Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 1736

Senator KEEFFE - I do not know what happened last week, unless the Premier won the Golden Casket because his Government could not get the money from anywhere else. The second point made by the business people of Townsville is in relation to the fishing industry. The annual report of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce states:

Unfortunately complete details are not procurable, nevertheless we are aware that the Townsville Fish Board alone handled 280,000 lb of fish which included 159,000lb of mackerel this year and 70,000 lb of prawns.

The report goes on to give some additional details. Queensland is the only State in Australia in which a proper survey of fishing grounds has never been carried out.

What manner of man is running the hillbilly government in the State of Queensland? Let me quote from a letter which I have received from a friend of mine who is a good worker for the Australian Labor Party. He attended a meeting at which the Premier spoke in support of one of the State Country Party candidates, the Reverent Mr Male. My friend entered the meeting with a tag which read that it was time for a change of government. The Premier read out the inscription on the tag. My friend writes:

It was lovely to hear him say it.

He continues:

At another point I mentioned Mr Hinze.

Mr Hinzeas my colleague Senator McAuliffe could tell the Senate, has isolated himself because he is interested in looking after Mr Hinze and he does not worry too much about the Country Party or the Liberal Party. My friend mentioned his name and said:

Isn't he the person who tried to remove you as Leader of the Country Party?

In fact, he was. He was one of a small group who tried to remove the Premier not so many months ago. But the Premier at this meeting defended Mr Hinze and said that he was a fine man. Speaking again of the Premier, my friend states:

He told us what a lot he had done for education.

The Premier went on in some detail, all of which I will not quote. My correspondent pointed out that in the area in which he lived there were 8 public schools all of which had tin shed classrooms. Our Premier, the man who has come cap in hand to the Commonwealth Government for assistance, denied that they were tin and said that they were made of galvanised iron. He continued:

Anyway, I went to school under a tree.

My correspondent said:

That is obvious.

At that point, the election meeting was brought down with laughter. On a further note-

Senator Webster - You mean a more intelligent note, surely?

Senator KEEFFE - Well, I think that this is in keeping with the general intelligence of the Country Party. I cannot help it if the honourable senator's colleague in Queensland makes statements that are not intelligent. At this meeting an interjection came from the back of the hall. A gentleman said that his father was a Country Party member and that he was raised as a strong supporter of the coalition. Then he made various remarks about the religious attitudes of the Reverend Mr Male. The Reverend Mr Male then endeavoured-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! Senator Keeffe, come back to the Bill before the Senate which is the Queensland Grant Bill.

Senator KEEFFE - I am talking about the Bill, Mr Acting Deputy President. I am trying to inform you that, when this grant is made to Queensland, it will be administered for some short time at any rate by the sort of people that I am describing. This is a little like what happened here this afternoon. I am not casting any aspersions on the Chair. It is well known that in the drought years of 1970 and 1971 very large sums of Commonwealth money - taxpayer's money - were paid into the coffers of the Queensland Government. The dogs are barking - my colleague Senator

McAuliffe used the same expression about another matter yesterday - that tens of thousands of dollars of that money have been misappropriated. Yet, when 1 asked a question on the matter this afternoon I did not get a civil reply from the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). What is the reason for this? Is the Government trying to protect those engaged in graft and corruption because these people happen to be its political colleagues? It is neither fair nor proper that this should happen in the national Parliament.

Senator Hannan - I take a point of order. The honourable senator is making no reference whatsoever to the Bill before the Senate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! The point of order is not without substance. I ask you, Senator Keeffe, to keep your remarks relevant to the matter before the Senate, which is the Queensland Grant Bill.

Senator KEEFFE - I am. I am illustrating it. If corruption must be exposed at any point, I will not back away from a consideration of it. If a government has mismanaged the affairs of this country, I will not back away from discussing that matter either. If the truth must be told, I propose to tell it in this Senate which is the proper forum in this country to debate the matter. The claim has been made that, because the Queensland Government is bankrupt in respect of both money and attitudes, this special assistance is needed for development to carry on and, as it were, to balance the Queensland budget. These problems arise because of the mismanagement of the Queensland Government.

The latest unemployment figures indicate that 7,797 males and 4,748 females are registered as unemployed in Queensland. Let us look at the details of these figures. In the metropolitan area, 2,991 males and 1,778 females are registered as unemployed. This is less than half the total figure. Turning to country areas - these are the areas whose interests the Country Party Government ought to be looking after and the areas in which it will waste the money that will be given to it by this legislation - we find that in Cairns the total number registered as unemployed is 1,346 while unfilled vacancies number 39 for males and 27 for females. The break-up of the figures reveals that there are 1,114 males and 232 females registered as unemployed in Cairns. One could probably double those figures because very many people in this community do not register for unemployment benefit.

In my own city of Townsville 1,036 persons - 639 males and 397 females - are registered as unemployed. The job vacancies unfilled are a little in excess of one hundred. Yet we are told that this money will be expended in other areas but will not be used to look after those facing these problems in Queensland. Because of the limitations of time I will not bc able to mention the other figures available. But these figures do prove that it is the country areas of Queensland from which the greatest exodus has taken place. There arc no jobs; there is no possibility of youngsters getting apprenticeships, and facilities for higher education, particularly for the children of people on low wages, are almost non-existent. When we cover some of the notes in the application I shall look at some of the details in that area.

Longreach, a very small town, has 27 people out of work, though it is true that the number of job vacancies there is high. In Rockhampton in the central district, the total number of registered unemployed is 840 but the total number of job vacancies is fewer than 100. We have heard sad stories from the Queensland Premier and his colleagues about all the money that the State has spent as a result of natural disasters, firstly, the big drought, and secondly the damage caused by floods and cyclones late last year and early this year. I know Townsville well. The Prime Minister visited that city and promised unlimited financial support, but it never eventuated. Statements have been made that the State Government has made substantial cash payments for the relief of distress in the Townsville area following that disaster. It never has. Less than $500,000 has been paid to date, I waited 3 months for this Government to tell me the total grant for Queensland. It was well under $3m - I am speaking now from memory - of which approximately Sim was for local government repair works. The insurance payout alone for damage to buildings and dwellings will be about S50m. The State Government adopted a niggardly attitude in its measures to assist people, affected by the disaster. Hundreds of houses in Townsville remain wrecked and hundreds of houses still have tarpaulins over the roof. There is no suggestion in the application by Queensland that any of this money will be used in the future to relieve the plight of victims of natural disasters.

I want to refer briefly to the effects of mining operations on conservation. We all know that many hundreds of thousands of acres of Queensland beaches have been destroyed over the. last 10 or 15 years owing to the inroads made by mining companies. Stradbroke Island is a good example of this. Cooloola is another area that could have been gravely damaged by unchecked mining developments. We were told a long time ago that this area was to be preserved as a natural forest. We are now told that the Premier will make a statement - I think tomorrow - on what will happen at Cooloola.

In the few moments I have left for my speech, I want to refer to some of the terms of the application. I think that a school child moving into the secondary education field would have been able to compile a better application. In paragraph 5 on page 6 the following appears:

Queensland examined its budgetary prospects for 1971-72 in the light of actual figures for the first six 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 $10.5 million rather than the figure of $7 million indicated in the budget.

The Queensland Government budgeted for a deficit of $7m, but it was $3.5m out. If that Government cannot keep a set of books for its own State, how will it look after this grant of $9m from the Commonwealth? The whole application is an exercise in incompetent government. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission at page. 7, paragraph 12, states:

Dealing with police expenditure, the submission presented comparative information for Queensland and the standard States-

Honourable senators must remember that the standard States are the big States. They will decide what the mendicant States will get and how it will be allocated - with regard to area, length of roads requiring traffic control and supervision, length of coastline (requiring provision for search and rescue), density and distribution of population, lt pointed to the high cost of transfer of pol.'ce and provision of relief for staff on leave arising from the large areas and distances in the State. It also claimed that, because of the much lower density of population over much of the State, police officers in Queensland have a greater rang; of "extraneous" duties for other Stale departments than their counterparts in the standard States; and since most of these duties are in the "unadjusted" field "the State surfers the unfavourable adjustment under Police but receives no compensating benefit elsewhere in the calculation of a grant". It concluded that "although we are not able to give statistical support to any definite level" a 10 per cent disability allowance for these special factors, which would amount to $2.3 million, "would not be unreasonable".

I submit that the Minister in his reply should give some indication of how the Commonwealth Government made an assessment before deciding to give this grant to Queensland. To me, that is a very vague paragraph in the application. If honourable senators want to delve into detail, they will find that the police force in Queensland is completely mismanaged starting from the Minister and working down. The police union in Queensland has said so time and time again, as has the Leader of the Opposition. There is currently a vote of no confidence in the Minister and the administrative officers at the top level in various police districts throughout Queensland. Not many months ago a state of emergency was declared over a football match. Whole cities and towns were left without police while they were transported to the city to visit a football match. While this was going on, there were more road accidents in country areas and some youngsters lost their lives because there was no police supervision in the area. At page 8 of the report it is stated:

It was argued that 'Public Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Mental Hospitals are to an extent inter-connected', and Queensland supported the proposal submitted by Tasmania in December 1971 that these three groups should be considered together and that a percentage allowance should be added to the standard in recognition of special difficulties. It was submitted that in the absence of a precise figure a 10 per cent allowance, amounting to $5.1m on hospital and nursing home expenditure, would be appropriate.

Here is another department which the State Government does not know how to organise or what its losses and expenditure are likely to be. The report then goes on to deal with railway charges. It is a well known fact that there are preferential freights in Queensland. If a person belongs to the 'haves' he can get freight concessions, but if he belongs to the 'have nots' he cannot. North of Capricorn, in fact north of the metropolitan area, sales tax is charged by the Commonwealth Government on all freights on vehicles, consumer goods and durable goods of any type. Anyone buying a car in Townsville must pay freight amounting to $150 or more, and also sales tax at the current rate of, I think, 27.5 per cent. Every time we raise this matter in the Parliament we are told that the Treasury accountants do not have the ability to separate the charges. What a lot of poppycock. People in isolated areas have to put up with these disabilities. The Commonwealth Government is aided and abetted in this by the incompetent Queensland Government. The final paragraph of the submission - paragraph 16 - states:

Queensland submitted that it should receive a favourable adjustment for its above-standard level of rail freights of an amount at least sufficient to offset the estimated unfavourable adjustment of $9.7m on account of below-standard severity of Slate taxation. Its estimate that Queensland's rates are 13 per cent above standard would imply a favourable adjustment of $14m. In assessing the minimum' special grant of $ 10.5m claimed for 1971-72 it had not taken into account any favourable adjustment for railway charges.

I join my colleagues in criticising the Commonwealth Government's action in making this grant to Queensland which ought to have been able to stand on its own feet. It would have been able to do so if there had been competent government in that State. But government has run down so much in the past 10 to 15 years that today it is virtually non-existent. The only way in which it is able to stay in power is by approaching the Commonwealth on its political hands and knees. Asking for handouts, grants, aid and anything else it can get, selling its soul iti the process and gerrymandering electoral boundaries. That is an important factor in keeping the Country Party-Liberal Government in office in Queensland. Without the gerrymander, that Government would not have been able to survive, even on the sums generously given to it by the Commonwealth over the past decade.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Suggest corrections