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Wednesday, 2 October 1974
Page: 1604

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate) - I am very glad that Senator Mulvihill has resumed his seat. During the last 25 minutes he was getting so carried away with his love for his Ministers, his Government and his policies that I thought he was going to get carried right out of the Senate chamber. It has been rather interesting to listen to the speeches made by Senator Mulvihill and Senator Gietzelt. Both of them have deliberately avoided speaking about the Budget itself. Both of them know that this is an old ploy in trade union circles. When people want to take the pressure off one subject, they put the emphasis on another one. That takes attention right away from the subject over which they are being criticised. Both honourable senators did this.

The Senate is debating a motion moved by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has moved an amendment to that motion. I want to put this on the record -

Senator Poyser - You are not going to read it again.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN -Yes, I am, because I think it is well worth reading. The amendment, which I support very strongly, as moved by the Leader of the Opposition, reads as follows:

Leave out all words after 'that' and insert 'The Senate is of the opinion that the Budget fails to tackle Australia's economic crisis, in that:

(a)   Unemployment is permitted to grow and the prospect for school leavers is prejudiced;

(   b ) Inflation is accelerated;

(c)   Existing poverty is ignored and new poverty is created;

(   d ) Personal income tax is increased 45 per cent:

(e)   Living standards will be lowered;

(   f ) Private enterprise is stifled;

(   g) Government power is further centralised;

(h)   Individual incentive and thrift is penalised;

(i)   A double tax is levied on estates.

And because the Government:

(i)   Has made the Budget a socialist vehicle to intensify the attack on the States and break down the free enterprise system.

(ii)   Believes the absurdity that the Government can spend without people paying or can build without people producing.

(iii)   Has preached private restraint but has threatened its achievements by its own Government extravagance.

I believe that every part of that amendment can be levelled at this Government as a criticism. I have heard speakers in this debate say that they believe this is a good Budget. As far as I, my Party and the other members of the Opposition are concerned, this Budget will go down in history as one of the most negative attempts to cure the evils of inflation and high wage demands. Perhaps no Budget has received such a mauling as this one has received. It has been criticised by every section of the community. Yet we hear Government senators saying that this is a good Budget and that it is acceptable to all.

The Budget has been criticised even by the Caucus members themselves and by the trade unions. I believe that this criticism by the trade unions is most certainly warranted. This Budget has failed to deal with Australia's twin problems of inflation and unemployment by the use of budgetary measures. We had the spectacle, just a week after the Budget was introduced, of the trade unions meeting in Sydney to discuss the Government's economic policies. What came out of that meeting in Sydney had a very dampening effect on the Government, so much so that within a week of bringing down the Budget the Government made another announcement. The announcement was made at 6 a.m., but every pressman in Parliament House knew about it at 10.30 the night before. Of course, I refer to the Government's decision to devalue the Australian dollar by 12 per cent. I believe that this action did have some relationship to the 2 great problems of inflation and unemployment which we are facing. But at no time since the Government made that announcement has it indicated that it intended to or made an attempt to link the 2 moves as one overall strategy of budgetary action. I believe that it can be claimed quite rightly that devaluation was an afterthought and was an attempt to plug the gaping holes in the Budget. That action was taken to win back for the Government the rapidly waning popularity it previously had with the all-powerful trade unions.

I am quite sure, upon looking at the Budget, that this document is proof of Labor's mismanagement. It is further proof that since 1972 Labor has governed in a way that can be likened- Senator Gietzelt tried to make a little joke a while ago- only to a young novice in a kitchen trying to make a pot of hash. He stands back and chucks anything and everything into the pot and hopes that something of substance will come out of it. That is exactly what this Government has done. It has done this since the time that it came into power. I think all of us recognise that fiscal measures cannot be introduced without here being some proper balance in those measures. If there is not some balance, there will be an unpalatable mess. I think all of us recognise that economic growth can come only through increasing productivity. But an essential part of that increasing productivity is investment. The Government has attempted to obtain growth while stifling investment and reducing productivity. This is just political madness. But what can we expect from this Government?

A little while ago, Senator Mulvihill took us back to the days when this Government first came to power. I well recall those days. This Government came into office fresh from a period of 23 years off the treasury benches. We had a situation in which every Minister rushed in and made great pronouncements on policy, saying that the Government was going to do this and that. Never at any stage did they consider the cost involved or where the money was coming from.

Senator Jessop - What was the inflation rate then?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am coming to that. I want to take honourable senators back to that because I think that is the whole heart of this Budget. If people make statements such as the ones we have heard from Government Ministers without giving any thought to where we are going or where the money will come from, this is something like economic madness.

Let me go back to the days when the present Government Party was in Opposition. For a very long period we heard only one spokesman on economic matters from the Opposition side. That was the man who is occupying the position of Treasurer today. Time and time again when there was any policy to be stated by the Opposition Party it was Mr Crean, the present Treasurer, who stated it. No one else had a go. But what is the situation today? We have 27 Ministers and we have 27 authorities on the economy of this country, all getting up and telling us how we should do things.

Senator Wheeldon - What have you heard me say?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN -We will take 26 Ministers, then. There is plenty of time for Senator Wheeldon to get up yet, but it pleases him to say there are 26 authorities making economic announcements at the present time. When one wants to find out about the policies of this Government one has to wade through the 26 pronouncements. One has to see who made them, at what time they made them, and then one might have some idea.

Let us go back and deal with inflation. Some authorities say that inflation is already running at 20 per cent and it could go even higher very shortly. I want to recall the situation when this Government came to power, when there was a rate of inflation of 4.6 per cent and it was falling at that time because of the measures taken by the Liberal Party-Country Party Government. The new Government came in and announced that it would spend so much on particular areas. It was not very long before we had the inflation rate going up and up. When it started to rise the Opposition questioned the Government and it was told that inflation was a world-wide problem and nothing could be done about it; it was something that had been imported. That was the answer that was given for some considerable time; we had inherited inflation. The Government blamed everyone except itself. Senator Wheeldon, and I pay tribute to him, was good enough to send me to New Zealand the other day to look at the accident compensation scheme operating there. I found a little country under a Labor government which is dependent for its income on the sale overseas of primary products. We are told this country that the prices of our primary products are falling, and no doubt they are falling in New Zealand. But I found a country that had no unemployment. I found when walking down a street that every window one looked into had an advertisement asking people to come and work for that employer.

Senator McLaren - They have no Senate frustrating the carrying out of their policies.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I will get around to that in a moment. Do not let us pass that one over. If Australia and New Zealand can function side by side under the same type of government, yet one has a very high unemployment rate while the other has no unemployment at all, there must be something vitally wrong with this country. I am quite sure that what is wrong with this country is the policy of this Government. There is no other answer for it. When the Government ran out of excuses such as imported inflation, inherited inflation, the problem being caused by other people, we had a situation where it changed its line of attack and said inflation was the fault of the multi-nationals. The big multi-national companies who were operating in other parts of the world were causing the trouble in Australia. They were the cause of inflation. We went on for a little while longer and then came to a situation where the Senate had been working for a much longer period than in times gone by, putting through legislation at a rapid rate, and suddenly, because it knocked a couple of Bills back, the Labor Party said that inflation in this country was caused by the Senate not passing its measures. They included in their criticism the State governments, particularly those State governments with a Liberal Premier. Let us look at the situation. What was the Senate doing during that period that it had not done at any other time over the last 25 years? Do not tell me that Government senators when they sat on this side of the House did not put up amendments to the Budget, did not take every opportunity to come over to this side and talk to the Democratic Labor Party members who used to sit in this corner to try to get them to support their amendments. Of course they did.

I want to go a little further because I like reading back over Hansard to see what happened in the past. The Leader of the Government (Senator Murphy) expounds on economic problems in this country, and why we have these problems, and what difficult times they are to get around, but he never recalls the time when he sat in the seat opposite and said that everything the Liberal Party-Country Party Government was trying to do was wrong. Before coming into the House today I picked up an interesting quote from the present Leader of the Government, made when he was Leader of the Opposition. He made some comments on 19 May 1967 in the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1967. The Liberal Party-Country Party Government had brought into this chamber some measures which increased the rate of postage and telephone charges. It did this in May, before the Budget. What happened? Opposition senators rose up in their seats full of wrath. How dare the Government do such a thing! The present Leader of the Government is on record as saying this:

It is a tax on the people who use the Post Office. The increased charges will give an impetus to inflation -

I do not suppose that happens these days- at a time when everybody is seeking to prevent unnecessary inflation.

It is this paragraph which I think is the interesting one. He said:

This Parliament consists of 2 Houses and any proposed law requires the consent of both. If a proposed law does not receive the consent of this House, then it does not receive the consent ofParliament. Let there be no doubt about that.

But what does the Leader of the Government say today? He points the finger at the Leader of the Opposition and says: 'If you senators do not pass this legislation we are trying to get through then it will be looked upon as a failure to pass and prohibiting Government legislation from going through this chamber.'

Senator Wheeldon - You have changed your mind on the postal charges too, have you not? You were in favour of increasing them in 1 967.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN -That may be so. No doubt we saw the same reason as you are seeing today. It is acknowledged that we have a rate of inflation today. The Government will not acknowledge that it is running at about 20 per cent and even higher. We contested an election on 18 May. We had a situation in which the Opposition set out to try to tell the people of this country that there was an inflation problem developing, and developing very rapidly, and that it was reaching a rate of about 14 per cent at that time. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said: 'No, we have not got a problem of inflation. This country has never been so prosperous in its life'. He went on saying this for a few weeks and then all of a sudden he woke up and we had an inflation problem. He told the people before the election that the Government had taken certain action and that inflation had fallen by one-third. He went on to peddle the story around the county that having got it down by one-third he could promise the people that by the end of the year it would be down to 8 per cent. What has happened? Where are those promises? Is the Prime Minister still peddling the stuff that he talked about at that time?

Senator McLaren - But he had not seen the statement of Mr Daly at that time about the expenditure on chartered aircraft.

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