban vote. To my mind that is reprehensible. The Country Party has no right to demand that a vote for its representatives should have twice the value of a vote for urban candidates.

Senator Webster - What do your fellows in country areas feel about that? Some of them do represent country areas?

Senator GEORGES - I would agree that with modern means of transportation and communication more seats and less responsibility may be desirable, but it seems to me that the principle of one vote one value cannot be departed from.

Senator McManus - For the Senate, too?

Senator GEORGES - There is the proportional method. I would prefer to support a proportional method of election for all places, rather than the method that the Queensland Government is imposing upon the people.

Senator McManus - Do you want one vote one value in the Senate? That is a plain question.

Senator GEORGES - I am saying that I would prefer the proportional method which, incidentally, would bring true value to every vote. That may be an ideal situation, but there is a difficulty with the proportional method of representation. (Honourable senators interjecting) -


Senator GEORGES - I have been sidetracked, Mr Deputy President, and I would be pleased if you would bring me back to the Bill. In any case, I would say that on 27th May next there is a fair chance of a change in the government in Queensland. I would say that there is need for a change.

Senator Bonner - That is wishful thinking.

Senator GEORGES - It may be wishful thinking, but 1 do not think Queensland deserves the reputation that it has earned under the present State Government, especially under the leadership of the present Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen.

Senator Wood - He is a good strong Premier.

Senator GEORGES - He is strong in his own interests.

Senator Wood - No, he is an honest chap.

Senator GEORGES - One hears strange definitions of honesty.

Senator Wood - 1 have no doubt about it.

Senator GEORGES - Nevertheless under the leadership of Mr Bjelke-Petersen Queensland has not advanced. His Government has not served the best interests of the Queensland people. Proof of the neglect of the Queensland Government is to be found in its failure to state a proper case when applying to the Commonwealth each year for assistance.

Further examples can be found in the special report for 1972 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, lt contains severe and substantial criticisms of the Queensland Government's actions. Proof of the shallow approach to matters of importance adopted by the Queensland Government can be found in the papers accompanying the supplementary Budget. They contain an appropriation for the royal commission on the Great Barrier Reef. The Federal Government will spend about $ 50,000 on the inquiry into whether oil drilling represents a threat to the future of the Reef. I imagine that that royal commission will cost close on $lm before it completes its investigations and produces its report. How much has the Queensland Government contributed to it to date? Not one penny. Yet the Queensland Government has expended many thousands of dollars in supporting a case for the drilling. Reports on the royal commission indicate that the Queensland Government has expended many dollars on legal expenses and the supply of exports in support of the Queensland Department of Mines proposition that oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef is safe.

My lime has expired and I have no doubt that I have suitably embarrassed honourable senators opposite. There is a reason for it, as senators may understand by now. I reiterate that there really is no necessity for such an application by Queensland, lt is the greatest State in the Commonwealth in its richness and it is the second in size, lt is a decentralised Slate wilh the potential for greatness, and a climate to match. It has sufficient beauty to develop a tourist industry which will serve it well. There is no need for Queensland to become a claimant State. I think my colleagues will support me when 1 say that Queensland has become a claimant State only because its resources have been mismanaged, lt has suffered from poor government. I hope that this is the last time that we will need to support in the Senate an appropriation of $9m in the circumstances in which this sum is to be supplied.

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