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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2204

Senator YOUNG (South Australia) - In a few days time the Australian Labor Party will be celebrating its first birthday as the Government of this country. No doubt the Federal Labor Party will be celebrating its birthday but I doubt very much whether this nation will go along with the celebrations. More importantly, I am certain that none of the State governments will be invited to the birthday party because of the complete disregard which this Government has shown for the State governments and the States themselves.

Senator Little - Bob Hawke will be lucky if he gets an invitation.

Senator YOUNG - I heard that comment about Bob Hawke not coming. I do not know whether he will be here because I have not seen the invitation list. What we have seen in this first year of office has been the concentration in Canberra of this great monolith of centralism which has emanated from the policies of the Australian Labor Party. I might emphasise that they are the work of the Federal Labor Party. Senator Cant mentioned earlier that he would not agree that there are excessive powers operating from Canberra. I know that he referred to the Constitution and said that everything that had been done came within the Constitution. The State governments have been extremely concerned about the increased and excessive power, the obsession for total power, emanating from Canberra. This was borne out by the fact that representatives of the State governments, irrespective of their politicsthey included Labor governments- made a trip to London to the Privy Council. They went there because of their fears and concern about the direction in which the Federal policies of the Labor Party were heading.

It is not unexpected that we find this big buildup of centralism in Canberra; nor is it unexpected that at the same time we should find a determined effort on the part of this Government to erode State governments and the powers of State governments with the ultimate aim of the eventual abolition or destruction of State governments throughout the Commonwealth as we know them today. I might be old fashioned but I still use the word 'Commonwealth'. I will comment again on that point later. It is not surprising that we find this obsession for the destruction of the States because Mr Whitlam, the Prime Minister, has stated this on many occasions. I refer honourable senators to a seminar held in Canberra at the Australian National University as recently as November 1971 at which the subject was 'Intergovernmental Relations'. In dealing with structures Mr Whitlam said things which I wish to quote verbatim in order to make sure that nobody can accuse me of taking his words out of context or of omitting a word which should not be omitted. He said:

The State boundaries arranged at Whitehall in the middle of the last century and the local government boundaries devised in the State capitals early this century have little relevance to today's needs. Ideally, our continent should have neither so few State governments nor so many local government units.

I want to emphasise the following words:

We should not have a federal system of overlapping parliaments and a delegated but supervised system of local government. We should have a House of Representatives for international matters and nationwide national matters, an assembly for the affairs of each of our dozen largest cities and regional assemblies for the few score areas of rural production and resource development outside those cities.

Two very significant points come from that statement by Mr Whitlam. The first is that he stated that he would abolish the federal system as we now know it and do away with State parliaments. The second is his reference to Canberra and the Federal sphere. He said that we should have a House of Representatives. He made no mention of the Senate. If there is one thing that this Government would like to do it is to abolish the Senate. I pose the question: Why? It is not purely to get away from a bicameral or 2 -house system; it is to get away from the 2 Houses of Federal Parliament and to have a single House or unitary system in Canberra. If the Government were able to do this, it would place itself in the glorious position of being able to dictate completely to the rest of Australia its policies and its desires.

The one safeguard which this nation has at present and which stands between the Federal Government and its radical policies by which it wishes to get full power and control unto itself in Canberra- the ohe bastion which stands between those desires and which protects the interests of the people- is the Senate. I can understand why the Labor Party wishes to abolish the Senate. When I say that it is the Labor Party's desire to abolish the Senate I am not using light words, because the abolition of the Senate is Labor Party policy. This policy was declared at the Launceston Conference. I heard no report, nor can I find any report, from the recent conference at Surfer's Paradise regarding this matter. I question the reason. I can assume only that it was not discussed for the simple reason that the previous policy in favour of the abolition of the Senate would have been carried, and this would have made headlines in the Press. As I understand the policy of the ALP today, it is still for the abolition of the Senate.

Senator Cantsaid that the Government had worked within the Constitution in all that it had done. Nobody on the Government side has denied the Government's centralist policies or centralist desire to have all power unto itself. It was stated that the Government had not abused the Constitution in any way at all and that anything it had done in relation to excessive power had been done constitutionally. I will not argue with that statement, but I say that the Government has abused the operation of section 96 of the Australian Constitution. The fathers of Federation, in their wisdom, included section 96 in the Constitution to give assistance to the smaller and less affluent States- to give grants for specific purposes. Section 96 states: the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.

In other words, section 96 enables a government to make a grant to a State for a specific purpose, but in the process of making that grant it can also say how that money is to be spent. Earlier I said that I doubted whether the Premiers, whether they are Labor or non-Labor Premiers, would be in Canberra for the birthday party later this week. I also fear that the Premiers will not be coming back to Canberra under the old system of a Premiers Conference chaired by the Prime Minister. No doubt they will not be invited, for the prime reason that this Government will in future make available to the States as much money as it possibly can by way of section 96 grants which will be on such terms and conditions as this Government thinks fit.

If this is not centralism being carried out to the maximum, I do not know what is. This is a complete power and direction from Canberra to the State Parliaments, and it affects each citizen of this country. Extreme centralism in itself is a frightening thing because it creates a situation in which bureaucracy can run rife and it finishes up with a situation in which government gets too far away from the people. We have seen the result in other countries when government has got too far away from the people. The people in the country suffer. I remind the Government that what government should be all about is government for the people. The most important thing in any country is the individual. He makes up his country. It is not the physical environment which makes a country great; it is the people within that environment who make it great. Unfortunately, the Government tends to go too far in the direction of its policies which, at times, can have a very adverse effect on the individual, his rights and personal freedoms.

I refer to the Government's complete disregard for the States. I refer particularly to what has happened in my home State of South Australia. In recent times there have been 2 examples of how this Government has seen fit to ride completely roughshod over the desires, needs, responsibilities and commitments of the State Government. It is not a case of the State Government being of a different political colour, because the South Australian State Government is also a Labor Government. Recently, in the last few weeks, concern has been expressed about the brandy tax. Last year during the Federal election campaign the Premier of South Australia campaigned for the Federal Labor Party to win office in Canberra. Not only Mr Dunstan but ALP senators and members of the House of Representatives, including one who is a Minister today, Mr Grassby, went to the irrigation areas and the wine areas. Mr Dunstan stamped up and down the vineyards and other places saying: This is what we will do. This is what we guarantee'. The Prime Minister authorised Mr Dunstan to say that Labor would abolish the wine tax. What has happened now? That promise has been completely dishonoured. In place of the wine tax the Labor Party has imposed a further tax upon the wine and brandy industry. Do not take my word for this. I quote very briefly reported comments of the Premier of South Australia who was so concerned about this matter that he went to Press very heavily on it last weekend. He said:

I have been placed in a position no politican should be placed in by his colleagues. I resent that position.

A political promise made by a Party going into office should be kept.

It was Mr Whitlam who authorised the statement I made to the wine industry.

I would have thought that in any regard for me personally, apart from anyone else, he would have honoured the promise I made on his behalf and at his behest.

I emphasise those words 'at his behest'.

The other issue to which I refer is the issue of Dartmouth. The 5 South Australian LiberalCountry Party senators one evening heard about a letter which had been sent by the Prime Minister to the Premier of South Australia and which requested that the construction of Dartmouth be deferred and spoke on it on the adjournment. It was a request to defer a dam which is urgently needed in South Australia. One of the great problems which is preventing the expansion of South Australia is the shortage of water. A lot of time had been lost already with regard to the construction of the dam. Yet the Prime Minister, with all the millions that the Government is spending in so many ways, requested that the States defer further construction for the time being. It would have saved the Federal Government something in the vicinity of a paltry $ 1 . 1 m. At the same time this Government had representatives in the United States of America negotiating the purchase of a painting which has committed the Government to an expenditure of $ 1.3m, plus commission of $100,000, plus the cost of insurance, transport and everything else. No doubt by the time the painting reaches this country the cost will probably be around $2m. This Government was more concerned with a bit of dried paint on canvas than it was with the needs and welfare of the people of South Australia. It is a clear example of the way in which a centralist government has its priorities completely mixed up. It overlooks what should be the No. 1 priority of any government, namely, the people in the community.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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