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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 540


Senator MCAULIFFE (Queensland) - From the Opposition's point of view this is obviously an election Budget. The first thing to which I invite the attention of the Senate is that on this occasion, for the first time for many years, the Government has budgeted for a deficit - in this instance, a deficit of about $630m. On previous occasions the Government has budgeted for a domestic surplus. In 1969- 70 the Government budgeted for a domestic surplus of $5 18m and in 1970-71 it budgeted for a domestic surplus of $458m. In 1971-72, when we saw the most disastrous Budget of all, it budgeted for an estimated domestic surplus of more than $600m. We all know, and Government supporters know it only too well, that halfway through the financial year the Government panicked, pressed all emergency buttons and called 'Action stations' to grant concessions which finally enabled it to budget for a domestic surplus in the vicinity of $387m. That brings us to the present. We now have an all' time record high of $630m as an estimated deficit.

Another interesting aspect to which I invite honourable senators' attention is that in 1969-70, when the Government budgeted for a domestic surplus the unemployment figure in Australia stood at 49,000. At the time of the 1972-73 Budget the unemployment figure stands at close to 100,000. This is an increase of over 100 per cent in unemployment during the lifetime of this Parliament. This is the record of our present Government. In the lifetime of this Parliament unemployment has increased 100 per cent from 49,000 in 1969 to approximately 100,000 today. We on this side of the chamber and the members who occupy the Opposition benches in the other place know only too well that the only device that the Government has for explaining the situation is to blame the wicked trade unions. On every hand, whether in reference to inflation, spiralling prices, unemployment or any other ill from which the economy is suffering, we hear the cry from the Government, in a monotonous repetition, that these things have been caused by the wicked trade unions through their persuasion for increased wages. If the trade unions are not being blamed it is suggested that high wage increases are the cause. As late as last week the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) was supported in the other place by the Minister for Supply and Minister assisting the Treasurer {Mr Garland) who said, as recorded at page 532 of Hansard: . . it is time, too, for the trade union movement to play its part by recognising the need for a moratorium on wage increases and restraint or even opposition to excessive wage rises as a matter of its policy.

I did not thinkI would ever live to see the day when a responsible Minister of the Crown in the national Parliament would make such a ludicrous statement as to appeal to the trade union movement to throw overboard one of its main objectives, that is, to seek wage increases for the workers that the unions represent. Yet that was the tone of the defence put forward by Government supporters in the other place. The same defence was taken up in this place last night when Senator Maunsell, time and again, blamed high wages for the unemployment position in Australia. He was echoing the view which had been expressed by the Country Party and by other supporters of the Liberal and Country Party coalition Government. I accept the challenge offered last night by Senator Maunsell and claim that higher wages are not the cause of unemployment. I make the claim specifically that higher wages are not the cause of unemployment.

To support what I say I propose to quote the remarks of an accepted authority, Mr Victor Feather, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, who did research and carried out a survey on this subject. He unearthed figures which substantiate the claim that I have just made that higher wages are not the cause of unemployment. Allow me to relate some of the factors that were unearthed by his research In respect of the most recent financial year. In Germany wages increased by 12.1 per cent but unemployment went down by 2.8 per cent. In Japan wages went up by 17,9 per cent but unemployment went down by 2.8 per cent. In Italy wages went up 22.6 per cent but unemployment went down 2.2 per cent. In Denmark wages went up 9.8 per cent and unemployment went down 22.6 per cent. In Belgium wages went up 11.2 per cent and unemployment went down 9.1 per cent. In the Netherlands wages went up 12.3 per cent but unemployment went down 9.8 per cent. The point I am making is that in those 6 major developed countries there was a significant upward movement in wages but an equally significant downward trend in unemployment.


Senator Wright - Over what period?


Senator McAULIFFE - It was 1970-71. Those figures prove quite conclusively to all who are prepared to accept the situation and who apply commonsense to it that high wages are not the cause of unemployment. Let us consider another comparable country - Great Britain. In Great Britain wages went up 14.7 per cent, but unemployment also went up 5.6 per cent. This illustrates the point that I have been making. The reason for the situation in Great Britain being different from the pattern that I have shown for the other 6 nations must obviously be something other than high wages. Research into this situation has shown conclusively that the rate of growth in Great Britain is much lower than it is in the other 6 countries that I named. Therefore the conclusion is that a low growth rate rather than high wages is the cause of unemployment.

Let us come closer to home and consider the situation in Australia. Recent statistics show that wage increases in Australia have been in the vicinity of 10 per cent and that unemployment has increased by 0.6 per cent. In 2 countries only of the 8 I have named where wages have increased significantly has there been an increase in the unemployment figures. Those countries are Britain and Australia. I have pointed out previously that in Britain the growth rate is lower than it is in the other 6 developed countries. What is the position in Australia? I do not need to tell honourable senators opposite, nor do I need to tell honourable senators on this side of the chamber, that the growth rate in Australia is a miserable 3 per cent - the lowest that it has been for many years.. Australia has been accustomed to experiencing and enjoying a growth rate of 5 per cent. It is many years since it has been the miserably low figure of 3 per cent. It must be obvious to all now that no-one but the Government is to blame for the unemployment situation. The Government has failed to wage war on unemployment. It has failed to plan; it has failed to communicate with either the Parliament or the electorate; it has failed to restore confidence in the community; it has failed to restore confidence in the economy. Is it any wonder that we of the Opposition are forced to move an amendment in this Budget debate? The amendment is warranted and justified and will be enthusiastically supported by all honourable senators on the Opposition side. I read the amendment: . . 'the Senate condemns the Budget because it fails to define adequate economic and social goals for Australia; and in particular because it provides no programming for restoring full employment, no means of checking the costs, the prices of goods and land, no framework for improving the standards of education, health, welfare and public transport and no national plan for our capita] cities and regional centres'.

I claim that the Government has deliberately held back output. It has deliberately restricted the volume of goods which the country could produce. This restriction makes everything more expensive than it ought to be. This restriction forces up costs which in turn force up prices and culminates in what economists call today cost inflation. I submit all that I have said to the Government for its earnest consideration. 1 hope it will stimulate some interest and that the Government will cease to blame the wicked trade unions and increasing wages for the unemployment position that exists in Australia today. The unemployment position exists as a result of lack of planning by the Government and failure to correct the ills that plague the economy.

The second point I would like to pass to is the failure of the Government to do anything for the tourist industry by providing assistance through the Budget. Firstly, I accept the challenge issued many times last evening by Senator Sim to Senator Poke. I do not know what the significance of that challenge was but Senator Sim continued to ask: 'When will somebody on the Labor side tell me the definition of a worker?' He continually interjected while Senator Poke was speaking with the request: 'Is there anybody on the Labor side who can tell me the definition of a worker?' I am not a walking Webster's dictionary but I can tell Senator Sim that a worker is a person who works with his brains or works with his hands. A worker may belong to any political party. If that is the definition Senator Sim is looking for, I repeat it - a worker is a person who works with his brains or works with his hands.

Reverting to the question of tourism, I recall that recently the Queensland Minister for Tourism, the Hon. John Herbert, forecast that by 1980 the tourist industry would rival the mining industry in Queensland as the major industry in that State. As a senator from Queensland I naturally have a vested interest in the welfare of that State and in the welfare of the people of that State. I believe that I can justifiably claim in this chamber that Queensland is the leading tourist State in the Commonwealth, possessing among other attractions the Great Barrier Reef and a 23-mile stretch of beach on the Gold Coast. I do not think anybody would challenge my statement that the Gold Coast is the tourist capital of Australia and indeed the tourist capital of the Southern Hemisphere. The point I am particularly interested in emphasising this evening arises from the very pertinent statement by the Queensland Minister for Tourism that by 1980 the tourist industry will be the major industry in Queensland. His optimism is shared by the Australian Tourist Commission. In its annual report for 1971-72 the Commission revealed that 416,000 overseas tourists entered Australia during that period and earned for Australia in foreign exchange $135m. The Commission predicts that by 1980 the number of overseas visitors entering Australia will be 1.7 million and that they will earn in foreign exchange for Australia $574m.

These figures show the importance of tourism and the vast expansion of the tourist industry in Australia. These are very exciting predictions by both the Queensland Minister for Tourism and the Australian Tourist Commission. But unless we are geared to meet this rapid increase in the number of overseas tourists who will enter this country, we shall miss out. Planning, research and surveys must be applied to this question. The Accommodation Owners Association has forecast that if the tourist industry in Australia is to cope with the expected 1.7 million overseas visitors in 1980, we will require 37,594 rooms of international standard. At present capital cities in the eastern States can provide 13,413 rooms of international standard. A quick lesson in mathematics will show that to increase room availability from 13,413 to 37,594 requires an increase of 180 per cent in the 10 years ahead or, to calculate it in another way, an increase of 18 per cent a year. One would think that a country which is going through such development as Australia is could cope easily with this increase. Under normal circumstances, we could do so. But the frightening facts are that accommodation owners and developers who intended previously to construct hotels and motels of international standard have recently announced that it would not be economic or profitable for them to go ahead with such constructions. Indeed, they have announced that 4,000 of the 8,000 international standard hotel and motel rooms which were on the drawing board in preparation for construction have been cancelled, and that the other 4,000 are in the process of being cancelled. These cancellations have been brought about by an economic situation. If this accommodation is not to be available in Australia to house the tourists, they will go elsewhere. Therefore, if the forecast by the Queensland Minister for Tourism is correct and if the forecast by the Australian Tourist Commission is correct - that the tourist industry will be a major industry in this country in the next decade - this Government will stand condemned if it fails to give financial assistance to accommodation owners in tourist areas so that they may continue with developmental building.

I suggest, to the Government that there are 3 ways by which it can give assistance to the tourist industry. The Government's acceptance of any one of the 3 would be helpful, but I think it would be better still if it gave consideration to all 3. The first proposition that I submit to the Government for consideration is that it should grant special assistance by way of a subsidy to local government authorities which provide tourist facilities and amenities so that the costs of those facilities and amenities are not borne fully by local ratepayers. The second proposition is that the Government should allow depreciation on new buildings, and the cost of maintenance and renovation of buildings as tax deductions. Such deductions are allowed to accommodation owners in tourist areas in other countries, particularly the Pacific Ocean countries - our strongest competitors.

The third suggestion which I offer is that the Government establish a tourist development loan fund similar to that operating in New Zealand. The Government has been able to do this with other industries but it has fallen short of doing anything to assist the tourist industry. Yet the tourist industry is in the top bracket of the major industries of this country. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) gave figures in the Budget which was presented in the Parliament last week in relation to Commonwealth assistance and payments to industry. These figures show that rural industries received $233m; the manufacturing industries $121m; the mining industry $12m; and the transport industry $2m; making a total of $368m. These figures do not include assistance through taxation concessions. If I had time to research and add the taxation concessions to the $368m we would find that the figure would be nearer $500m. What is the reason for the Government continuing to refuse to give any financial assistance to an industry so important as the tourist industry?

I live on the Gold Coast. I have taken part in representations which have been made to many tourism Ministers. There have been many changes since 1967. I exclude the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) from having made any assurance that he would give assistance because I do not recall representations being made to him in this area during the time when he was Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. I recall the visits that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) have made to the Gold Coast. They have all said that they have been impressed by representations from tourist authorities. They have all promised that they would go back to Canberra and place for the consideration of Cabinet financial assistance to the tourist industry. But possibly the strongest and the most persuasive in his interest was the Deputy Prime Minister who in this Parliament represents Richmond the neighbouring electorate to McPherson. Campaigning in support of the endorsed Australian Country Party candidate for McPherson, Mr Richter, the Deputy Prime Minister said that he was impressed and that he was convinced of the need for financial assistance to the tourist industry, particularly depreciation being allowed as a taxation concession. He said that he would go back to Canberra and that he hoped that in the Budget some concession would be given to the tourist industry. But of course the Budget has come and gone and there is nothing that substantiates the promise made by the Deputy Prime Minister.

In view of the millions of dollars that have been allocated for assistance to other industries I am sincerely at a loss as to why the Government repeatedly refuses to assist the tourist industry. I have probed and looked everywhere for a reason why. The nearest approach to a reason that I can come up with is a report that appeared in the 'Daily Telegraph' of 30th January 1972. Reporting on the tourist industry and the failure of the Government to give assistance the article states:

These remarks are from the International Tourism Quarterly, published by. the Economist Intelligence Unit.

They follow an Economist survey of the Australian and New Zealand tourist industries.

Significantly, the report says New Zealand is not likely to miss the opportunities, as it seems much better prepared than Australia for a big influx of tourists.

The remarks caught the eye of Mr Alan Greenway, the energetic motel businessman who is chairman of the Federal Government's Australian Tourist Commission.

In a brief Press statement last week he said Australian travel industry leaders had been expressing the same sentiments for sometime.

He said the commission believed the kind of tourist development needed here would not be automatic 'but must be made to happen'.

BENEFITS

Mr Greenwaysaid he hoped for a positive response from the Federal Government to proposals io encourage tourist development here.

This week Mr Greenway expanded his views by, saying the Australian tourist industry had fallen behind in the race to be internationally competitive.

Just what IS wrong with our lon l ist industry?

In a word, travel authorities say, it's politics.

They say the tourist industry is suffering because of political trading between Country and Liberal Parties.

Another prominent industry spokesman said: The trouble is that Mr Howson, who handles tourist activities, is only an Assistant Minister to the Trade Department.

Any important decision of his has to be approved by the Trade Minister, Mr Anthony'.

NEGLECTED

Mr Anthonycannot successfully wear 2 ministerial hats, and when the money is being handed out the rural industry gets first crack. la the trading that goes on between the Country and Liberal Parties, Mr Anthony can only win so many, battles and so far tourism is being neglected'.

Australia is losing tourists to neighboring countries. Because of our poor facilities they are cutting short holidays here to spend more lime in places like New Zealand and Fiji.

That is the nearest 1 have had to an explanation as to why, over a period of years despite numerous representations, this Government has continually refused to give financial assistance to the tourist industry which all the experts, including those from government departments, claim will become within the next decade one of the major industries in this country. This evening I was prompted to speak on those 2 points only because I feci that the more practical issues such as social services that are contained in the Budget have been adequately canvassed by honourable senators from this side of the chamber. No doubt these matters will be further progressed by speakers who are to follow mc. I feel that in our contribution we have given an effective answer to the continual blaming of the trade unions and high wages for the cause of unemployment. That is the only device that has been used by the Government to put the blame on someone else. Under this Government, since 1969-70, we have seen unemployment increase from 49.000 to almost 100,000 at the present time - an increase of 100 per cent. The Government has been inactive. It has been unable to cope with the situation, yet in this chamber and in the other place it has kept up a continual attack, blaming the trade unions, wages and everything connected with the working class. I feel that we have proved to the Government that the blame rests at its own feet. I hope that it will do the right thing and correct the position. If it does nol want to do that I suggest that it move out and make way for an alternative Labor government that will be able to handle the affairs of this country.

Sitting suspended from 5.39 to 8 p.m.







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