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Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 435

Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) - This is an excellent Budget from whatever angle it is viewed. It is imaginative and comprehensive. It covers practically every facet of economic, community and social interest. It is generous and, above all. it is responsible. As the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said when introducing this most important national financial document of the year, it is 'geared to achieve social and economic goals of significance to all Australians and particularly families'. It would be impossible to present a budget of the magnitude of this one without the background of a basically sound economy, properly serviced and directed by sound governments, and good policies over the last 23 years. To achieve a budgetary capacity in excess of $ 10,000m from a figure of $1,1 68m some 20 years ago, in 1950-51. clearly indicates the terrific growth of our overall economy. That is not fortuitous. It does not happen of its own volition and accord. Such growth has to be based on policies which give incentive to individuals and do not deny rewards for effort to those who make the effort.

I was pleased to see that the Budget embraced Liberal principles in regard to pensions and the abolition of the means test, which is to be implemented within 3 years. In the meantime the means test will be extended. This has been a feature in recent years of the Government's policy relating to the provision of social services. The elongation of the means test was designed to encourage what is regarded in many quarters today as something that is not to be rated very highly, namely, the virtue of thrift by the individual and the ability of the individual to think for himself and achieve better things through his own initiative. Those basic attributes are being promoted in this Budget. I applaud the Government for its decision to abolish the means test within 3 years. There is to be a major alleviation of the hardship caused by the imposition of estate duty. The statutory exemption rate is to be double that which is now in existence. Estate duty is an area of taxation which I feel is not conductive to the general well being either of the community or the nation at large because of the inherent disincentive implied in taking from the family organisation the rewards of effort over many years during which taxation has been paid year after year by the person or family. Briefly, those are what I regard as being close adherences to the basic principle of assisting the individual to better himself by giving him the initiative and the incentive to do so. That principle is being applied in this Budget.

The aims of the Budget, which are of great importance to every Australian, are, in the first instance, growth and development, lt is true that in recent years there has been a propensity on the part of those persons who can afford to do so to put money aside in savings bank and in the process not create local demands, which has led to a lag in the growth rate of the economy, which is not what we would like to see. Whilst I have applauded before, and I applaud again, the ideal of independence and the encouragement of thrift it is also very necessary that the economy be kept moving in the confident background of knowledge that we have the ability to spend money responsibly and still have savings on which to fall back if necessary or with which to buy those things that we have long term aspirations to obtain. Growth in the economy will come from factors in this Budget which are not in themselves inflationary. This is where I noted with great satisfaction the reductions in income tax rates and the increases in social benefits - in pensions and so on - that are designed to put into the pocket of the individual more immediate spending capacity power. This will lead to growth and development in what is in actual fact the biggest demand area within our economy, namely, the local consumer area of goods and services and the growth and development of industry will follow from a freer spending of money by individuals.

A responsible attitude has been adopted by the Government to defence. The Budget provides for an increased allocation for expenditure on defence generally despite a reduction in the number of those in the armed forces. Industry, which is the very basis of a sound economy, is to be further fostered in many ways. The Budget also provides for an improved and extended social welfare programme. All of these matters are the background to ensuring better conditions for the populace of the nation generally. The overriding purpose of the Budget is to boost the economy back to strong but sustainable growth, which is a very responsible attitude to adopt. The sum of Si 06m is to be provided for the strengthening of our defence. The amounts which have been provided for in the Budget for further fostering industry, which range from the $20m increase to $33.7m for assistance to the local ship building industry to the $20m provided for further financial assistance to rural industry and another proposal which has been referred to could lead to the provision of rural finance in a different way that is of long term benefit to rural industry generally.

It must not be forgotten that our rural industries still supply more than half of our overseas credit. I think we are prone to overlook this very important fact. Rural industry in Australia will at all times play a very important part in the overall economy of the country. It is good to see large increases in the export of minerals and the moneys that come through to us as a nation from those exports and it is good to see our manufacturing industries increasing their penetration of overseas markets with their products, but I feel that we have at all times to retain in our minds acceptance of the high importance of the rural basis of our whole economy.

The fruit growing industry, which is an industry of very great importance to South Australia and which provides decentralised industry in that State, is one industry which I am pleased to see is to receive an amount of $4.6m under the Budget to assist in the removal of surplus trees by growers of canning peaches and pears and fresh apples and pears. The sum of $2m will be spent this year in that direction. The fruit growing industry in South Australia provides directly and indirectly a livelihood for many people. The canning industry, which is an integral part of the fruit growing industry, has been in a very difficult situation for a long time. Its adverse situation has been accentuated by the adverse effects of the monetary revaluations of overseas countries and the benefits which have come to some of our competitors in the process of these variations. With that in mind I would say that it is very essential that assistance to both the canning and the fruit growing industries in this country will have to continue to be provided in the way in which it is provided in this year's Budget and in the reconstruction scheme until more clearly defined situation emerges.

The amount of money which is to be provided to the States is indeed pleasing to everybody, particularly to those who believe in the federal system of government. The allocation to the States by the Commonwealth this year will increase by $395m to just under $3,500m, which indicates a basic belief by the Government in the continuation of the federal system.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.

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